A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”
National: From Carter To California: Automatic Registration Is The New Endgame For Elections | Huffington Post
President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 with the conviction that it should be easier for citizens to register to vote. To accomplish that goal, he wrote to Democratic secretaries of state that year urging them to support legislation that would allow voters to register on Election Day. “The continuing decline in American voter participation is a serious problem which calls for the attention of all of us in public life,” Carter wrote. Advisers to Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale had concluded that Election Day registration, which they called “universal registration,” would boost low turnout rates. They cited laws passed in Minnesota and Wisconsin after the 1972 election that allowed citizens to register at the polls, which placed both states in the top five for highest turnout in 1976. But tucked away in their correspondence about the election reform proposals was an acknowledgment that the United States’ neighbor to the north had made it even easier for citizens to vote, by registering them automatically with government data.
Editorials: Minnesota should pursue reasonable strategies to make voting easier | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minnesotans who defeated a proposed photo ID amendment to the state Constitution in 2012 may be following a North Carolina voting rights trial with a certain degree of smugness. They may think that democracy-loving Minnesotans wouldn’t stand for the moves that have landed the North Carolina Legislature in federal court, accused of suppressing the African-American vote. We’d like to think so, too. But we must note that while North Carolina lawmakers shaved a week off that state’s early voting period, Minnesota does not permit early voting at all — though it does offer “no excuses” absentee voting, which is more administratively complex and prone to voter error than actual early voting. Minnesota also does not allow preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds and “out-of-precinct” voting, both of which North Carolina allowed, then dropped in 2013. Minnesota 17-year-olds are allowed to register only if they will be 18 on Election Day.
Republicans—with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below)—are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Two Democrats, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia, also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies—the young and minorities—which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
That’s because a new law will help enhance the voting process, state officials said on Wednesday after the General Assembly passed a Senate Bill: “An Act Strengthening Connecticut Elections.” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill joined the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut in praising Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s signing the bill into law. Officials said the law will establish qualification standards and certification for all Registrars of Voters. It will also establish qualification standards and certification for Registrars, require training and remove Registrars from office if they are found to be “in extreme cases of negligence or dereliction of duty,” according to a press release.
Republicans – with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below) – are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Democrats Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies – the young and minorities – which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Nonprofit VOTE releases its biennial voter turnout report, America Goes to the Polls 2014, based on final data certified by state election offices. The report ranks voter turnout in all 50 states to look at major factors underlying voter participation in this historically low-turnout election. While just 36.6% of eligible citizens voted, the lowest in a midterm since World War II, turnout varied widely across states by as much as 30 percentage points. Maine led the nation with 58.5 percent turnout among eligible voters, follow by Wisconsin at 56.8 percent, and Colorado at 54.5%. Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Indiana made up the bottom five all with less than 30 percent of their eligible voters participating. “Clearly there’s much work to do to foster a healthy democracy when well below half the electorate votes in a national election,” states Brian Miller, executive director of Nonprofit VOTE. “The good news is that higher turnout states show us how we can increase voter turnout across the nation.”
The America Goes to the Polls 2014 report is available at http://www.nonprofitvote.org/americagoestothepolls2014.
Voting Blogs: New Paper Uses Google Web Search Data to Suggest EDR Could Have Added 3-4 Million Voters in 2012 | Election Academy
My friend and colleague Mike Alvarez of CalTech shared a new paper appearing in Political Analysis yesterday that not only has interesting conclusions about the effect of registration deadlines but also suggests that readily-available but under-appreciated data on web searches could help us get a better handle on how voters perceive the election process. The paper, “Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data” by Alex Street, Thomas Murray, John Blitzer and Rajan Patel, dives into the search data available via the Google Trends website and examines when in 2012 people searched for voter registration in comparison to registration deadlines.
New Jersey: ‘Embarrassing’ 32 % voter turnout has senator introducing Election Day registration bill | NJ.com
A key Democratic state senator says he will introduce legislation allowing voter registration on Election Day as a new study shows New Jersey voter turnout lagged the nation last year and more than 50 percent showed up at the polls in states that have such laws. New Jersey ranked 40th in voter turnout last year, with only 32.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots, according to a report released today by Nonprofit VOTE, a non-partisan research group based in Boston. The national rate was 37 percent. All three of the top voter turnout states allow voters to concurrently register and cast a ballot on Election Day: Maine at 59 percent, Wisconsin at 57 percent, and Colorado at 55 percent, according to the report.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill swung by City Hall Friday to deliver a citation honoring the fact that New Haven accommodated the most Election Day voter registrations out of any Connecticut municipality, totaling more than 600. “Election Day registration is designed to increase voter participation and the last election was the state’s first big one,” Merrill said as she stood alongside Mayor Toni Harp, City Clerk Michael Smart and staffers from the registrar’s office. “More than 14,000 were able to vote who wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, because they had not been on the list for whatever reason, and chose to recognize their right to vote on Election Day.”
Utah has gone from a state with one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation to one of the lowest in the past 30 years, and a group of Democrats and Republicans are banding together to find out why. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, revealed a new piece of bipartisan legislation Friday, HB200, that would create a task force to find out why Utahns are not voting. Arent said the task force would study voter trends in Utah and other states, review possible administrative barriers to voting, and look at other Utah-specific issues that might be affecting the turnout.
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots continues to press state legislators for more time to implement a new law requiring all county clerks to provide Election Day registration in all precincts by the March 2016 election. She has provided them with a cost study, detailing that it would cost Will County more than $1.3 million to buy electronic equipment, implement the technology and train election judges to provide registration in all 303 precincts. “They should have done a cost study before implementing the law,” she said after presenting her figures to the county board’s finance committee Tuesday.
About a year ago, Cook County Clerk David Orr penned an op-ed calling for a “voter registration renaissance” in Illinois. Many of the components of Orr’s “All In” plan, most notably Election Day registration and increased government agency registration, will become reality when signed into law Saturday (Jan. 10) by Gov. Pat Quinn. “It’s fitting that Gov. Quinn, a longtime champion of democracy, will sign a voting rights bill as one of his final acts,” Orr said. “We fought hard for a comprehensive package that will address year-round voter registration issues, which ultimately will enhance the accuracy of the voter rolls, increase participation and improve efficiency.” Orr commends SB 172 sponsors Speaker Michael Madigan, Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and Sen. Don Harmon, as well as President John Cullerton, for moving swiftly to adopt changes to modernize the state’s voter registration system. Orr also applauds the many voting rights groups who advocated for the changes.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed two bills making changes to Illinois election law. One allows a 2016 special election to replace late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, and the other makes permanent several changes voters saw in November’s election. Topinka died last month after winning a second term. There’s been disagreement about succession plans. Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says his appointee should stay in office for four years. He plans to name Republican businesswoman Leslie Munger. But lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate approved the special election plan Thursday, which cuts Munger’s term to two years. Munger has said she’ll run in 2016.
Changes made by the registrars of voters after problems with long lines in the 2012 election successfully addressed problems, the registrars reported recently. There were “no major issues” in November’s voting, registrars said. Two years ago, the registrars office came under fire for not being prepared for the last presidential election when voters were forced to wait in line for hours.
That was the first election after 10 precincts had been consolidated into eight, with polling places at Washington and Nathan Hale schools dropped to reflect shifting legislative district boundaries.
You’ve all heard the story. The young couple in Chicago waiting hours to use the city’s new same-day registration system to register to vote and then finally casting their ballot just after 3 a.m. on November 5. What you most likely haven’t heard about are the thousands of Americans in other parts of Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado and nine other states and the District of Columbia that utilized same-day registration with little to no problem on November 4. While same-day registration took some well-publicized legislative and legal hits in Ohio and North Carolina recently, it is working and by many accounts working well in other jurisdictions. In fact, it’s working so well in Montana that the residents overwhelmingly defeated a referendum this November that would have eliminated that state’s election day registration.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would make the voter registration process easier during a time when other states are coming under fire for tightening restrictions on voting. Illinois tried out a pilot program in the Nov. 4 election allowing voters to register on Election Day. Since then, the Illinois Senate passed legislation to make that program permanent and with a couple tweaks to the bill, the House gave its stamp of approval Wednesday. After the Senate OKs the amended legislation, it is expected Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn — who supported the pilot program — will sign the bill into law.
Voting Blogs: Illinois Poised to Enact Sweeping Election Bill Including Election Day registration: What’s Next? | Election Academy
The Illinois Legislature has just approved sweeping election legislation (SB 172) that would make changes to just about every aspect of the state’s election process, including making the state’s pilot Election Day registration (EDR) program permanent. The bill is off to outgoing Governor Pat Quinn (D) for his expected signature, meaning that the state is about to see a wide variety of changes in when, where and how citizens register and cast their ballots. So what’s next? Here are a few things to watch:
+ The votes on the legislation were partisan, with Republican legislators resisting the notion that sweeping changes were necessary so soon after the 2014 election but before Quinn is replaced by Republican Bruce Rauner, who defeated him for re-election in November.
Editorials: Texas should learn from states that led in voter turnout | Elaine Ayala/San Antonio Express-News
Secretaries of state across the country have begun to report their voting statistics, and the United States Elections Project out of George Mason University is eagerly awaiting them. It will be deep into January, however, before its analysis will be completed. Already, however, indications are that history has repeated itself — the states that historically have done the best job of getting voters to the polls were on top again. Think Oregon, South Dakota, Alaska, Wisconsin and Maine. Texas is expected to come in at the bottom again with one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country. What do the best voting states do? It’s not too surprising. They’re liberal in their openness, having instituted same-day registration, or voting by mail, or in one of the most interesting cases (North Dakota) no voter registration at all. These high-turnout states share some characteristics. They have higher educational and income levels. They’re whiter and older, and many of them have had highly competitive elections in which no one party dominates. They’re states that UTSA political scientist Patricia Jaramillo has called “moralistic states,” which encourage participation, as opposed to “traditionalistic individualist states” that don’t encourage voting beyond those already engaged.
A referendum on the November ballot could repeal Election Day voter registration, but voters haven’t seen one television ad, mailer or person mobilize in favor of the measure. The only noise is coming from a group against the measure and they’ve thrown money and manpower at urging people to vote no. If the legislative referendum appearing on the ballot as LR-126 passes, people could not register to vote on Election Day in future elections. The voter registration deadline would move to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. “All Montanans should have their voices heard in democracy and LR-126 is one of those efforts to take away that voice,” said Kate Stallbaumer, deputy campaign manager with Montanans for Free and Fair Elections. “We’re focused on protecting and safeguarding the constitutional right to vote.”
Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed in 1835, “Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” That certainly describes the grand struggle over voting rights now unfolding in courtrooms across the country. And when it comes to who can vote and when, a clear message is hard to discern. In recent days, rulings, appeals and motions have pinballed around the system, with the U.S. Supreme Court answering emergency pleas, allowing some changes to take effect and temporarily blocking others, while key appeals head their way. The latest lurch: In a decision emailed out at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, the justices let Texas implement its controversial voter ID law, the nation’s strictest, just two days before early voting begins in the state. Amid the confusion, an important new element has emerged. The breakthrough? Facts. Two powerful judicial opinions—one from a Texas trial judge, another from an esteemed appeals court jurist—and a landmark government study have shed new light on the costs and consequences of restrictive voting laws. They answer some key questions: Are these laws malevolent? (In Texas, at least, yes.) Do they provide a benefit that outweighs their cost? (No.) Do they suppress the vote? (Alarmingly, it seems, yes.) And can we prevent fraud without disenfranchising Americans? (Yes, absolutely.) In a zone foggy with legal rhetoric, these three documents will—and should—live on beyond the 2014 election cycle. They might even help shape a new legal regime to protect voters while protecting against fraud. They’re worth a close read.
Montana House Majority Leader Gordy Vance and the Montana Republican Party are asking voters to consider the pros of LR-126, the ballot measure that would move the deadline for voter registration from Election Day to 5 p.m. the Friday before. “The take from the groups that say it’s bad is based on misinformation and that’s unfortunate, but that’s how folks operate in this arena,” the Bozeman Republican said. In 2005, the Legislature passed Democratic state Sen. Jon Ellingson’s Senate Bill 302, which moved the deadline for voter registration from 30 days before the election to Election Day. The bill had broad bipartisan backing and support from the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders.
As Montana voters head to polls this fall, they’ll decide not only on competing candidates but also on a referendum that would end the state’s policy of allowing voters to register on Election Day. The measure, Legislative Referendum 126, would amend state election law to move up the voter registration deadline to 5 p.m. Friday of the week before elections. Currently, voters can register until the close of polls the Tuesday elections are held. Advocates say the change is a common-sense way to help elections run more smoothly, and that asking people to register beforehand represents a reasonable burden. Opponents protest that it would make it harder for many Montanans to exercise their constitutional right to vote, particularly potentially marginalized groups such as seniors, young voters and American Indians. Underlying the debate is a widely held perception that Election Day registrants tend to skew liberal with their votes. Many of the measure’s proponents are prominent Republicans, and many of its opponents are Democrats or liberal advocacy groups.
Inconvenience or expense are not excuses for denying people their right to vote, according to an attorney who’s been challenging voting restrictions since 1972. “If you can’t vote and participate in government, you become the victim of government,” said Laughlin McDonald, director emeritus of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “We have had experience with that in the South, where we had all-white primaries, literacy tests, character tests and poll taxes. The courts have ruled those block the 14th and 15th amendments (of the U.S. Constitution).”
In the November 2012 election, 329 Yellowstone County residents who had moved since they last registered to vote were able to cast ballots thanks to Montana’s Election Day registration law. Additionally, 471 eligible Yellowstone County voters registered for the first time in Montana and voted because state law provides for Election Day registration. That’s 800 voters in one county at one election using Election Day registration. Many of these folks mistakenly thought they had already registered, just forgot to change their address or understood that they had registered when they renewed their driver’s licenses. This year’s November ballot includes a legislative referendum that would end Election Day voter registration. This referendum would infringe Montanans’ right to vote. If Legislative Referendum 126 had been the law in November 2012, 800 Yellowstone County residents would have been denied their vote.
Montana voters will decide in November whether to end a nine-year practice of Election Day voter registration for future elections. If the referendum appearing on the ballot as LR-126 passes, the voter registration deadline would move to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. In 2013, the Republican-led Legislature voted to put the issue on this year’s ballot. Making it a referendum instead of a bill sidestepped a potential veto by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. “It’s something that directly affects the voters and the voting process, and I just thought it should be something the people should vote on,” said the measure’s main sponsor, Republican Sen. Alan Olson of Roundup. He said he introduced the legislation after hearing comments about “chaos” caused by Election-Day voter registration.
At a time when many states are making it harder to vote, 16 states have provided some good news over the last year by deciding to go in the opposite direction. In various ways, they have expanded access to the polls, allowing more people to register or to vote more conveniently. The list, compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice, includes these states:
• Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia. They created online registration systems, a big improvement over unreliable and inconvenient paper systems.
• Colorado and Louisiana. They will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister when they apply for a driver’s license. Colorado also added Election Day registration, and it is encouraging mail-in voting without an absentee excuse.
• Maryland. It will allow same-day registration during early voting, which was expanded from six to eight days.
• Delaware. It will allow most felons to vote immediately after completing their sentences.
Increasing voter participation rates may be as simple as fining eligible voters for not showing up at the polls. It worked in Belgium, and it’s working in Australia. Peter Miller, a 2002 graduate of Billings Senior High School who’s now a John Templeton Foundation post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, told the League of Women Voters of Billings Thursday that compulsory voting is “a proven way to increase turnout,” but noted it has very little chance of becoming law in the U.S. According to its website, the Templeton Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, love and free well. The foundation encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians. Every Election Day, Australian voters are almost all in — and if they don’t vote, they pay a $50 fine, Miller said. During the last national election, 93 percent of eligible Australians voted. By comparison, 57 percent of Americans cast their ballot in 2012.
From Election Day registration to more time to cast early ballots, Illinois voters could see fewer restrictions in November, under a measure Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign into law. Democrats pushed the legislation last month on the second-to-last day of the spring session with the idea that it would boost voter turnout. However, Illinois Republicans say it is part of a larger effort to increase Democrats’ numbers at the polls in a competitive election, namely Quinn’s bid for a second full term against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. House Bill 105, which comes in the wake of abysmal voter turnout in the March primary, comes as a record number of voter questions could appear on the ballot. That includes a signature-driven effort for term limits backed by Rauner to poll-style questions pushed by Democrats that wouldn’t affect policy. The topics include minimum wage, birth control and a tax on millionaires.
Last week, the Wisconsin State Senate approved a bill that would bar early voting on weekends and cap total early voting per week at 45 hours. If this bill is passed and signed, early voting in clerks’ offices will only take place on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Utah is on the verge of passing Election Day registration; Massachusetts is set to approve early voting; and voters in Missouri are collecting signatures to put early voting on the ballot in November. But Wisconsin seems determined to march into the past.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has offered the press two explanations for this self-inflicted wound on Wisconsin’s election system: (1) rural constituents are saying “‘Why is there such a wide gap between certain parts of the state and how many hours are available to vote when that is not offered to some of those citizens that live in a very rural part of the state?’”; and (2) rural clerks do not have the staff and resources to keep the same early voting hours as cities. If you are scratching your head, don’t feel alone on this one. No one should expect rural clerks to have the same staff and resources as Milwaukee and Madison’s clerks because population sizes, demand for early voting, and strain on municipal clerks’ offices vary wildly. According to the 2010 Census, only 10 of the 1,852 municipal clerks (are responsible for over 1 million voting-age residents, or almost a quarter of Wisconsin’s voting-age population.