Civil rights leaders and groups are hailing legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Jan. 22 that would unequivocally guarantee every American’s right to vote under the U.S. Constitution, in the wake of growing attacks on that right. “This amendment would affirm the principle of equal participation in our democracy for every citizen,” Pocan said in a statement. “As the world’s leading democracy, we must guarantee the right to vote for all.” Added Ellison: “Our nation is stronger when we make it easy for Americans to participate in democracy…A guaranteed right to vote in the Constitution would go a long way towards increasing access to the ballot box for all Americans.” Contrary to popular belief, the lawmakers said, the right to vote is not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and the “Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment” would amend the Constitution to expressly guarantee that fundamental right.
The Voting News
Republicans used the confirmation hearings this week for Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s attorney general nominee, to stress their commitment to voting restrictions—and to try to tie Lynch’s hands on voting issues should she assume the post. One GOP senator pressed Lynch on her stance on restrictive voting laws. And Republicans asked for testimony from a witness who has led the effort to stoke fear over voter fraud, suggested her group was targeted by the Obama administration because of her group’s support for voter ID laws. Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has acted aggressively to protect voting rights, challenging strict GOP-backed voting laws in Texas and North Carolina. Holder also has seemed to compare these laws to past efforts to keep minorities from voting. So Republicans sought to put pressure on Lynch to take a more conciliatory approach.
Fingerprints can now be used to unlock smart phones, car engines, even guns. Why not ballots, too? A New Mexico legislator has just proposed that his state’s election officials study the feasibility of a biometric voter identification system. The idea is simple enough: Rather than require voters to show a particular type of document that not everyone possesses, the law could require election officials to collect a piece of information — a finger image or an eye scan — from all voters, which would confirm their identity at the polls. The political appeal of the idea is clear: Republicans would have the ID laws they claim are needed to protect against voter fraud. And Democrats would have a system that doesn’t disproportionately hurt minorities and the poor. Both parties could declare victory in the war over voter ID and move on.
California: Santa Clara County: First steps suggested to start fixing beleaguered election system | San Jose Mercury News
With an upgrade to its outdated equipment years away, Santa Clara County officials suggested Wednesday taking steps now to remedy the beleaguered election system from malfunctions encountered in past elections. At a special committee meeting on Wednesday, supervisors Joe Simitian and Ken Yeager said the Registrar of Voter’s Office should look into providing staff 24-hours around the clock during the election period to speed up notoriously slow ballot counting and improve communications with the public — a situation that left voters confused and wary about the status of recounts. They also suggested developing a system that would require an automatic recount when races come down to the wire. “We’re all of the same mind that we’ve got to see some real progress,” said Simitian. “We can’t be having this same conversation every two years.”
Maryland voters will return to casting ballots on paper starting with the presidential election in 2016, election officials said Thursday, adding it to the long list of states that use paper ballots or a blend of paper and digital formats. On Thursday, state lawmakers were given a sneak peek of the new paper voting machines that will be set up in polling centers for the 2016 election. Officials also briefed the legislators on lessons learned from the last election in November. The state has used digital voting machines for the past decade.
Michigan teens would be able to pre-register to vote under a proposal in Lansing. The measure would allow 16 and 17 year olds to fill out their voter registration paperwork when they get their driver’s licenses. The state would mail their voter cards when they turn 18. “It’s another way of making government much more efficient,” said state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren. “It saves people in lines at secretary of state offices. It saves more correspondence going to the secretary of state’s office. It makes it a much easier process.”
An unusual alliance of some of the state’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers at the Capitol this year are supporting an effort that would allow convicted felons to vote once they leave prison. Under Minnesota law, convicted felons are only eligible to vote after they’ve completed all terms of their sentences — including probation or supervised release. Bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Bobbie Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow convicted felons to vote after finishing their prison sentences. It would restore voting rights to an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans. On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats joined together at a press conference to tout the effort. Joining them were representatives from the Restore the Vote Coalition, which is comprised of more than 60 organizations that include public safety groups, churches and civil rights organizations.
State and local election officials endorsed a bill Wednesday to allow citizens to register to vote online if they have a valid Montana driver’s license or identification card. The House State Administrative heard testimony on House Bill 48, by Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, on behalf of Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat. The committee didn’t take immediate action on the bill. Custer said the bill is for registering people with driver’s licenses and voter ID cards. The former longtime Rosebud County clerk and recorder said the system would be secure. McCulloch said HB48 would give people the choice of registering to vote between the current paper form or electronically. “Offering the ability to apply for voter registration online will increase transparency, accuracy and efficiency in the voter registration process,” said McCulloch, the state’s chief election official.
Whether N.C. voters will have to show a photo ID in 2016 will depend on whether opponents can show why they shouldn’t have to. That test begins Friday when critics of the 2013 election law overhaul argue that the ID requirement violates the North Carolina Constitution. North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s voter ID requirement contend that voters, not lawmakers, hold the power to make such a change to election law. Voters, they say, would have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution. In a hearing scheduled to take place in Wake County court on Friday, attorneys for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters plan to argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they overhauled election laws in 2013. Friday’s hearing focuses on the voter ID requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2016.
North Dakota: Student organization against voter ID legislation: Klein says bill could disenfranchise many | The Dickinson Press
A representative of the North Dakota Student Association spoke against a bill that would tweak the state’s voter identification law Thursday. Kelsey Klein, governmental relations director for the group, told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee that House Bill 1333 could disenfranchise many student voters, especially those from out of the state. The bill would eliminate the option of student identification certificates that were provided by the university system. The bill, introduced by state Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, would allow a bill, bank statement or U.S. Postal Service change of address form to prove residency if a voter’s ID hadn’t been updated. It would also clarify acceptable forms of voter identification.