early voting

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Arkansas: County election officials raise concerns about 3 state bills | Nortwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A handful of bills working through General Assembly committees could change how and when voters participate in primary, special and general elections, officials said last week. One bill would lump all special and school district elections to either May or November instead of throughout the year. Another would push the presidential candidate primaries back two months into March. A third bill would cut down early voting from two weeks before an election to just one. Benton and Washington county election officials said the proposals could make elections more difficult to hold and could confuse voters. “We want to do the best job that we possibly can,” said Russell Anzalone, chairman of the Benton County Election Commission. “To us, the commissioners, it’s all about the voter.” Read More


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.” Read More

California: Officials seek ways to boost Los Angeles County’s voter turnout | Los Angeles Times

After abysmal voter participation in California’s last election and in Los Angeles County in particular, some state officials want to follow in the footsteps of Oregon and look into creating an automatic voter registration system. Proponents say creating a system that automatically signs up eligible voters instead of requiring them to take the initiative would remove a major barrier to participation and free up resources that could be spent on getting more people interested in voting. That proposal came up Friday at a joint legislative hearing in Los Angeles that focused on increasing voter turnout in Los Angeles County. The county is the largest in the nation and has 4.8 million registered voters. But its turnout was the lowest in the state in last November’s general election. Statewide turnout of registered voters was 42%, but in Los Angeles County only 31% of registered voters cast ballots. Turnout was particularly low among Latino registered voters, at only 23%, and Asian and black voters, at 26%, according to a report by the bipartisan firm Political Data Inc. The number of people eligible to vote — citizens 18 and older — who cast ballots was even lower: 31% statewide and 25% in Los Angeles County. Read More

Minnesota: Push to expand early voting in Minnesota faces hurdles | Pioneer Press

Minnesota’s first big run with no-excuse absentee voting has some lawmakers setting their sights on a more-expansive form of early balloting for future elections. Legislation moving in the Minnesota Senate would establish an early voting window 15 days before an election when polling places would be open, including on Saturdays. The period would close three days prior to the scheduled election. But the bill faces a tougher course in the House, where a key Republican says his colleagues aren’t inclined to pursue another significant voting change so soon. Last year was the first statewide election where voters could request and cast an absentee ballot without a qualified excuse. In the end, there were 55 percent more absentee ballots cast in 2014 compared with the midterm election of 2010. New Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said it’s a sign people crave opportunities to vote at their convenience. Read More

Utah: Same-day Voter Registration Extended to Early Voting Days | KUER

House lawmakers passed a bill Friday to slightly expand a pilot program aimed at getting more voters to participate in Utah elections. Utah had one of the nation’s worst turnout rates in the last election. Now some counties have opted to take part in a three-year experiment that allows voters to register and vote on election day. Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Sanpete and Kane counties haves seen more than twelve hundred additional voters cast ballots through the program. Read More

Minnesota: Senate committee approves early voting | Minnesota Public Radio News

The Minnesota Senate subcommittee on elections approved legislation Thursday that would allow people to vote beginning 15 days before Election Day. Right now, the state has a no-excuse absentee voting system. The only ways to vote absentee are by mail or by visiting a polling place. But if the absentee ballot is cast in person, the voter has to fill out lots of paperwork and the ballot is kept under lock and key until Election Day. Bill sponsor Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said the process is confusing for voters, because they expect to be able to cast a ballot as easily as they would on Election Day. Read More

Missouri: Senate passes cutoff for changes to ballot measures | Kansas City Star

Missouri ballot measures would need to be finalized earlier if legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is signed into law, an effort to save money on reprinting ballots that last year cost the state close to $680,000. The bill, approved 26-8, would set a deadline to change ballot measures about two months before an election, which is two weeks sooner than the generally accepted standard. Current law allows measures to be finalized at any point within 180 days of an election, although absentee and military ballots must go out about six weeks early. The legislation follows hundreds of thousands of dollars in reprinting expenses after a mid-September court ruling that required last-minute changes to the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to create a limited early, no-excuses-needed voting period. Read More

Georgia: Bill To Shorten Early Voting Period Advances In Georgia Legislature | Huffington Post

An extra day of voting access at some Georgia polls in 2014 may have inadvertently backfired, as Republican state legislators push a bill to reduce the number of early voting days from 21 to 12. When, for the first time, the state’s most populous counties decided to open some polling places on the Sunday ahead of the November midterms, GOP lawmakers argued that the early voting sites were chosen to maximize votes for Democratic candidates. Fears that Sunday voting would lead to Democratic victories were unfounded in the highest-profile races, however, as U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial challenger Jason Carter lost their races by about 8 percentage points each. Read More

georgia

Georgia: New Plan To Make Voting Even Harder | ThinkProgress

A plan to further slash the availability of early voting is rapidly advancing in Georgia. A committee of state lawmakers voted along party lines last week to slash the state’s early voting days from 21 to 12. The full legislature could call a vote on the cuts at any time, and with Republicans holding a majority of the House seats, the measure would likely pass. More than a third of the state’s voters cast their ballot early in this past election, and demand for early voting was so high that several counties opened the polls on a Sunday for the first time in state history. In 2008, more than half of participants voted early. But the bill’s sponsors say the goal of the cuts is to ensure “uniformity” and “equal access” between counties. Civil rights advocates, including President Francys Johnson of the Georgia NAACP, disagree, and tell ThinkProgress the measure would suppress the votes of the state’s growing minority population. “People of color tend to utilize early voting, and I think at the heart of all of this is an attempt to reduce the opportunities for people to let their voice be heard,” he said. “They’re saying to working Georgians and seniors and communities of color and the young: ‘We’re not interested in your participation.” Read More

National: Voting rights for minorities threatened, experts say | Gannett

Since 2010, 21 states have restricted voting rights, said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C., office. Proponents of the new laws, which do such things as requiring government-issued photo IDs to vote, say they are designed to combat voter fraud. Opponents point out that documented cases of in-person voter fraud are all but non-existent. The real reason for the new laws, the say, is to make it harder for minorities or poor people to vote. “The move ‘Selma’ has come out, and we’re still in the fight to secure and protect voting rights,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization founded in 1999. “We no longer have poll taxes. But instead, we have voter IDs. We don’t have literacy tests. But we have things like cuts to early voting and cuts to Sunday voting, all which are targeted at communities of color who have gained access to the ballot because of the Voting Rights Act. “We see more subtle attempts to make it harder to vote. It’s just a different page out of the playbook that makes it harder for African Americans to participate,” Browne Dianis said. Read More