An old issue has come back in Augusta: voter ID. A bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Collins (R-Wells) would require Maine voters to show an ID before casting a ballot. The issue has been debated in the Legislature before. Republican staffers say it was proposed in 2011, but did not end up being passed into law at that time. Instead it was passed as a Legislative resolve. That was the same year the Republican majority passed a law eliminating same day voter registration, a law that was ultimately overturned by Maine voters in referendum.
The Voting News
At its first meeting on Tuesday, the new quorum of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) took an important, much-awaited step toward making the work of election officials easier and improving the voter experience around the country. For four years, the lack of a quorum of Commissioners blocked the accreditation of new voting system test laboratories, which meant only two facilities in the country were able to review the quality and accessibility of voting systems. Yesterday’s accreditation of a third test laboratory promises to help alleviate the looming risk of major voting machine problems that have worried many smart observers. Federally accredited labs commonly test products we use everyday, from toasters to children’s toys, to ensure they are safe. Similarly, to protect the legitimacy of our elections, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires the EAC to put voting machines through rigorous testing and certification.
The North Dakota Senate voted down a bill Wednesday that would have allowed voters without an approved form of identification to cast a provisional ballot. Senate Bill 2353, sponsored by Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, failed 18-29 Wednesday. Provisional ballots wouldn’t count until the voter could prove their eligibility with a postcard mailed by the county auditor after the election.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill Wednesday proposed scrapping the state’s system of having two elected registrars, a Democrat and a Republican, run elections in each of the state’s 169 municipalities, saying she would replace them with a single registrar appointed by officials in each city or town. “Connecticut is the only state in the country that leaves election administration to two partisan locally elected officials,” Merrill, the state’s chief elections official, said at a Capitol press conference at which she proposed that legislators pass a bill to reform the system.
Former President George W. Bush will join President Obama in Selma, Ala., on March 7 for the 50th anniversary of the voting rights marches there. Bush and his wife, Laura, will join a large, bipartisan congressional delegation for part of a three-day civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama, according to Robert Traynham, a spokesman for the Faith and Politics Institute in Washington, which is organizing the event. Obama and Bush will be on stage together to commemorate Bloody Sunday, when Alabama state troopers assaulted marchers on March 7, 1965, as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for African Americans. The event shocked the nation and helped win passage of the Voting Rights Act just a few months later.
National: Obama Calls Out America’s Dismal Voter Turnout: ‘Why Are You Staying Home?’ | Huffington Post
President Barack Obama urged Americans frustrated with the lack of progress on immigration reform to voice their discontent at the ballot box, lamenting the dismal turnout in last November’s midterm elections. Speaking Wednesday during a town hall in Miami, Florida, hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart, Obama said the immigration system won’t truly change until voters elect lawmakers who will press for reform. “Ultimately, we have to change the law,” Obama said. “And the way that happens is, by the way, by voting”
Editorials: The Next attack on voting rights and why Democrats should fight for a constitutional right-to-vote amendment | Jamelle Bouie/Slate
he last round of voter restrictions came after the 2010 Republican wave, when new GOP majorities passed voter identification laws and slashed ballot access in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Now, three months after the 2014 Republican wave, another class of state lawmakers are prepping another assault on voting rights under the same guise of “uniformity” and “ballot integrity.” In Georgia, reports Zachary Roth for MSNBC, Republicans are pushing a bill to slash early voting from the present maximum of 21 days to 12 days. The goal, says Rep. Ed Rydners, a sponsor of the proposal, is “clarity and uniformity.” “There were complaints of some voters having more opportunities than others,” he said, “This legislation offers equal access statewide.” If cities like Atlanta want to have more voting access, said Rydners, they could open more precincts and “pay to have poll workers present.”
It is time to try lowering the voting age to 17 nationwide. Takoma Park, Maryland, has done it. Iowa, too, for caucuses. Scotland went down to age 16 for its recent independence referendum. Evidence suggests it will boost informed participation in our democracy over time. … The political scientist Mark Franklin studied 22 democracies and found a pattern: Lowering the voting age to 18 actually caused turnout to fall in most countries. Why? Because 18-year-olds are less likely to vote than 21-year-olds. And once those 18-year-olds missed their first year as eligible voters, they were less likely to vote again — not even when they reached 21. Franklin argued that, in the United States, changing our voting age to 18 may be the sole reason voter turnout has declined since the 1970s. But 17 may be a better age. At 17, most people are still living at home, where they can see parents voting and probably hear about local issues and candidates. They also are still in school, where voting can be encouraged and become a social norm.
Voting Blogs: The Right to Vote Amendment is Worth At Least One Candle: A Reply to Heather Gerken | Josh Douglas/Election Law Blog
A new constitutional amendment affirmatively granting the right to vote could have a significant impact on protecting voting rights for all Americans. Most significantly – and perhaps paradoxically – we are likely to see the biggest effects of a federal amendment where we least expect it: in state courts. Professor Heather Gerken, in a characteristically eloquent and well-reasoned new article, claims that pursuing a new constitutional amendment enshrining the right to vote is “not worth the candle.” The heart of Professor Gerken’s argument is that the benefits of a new right-to-vote amendment do not justify the costs involved, particularly as Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges are unlikely to alter the scope of voting rights analysis given the likelihood that, to pass, the amendment’s language would have to be too vague. But a constitutional amendment granting the right to vote does not need federal judges, or even the U.S. Supreme Court, to have a big impact. That is because many state courts follow federal law even when construing their own state constitutions. So a new provision in the federal Constitution, even if couched in broad platitudes, will have corollary effects on state constitutional law.
The campaign to combine Los Angeles’ elections with state and federal contests has been hailed by backers as a way to lift the city’s dismal turnout, which in the last mayoral race was 23%. But more than a dozen candidates for City Council now say that they oppose the idea, claiming it could make races more expensive and give a leg up to incumbents and others backed by special interests. Charter Amendments 1 and 2 were put on the March 3 ballot by the council to reverse a decline in voter participation during the odd-year city and school board elections. On the campaign trail, however, several candidates — some experiencing their first brush with the election process — have begun warning that the date change would have other, less positive, consequences.