In 2013, North Carolina drew national attention when it passed the nation’s most restrictive voting law—currently the subject of a challenge in federal court. The Republican-backed measure likely kept tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately minorities, from the polls last fall. But a subtler maneuver—and one that, until now, has largely flown under the radar—could throw up another major roadblock for non-white would-be voters next year, when the state figures to once again be a presidential battleground. Last year, North Carolina’s county election boards, which are controlled by Republicans, moved the location of almost one-third of the state’s early voting sites. Those changes, according to new data analysis by a consulting firm that was shared with MSNBC, will significantly increase the distance African-Americans have to travel to vote early, while leaving white voters largely unaffected.
When Massachusetts voters head to the polls next November, they’ll be able to cast their ballots more than two weeks ahead of Election Day. “Every year, we hear of people missing voting because their employers don’t necessarily give them the day off, or because they may have irregular work schedules, or because they have a family to care for,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, executive director of nonprofit MassVOTE. “I don’t think it’s an excuse, but those are some of the reasons people give. We feel we’re removing the excuses and looking to increase participation.”
New York: Reform groups say Cuomo should include funds for early voting in 2016 budget | Auburn Citizen
A collection of good government groups is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to insert funding in his 2016-17 executive budget for two election reform proposals. The New York Voters Coalition said the state should provide $5 million to help counties implement early voting and an additional $2 million for the development of electronic poll books and ballot on demand systems. According to the group, which includes representatives from Common Cause/NY, League of Women Voters New York State and the New York Public Interest Research Group, the measures could boost voter turnout in New York. “We note that 2016 is a particularly appropriate year to fund much-needed election administration reforms, with important election contests at the presidential, gubernatorial, congressional level and legislative levels,” they wrote.
Jackson County has decided to give up the fight about opening an in-person early voting center in Indian Country, making it the last county to do so. County officials signed an agreement with the state authorizing an in-person early voting station in Wanblee, which has a heavy Native American population. Various tribes and voting rights advocates have been asking counties to open voting stations in towns with large Native American populations, arguing that impoverished Indians couldn’t make the trip to county seats to cast early votes. Jackson County was the lone holdout, even after state officials had indicated that the county could use state Help America Vote Act funds to cover the expenses of opening a satellite voting station at Wanblee. The agreement means that the state will fund, and Jackson County will staff, an early voting station through the 2022 election.
Attorneys representing Ohio Democrats in a legal dispute over changes to the swing state’s voting laws said Monday that a federal judge should strike down the adjustments because their burden on voters outweighs any benefit to the state. But lawyers for the state claim the voting changes were minor and argue that Ohio offers many opportunities for its residents to vote. At issue in the case are a series of Republican-backed changes that Democrats allege disproportionately burden minority voters and those who lean Democratic. Among the policy changes was elimination of a week of early voting in which Ohioans also could register to vote, known as “golden week.” U.S. District Judge Michael Watson heard opening statements in the trial that began Monday and is expected to stretch into next week. The case is being tried before Watson instead of a jury. The case also challenges rules related to absentee and provisional ballots, and limitations to in-person, early voting locations. Democrats want Watson to block the policies from being enforced.
North Carolina: Voting law opponents plan to file preliminary injunction against photo ID | Winston-Salem Journal
The North Carolina NAACP wants a federal judge to stop the photo-ID requirement from taking effect during the March 2016 primary elections. Attorneys for the civil-rights organization filed court papers on Friday indicating that they planned to seek a preliminary injunction. The photo-ID requirement was passed along with a number of other provisions in a sweeping elections law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed in August 2013. The law is known as the Voter Information Verification Act.This will be the second time the state NAACP has sought a preliminary injunction over the controversial elections law. The group sought one last year.
Democrats in the swing state of Ohio have filed a federal lawsuit claiming a series of voting-related changes made by Republicans disproportionately burden voters who lean Democratic and violate certain constitutional rights. The state’s Republican elections chief contends the voting process is fair and has called the lawsuit politically motivated. … The Ohio Organizing Collaborative filed the lawsuit in May in Columbus federal court. But attorneys for the nonprofit recently withdrew the organization from the case, saying it lacked the “institutional capability” to remain a plaintiff. The state’s Democratic Party and Cuyahoga and Montgomery county parties took its place. They join three Ohio residents who are also plaintiffs. They are suing Jon Husted, the state’s Republican elections chief, and Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, over the voting policies.
Barely 26 hours after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill intended to overhaul New Jersey’s voting system and boost voter participation, Democratic state lawmakers from both chambers met in a rare joint caucus to chart a new course. The bill, called the Democracy Act, would make voter registration automatic upon applying for a driver’s license and expand early voting. Among other provisions, the bill (A4613) would resolve the state’s contradictory U.S. Senate succession rules and require pre-election materials be printed in more languages. Democrats pushing the bill have said it will increase access to the ballot and boost voter participation. Nationally, Democrats have sought to enfranchise more voters, while Republicans have expressed concern about fraud.
Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed an overhaul of New Jersey’s voting procedures that Democrats and the League of Women Voters said would have increased turnout, calling it wasteful and politically motivated. The measure, dubbed the “The Democracy Act,” would have expanded early voting, created online registration and automatically enrolled people applying for a driver’s license unless they opted out. Christie, who vetoed a bill in 2013 that would have required polls to open two weeks before elections, has said the latest effort would have raised the risk of fraud. In a statement accompanying the veto, Christie said he remained doubtful the measure would increase turnout. He said it would “upend” the state’s current early-voting statutes allowing people to cast paper ballots prior to an election. The law would cost an additional $25 million per year, he said.
National: Review: ‘Give Us the Ballot’ a sobering look at the modern struggle for voting rights in America | Los Angeles Times
Fifty years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, “Give Us the Ballot” makes a powerful case that voting rights are under assault in 21st century America. Current events underscore the book’s timeliness. In September, Alabama announced it was closing 31 driver’s license offices, a disproportionate number of them in majority-black counties, making it even harder for African Americans to comply with Alabama’s 2011 law requiring voters to show government-issued IDs to cast ballots. As author Ari Berman points out, Alabama is one of nine Republican-controlled states to pass voter ID laws since 2010, and those are only the most blatant of restrictions that also include limits on early voting and rules that make voter registration more difficult. Efforts to roll back the act’s protections for minority voters are nothing new, Berman demonstrates; the first legal challenge to the law was filed five days after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it in 1965. When the Supreme Court upheld the Voting Rights Act a year later, Southern legislators turned from preventing African Americans from voting to diluting their votes. Black-majority counties were consolidated with larger white ones; at-large elections and multi-member districts made it nearly impossible for African American candidates to gain office. Section 5 of the act, which required seven Southern states with histories of voting discrimination to submit any changes in their voting laws for federal review, became the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s instrument for preventing such manipulations.