Missouri will join the 33 states that allow early voting if voters approve Amendment 6 on Tuesday. But the proposed amendment would make Missouri’s early voting laws some of the most stringent in the country. Amendment 6 would allow for six business days of early voting per general election, beginning in 2016. The early voting would occur at county clerks’ offices during normal business hours and depends on the Statehouse and governor approving extra funding for the added expenses. Voting policies vary by state, but most states, including Kansas and Illinois, offer longer early voting periods and more flexible locations and times. An earlier ballot proposal would have allowed up to six weeks of early voting in Missouri. The measure failed to garner enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Joyce Beatty said yesterday that they are working to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in the Senate and House, respectively, to improve voter access before Election Day. “That’s one way to suppress the vote is by confusing voters, and we’ve seen that in this state for a number of years,” Brown said at the event at Bethel AME Church on Cleveland Avenue in South Linden. Dispatch Voters Guide: View a sample ballot customized to your location. The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 would be an update to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prevents voter discrimination based on race, color or membership in a minority language group.
Pastor Frederick Douglass Haynes marches across the stage of Friendship Baptist Church, a mega-congregation of 12,000 people here. It’s Oct. 26, the penultimate Sunday before the 2014 midterm elections. “This is Freedom Sunday!” Haynes shouts into a microphone, drawing out each word. The sound system plays “Jesus Walks,” an upbeat anthem by rapper Kanye West that samples “Walk With Me,” a gospel classic. The choir, about 50 teenagers clad in black t-shirts, sways. Haynes has promised a briefing on the church’s new political program, but he doesn’t say much about the candidates. His largest applause lines are about the right to vote itself. “There’s a shameful, sinful attempt to suppress the vote,” he says, criticizing Texas for “one of the most suppressive Voter ID laws in the nation.”
With more than 400 ballots already cast early voting was suspended Sunday night in the wake of the V.I. Supreme Court re-affirming its decision that Sen. Alicia Hansen be removed from the ballot. According to a press release, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes made the decision to comply with the Supreme Court order. It is anyone’s guess when early voting will resume and what course of action the St. Croix District Board of Elections and the Supervisor of Elections will take to ensure that the ballots for the Nov. 4 General Election are in compliance with the order handed down Friday. As part of the opinion by the justices, Supervisor Caroline Fawkes has been ordered to immediately recall all General Election ballots with Hansen’s name and replace them with ballots omitting her as a candidate or in the alternative “remove Hansen’s name from the ballot, such as by covering her name with a sticker”, the opinion read.
The Cook County Clerk’s Office said it will still use its normal procedures to process early and absentee voting for the upcoming election after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently released an opinion about vote counting. Madigan’s statement, issued Oct. 15, said that ballots collected through early voting and absentee balloting cannot be counted before election polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 4. Specifically, the opinion said that running the ballots through tabulating equipment is a form of counting. Natalie Bauer, Illinois Attorney General communications director, said the decision was released to clarify election laws because of procedural questions some election officials had asked. Cook County Clerk spokesperson Courtney Greve said the clerk’s office believes its normal process of compiling early ballots complies with the law and Madigan’s opinion.
While Florida’s relationship with early voting is still relatively new, the honeymoon may already be over. But to understand the hot and cold affair, it is helpful to look back on the couple’s history. Former Governor Jeb Bush first signed early voting into Florida law in 2004, providing early voting fifteen days before an election, eight hours per weekday and eight hours per weekend. Only a short year later, Bush and a Republican legislature cooled on the partnership, dropping the last Monday of early voting before a Tuesday election. The relations heated up again when former Governor Charlie Crist signed an executive order mandating that early voting be extended in response to overwhelming voter turnout for the 2008 Presidential election. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, Florida again turned its back on early voting in 2011 by passing a controversial law that reduced early voting to eight days before an election for a minimum of six hours and a maximum of twelve hours per day. The 2011 spat resulted in Florida’s embarrassing performance during the 2012 Presidential elections, where hundreds of thousands of Florida voters were discouraged by long lines and polling stations remained open hours after they were scheduled to close. All of which brings us to our most recent development, in which Rick Scott has given the reigns of the rocky relationship to county election supervisors. This newest law allows early voting to range from eight to fourteen days before an election, for a minimum of eight hours a day and a maximum of twelve hours a day. Of course, these extremely wide bounds left open the question of how early voting would actually be implemented on the ground. As we complete primaries ahead of the 2014 round of elections, the results are finally in.
Voting Blogs: Virgin Islands Supreme Court ignores federal court on election dispute | Excess of Democracy
I blogged earlier about the extraordinary dispute in the United States Virgin Islands, in which the Virgin Islands Supreme Court ordered a sitting senator off the ballot because it concluded she had committed a crime involving moral turpitude that rendered her disqualified for office. In response, the governor pardoned her, and an ensuing case in federal court resulted in an order to get her back on the ballot. I thought that would end the matter. It didn’t. The case has become even more surreal.
Early voting began on Monday in Texas and Wisconsin. As a result of recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas residents will need a particular form of identification to vote; Wisconsinites can vote without one. On Saturday, the Supreme Court issued an order, in response to an emergency request from the Justice Department and various civil-rights groups, that permits Texas to enforce a voter-I.D. law that had been struck down twice by lower courts. The Texas law had previously been found to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racist discrimination, because it requires that voters in the state obtain one of seven types of identification that are not held by many African-Americans and Hispanics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent for the Court, which Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor signed. Ginsburg called the conditions under which elections in Texas will now take place “the strictest regime in the country.” She argued that the rigidity of Texas’s law distinguished it from Wisconsin’s law. “For example, Wisconsin’s law permits a photo ID from an in-state four-year college and one from a federally recognized Indian tribe,” Ginsburg wrote. “Texas, under Senate Bill 14, accepts neither.” The court’s tone was a contrast from earlier this month, when it stopped Wisconsin from implementing its voter-I.D. law because of the proximity of the upcoming election. The rationale had little, if anything, to do with the plaintiffs’ argument that certain communities of voters—the poor, the elderly, the African-Americans, the Latinos—were being disproportionately burdened in trying to obtain the proper form of identification. There are at least two lines of logic that the Court is using to address the set of voting-rights cases that it has reviewed leading up to November’s election. One, as exhibited in Wisconsin, asserts that, just weeks out, it is too late to implement changes to voting permissions. The other is less straightforward, not least because the Court did not affirmatively defend its decision in the Texas case, and calls into question the way that the right to vote has been interpreted, as well as the role of the Supreme Court in offering clarity.
In the run-up to the 2012 election, there was widespread concern about a slew of restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans. But those fears mostly weren’t borne out. Courts blocked several of the worst moves before election day. And record African-American turnout suggested the assault on voting might even have backfired by firing up minority voters. But Republicans didn’t ease off on the push to make voting harder. If anything, they doubled down. And this time around, they’ve had a lot more success as several voting restrictions are now in effect for the first time in a major election. That’s likely to help the GOP this fall. But voting rights advocates say the bigger lesson is that current laws protecting access to the ballot just aren’t strong enough. “This is a clear example of the need for additional federal protections,” said Myrna Perez, a top lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice, and one of the attorneys who argued against the Texas voter ID law, which was approved for the election by the U.S. Supreme Court early Saturday morning. That decision—which came just two days before early voting kicks off in the Lone Star State—means most of the statewide voting restrictions that in recent weeks were the subject of court fights will be in place when voters go to the polls. In addition to the Texas law—green-lighted despite a federal judge’s ruling that it intentionally discriminated against minorities—North Carolina’s sweeping voting law and Ohio’s cuts to early voting will also be in effect.
The state Democratic Party, mindful of past “shenanigans” at the polls, launched a program Wednesday that they said would protect Marylanders’ right to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Two of the party’s senior leaders, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, held a news conference in Baltimore to call attention to the Democrats’ “voter empowerment operation.” Cummings said voters in Maryland face fewer barriers than those in many other states that have adopted voter ID requirements that Democrats believe are designed to suppress the minority vote. But he said Maryland Democrats have to be on guard. ”We cannot remain silent when people are trying to lessen the rights of people to vote,” said Cummings, a veteran Baltimore congressman. With eight days of early voting starting Thursday, the Democrats have set up a hotline — 1-888-678-VOTE — where people can receive information on when and where to vote and report any problems at the polls.