The Voting News
National: Governors Could Restore Voting Rights To Millions Of People If They Wanted To | Huffington Post
There’s a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress that restoring voting rights for people with felony convictions is a crucial aspect of criminal justice reform. But governors have a massive amount of discretion in deciding whether to reinstate voting rights for millions of ex-felons who are still denied the right to vote, as recent decisions in Kentucky and Iowa illustrate. On Tuesday, Kentucky’s outgoing Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, signed an executive order that would automatically restore voting rights to at least 140,000 former felons who have served their sentences. Kentucky is just one of just three states, along with Florida and Iowa, that permanently disenfranchises all people with felony convictions. Up until now, a Kentuckian with a felony conviction would have to individually petition the governor to have his or her rights restored. As in other states, permanent felon disenfranchisement disproportionately affects racial minorities. An estimated 1 in 5 African-Americans in Kentucky are disenfranchised, compared to 1 in 13 nationally.
Senate Republicans plan to insert a provision into a must-pass government funding bill that would vastly expand the amount of cash that political parties could spend on candidates, multiple sources tell Politico. The provision, which sources say is one of a few campaign-finance related riders being discussed in closed-door negotiations over a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending package, would eliminate caps on the amount of cash that parties may spend in coordination with their candidates. Pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime foe of campaign finance restrictions, the coordination rider represents the latest threat to the increasingly rickety set of rules created to restrict political fundraising and spending on elections.
A coalition of voting-rights organizations has withdrawn two state Senate redistricting proposals it had submitted to a Leon County judge, virtually ensuring that at least one district will cross Tampa Bay when the legal fight ends. The coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, announced the move one day before the groups and the Legislature are set to file briefs with Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds objecting to each other’s maps. The state Senate has submitted a single map that would cross the bay. Reynolds is supposed to recommend one of the plans to the Florida Supreme Court as the best way to follow the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010, after the Legislature agreed in a legal settlement that the current map would be found in violation of those rules.
State lawmakers say they want more answers about the massive data breach involving millions of Georgia residents. Specifically: What steps organizations that mistakenly got our information took to secure it? From the beginning, the secretary of state has said the data on six million voters is secure. But now lawmakers want proof. … Kemps’ office told Channel 2’s Lori Geary they’re going back to the outlets that received the information to get written assurances no copies of the files exist. That’s not sitting well with Kemp’s critics. “All the pieces of ID theft are in that file. Your name, your birthdate, your Social Security number,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb.
Opponents of an election designed to be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block votes from being counted in what they argue is an unconstitutional, racially exclusive process. “This court’s intervention is urgently needed,” said the request filed Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who can act on his own or get his colleagues involved. Native Hawaiians are voting to elect delegates for a convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified by Native Hawaiians. Voting ends Monday. A group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians is challenging the election, arguing Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from the vote, in violation of their constitutional rights.
Few political processes are more important or consequential than that of defining or drawing districts for legislative bodies. Whoever controls where district lines are drawn wields immense power to determine voters’ choices at the polls, election outcomes and whose interests are more or less effectively represented in our legislative bodies. Little wonder then that legislative districting is an issue of great concern to the League of Women Voters and all citizens interested in open, fair and effective representative government. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to regulate the time, place and manner of Congressional elections to the individual state legislatures. The Indiana Constitution, as is true of most states, gives the power and responsibility to define the state’s legislative and congressional districts to the General Assembly. Thus, not only does the state legislature define districts for congressional elections, but it also determines the make up of its own members’ districts. For more than two centuries, members of state legislatures, the legislative political parties and other special interests have used the districting process to advance their own political objectives. Incumbent legislators want districts they can win. The majority party in a legislative chamber wants to maintain its dominance by drawing districts to its advantage. Special interests, if they are powerful in the state, try to protect themselves by influencing the districting process.
African-American leaders in Kansas want the state to allow people to register to vote on Election Day. The proposal included in the Kansas Black Leadership Council’s 2016 legislative agenda is a response to the state’s requirement that people provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, in order to register to vote. People who do not do so when they try to register at the DMV, for example, are placed in suspended status until they provide documention.
Voting Blogs: Fusion Voting in Up Close: A Look at the Independence Party of New York | State of Elections
Last year Brad Smith provided this blog with a post that gives an overview of fusion voting laws in New York State. In this post I would like to look into a case study that, for some, sheds some doubt on the desirability of fusion voting laws. The Independence Party of the State of New York (IPNY) is a minor party that states on its website, “candidates and elected officials should be free to tell the voters what their views are, without dictates from political party bosses, special interest groups and restrictive party platforms.” With this in mind, in most elections the IPNY has preferred to endorse major party candidates under the fusion voting system, rather than nominate their own (they last endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, for instance).
Attorneys representing the state and registered voters argued before a three-judge panel on Monday about the impact of a lawsuit filed over North Carolina’s legislative district maps on the state’s 2016 primaries. The plaintiffs say the lines drawn by Republican lawmakers for nearly 30 House and Senate districts are illegal because they relied too much on race. They don’t want the districts used in 2016 and want candidate filing delayed until updated boundaries are set. Attorneys for the state say the judges should delay any decision until other redistricting litigation is resolved. There are three pending redistricting cases. The boundaries have never been struck down and were used in the 2012 and 2014 elections.