The effort by Ohio Republicans to make voting harder in the nation’s most pivotal swing state has triggered a furious response—one that could yet succeed in fighting off some of the worst effects of the new restrictions. “Since these bills have been passed, we have seen an incredible response from all corners of the state,” State Senator Nina Turner, who has helped lead the effort, told msnbc. “Ohioans are just plain tired of their ballot access being made into a political tool. From local leaders stepping out, to the court system, to the ballot, we are seeing the people push back against an effort to limit their voice using all the tools at their disposal.” Last month, Ohio lawmakers passed GOP-backed bills that cut six days of early voting, ended same-day voter registration, made it harder to vote absentee, and made it more likely that provisional ballots will be rejected. Just days after the bills were signed, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican,announced the elimination of Sunday voting, effectively ending the “Souls to the Polls” drives organized in recent years by many African-American churches.
Gov. Scott Walker signaled Tuesday that he was open to signing a bill that would limit early voting, including disallowing it on weekends in the two weeks leading up to an election. The state Senate was expected to pass the bill Tuesday, despite objections from those who say it’s an unconstitutional attempt to make it more difficult for minorities in Wisconsin’s largest cities to vote. Senators were preparing to work into the night voting on more than 50 bills, including more than a dozen that would make substantive and technical changes to election law, as part of an effort to end this year’s session within the next couple weeks.
A wide majority of Iowans believe it’s more important to ensure ballot access for eligible voters than to guard against voting by those who are ineligible. That result, captured in The Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa Poll, casts new light on a debate that has been raging in the state and across the nation for years over the appropriate balance between ballot access and security. Seventy-one percent of poll respondents say it’s more important that every eligible, registered voter is able to vote, compared with 25 percent who say it’s more important that no ineligible person “slips through the cracks” to cast a vote. “Americans care about preventing voter fraud, but they care more about making voting free, fair and accessible,” said Myrna Perez, an expert on voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Secretary of State Jason Kander said last week he still is hopeful that the Missouri General Assembly will consider changes in state election law that he believes would make it easier for residents to make their choices at election time. Kander for the past two sessions has lobbied for passage of measures based on recommendations from a bipartisan election commission he named soon after taking office as the state’s chief election official. Among other things, the commission recommended that the state enact an advance, or early voting, system and no-excuse absentee balloting by mail, to provide more opportunities for voters who may not be able to make it to the polls.
A bill proposing a constitutional amendment to allow an enhanced early-voting system in Maine fell short Wednesday in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers voted 87-57 in favor of the bill, but that was several votes shy of the two-thirds needed to send the issue to voters, who have final approval of changes to the Maine Constitution. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Four Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.
Ohio: FitzGerald introduces voting legislation that contradicts recently-passed state law | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formally submitted legislation to County Council asserting his right to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county, a move that would be in direct contradiction to a recently-passed state law. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, released the legislation — which he has deemed the “Cuyahoga County Voting Rights Law” — late Wednesday. The bill’s text says that despite any state laws to the contrary, the county will promote voter registration and promote “early voting and maximizing voter participation through voting by mail in Cuyahoga County, including, but not limited to, mailing applications to vote by mail, with postage-prepaid return envelopes, to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.”
Massachusetts: Election reform bill will increase voter turnout, officials say | The Daily Free Press
In hopes of spurring an increase in voter turnout, an election reform bill is moving through the State House that would ensure early voting, online voter registration and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds in Massachusetts. Under the new law, there would be an early voting period beginning 10 days before Election Day and ending two days before Election Day. Additionally, both online registration and pre-registration for teenagers coming up on their 18th birthday will make voting more convenient for residents of Massachusetts. Altogether, 32 other states so far have passed similar bills.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration recently released a report on ways to make American elections run more smoothly and to reduce long lines at the polls. The bipartisan commission, co-chaired by the head election attorneys from President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, found than 5 million people had to wait longer than an hour to vote in 2012. Some voters waited for more than six hours! Even here in Massachusetts, thousands of urban voters waited in long lines of up to three hours. Others understandably could not wait that long and went home. Still others were turned away because of issues around inactive voting lists, registration glitches, and their inability to legally obtain an absentee ballot. Thankfully all of the Commission on Election Administration’s top legislative recommendations were recently passed by the Massachusetts Senate in a groundbreaking election modernization bill. These recommendations were online voter registration, early voting, permanent voter registration, and post-election audits of election equipment.
The group of African-American leaders pushing the inclusion of a Voters Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution has revised its amendment summary and submitted new signatures after Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected their initial attempt to get on the ballot. The Voters Bill of Rights would add items to the constitution that are controversial among some Republicans, such as preserving a 35-day early voting period, specifiying extended hours for early voting, allowing a voter to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the correct county and moving toward online voter registration. Supporters say their effort is a reaction to several new laws that may make voting more difficult for some – in exchange for added security, fairness and efficiency, Republicans say.
Is the tide turning on voting rights? Leading up to the 2012 election, state legislatures passed dozens of laws to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Last year, the Supreme Court gutted a key voting rights protection. Despite ongoing shenanigans in some parts of the country, things look much brighter two months into 2014, with increasing public bipartisan support for making our elections more free, fair, and accessible. Look at what has happened this year already. Last month, the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (co-chaired by the heads of both President Obama and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns) agreed on common-sense recommendations to improve elections, including ideas to expand early voting and modernize registration. Bipartisan leaders in Congress introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act (revisions made necessary after the Supreme Court eviscerated one of its most powerful tools against discriminatory election practices). And, this month, Attorney General Eric Holder and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — unlikely bedfellows in almost any policy debate — each spoke out in favor of restoring voting rights to people with past criminal convictions.