After years of doing just about all it could to restrict voting, the Oklahoma Legislature is now trying to encourage it. Historically low voter turnout last year prompted lawmakers to come forward this session with dozens of election reform proposals. About a half-dozen remain in play. The proposals range from increasing the number of absentee ballots a notary public can notarize to an 80-percent reduction in the number of signatures needed for a political party to gain access to the ballot. Others include consolidating elections, online registration and a permanent absentee ballot list. All are Republican bills, and in most cases survived their first floor votes with little opposition.
Democrats and older Iowans would have to adjust their early voting habits the most if a bill that needs absentee ballots to be in county auditors’ hands by the time polls close on Election Day becomes law. Republicans would see an effect too, legislators say, but they vote in particular person on Election Day with much more frequency than Democrats or those registered for no celebration, and also Iowans 65 and older, an IowaWatch analysis of voting data in common elections more than the final 20 years shows. Regardless of who feels the impact, Republican and Democratic state legislators trying to amend Iowa’s absentee voter registration law agree that modifications are crucial since ballots are not being counted when they possibly really should be. The explanation: U.S. post offices are not putting time-stamped postmarks on lots of of the absentee ballots. “So we are throwing ballots out, and we don’t want to do that,” state Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, stated.
It is often remarked, “So goes Ohio, so goes the nation,” a common sentiment signifying that Ohio is a bellwether state for national politics. Perhaps it’s time to ask: Where is Ohio going? If you’re Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, you may think Ohio is heading toward rampant voter fraud. Last week, Husted released the results of an exhaustive investigation into non-citizen voting in Ohio, something he considers an “expanding loophole.” But despite the Republican’s alarmist calls, the investigation identified just 145 cases of non-Ohio citizens illegally registered to vote, an amount totaling a miniscule two ten-thousandths of a percent of the 7.7 million registered Ohio voters. Unsurprisingly, a similar investigation released by Husted’s office in 2013 found that only 0.0003 percent of all ballots casted in the state were by non-citizens.
House Democrats are seeking changes to state election laws that they say will make voting easier in 2016. House Minority Leader Larry Hall unveiled the two bills at a news conference Tuesday. House Bill 239 would restore the week of early voting that was cut from state law by the Voter Information Verification Act, the Republican election overhaul bill passed in 2013. The proposal would be effective in 2016. Prior to VIVA, state law allowed up to 17 days of early voting, including three weekends. The overhaul reduced that to 10 days, including two weekends.
With tens of thousands of people expected to gather this weekend in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a turning point in the American Civil Rights movement, activists hope to use the moment to turn the spotlight back on voting rights issues in the USA. President Obama will visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday, joining living foot soldiers of the civil rights movement at the landmark. The bridge is where hundreds of peaceful protesters were brutally beaten on “Bloody Sunday” as they sought to end discriminatory tactics — such as poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests — used by white officials to prevent African Americans from voting. The protesters of Selma ultimately prevailed, and the moment helped usher in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in moves that activists call sweeping erosions of voting rights that disproportionately affect minority communities, several states have passed more stringent voter ID rules after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key provision of the landmark legislation that was birthed with the blood and sweat of the Selma protesters.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.