Earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the nation to automatically register voters using data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a move that stands in contrast to voting restrictions many states have enacted in recent years. “I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and find ways to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen’s right to vote,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said at the bill’s signing ceremony. Most Americans are in favor of enacting a similar proposal in their own state, a new survey finds. A 54 percent majority of Americans say they’d favor an automatic registration law in their state, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while 55 percent favor allowing eligible citizens to register on the day of an election.
Voting rights, according to Harvard Kennedy School assistant professor of public policy Maya Sen, are fundamentally a question of numbers: How many people were eligible to vote? What number actually registered? And who, among those who registered, ended up casting a ballot? Though this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), the celebration is somewhat subdued for many: in the 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the VRA. Using data to argue for what the act had already achieved, Chief Justice John Roberts ’76, J.D. ’79, writing for the majority, invalidated a portion of the law that used a formula based on historical voting patterns to determine which counties and states needed to be monitored more closely. “All of these questions”—of the history, efficacy, and continued necessity of the Voting Rights Act—“turn on data collection and analysis,” Sen explained at a Thursday event hosted by the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. At the event, part of the center’s Challenges to Democracy series, Sen spoke with two fellow political scientists—professor of government Stephen Ansolabehere, and Indiana University assistant professor Bernard Fraga, Ph.D. ’13—and New York Times data journalist Nate Cohn.
Midway into a three-and-a-half-hour congressional hearing this week featuring Mary Jo White, the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, none of the legislators had bothered to ask if or when her agency would require that corporations disclose their political spending. The bipartisan silence testified to the growing importance to both parties of anonymous campaign donations. With each passing year since 2010, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to secretive political giving, politicians appear to value so-called dark money more and value disclosure of unnamed donors less.
A change in voting equipment across the state may be on the horizon, according to discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Mississippi County Election Commission. Tom Wiktorek, who was voted chairman of the commission Friday, said because of security concerns, discussion at the March 19 Arkansas County Election Commissions Associations conference centered around the possibility of returning to a paper ballot voting system.
Hartford’s registrar has filed a complaint in court as the city moves forward with plans to remove her after issues at the polls this past election, according to her attorney. Olga Vazquez filed a complaint against the city of Hartford and the Court of Common Council, including Kyle Anderson, Alexander Aponte, Joel Cruz, Jr., Raul de Jesus Jr., Cynthia Renee Jennings, Kenneth H. Kennedy Jr., David MacDonald and Shawn T. Wooden, arguing that a section in Hartford’s charter allowing the removal of elected officials defies Connecticut’s constitution and is therefore illegal, according to the complaint filed March 28. The provision is in Section 3a, Chapter IV of the city’s 2002 charter revision.
A Democratic state lawmaker in Maine urged his colleagues on Monday to support a proposal that would strip the governor of his power to fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate. If one of the U.S. senators representing Maine — Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King — were to step down this month, Republican Gov. Paul LePage could appoint a replacement until voters choose a new senator in November 2016. But Democratic Rep. Matt Moonen wants to require that a special primary election is held no later than 100 days after a vacancy occurs, followed by a special general election.
A Nevada state Senate committee has introduced legislation that would eliminate early voting on Sundays and restrict counties’ abilities to set their own voting hours, in the latest move to reshape how elections are held in the state. Senate Bill 433 was introduced on Monday by the Nevada Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. Under the terms of the bill, voting on Sundays during the early voting period ahead of next year’s elections would no longer be allowed, and counties would no longer be able to keep their polls open beyond 7 p.m. Previously, polling sites in areas like Clark County, which contains Las Vegas, had kept polls open until 9 p.m. State Sen. Patricia Farley (R), who chairs the committee that introduced the early voting legislation, and state Sen. James Settelmeyer (R), the committee’s vice chair, did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post about why they introduced the bill.
New Hampshire voters would be required to live in the state for 30 days prior to voting if a bill passed by the state Senate on Thursday goes into effect. Supporters called it a reasonable effort to avoid ‘‘drive-by’’ voting and other voter fraud, but opponents said the bill will disenfranchise some. ‘‘We always say if you didn’t vote you don’t have any right to complain,’’ said state Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat. ‘‘Well, if we don’t allow you to vote then you have every right to complain.’’ The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure along party lines.
North Carolina lawmakers now have one more reason to revisit the state’s discriminatory legislative and congressional maps: The U.S. Supreme Court seems inclined to eventually make them do so. The Court ruled 5-4 last week that Alabama wrongly packs black voters into too few legislative districts, diluting their votes. It’s a decision that might be instructive to N.C. Republicans, who like Democrats before them have drawn legislative districts that give their party the best chance of staying in power. Republicans, however, have taken the tactic to a new level of distastefulness, and the state’s 2011 map is being challenged on similar grounds as the Alabama case. The N.C. challenge is pending before the Supreme Court. In Alabama, like North Carolina, lawmakers have insisted that their districts are lawful. In fact, Alabama’s attorneys argued to the Supreme Court that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required those who drew the voting maps to maintain certain percentages of black voters in majority black districts. That, attorneys said, forced lawmakers to cluster minorities into fewer districts.
The transportation budget bill that the General Assembly has sent Gov. John Kasich includes a noxious amendment that would discourage out-of-state college students from voting in Ohio. The governor should veto this irresponsible provision before he signs the bill. The Republican-controlled state Senate inserted the provision without public hearings or much debate. It would require people who want to vote in Ohio to get in-state driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations no later than 30 days after they register to vote. That mandate requires would-be voters to incur costs of $75 or more; violators could face criminal charges. The provision would particularly affect the 100,000-plus out-of-state students who attend Ohio colleges and universities.