Local lawmakers say they would support efforts to allow voters to physically cast their ballot more than a week ahead of Election Day. State law allows counties to give voters the option of casting an absentee ballot in person within seven days of the election. Legislators said the process was popular in the 2016 election in Washington County and the county saved taxpayer money by not having to process as many absentee ballots the traditional way. They agreed it should be expanded, suggesting a 14-day window. It’s another way to get more people voting, said Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park. “Whatever we can do (to increase participation), I’m for,” Schoen said.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he’ll be actively promoting measures in this year’s legislative session aimed at strengthening the state’s ethics rules and making it easier to vote, priorities that will likely face a difficult path forward in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. McAuliffe said Tuesday he also supports legislation to ban lawmakers from using their campaign accounts for personal use, calling the move a necessary complement to a $100 gift cap that lawmakers approved earlier in his term. “There has been a gigantic, gaping hole in our ethics reform here in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said, promising to “lean in” on the issue even though it faces dim prospects.
Civic engagement in elections could get a boost under a bill introduced Monday by a freshman lawmaker from Omaha. Legislative Bill 163, introduced by State Sen. Tony Vargas, would require the state’s three largest counties each to provide at least three early voting locations with extended hours. Vargas said the bill originated from talking to Nebraskans who said the distance and travel time to Douglas County’s only early voting location were barriers to casting their ballot.
In an attempt to remove barriers to voting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose the state adopt plans for early voting. The governor said the move would make voting easier by requiring counties to provide at least one day of polling during the 12 days leading up to an election. His proposal also included plans for automatic voter registration and same day registration. … Cuomo’s early voting proposal is one of several proposals the governor has made in advance of his State of the State addresses that he will conduct in various locations beginning Monday.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that during the Kentucky General Assembly, which began Tuesday, she will push for early voting and legislation to make it easier for veteran-owned businesses to get started. “When I took office, I promised Kentuckians that I would bring commonsense changes and reforms to the Secretary of State’s office—that I would make it easier to do business with government and tear down barriers to the ballot box—and, together, we are making strides,” Grimes said. “In this session, I’ll continue to keep that promise.” Grimes’ legislative campaign for early in-person absentee voting began last year and won bipartisan support, including the endorsement of Tre Hargett, the Republican Secretary of State of Tennessee. He traveled to Frankfort to offer his testimony on the legislation. Grimes’ proposal calls for allowing all Kentucky voters to cast ballots early in-person without an excuse during their county’s in-person absentee voting window. Early voting is offered in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
Most early voting programs didn’t increase the number of people who cast ballots in 2016, they just changed the way people participated, according to examinations of this year’s election results. President-elect Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 victory also put aside long-held notions that pre-Election Day indicators from early-voting data could serve as useful predictors of who would win the election. Election figures in Ohio bear out the lack of relationship between the availability of early voting and overall turnout. Before the 2008 election, Ohio lawmakers for the first time introduced early and no-excuse absentee voting in the state. When President Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain that year, 1.72 million Ohioans voted before Election Day. But postelection figures showed that overall turnout increased from 2004 by just 51,000 votes. Fewer Ohioans voted in 2012, and fewer still in 2016, even as early voting numbers rose to 1.86 million in 2012 and 1.88 million in 2016.
Legislators in several Northeastern and New England states are considering whether to join the growing move toward opening polling places days, and even weeks, before Election Day. Connecticut legislators will weigh a measure to allow up to two weeks of early voting before the next election. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) included an early voting proposal in a package of election reforms he unveiled this month. And Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) will ask legislators to consider allowing early voting, as well. “We just need to expand voting infrastructure to include early voting so people can exercise their franchise, their right,” said Connecticut state Rep. William Tong (D), who plans to introduce a bill once the legislature returns to session next year. Tong said he decided to act after seeing lines out the door at 6 a.m. on Election Day in his suburban Stamford district. Some people left the long lines before they had a chance to vote to get to work on time.
A push to bring early voting to Connecticut — and send long lines at many polling locations the way of mechanical voting machines — is regaining momentum. State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, this week introduced a bill, the first of the upcoming legislative session, to amend the state constitution to allow for early voting. A similar measure was defeated by voters in 2014 during a public referendum, despite support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s top election official, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who are both Democrats. Tong said it’s high time that Connecticut join 37 other states that allow anyone to cast their ballots before the election, not just those who meet the guidelines for obtaining an absentee ballot. The initiative comes after a record 1.7 million ballots were cast statewide in the November election, with long lines observed in many municipalities such as Bridgeport, Stamford, Fairfield, Milford, Norwalk and Danbury.
Donald Trump clinched the presidency by securing victories in two critical swing states: Wisconsin and North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump won by about 3 percentage points; in North Carolina, 4. It is, of course, impossible to know what factors contributed to Trump’s victories in these states. But it is certainly worth noting that each engaged in extensive and carefully coordinated voter suppression in the years preceding the election. In Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a series of “reforms” designed to suppress the votes of minorities and college students. The Legislature slashed early voting, especially in minority communities, and passed draconian new voter ID requirements that effectively disenfranchised many underprivileged black voters. One federal judge found that the Legislature had explicitly targeted certain black people on the basis of race and attempted to suppress their votes. But an appeals court pushed back against several district court rulings softening the law, leaving much of it in place for the 2016 election. As a result, many people were unable to obtain necessary identification documents and cast ballots in Wisconsin this year.
In a sign that the legal team for the Trump campaign is aggressively laying the groundwork for potential legal challenges — big and small — lawyers have gone to state court in Nevada in an early vote dispute. They are suing Joe P. Gloria, the Clark County registrar of voters, over a decision they allege he made to keep polling locations open “two hours beyond the designated closing time.” The lawsuit targets polling places in the greater Las Vegas area that have larger minority voting precincts. Dan Kulin, a spokesperson for the county, told CNN that no early voting stations extended their closing times. They did, however, process voters who were in line at closing time to allow as many people to vote as possible. In legal briefs filed Monday night, Trump lawyers are asking for an order to have the pertinent early vote ballots not to be “co-mingled or interspersed” with other ballots.