Two leading Republican presidential candidates expressed divergent views on the Voting Rights Act on Thursday, setting up a split within a party that has been accused of seeking to suppress minority voter turnout in the name of combating fraud at the polls. Asked about the law at a forum in Des Moines, Mr. Bush said he was uncomfortable placing “regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960.” “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government in play in most places — there could be some — but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ′60s.”
The Voting News
The Supreme Court this term could change how states meet the basic democratic goal of “one person, one vote.” Ironically, a victory for the conservative plaintiffs who brought the case may turn on a national survey that Republicans have tried to eliminate. In the Supreme Court case of Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs argue that the votes of eligible voters — like themselves — are unconstitutionally diluted because Texas counts non-voters when drawing its legislative districts. Specifically, Texas uses “total population” data, which include such non-voters as children, inmates, former felons who haven’t had their voting rights restored and non-citizen immigrants. The plaintiffs, backed by the activist nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, want the Supreme Court to rule that states must draw their legislative districts based instead on the number of voting-age citizens or registered voters. The likely outcome of that ruling would be to shift power away from cities — which tend to have more children, non-citizen immigrants and Democrats — and toward rural and suburban areas — which skew older, whiter, richer and Republican.
To promote democracy around the world, the United States spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually in developing nations. But when it comes to the mechanics of democracy itself in the United States, some don’t even want to pony up $9.6 million. That’s the budget for the obscure, 25-employee Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Created by Congress in 2002, the bipartisan EAC is meant to be a resource for states and localities on election administration. That means everything from designing ballots, to procedures and manuals on election administration, to maintaining voting machines. And lest anyone believe that this is the big hand of the federal government reaching down to something controlled by states and counties, all the EAC does is set guidelines and advise. It does not enforce laws.
t an event in Iowa today, Jeb Bush was asked whether he believed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) should be reauthorized by the Congress following the gutting of one of its most important provisions by the Supreme Court in 2013. Bush responded: “If it’s to reauthorize it to continue to provide regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960, because those were basically when many of those rules were put in place, I don’t believe we should do that. There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting, exponentially better improvement, and I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places.” Bush is wrong on multiple counts.
Voting Blogs: Online voter registration opens up access, but not always for all | electionlineWeekly
As of this week, 25 states and the District of Columbia have mechanisms in place to allow new voters to register to vote and existing voters to update their information all online — no printing, no stamps, no trek to the mailbox. By all accounts online voter registration has been wildly successful in the states where it has been introduced with statewide elections officials touting the large number of people registering and updating their information. While online voter registration has opened up access to the process to thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of people not previously engaged, one segment of the population is being left out of the online wave — voters with disabilities. A review by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Accessible Technology (CAT) found that of the 20 OVR sites they visited in May 2014, only one — California’s — was completely accessible in the eyes of the review.
Barely one year after Alabama’s voter-ID law went into effect, officials are planning to close 31 driver’s license offices across the state, including those in every county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters. It’s ostensibly a cost-cutting effort, but coupled with the voter-ID law, these closings will make it even more difficult for many of the state’s most vulnerable voters to get one of the most common forms of identification now required to cast a vote. Like voter-ID laws elsewhere, Alabama’s version requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The rationale is that these laws are necessary to stop voter fraud. The problem is that in-person fraud — the only kind that voter-ID laws could conceivably prevent — almost never happens. Still, these laws have proliferated around the country, nearly always enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures at the expense of minorities, the poor and other groups who tend to vote Democratic.
State lawmakers are poised to debate a proposal next week that would automatically register Illinoisans to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or state identification card. The measure, patterned after an Oregon law approved this year, would reverse the current system in which drivers are asked if they want to register. Instead, they would have to say they don’t want to be registered. “I think this would make the process a lot more streamlined,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who is sponsoring the legislation. “When you change your driver’s license when you move, your voting registration is automatically updated.”
Tired of flipping through pages and pages of names to sign in at your polling place on Election Day? There’s an app for that. Hamilton County, Ind., Elections Administrator Kathy Richardson wants the county to switch to an increasingly used electronic poll book system. But several Hamilton County Council members aren’t sure they’re ready to sign off on the idea. She is asking the council for about $414,000 to buy 220 iPads, polling software and related equipment. She also would need $30,500 in each of the next two years for software upgrades. If the request is approved, she hopes to have the system in place by May’s presidential primary.
County election officials in Kansas are likely to have canceled thousands of incomplete voter registrations when a federal judge has the next hearing in a lawsuit challenging the culling of records ordered by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday set a Dec. 4 hearing on a request from two young northeast Kansas residents to block the cancellations while their suit goes forward. Their registrations are incomplete because they’ve failed to comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering. The two also want Robinson to block enforcement of the proof-of-citizenship requirement — the reason behind most of the 37,700 registrations that were incomplete as of last week. Kobach imposed a rule that took effect Friday, directing counties to cancel more than 31,000 registrations that were incomplete for more than 90 days. Robinson set the hearing in December to allow the Republican secretary of state to file a written response to the lawsuit and to permit the attorneys representing the two prospective voters to follow with a written answer. Robinson said during a teleconference with the attorneys that she’ll interrupt an ongoing trial to have the hearing in Kansas City, Kan.
The year 2016 may be the last time Maine’s federal and state candidates can win with less than half of the popular vote. A non-partisan grassroots committee has amassed over 75,000 signatures to put ranked choice voting on next year’s referendum ballot. Ranked choice voting is a method of ensuring the winner receives a majority of the votes. Instead of voting only for their preferred candidate, voters rank them in order of preference. If the leading candidate receives less than a majority, the candidate who received the fewest votes has his or her votes redistributed to the remaining candidates. A winner is declared after a candidate receives more than half of the votes. Maine would be the first to adopt the measure on a statewide basis. Ranked Choice Voting Maine began working on placing the measure on the ballot in 2014.