Editorials: More vote suppression in Ohio | Toledo Blade

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.

Editorials: Protect South Carolina’s votes: Return to paper ballots | Duncan Buell/The State

With South Carolina poised to acquire a new election system to replace the mid-2000s system bought with federal funds, now is the time for citizens to get involved in what should be an open, transparent acquisition process. I recently chaired the annual conference of the Election Verification Network, which focused on the similar choices that local election officials face the nation over. The usual vendors are offering very few options, but virtually all jurisdictions are abandoning direct recording electronic systems like South Carolina’s and again adopting paper ballots that can be viewed by the voter, sampled and audited afterward, and provide a simpler system for poll workers.

Editorials: Online voting still faces security issues | Mark Pomerleau/GCN

For those interested in expanding voting access by allowing voters to cast their ballots over the Internet, one government expert/activist has bad news – the security and privacy risks associated with Internet voting won’t be resolved anytime soon. David Jefferson, computer scientist in the Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Applied Scientific Computing, has studied electronic voting and security for more than 15 years. He believes “security, privacy, reliability, availability and authentication requirements for Internet voting are very different from, and far more demanding than, those required for e-commerce.” In short, voting is more susceptible to attacks, manipulation and vulnerabilities. Some champions of Internet balloting believe the safeguards that protect online shoppers from hackers can also protect the sensitive information and meet the legal regulations associated with voting online. Advocates further believe that Internet voting will increase turnout, cut costs and improve accuracy. Jefferson refuted these claims by asserting that there currently is no strong authentication or verification solution for online shopping. Also, while proxy shopping is a common occurrence and is not against the law, proxy voting is not allowed.

Editorials: Google searches show that millions of people wanted to vote but couldn’t | Alex Street/The Washington Post

Fifty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, election laws are still in the news. Much of the recent attention has gone to court battles over voter ID laws. But other barriers to voting remain. Although some states allow voters to register right up to Election Day, others require registration as much as one month beforehand. In the typical state in 2012, registration was closed for three weeks before the election. Some scholars argue that requiring early registration hurts voter mobilization in the final days of the campaign, when interest in the election is most intense. But skeptics counter that most of the people who fail to register in time have little real interest in voting. Our new research shows that there is a lot of last-minute interest. We estimate that keeping registration open through Election Day in 2012 would have allowed an additional 3 million to 4 million Americans to register and vote.

Editorials: A Rare Victory for Black Voting Rights in the South | Ari Berman/The Nation

In 2010, Republicans gained control of the Alabama legislature for the first time in 136 years. The redistricting maps drawn by Republicans following the 2010 election preserved the thirty-five majority-minority districts in the Alabama legislature—represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats—and in some cases actually increased the number of minority voters in those districts. For example, State Senator Quinton Ross, a black Democrat elected in 2002, represented a district in Montgomery that was 72 percent African-American before the redistricting process. His district was under-populated by 16,000 people, so the Alabama legislature moved 14,806 African-Americans and thirty-six whites into his seat. The new district was now over 75 percent black and excluded white neighborhoods that were previously in Ross’s district.

Editorials: Tell the election success stories, too | Katrina vanden Heuvel/The Washington Post

“I had a college degree, a decade of experience, and the only job I could get was making $8 an hour at the local convenience store in my neighborhood,” Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D) said in January, recalling her unlikely path to public office. “I have no business being in politics. I was not groomed for this. But thanks to public financing, I have a voice. And thanks to public financing, a gal who takes cash for the convenience store for selling sandwiches can actually talk about the stories that she’s learned from behind the counter.” Russell was speaking at an event on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling that set off an avalanche of money in politics. After her state’s “clean elections” system propelled Russell into office in 2008, she quickly became a force in Maine politics. Her progressive record of defending voting rights and workers, for example, led the Nation to recognize her as its “Most Valuable State Representative” in 2011.

Editorials: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted proposes reasonable strategy to prevent voter fraud | Cleveland Plain Dealer

A recent review by Secretary of State Jon Husted found 145 non-citizens were registered to vote in Ohio, and that 27 may have voted. (Seven were in Cuyahoga County.) A 2013 Husted review found another 291 aliens registered to vote; 17 had voted. That total of 44 voting aliens equals less than 0.0006 percent of Ohio’s 7.7 million voters. Husted is asking non-citizens who are registered to vote, but who’ve not voted, to remove themselves from the rolls. Illegal voting is a crime that can bar someone from naturalization. Husted said asking non-voting aliens to cancel their registrations can protect them from inadvertently disqualifying themselves from future citizenship by voting.

Editorials: In the fight for Puerto Rican statehood, is San Juan the new Selma? | Julio Ricardo Varela/Quartz

Leave it to a British comic to school us all on the least talked-about race problem in America—well, except the millions of Americans living in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. John Oliver’s recent viral video about the Insular Cases, and their role in this country’s ugly racial past entertained and shocked a lot of Americans, just hours after President Obama told a crowd gathered in Selma that “our work is never done.” Oliver’s wit, framed around Obama’s words, created a perfect storm of discovery. Though, you would think, in 2015, this wouldn’t seem so surprising—yes, the American government was blatantly racist toward peoples conquered as spoils of war. But anyone from non-state territories like the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or Puerto Rico—especially, Puerto Rico—could have told you that. The problem was no one was really listening until Oliver gave the Insular Cases comedic street cred.

Editorials: Should the Supreme Court Have Accepted a Challenge to Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law? | Ari Berman/The Nation

Ruthelle Frank, an 87-year-old resident of Brokaw, Wisconsin, has voted in every presidential election since 1948. But after the passage of Wisconsin’s voter-ID law in 2011, she became one of 300,000 registered voters in the state without the required ID. Frank was paralyzed on the left side of her body at birth and doesn’t have a driver’s license or birth certificate. Her name is misspelled in Wisconsin’s Register of Deeds, an error that would cost hundreds of dollars to correct. These circumstances led Frank to become the lead plaintiff in a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter-ID law. That law was blocked in state and federal court for the 2012 election and struck down in May 2014 following a full trial, only to be reinstated by a panel of Republican judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit less than two months before the 2014 election. The Supreme Court prevented the law from taking effect for the 2014 election, but only on a temporary basis. After the election, voting rights advocates asked the high court to consider the full merits of the case. Today, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. As a result, Wisconsin’s voter-ID law—among the most restrictive in the country—will be allowed to go into effect.

Editorials: Want higher voter turnout? Get rid of special elections | Bruce Maiman/The Sacramento Bee

With consistently low voter turnouts, there’s chatter to expand the electoral pool by lowering the voting age or even by requiring people to vote. Has anyone considered that too few voters might be the result of too many special elections? Last week, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced a measure to lower the voting age to 16 for municipal elections, apparently forgetting how shallow high school elections can be. Then President Barack Obama suggested that mandatory voting “would counteract money more than anything,” apparently because we don’t have enough low-information voters to manipulate with big-money campaign propaganda. Neither idea is likely to happen, but special elections are happening in droves.

Editorials: Voting By Mail In Hawaii: An Idea Whose Time Has Come | Civil Beat

According to new rankings, Hawaii places No. 32 among all states in voter turnout, with a depressing 36.5 percent of citizens who are eligible to vote casting ballots in 2014. While that is about the same as the national average and better than our state’s performance in 2010, to put it mildly, there’s plenty room for improvement. Vote-by-mail bills currently before the Legislature stand a chance of significantly boosting the number of people taking part in our democracy. House Bill 124 and Senate Bill 287 would phase in voting by mail, introducing the practice first in counties with fewer than 100,000 residents in 2016 and extending it statewide by 2020. Ballots would be mailed directly to voters, who would then complete and return them by mail. No braving rush-hour traffic to get to a polling place, waiting in line or dealing with fussy optical scanners.

Editorials: 50 Years After Selma and the Voting Rights Act, Americans Have Become Apathetic About Democracy | Eric Liu/The Atlantic

In this 50th anniversary year of Selma and the Voting Rights Act, there’s been a lot of talk about the right to vote: how it was secured for black citizens in the South, and how it is being compromised anew by legislatures and a see-no-evil Supreme Court. But for the most part, the public has ignored the talk. The whittling away of the VRA plays as a technical matter, the concern of partisan insiders. Which, increasingly, is how voting itself is seen by the large pluralities of eligible voters who sit out most presidential contests, and the outright majorities who skip other elections. The sources of this apathy are familiar: people are too busy, the money game seems rigged, campaigns have become an ugly, unsatisfying spectator sport. The net effect is that the act of voting feels severed from personal purpose or collective identity. But it’s possible to change that. A playbook exists. There was a time when voting meant much more than just voting. In fact, that was true for most of this nation’s history. From the Revolution through the Civil Rights era, as historians like Mark Brewin and David Waldstreicher describe, the United States had a robust participatory culture of voting: parades, yes, but also raucous street theater, open-air debates, broadsheets and pamphleteering, committees of correspondence, rituals of toasting and fasting and even fighting, festivals and bonfires, and outrageous wagers.

Editorials: The Supreme Court’s History on Voting Rights: An ‘Injustices’ Excerpt | Ian Millhiser/The New Republic

Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder may be the most politically naïve decision of our era. Rooted in the notion that there simply isn’t enough racism left in the United States to justify a full-functioning Voting Rights Act, Shelby County struck down the law’s preclearance provision—which required new election rules in states with a history of voter suppression to be reviewed by federal officials before they took effect—and left voters to the mercy of a judiciary that is increasingly skeptical of voting rights. Yet, even if the Roberts Court were champions of the franchise, the history of voting rights in the United States reveals that a vigorous judiciary is simply not enough to protect these rights. Politicians determined to keep certain Americans from voting are too creative and too nimble for a judiciary that, by its very nature, must take months or even years to consider cases. And that’s exactly what happened for decades in the South before the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Editorials: Concerns grow over voting rights for the South’s language minorities | Facing South

Amid concerns over the rollback of the Voting Rights Act and introduction of voter ID laws, election watchdogs worry about another critical voting rights issue: language barriers faced by limited English proficient (LEP) voters. For people who don’t speak English as their first language, language barriers can be a significant hurdle to voting. Difficulty understanding registration forms, ballots and other voting materials for LEP voters such as recently-naturalized citizens may discourage them from turning out to the polls. In 1975, Congress acknowledged the barriers an English-only voting process created and amended the Voting Rights Act to require certain jurisdictions to provide bilingual materials and translation support to voters. Under Section 203, jurisdictions — usually counties — where a certain level of a language minority are LEP and have an illiteracy rate higher than the national average must provide translated voting materials and an interpreter at the polls.

Editorials: Is Oregon’s Automatic Voter Registration Law A Step Toward Universal Voting? | Russell Berman/The Atlantic

“I forgot to register.” It’s one of the frequently cited reasons that people give every year for not voting in America, as well as a convenient excuse that the state of Oregon this week took it away from its citizens. Under a law signed Monday by new Governor Kate Brown, any eligible Oregonian with a driver’s license will be automatically registered to vote and will receive a ballot by mail weeks before Election Day. The measure is the first of its kind in the nation, and state officials project it will add 300,000 people to a voter roll that now numbers about 2.2 million. Oregon has long been an early adopter of new voting methods, having shifted to an entirely vote-by-mail system in 1998. Passage of the law, which was supported by Democrats, marks a rare recent win for proponents of expanded access to the ballot box at a time when states are moving toward more restrictive measures. The U.S. has an embarrassingly low rate of voter participation, setting it apart from other democracies in the developed world; just over one-third of eligible voters showed up in 2014, and even in the relatively high turnout election of 2008, the participation rate was only 64 percent. Yet the debate over the Oregon “motor voter” law was contentious, and it hinged on a key question: How far should the government go to encourage citizens to register and vote?

Editorials: Oregon’s Example for Voters Everywhere | Cass R. Sunstein/Bloomberg

This week, Oregon became the first state to adopt automatic voter registration. If you’re an Oregonian over 18, and if you’ve dealt with the state’s Driver and Motor Vehicles Division since 2013, you’ll get a notice in the mail letting you know you’re registered to vote. Then, unless you opt out within three weeks, you’ll automatically receive a ballot 20 days before every election. (Oregon has all-mail voting.) Almost immediately, 300,000 more voters — a big chunk of the estimated 800,000 state residents who are eligible but still unregistered — are likely to be signed up. It’s fitting that Oregon passed its law just after the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march. Too often people assume that the U.S. has solved its voting-rights problem, and see Selma as no more than an occasion for pride and celebration. The truth is that voting rights remain a work in progress. Oregon’s new law points to a simple, inexpensive and promising way forward.

Editorials: The Supreme Court’s Identity Crisis on Voting Rights | Linda Greenhouse/New York Times

A thought experiment: Suppose the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights in Selma, Ala. — Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge — had fallen on March 7, 2013 rather than the week before last. Eight days before my imaginary anniversary, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. Four months later, the 5-to-4 decision in that case cut the heart out of the very victory that the Selma marchers had sacrificed to achieve, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Would the court really have had the nerve to do it, with the memories of the march’s veterans still echoing for the world to hear and with President Obama making perhaps the best speech of his presidency? In the full glare of that public spotlight, would there really have been no member of the Shelby County majority who might have found his way (yes, the five were all men) to a different result?

Editorials: Repair the Voting Rights Act | The Washington Post

The 50TH anniversary commemorations of the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., have come and gone. But one of the principal achievements of the brave marchers still remains compromised. Congress needs to fix the Voting Rights Act, a fact that can’t be ignored now that the politicians have left Selma. The Voting Rights Act subjected a handful of states with notorious records of voting discrimination to “preclearance,” meaning state and local officials had to submit proposed changes in electoral procedures to the Justice Department before implementing them. The results of preclearance and the other provisions of the act were dramatic.

Editorials: Ohio should focus on better voter access | Sean Wright/Cincinnati Inquirer

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.

Editorials: Oregon’s Radical Innovation: Make Democracy Easy | John Nichols/The Nation

Here is a novel notion: Why not make democracy easy? Why not take the trouble out of registering to vote—and out of voting? It can be done. Other countries, where voter turnout is dramatically higher than in the United States, craft their laws to encourage voting. Unfortunately, politics gets in the way of voting-friendly elections in the United States. At least in most states. It is no secret that these have not been easy times for the cause of voting rights. An activist majority on the US Supreme Court has invalidated key sections of the Voting Rights Act, and the traditional defenders of the franchise—Congressmen John Conyers, D-Michigan, and James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin—are struggling to renew the bipartisan coalition in support of robust protection for free and fair elections.

Editorials: Rocking the Afghan Vote | Foreign Policy

As has been well-reported, Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential and provincial council elections were marred by extensive technical difficulties — unconfirmed numbers of eligible voters, inadequate security, vague district and village boundaries, and interference from military and civilian government officials. Yet they also took a heavy financial toll on the system. According to the Joint Task Force on Election Assistance, the direct cost of the first round of voting proved to be especially high — approximately $109 million — for a country that falls amongst the poorest in the world. The task force noted that the average cost per voter (of the 13.5 million who voted) was $8.08. While this figure is lower than the global average for stable and post-conflict democracies ($8.41 per voter), it is much higher than states that have established efficient voting systems ($4.01 per voter).

Editorials: Want More Voters? Abolish Registration | Francis Barry/Bloomberg

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.)

Editorials: Why Can’t Ex-Cons Vote? | Leon Neyfakh/Slate

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.

Editorials: Lessons from El Salvador’s Botched Elections | Alejandro Ascencio/PanAm Post

On Sunday, March 1, around 50 percent of voters in El Salvador turned out to elect mayors, national deputies, and Central American Parliament (Parlacen) delegates. Previous tinkering with electoral procedure — allowing Salvadorans to choose between party lists or select individual candidates, for example — complicated and delayed the counting of votes. A long campaigning season was short on substantive proposals, failing to answer key questions: What will be done? Why? How? When will it be ready? And, above all, how much will it cost? Many candidates promised reforms that were beyond their remit as prospective officials. Dirty politics was never far from the surface, with serious debate taking a back seat to political theater and media circuses.

Editorials: Why The Voting Rights Act is Doomed | Eleanor Clift/The Daily Beast

President Obama’s call to renew the VRA is DOA on Capitol Hill—despite the best efforts of a conservative Republican congressman. Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is nobody’s idea of a pussycat. A combative conservative and former chair of the House Judiciary committee, he vowed more than a year ago to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a key section monitoring states that had been past offenders. He said the historic civil-rights legislation “is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process.” He promised action before the 2014 election. There’s no question that Sensenbrenner’s commitment is real, but the legislative fix that he fashioned is stalled in Congress and going nowhere. This is despite the fact that one of his principle co-sponsors is Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil-rights icon who marched in Selma last weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the VRA.

Editorials: Iowa ends voter fraud goose chase | Quad City Times

Former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year, $250,000 witch hunt ended ignobly Friday. Schultz’s successor, Republican Paul Pate, dropped his office’s Iowa Supreme Court appeal of a lower court ruling that held Schultz overstepped his authority in a crackdown on immigrant voters. Schultz had broad-based GOP support as a candidate condemning what he suggested was widespread voter fraud, particularly by documented immigrants who were not citizens. Schultz’s exhaustive investigation compared voter registration lists with federal and state immigration lists, including the federal database used to verify entitlement benefits. So instead of targeting the behavior based on evidence of unlawful voting, Schultz went hunting for voters he suspected might be immigrants.

Editorials: Restoring right to vote would help felons reintegrate | Knowville News Sentinel

The 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and a re-enactment in Knoxville on Sunday did more than honor a noteworthy event. Both ceremonies emphasized what the right to vote means to many Americans and what it should mean to all. The event in Selma helped gain passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and now is a vital part of this nation’s legacy. Voting is a right mentioned several times in the Constitution and subsequent amendments; it is more than a privilege. Significantly, no one participating in the observances in Selma or in Knoxville last week believed that the 1965 legislation or its remembrance marked the end of the quest. Pernicious state laws requiring photo identification to vote and Supreme Court decisions weakening the 1965 law open the way to expand discrimination.

Editorials: Iowa shows a better way on redistricting | Omaha World-Herald

Every 10 years, Iowa does something impressive. It redraws its political maps using a system that avoids the partisan scrambling and rancor that inevitably erupt in Nebraska at redistricting time. Iowa’s general approach, in use since 1981, is one that Nebraska should give serious consideration as lawmakers look at how they draw lines. Under the Iowa system, the legislature’s nonpartisan staff use general, legislative-directed parameters to draw redistricting maps that then go before the state’s lawmakers for approval. The response from Iowa’s elected leaders has been quite positive, regardless of party. The votes in 2011 were striking. The Iowa House, in a display of bipartisan consensus, approved the new maps 90-7. The Iowa Senate said “yes” with a vote of 48-1. The maps received a thumb’s up from Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, who praised them for encouraging a healthy competitiveness between the two parties.

Editorials: Celebrating Selma without fixing the Voting Rights Act dishonors the sacrifices of Bloody Sunday | Sherrilyn Ifill/Los Angeles Times

Long after he had left his career as a civil rights lawyer to become a justice on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall described his 1944 success in a case striking down all-white primary elections in Texas as his “greatest victory.” This is an astonishing statement for a man who was the architect and chief litigator of the most important civil rights case of the 20th century, Brown vs. Board of Education. But Marshall recognized that breaking down the stranglehold on exclusive white political power was as crucial to defeating Southern white supremacy as dismantling segregation in education. Despite Marshall’s victory in the Texas case, it took 20 years and the activism of thousands before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 provided the tools to protect the right of blacks to participate equally in the political process. On Saturday and Sunday, thousands converged on Selma, Ala., to commemorate March 7, 1965, “Bloody Sunday,” and the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery that led to the passage of the act.