On Sunday, the final day of the 2019 legislative session, Governor Carney signed legislation into law that seeks to increase voter participation in Delaware elections by allowing early, in-person voting. House Bill 38, sponsored by Representative David Bentz, will allow registered Delaware voters to cast their ballots at polling places up to 10 days before Election Day. The measure will make it easier for all Delawareans to participate in elections. “Voting is our most fundamental right as Delawareans and Americans,” said Governor Carney. “Regardless of zip code or party affiliation, we should make it easier for all Delawareans to cast their ballots, choose their elected officials, and participate in our democratic process. Thank you to Representative Bentz and other members of the General Assembly for their continued partnership, and for their leadership on this issue.”Full Article: Governor Carney Signs Early Voting Legislation - State of Delaware News.
We’ve been thinking about elections backward.
“The ballot belongs to the voter, not the government,” said Phil Keisling, the former secretary of state of Oregon. “As long as it can be done with safety and integrity, it’s the obligation of the government to get it to me. It’s not my responsibility to qualify for it and get it.”
Many states are taking that goal seriously, and to meet it, they are taking steps to abolish the traditional polling booth.
Voting as a right should not be controversial. But in many places, election officials are trying to make voting more difficult. One example is Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams by a sliver. At the time of the election, Mr. Kemp was secretary of state, overseeing voting, and rejected calls to resign and avoid a conflict of interest. Georgia purged thousands of voters from the rolls and threw out hundreds of absentee ballots. Some precincts had too few voting machines and hours when the machines were down. All of these issues disproportionately affected black voters.
The success of this voter suppression is likely to encourage more Republicans to do the same. It’s very dangerous. But we should also worry about other states.
New York, for example, doesn’t do voter suppression, but it’s one of many states where voting can be truly inconvenient. We New Yorkers can’t register on the same day we vote. We can only get an absentee ballot for a prescribed set of reasons. We can’t get permanent absentee status. We don’t get Election Day off from work. Until the law was changed this year, we couldn’t vote before Election Day and were automatically de-registered if we moved. And polling places in many parts of the state opened at noon.
We tend not to think of this as bad behavior, because the restrictions aren’t openly racist. (Except that the whole “let’s vote on a weekday and not give hourly workers time off” is a way to make it hard for low-wage workers to vote.) New York’s rules never struck me as problematic before, because it’s how everyone voted when I was growing up.
But it isn’t how everyone votes now.
In Washington, Oregon and Colorado — and any minute now, Hawaii, where the governor is about to sign a new law — there are no longer traditional polling places. (California is also rolling this out county by county; by the 2020 election, half of voters will get a ballot at home.) The states mail ballots in bar-coded envelopes to every registered voter several weeks before the election. It’s automatic; the voter doesn’t need to request it.
Those states are blue or purple, but home voting is also growing in red states. Voters in 28 of Utah’s 29 counties automatically get ballots at home. Nebraska and North Dakota also use it, to varying degrees. And nearly half of states allow certain elections to be conducted entirely by home voting. It allows voters to mark their ballots at their leisure and either mail it back or drop it in a ballot drop box. (Most use a drop box, which is why it’s not entirely accurate to call it vote-by-mail.) Some states allow voters to track the progress of their ballots electronically.
If you’d prefer to vote the old-fashioned way, you can still go to a staffed voter center in a central location — for example, the township hall. There any voter can cast a ballot, regardless of geography. “We’ll send it to the right place,” said Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state. And people with disabilities who can’t vote with a paper ballot have other options.
Oregon was the first vote-at-home state, passing it in a popular referendum in 1998, when Mr. Keisling, as secretary of state, was in charge of state elections. Washington joined in the 2012 election, and Colorado in 2014.
Ms. Wyman, a Republican, said that vote-at-home isn’t a partisan thing. (Here’s an article recommending home voting by Mr. Keisling and Sam Reed, the former Washington secretary of state, another Republican.)
“Lots of ideas about engaging voters certainly scare members of my party,” Ms. Wyman said. “They think if you make it so easy to vote, Democrats are going to be the ones voting. I don’t think that’s what happens. You’re making it easier for everyone.”
Mr. Keisling, who is director of the Center for Public Service at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government and chairman of the National Vote at Home Institute, opposed switching Oregon to home voting in 1989, when he was a state legislator. “It was the ‘crunch of autumn leaves’ argument — that sense of community that I personally enjoyed, going to our local elementary school, seeing neighbors, feeling connected to this great American tradition,” he said.
He said he eventually realized that he was confusing a ritual of democracy with its essence: participation — and that many people who wanted to vote weren’t able to participate on a weekday.
Every move toward making voting more convenient has garnered opposition — and not always from whom you’d expect. In 1995, the Democratic governor of Oregon — backed by national Democrats — vetoed home voting.
“Whichever party thought it was able to best take advantage of it would like it,” said Christopher Mann, an assistant professor of political science at Skidmore College. “In the 1990s, pre-Election Day voting was seen as a giant conspiracy to advantage Republicans, because at the time Republicans were better at mobilizing people.”
Today, there are many more likely Democrats than Republicans among nonvoters. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support Democrats, and the less likely to vote. “But Republicans have plenty of voters they can mobilize as well,” Dr. Mann said. Rural people might prefer voting at home because polling places are sparse. Tens of millions of older people don’t vote and might be the first to embrace home voting.
Home-voting states have high turnout. But that doesn’t prove home voting is the cause. It could be that states with a stronger culture of voting are more likely to institute such reforms.
There is some evidence that when places shift to home voting, turnout jumps. Between the midterm elections in 2014 and 2018, Utah rolled out home voting and had the greatest rise in turnout of any state. The five California counties that switched to home voting in 2018 increased their turnout more than the rest of the state.
The size of the effect, though, depends on the kind of election.
Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at M.I.T. and an adviser to the National Vote at Home Institute, said that in presidential elections, any structural change is dwarfed by what the candidates and their campaigns do. In midterm elections, “the jury is still out,” Dr. Stewart said.
But getting everyone a ballot automatically has a huge effect in elections voters don’t know much about. In primaries, special elections and local races, turnout is often in single digits. “It tends to shoot way up with vote-at-home,” Dr. Stewart said. (Not only is voting more convenient; having that ballot envelope staring at you from your kitchen table reminds you there’s an election.) He said that early research indicated that the extra voters are not new to voting but people who do vote in bigger elections.
Vote-at-home is also associated with more people voting their whole ballot — even the mysterious judicial races and ballot propositions at the tail end. In Utah, home voting was associated with a 5.5 percentage point increase in voting in down-ballot races.
Is it cheaper? “The No. 1 issue for election officials is finding enough qualified people to run polling places,” said Amber McReynolds, who was election director in Denver (a champion of voter convenience) and now is executive director of Vote at Home. She said that voting at home requires only 30 percent to 40 percent of the staff. The Pew Charitable Trusts studied Colorado’s switch in 2014 and found that the vote-at-home system was 40 percent cheaper.
Buying new, secure election equipment for polling places is an expense vote-at-home states can skip. But they do need machinery to process and count ballots. California’s secretary of state requested $134 million to cover half the cost of updating counties’ voting equipment as they move away from traditional polling places. “Vote-by-mail has costs, too,” Ms. Wyman said. “I’ve never tried to sell vote-by-mail on it being a less expensive model.”
Ballot integrity is a big concern with any voting method. Home voting has some safeguards — a machine can compare signatures on the ballot with the one on file, and if they don’t match, a human takes a look. “Comparing signatures is better than poll workers asking for name and address,” Dr. Mann said. “Poll workers are not trained signature experts. Computers are more scientific.”
Poll workers tend to scrutinize people of color more than whites, Dr. Mann said. “Some of it’s fairly benign and some not at all.” Voting at home removes this bias. “You take out the human interaction and you take out the problems that come with it,” he said.
One possible problem with home voting is the lack of voting privacy, combined with family power imbalances — a husband, for example, could force his wife to vote a certain way. Or someone can wave cash at people for their vote. This could always happen, of course — vote-buying and intimidation are old stories — but with vote-at-home, the buyers can demand to see the ballot before it’s turned in. Still, such incidents are almost nonexistent. Mr. Keisling wrote that Oregon has seen about 24 cases in 100 million ballots — none organized or of consequence.
And home voting, which uses paper ballots, is a solution to by far the greatest threat to the integrity of the vote: hacking.
“I’ve always approached my job as removing as many barriers as we can, balanced with controls for security,” said Ms. Wyman, the Republican. “It can drive people on my side of the aisle crazy a little bit: They think “voters should have to work for it, you can’t make voting easy.’ But when you see voter suppression in the South, with entire voting blocs of black voters unable to participate, you see why this matters.”
Full Article: Opinion | The End of the Polling Booth – The New York Times.Full Article: Opinion | The End of the Polling Booth - The New York Times.
New York: Budget allocates $24.7M to improve voting process — publicly funded elections delayed | The Legislative Gazette
Election reformers are seeing mixed results in the new state budget passed this week. On one hand, New Yorkers will now be able to vote before Election Day, register to vote online, and polls will open earlier for upstate primaries. Additionally, employers will be required to give all workers three hours of paid time off to vote, and with a new $14.7 million allocation, voters will be able to sign in at polling places using an electronic sign-in book. The e-poll books keep track of data such as voter registration, voting history and verification and identification of voters. This will bring the state’s system up to date with 21st century technology. More than half of the states in the U.S. use electronic polling books already. On the other hand, many good-government groups and activists are angry that the budget did not establish a system of publicly financed campaigns that rely on a small-donor matching system, coupled with lowered contribution limits. Instead, a commission will study the feasibility of such a system for legislative and statewide offices, and will issue a report in December. Proposed by the Fair Elections for New York campaign, a small-donor matching system would give a voice to New Yorkers who cannot afford to donate large sums of money to political candidates. It is also seen as a system that allows more people to run for political office.Full Article: Budget allocates $24.7M to improve voting process — publicly funded elections delayed – The Legislative Gazette.
Connecticut: Merrill wants constitutional amendments for early voting, registration | Journal Inquirer
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced her legislative proposals Thursday, two of which require constitutional amendments allowing for a minimum of three days of early voting before Election Day and allowing 16-year-olds to register early to vote. The proposal to allow 16-year-olds to register two years before their 18th birthday would require them to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, but Merrill said she envisions allowing them to register at school, their town hall, or anywhere voters can register. Merrill, a Democrat, said 16-year-olds usually have their first interaction with the DMV when getting their driver’s licenses, and her proposed amendment would make it more likely that younger people are involved in the voting process as soon as they turn 18.Full Article: Merrill wants constitutional amendments for early voting, registration | Newsletters | journalinquirer.com.
Thailand: Enthusiasm crashes Thailand election website on first day of early-voting registration | The Straits Times
Thailand’s website for early-voting registration crashed on Monday (Jan 28) morning after a huge number of voters rushed to secure their balloting rights, leading to speculation that the upcoming election could see a high turnout. The March 24 poll will be the country’s first general election in seven years. Early voting this year will take place from March 4 to 17. The online registration opened after midnight on the website of the Department of Public Administration. But the website went down in the morning after too many voters tried to access the site at the same time. The Election Commission’s (EC) deputy secretary-general Nat Laosisavakul said the crash was due to a large number of people entering the website. The failure, in particular, affected those registering for overseas voting, he said.Full Article: Enthusiasm crashes Thailand election website on first day of early-voting registration, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed legislation making New York the 38th state to allow early voting. The bill, which the Democratic-led state Legislature passed last week, establishes a nine-day early voting period before election days. The early voting period would conclude on the Sunday before an election. Democratic lawmakers attempted for years to adopt an early voting system, but the bill was blocked by Republicans when the GOP controlled the state Senate. With Democrats now in the Senate majority, the bill cleared that legislative hurdle. “Early voting is going to be transformative for the system,” said Cuomo, who has, for years, included early voting in his annual legislative agenda.Full Article: Cuomo signs 'transformative' early voting bill, other NY election reforms | Eye on NY | auburnpub.com.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is leading a push to amend the state constitution to allow voters a minimum of three days of voting before Election Day, but the proposal is being panned by Republican leadership, which says Merrill should focus more on protecting the democratic process from voter fraud. The Connecticut Constitution now requires voters to cast their ballots in person on Election Day or meet certain requirements to vote by absentee ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment Merrill announced Tuesday would remove from the constitution restrictions on absentee ballots and require a minimum of three days of early voting.Full Article: Merrill wants amendment to allow early voting | Politics & Government | journalinquirer.com.
Wisconsin: Judge eliminates early voting limits approved by GOP lawmakers during lame-duck session | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Moving swiftly, a federal judge on Thursday struck down limits on early voting that Republican lawmakers approved last month in a lame-duck session. In a five-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Peterson concluded the new limits on early voting are invalid because they so closely mirror ones he struck down as unconstitutional in 2016. His decision also threw out parts of the lame-duck laws affecting IDs and other credentials that can be used for voting. “This is not a close question: the three challenged provisions are clearly inconsistent with the (2016) injunctions that the court has issued in this case,” Peterson wrote.Full Article: Wisconsin lame-duck lawsuit: Judge eliminates early voting limits.
Saying it’s time for Connecticut to join 39 other states, advocates started pushing Tuesday for a rare constitutional amendment to allow early voting. Unlike most states, Connecticut permits voting in person only on Election Day from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. While the final details are not set, an early voting system could potentially allow voting on the three weekends before Election Day. Voting would likely only be permitted at town halls in order to curtail the costs from opening every polling place around the state, lawmakers said. While Democrats in the state House of Representatives and Senate are pushing strongly for the measure, Republicans who have voted against the idea in the past are urging caution and saying state officials instead should be more concerned about voter fraud.Full Article: Advocates revive push for early voting by Constitutional amendment - Hartford Courant.
More than half of all registered voters in Delaware cast a ballot in November — the highest turnout for a midterm election in the state in at least two decades. Even more voters are expected to cast ballots in 2020 when President Donald Trump and Gov. John Carney will be running for a second term. But some say the state’s voting laws are actually keeping eligible voters from participating in state and federal elections. After multiple failed attempts in recent years, House Democrats now believe they are just weeks away from enacting a trio of reforms designed to remove some of those hurdles, as they see it.Full Article: Early voting, other election reforms proposed in Delaware.
New York state lawmakers approved a series of reforms intended to make it easier to vote on Monday, including giving voters 10 days of early access to the ballot box prior to Election Day and consolidating primary dates. The reforms were passed by the new Democratic majority in the state Senate. Similar reforms have died in the legislature in recent years, thanks to Republican control in the Senate. The bills are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who commended the legislature for taking “quick action” on the issue, soon. “At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,” Cuomo said in a statement on Monday.Full Article: New York lawmakers approve election reforms, including early voting.
After years of lagging behind other states, New York radically overhauled its system of voting and elections on Monday, passing several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail and sharp limits on the influence of money. The bills, which were passed by the State Legislature on Monday evening, bring New York in line with policies in other liberal bastions like California and Washington, and they would quiet, at least for a day, complaints about the state’s antiquated approach to suffrage. Their swift passage marked a new era in the State Capitol. Democrats, who assumed full control this month after decades in which the Legislature was split, say they will soon push through more of their priorities, from strengthening abortion rights to approving the Child Victims Act, which would make it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their assailants.Full Article: With New Voting Laws, Democrats Flex Newfound Power in New York - The New York Times.
For years, the ways in which voters in New York have been stymied by the state’s antiquated voting laws have stood in stark contrast to the state’s liberal reputation. During last year’s contentious midterm elections, New York was the only state in the nation that held separate state and federal primary elections, a bifurcation that almost seemed designed to suppress voter turnout — which is generally thought to favor incumbents. Early voting? Voting by mail? Same-day voter registration? All are fairly basic voting reforms now found in many states, but not in New York.Full Article: Early Voting and Other Election Reforms Coming to New York - The New York Times.
Ballots disqualified for dubious reasons. Hourslong wait times. Onerous identification requirements. Broken polling stations. The frustrations millions of people experienced during November’s midterm election have made voting rights a polarizing issue, thrusting it to the top of statehouse agendas across the country. While some states are wrestling with expanding voter access, others are seeking to further restrict access to the ballot under the guise of combating voter fraud, which is extremely rare. Now, in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, is pursuing a series of bills that would significantly expand access to the ballot for hundreds of thousands of voters. “The package of reforms in New Jersey would place the state at the forefront of the country in terms of voter access,” said Wendy R. Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The bills call for changes across the electoral spectrum: allowing online voter registration and early voting up to 30 days before an election; same-day voter registration; permitting those on parole and probation to vote; and making 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the general election eligible to vote in party primaries.Full Article: N.J.’s Governor Wants to Give You Fewer Reasons Not to Vote - The New York Times.
New York: Coalition wants ‘fair elections’ legislation to be Albany’s first priority | The Buffalo News
A coalition of 175 grassroots and community groups is pushing Albany to pass a “fair elections” package that includes such elements as small-donor public financing, closing campaign funding loopholes and early voting. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other Democratic leaders have supported various forms of such legislation in the past, but fair elections proposals had been consistently blocked by Republicans who long controlled the state Senate, organizers say. Now that Democrats control both the legislative and executive branches in New York, the Fair Elections for New York coalition wants elected officials to pass fair elections legislation right away. About 25 representatives from the coalition held a news conference Monday on the steps of Buffalo City Hall to press for the reforms.Full Article: Coalition wants ‘fair elections’ legislation to be Albany’s first priority – The Buffalo News.
If they didn’t know already, the breakdowns on Election Day reminded voters that New York has some of the most antiquated voting laws and processes in the country. From a lack of early voting to the fact that voters must declare a party affiliation more than six months before a primary, New York can make voting hard. “On this issue, we’re way far behind. New York is one of only 13 states that doesn’t have early voting,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of advocacy group Common Cause New York. “Texas adopted early voting in 1996. So it’s embarrassing.”Full Article: Cuomo's Election Day Holiday Call Surprises Even Advocates.
The fight over restricting early voting in Wisconsin returned to federal court Monday, three days after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a new limit passed during a lame-duck legislative session. A coalition of liberal groups, with the support of former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asked a federal judge to block implementation of the early voting restrictions. The same judge in 2016 struck down a similar two-week early voting limitation as unconstitutional. Attorneys for the groups argued that Republicans called the lame-duck session “as part of a partisan attempt to retain and regain power” and the early voting limitation was “in direct violation” of the court’s 2016 order.Full Article: Wisconsin’s early voting limit challenged in federal court | The Seattle Times.
Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans are claiming lame-duck legislation would make early voting uniform across the state — a contention that was rejected by a federal judge two years ago. That same judge is expected to weigh in on the matter again if Walker signs the early voting restrictions in the coming weeks. Republican lawmakers included the early-voting limits in lame-duck legislation they sent to Walker last week that would also curb the powers of Walker’s Democratic successor, Tony Evers, and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. Wisconsin had a record round of early voting for a midterm election last month, helping Democrats win every statewide office. The legislation would limit early voting to a maximum of two weeks.Full Article: New limits on Wisconsin early voting resemble ones judge threw out.
Traditionally, for people involved in electoral politics, Election Day is Judgment Day, when all those strenuous efforts to win (or in the case of media and academic folk, to report on or analyze) public office come to an end as the last poll closes. Election Night, accordingly, is in all but a few rare cases the time when the judgment of the people is discerned. Political people are wired from an early age to think of Election Day and Election Night as the key moments of drama in their often tedious profession. But the old dramatic cycle is making less sense every day. With the advent of early voting, Election Day often stretches over weeks. And with slow counts caused by mail and provisional ballots becoming more prevalent, Election Night isn’t always what it used to be, either.Full Article: Are ‘Election Day’ and ‘Election Night’ Archaic?.
As the popularity of early voting continues to rise, some lawmakers are reviving a plan to make it easier for Oklahomans to vote. But they likely will run into continued resistance that has given Oklahoma the shortest in-person early-voting period among the many states that allow early voting. Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said Senate Democrats are preparing legislation that would extend the time voters have to cast ballots through the in-person absentee option. Oklahoma currently has the shortest early voting period of the 37 states that offer early voting. State law allows voters to cast in-person absentee ballots on three days before Election Day: from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.Full Article: County officials resist efforts to expand early voting in Oklahoma | State | enidnews.com.