The civil rights marchers who were attacked in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 were attempting to register to vote. The question that people should be asking all these years later is: Why should anyone have to register at all? On Monday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill that eliminates the need for most citizens to submit registration forms in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That legislation, the first in the country, arises from a simple idea: Government should not force people to file more forms than necessary. (If you disagree, you may have a future career with the Internal Revenue Service.)
A bill is currently working its way through the Minnesota statehouse that would restore the right to vote to some 47,000 Americans, all of whom have been convicted on felony charges and are currently on probation or parole. Under existing Minnesota law, it is illegal for these 47,000 people to vote in elections, just as it is for more than 4 million other non-incarcerated felons around the country. If the legislation passes—so far it has gotten through two committees in the Senate, but has yet to move forward in the House—the state would join 13 others in allowing felons to vote as soon as they leave prison. (Maine and Vermont allow felons to vote while still in prison.) Felon enfranchisement measures tend to face opposition from conservatives. But the Minnesota bill has built strong momentum among Republicans. The bill’s supporters on the right include state Rep. Tony Cornish, a former police chief known for wearing a pin on his lapel depicting a pair of handcuffs, who has signed on as the bill’s chief author in the House. Of the remaining 44 lawmakers in the Senate and House who have officially come out in support of the enfranchisement measure, about one-third are Republicans. The bill has received endorsements from several law enforcement associations and libertarian groups as well.
As my fellow Commissioners and I begin our work at the Election Assistance Commission we have embarked on a “listening tour” across the country to figure out where to start after several years without a quorum at the EAC. One message is clear at every stop. As Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said recently: Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”
California: San Francisco seeks to become first major city to lower voting age to 16 | San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco is poised to become the first major U.S. city to consider a policy that would reduce the voting age to 16. Today, Supervisor John Avalos is expected to introduce a charter amendment that would change The City’s definition of voter to someone who is at least 16 years old. This would apply only to municipal elections and not state or federal elections. The proposal would allow “any person who is at least 16 years old, meets all the qualifications for voter registration in accordance with state law other than those provisions that address age, and is registered to vote with the Department of Elections” to vote on city ballot measures and candidates. However, voting for San Francisco Unified School District commissioners and City College of San Francisco trustees is excluded from the proposal because they are quasi state bodies.
The 18th Congressional District will have a new representative by mid-summer. A special election to fill the seat U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock is vacating is to be held no later than July, according to state law. Schock’s resignation is effective March 31. Within five days after that, Gov. Bruce Rauner is to set a date for the special election, according to Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. The election is to be held within 115 days of the date Rauner’s office issues its notice to the clerks of the 19 counties in the 18th District, Sandvoss said. That notice is to include a date for a primary election. Nothing in state law mandates a date for the primary, nor does the election have to be on a Tuesday, Sandvoss said. “We just found out about this an hour ago,” Sandvoss said Tuesday from Springfield when asked about the vacancy. “We’re scrambling to figure out the time frames involved.”
A voting rights advocate says a potential Republican Party presidential caucus in Kentucky next year would need to include specific rules to protect overseas voters’ rights. This month, state GOP leaders gave preliminary approval to conducting a presidential caucus in 2016 instead of the usual primary. The change was requested by Sen. Rand Paul—a likely 2016 presidential candidate—to get around a state law banning candidates from appearing twice on a ballot.
Nevadans may soon have to produce identification at their voting places, if a legislative bill is approved and signed by the governor. The voter ID law is designed to crack down on voter fraud. AB 253 goes before the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a solution in search of a problem,” says Bob Fulkerson, Executive Director of the progressive organization PLAN. That’s how he described Assembly Bill 253–a piece of legislation requiring proof of identity at polling places. “To disenfranchise low income and communities of color,” says Fulkerson.
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.
Ohio: Federal judge upholds tighter ballot access rules for Ohio’s minor political parties | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal judge ruled Monday that stiffer rules for minor parties to gain access to Ohio’s ballot are constitutional and do not impose an unfair burden on the parties. District Judge Michael Watson ruled that the changes to state law, approved in 2013, were not overly burdensome toward minority parties forming or electors casting votes for their candidates. And, Watson held, the state of Ohio has legitimate and important interests that the law addresses. “It is rational for the state of Ohio to limit minor parties’ participation in primary elections because minor party primaries are typically uncontested, voter turnout is low, and the additional costs of adding uncontested minor party candidates to a primary ballot is unwarranted,” Watson wrote.
Call it “motor voter” on steroids. New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive. The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”
Inspired by a civil rights anniversary and a new law in the Pacific Northwest, a Philadelphia Democrat is pushing to make voter registration automatic in Pennsylvania. “We will no longer play defense,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes at a Tuesday news conference at the Constitution Center, where he announced a new bill to create a “universal, automatic” registration system. “We will no longer be in a position where we will allow folks to deny us the opportunity to vote. We are now engaging fully in securing the right to vote for every Pennsylvania citizen who legally can do it.” Hughes estimates about two million Pennsylvanians are eligible to vote but unregistered. The state is home to about 10 million voting-age residents.
A new report by Common Cause, found that Pennsylvania is having mixed results in applying the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Alternatively, as WITF stated, “Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.” The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established in March 2013 by Executive Order 13639 to improve the efficient administration of Federal elections and voter experience. The executive order was passed to address some of the issues of the 2012 . In fact, there were record long lines on the day of the 2012 election. In Texas and Virginia people had to wait up to four hours. The Common Cause report examined ten states that were predicted to have close gubernatorial or congressional races in the mid-term elections.
Texas is one of only 10 states still doing straight-ticket voting but a North Texas legislator is hoping to change that. At a hearing today, Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) told the Elections Committee that doing away with such an option here would lead to a more informed voter and improve turnout in non-partisan ballot measure. “The purpose of this bill is to increase the number of Republican elected officials thought out the state of Texas,” he halfway joked. “However I do believe the added benefit will be a more educated voter.”
A U.S. appeals court said on Tuesday the state of Texas must pay about $3 million in legal fees to plaintiffs after being on the wrong side of a civil rights lawsuit over voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a lower court made a mistake when it allowed Texas to avoid paying the fees and reversed its decision.
Israel’s election commission chief on Tuesday barred Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from broadcasting new appeals to his followers for their support as Israelis cast ballots in a surprisingly close election that threatens to unseat the prime minister. The commission ruled that a broadcast appeal – Netanyahu had planned two television interviews – would violate the country’s ban on political ads on election day. The rejection came as officials reported that turnout by 4 p.m., at 45.4 percent, was lagging slightly behind the rate of the election in 2013. Polls remain open until 10 p.m. In a last-minute video appeal to supporters on his Facebook page, Netanyahu warned that “the rule of the right is in danger” and that “Arab voters are going in droves to the polls” in buses provided by leftist groups. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Likud to close the gap,” he said.
Polling stations only close at 10:00 pm, but several parties have already filed complaints to the Central Elections Committee (CEC) over allegations of fraud Tuesday – just halfway through election day. Yisrael Beytenu has filed a complaint, representatives stated to the press, after a number of party representatives were allegedly attacked during the voting process. In one incident, the chairman of Yisrael Beytenu’s Nazareth chapter was attacked at the polling station; local police rushed to the scene to break up the fight. In Arab-majority Baka Al Gharbia, Kafr Kara, and Sakhnin, party representatives were prevented from voting by the crowd.