Felons who have served their sentences shouldn’t be blocked from voting by state laws that disproportionately affect minorities, Attorney General Eric Holder will say today. “These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive,” Holder said in remarks prepared for delivery this morning in Washington. “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered but repealed.” Holder’s push for restoring voting rights of felons is the latest change he’s seeking in long-standing criminal justice policies that he has said do nothing to make Americans safer and have steep costs.
Editorials: The new conservative assault on early voting: More Republicans, fewer voters. | RickHasen/Slate
It is easy to dismiss the latest conservative rants against early voting as just one more way for Republicans to try to gain advantage over Democrats at the polls. But something much more troubling may also be at work: Some opponents of early voting are promoting the view that a smaller (and skewed) electorate is better for democracy. In the past few weeks, a flurry of conservatives have attacked early voting, from Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis in Politico to George Will in the Washington Post to J. Christian Adams in the Washington Times. The timing is no coincidence: The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which President Obama created to look at issues with long lines and other election problems, recently issued its much-anticipated report. The report is full of many sound suggestions for improving our elections, and one of the key recommendations is to expand early voting, either in person, through absentee ballots, or both. There’s good reason to follow the commission’s recommendation: Early voting takes pressure off administering the vote on Election Day. It helps avert long lines and aids election administrators in working out kinks. Voters like early voting because it lets them pick a convenient time to vote, when there are not work or child-care conflicts.
Before the 2012 election, there were numerous efforts in the states to restrict voting. But now the pendulum appears to be swinging in the other direction, giving voting-rights advocates cause for cautious optimism. A new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that hundreds of bills to expand voting access have been introduced in most states over the past two years. “For years, partisans have moved swiftly to restrict the right to vote,” says Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Now, given new momentum, there is a key opportunity to transform voting in America.”
A pair of identical House and Senate resolutions to avoid a special session to replace former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has strong backing, House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said Monday. Carter said he has seen some other non-budget bills measures filed, but “I don’t “think any of those things have the support.” Consideration of a non-appropriations bill during a fiscal session requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.
One Idaho lawmaker’s push to create an online voter registration portal received mixed reviews and immediate opposition Monday at its first introduction hearing. State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, presented the bill to the House State Affairs Committee that would allow voters to register to vote online, a method available only in handful of states like Utah and Arizona. “What you find across the country … you have a younger voting generation who are accustomed to online registration or online banking or online everything,” Erpelding said. “So there’s an expectation that we move toward a more digital system.”
Iowa legislators worked over Secretary of State Matt Schultz pretty well at a Monday hearing on Schultz’s personal push to clean up voting rolls. Schultz staked his political career on his high-profile effort to curb voter fraud. Almost immediately after being elected in 2010, he alerted county election officials he was targeting immigrants he believed were voting improperly. County auditors waited and waited for Schultz to follow through. It took more than a year for him to acquire a federal citizenship database to check the legality of perhaps 1,000 Iowa voters Schultz suspected of voting illegally. The $240,000 probe led to 26 arrests of folks who mostly seemed confused, not conspirators.
The state Bureau of Elections head says Flint’s inability to recount absentee ballots from the November election here was “unfortunate and disheartening” and says the bureau will work with Clerk Inez Brown and her staff to ensure that training and written staffing plans are completed before the next election. Sally Williams, director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections Election Liaison Division, made the comments in a four-page letter to Genesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason, who had asked the state in December to review why the county Board of Canvassers could not recount absentee ballots from Flint’s Nov. 5 election.
Voting experts say allowing people to register and vote on the same day is among the most effective ways to boost participation in the election process. So naturally, Republicans in states across the country have been looking to crack down on same-day registration. And in Montana, they got a step closer last week to ending the practice. A GOP-backed bill passed last year by state legislators would let Montanans vote this November on whether to end same-day registration. On Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against a challenge to the legislation from labor and voting rights groups, clearing the way for the issue to appear on the ballot.
South Jersey Democratic organization has filed a federal complaint against a Republican campaign group working to reelect U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, saying it had co-opted his Democratic challenger’s name on a “deceptive” website to solicit donations. Republicans countered Monday by attacking the challenger, Democrat Bill Hughes Jr., for his association with retiring U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.). The website complaint, brought by Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Jim Schroeder, asks the Federal Election Commission to investigate “fraudulent” activity by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). It also names LoBiondo and his campaign as respondents.
Ohio Republicans are poised to pass a new round of restrictive voting laws this week. Taken together, the measures could limit access to the ballot in this year’s midterms and the 2016 presidential race, and revive the obscenely long lines at the polls that plagued the Buckeye State a decade ago. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, and it remains the single most pivotal state in presidential elections. That status is giving an added intensity to the battle over voting rights there. The Ohio House could vote as soon as Wednesday on two GOP-backed bills. One would cut early voting from 35 to 28 or 29 days. More importantly, it would end the so-called “Golden Week” period when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day—a key way to bring new voters into the process.
Ohio: Are Libertarians becoming a third key player in Ohio’s statewide elections? Party again filed a full slate of candidates | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Elections in Ohio are traditionally two-party affairs, with the alternative parties putting up candidates for a smattering of races. But has Ohio moved toward having three regular participants in its statewide contests? Two political scientists told Northeast Ohio Media Group this week that the the Libertarian Party of Ohio might become a credible third party because of divisions among Republicans. Libertarians this week filed a full slate of candidates for the partisan statewide contests that are up for election in November. Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative, and Sherry Clark topped that ticket as candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The party also put up candidates for auditor of state, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
Conservative MPs took several shots Monday at Elections Canada as the House of Commons moved the government’s controversial election reform bill closer to law. The Conservative majority in the House passed Bill C-23 through second reading after a 152-128 vote. A committee of MPs will study it before it returns for final debate. Opposition parties argue the 242-page bill tilts election rules in favour of the Conservatives and muzzles the chief electoral officer. The government says its bill will prevent fraud and lead to stronger enforcement of election violations. During hours of debate Monday, Conservative MPs depicted Elections Canada as biased against them. “Elections Canada lets the Liberals off and threatens to put my volunteers in prison,” said Cambridge-North Dumfries MP Gary Goodyear.
In the U.S., it is all too clear that many of the “voter ID” laws passed in several states had the all-but-overt purpose of suppressing voter turnout. We expect better of our northern neighbors, but apparently the Conservative Party government has a proposal, according to the Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase, for “stripping Elections Canada of its authority to encourage Canadians to vote in federal ballots.” The proposal would restrict the chief electoral officer on the kinds and depth of information that can be provided to the public, limiting the information to “five matter-of-fact topics related to how to vote or become a candidate.” Chase writes, “The Conservative bill will remove parts of Section 18 of the Elections Act that give the chief electoral officer the authority to provide the public with information on ‘the democratic right to vote’ and to ‘make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.’”
Thailand’s Election Commission said it would hold elections in April in areas where voting was disrupted by antigovernment protesters, likely delaying a new government from being formed until at least May to tackle high-stakes matters. The makeup voting will be on April 20 and April 27 in parts of the capital and more than a dozen provinces after protester blockades there prompted election officials to call off the Feb. 2 polls, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, an election commissioner, said at a news conference on Tuesday. Thailand’s economic growth in 2014 will be affected by how long the protests go on and how long it takes to form a new government, a senior economist at the World Bank’s Bangkok office said Tuesday. The Bank of Thailand expects the country’s economy to expand 3%, down from the 4% target the bank had forecast in November.
A member of Thailand’s Election Commission said it may prove impossible to complete this month’s disrupted election and the whole vote may need to be re-run, implying many months more under a caretaker government with limited powers. Action by anti-government protesters meant voting was scrapped or halted in about a fifth of constituencies, so there will not be enough lawmakers elected to convene parliament to vote in a prime minister.