A bipartisan group Kansas senators endorsed a bill abandoning a state law requiring people to register at least three weeks in advance of an election to be eligible to vote. Contents of Senate Bill 43 would allow Kansans residents to register to vote and cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. Under current law, voters must be registered by the 21st day before the election. For example, the 2018 deadline for voter registration was July 17 for the primary conducted Aug. 7. In the Nov. 6 general election, the registration deadline was Oct. 16.
The Delaware House of Representatives on Thursday approved two bills that would expand voting rights by allowing early voting and same-day registration. Both bills passed solely on Democratic support. They now go to the Senate. House Bill 400, which passed 22-18 with one absent, would allow an individual to register to vote on Election Day at a polling place. A person would be required to provide identification or another document displaying his or her name and address, such as a utility bill, paycheck, bank statement or government document. Approved by a 25-15 margin, with one member absent, House Bill 90 would let Delawareans cast ballots in elections for state, county and Wilmington offices “at least” 10 days before the actual date.
Utah: Legislature enacts widespread election law changes, including Election-Day registration | The Salt Lake Tribune
The Legislature approved sweeping changes to Utah’s elections and voter registration laws that supporters say will ensure that people like Gerardo Navarro’s vote counts in November. Navarro was at state offices in Draper recently, renewing his driver license, but didn’t notice a box that asked him if he’d like to update his voter registration. Navarro’s not alone. One in three eligible voters didn’t check the box to update his or her registration in 2016, according to county clerks who spoke in favor of registering voters automatically when they interact with the Driver License Division. “A lot of people think that because they got their driver license they were registered,” said Weber County Clerk Auditor Ricky Hatch. “A lot of voters would come in, like in 2016, and say I’m registered,” try to vote, and find out they weren’t. Not only will they be more likely to be registered under HB218, which passed on Wednesday, those who were eligible and tried to vote on Election Day but weren’t registered will be able to do so in the next election.
Good-government groups want lawmakers to act fast to allow people to register to vote on Election Day this fall, pointing to a recent court ruling that deemed unconstitutional the state’s 20-day deadline to register before an election. Several bills before the Legislature would allow same-day registration. The effort got a major boost last week when Secretary of State Bill Galvin also filed a bill to allow it. Galvin, the state’s top election official, called on lawmakers to approve the proposal before a deadline Feb. 7 to move bills out of committee. Ironically, Galvin’s office is simultaneously embroiled in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts over the 20-day voter registration cutoff.
Massachusetts voters could both register to vote and cast a ballot on election day, under legislation proposed by the secretary of state. “Allowing voters to register on Election Day is the next step in our successful effort to expand access to the ballot,” Secretary of State William Galvin said in a statement Thursday. Galvin’s bill — which joins similar measures at the Legislature — would allow so-called same-day registration to start in 2019, before the 2020 presidential election. “Over the past few years, my office has worked to bring online voter registration, pre-registration, and early voting to Massachusetts,” Galvin added. “This is yet another way to make it easier to cast a ballot for any eligible citizen who wants to vote.”
Here’s the dilemma. Reform begins at the ballot box. But what if access to the ballot itself needs reform? Such is the case in Pennsylvania. If, for example, you’re an independent or third-party voter – and there are more than 1.1 million of you – you can’t vote for candidates in primary elections. … We’re a “closed primary state” – one of only nine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This is wrong on its face. It helps protect the political status quo. It disenfranchises citizens, even while using their tax dollars to pay for elections in which those citizens can’t participate. And it’ll get worse as more (especially younger) voters step away from the two major parties. In Philadelphia, for example, independents and third-party voters now total 117,800 – outnumbering registered Republicans.
Voting on Election Day usually entails some pre-planning, with registration required several days, if not weeks, ahead of time in most places. But now, following a court decision last week, Massachusetts is under pressure to join more than a dozen other states — including Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont — in allowing residents to register or reregister on Election day, and vote moments later. While the state’s top election official is raising concerns about costs, research shows that allowing same-day, or election-day, registration can bolster democracy by motivating voters to go to the polls. “While most other election reforms show pretty mixed effects, Election Day registration . . . has produced a wide consensus that in pretty much every study you find positive and increased voter turnout,” said Professor Barry C. Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
National: Lessons from 2016: Try same-day voter registration, rethink Electoral College, report says | Philadelphia Inquirer
States with the highest voter turnout in 2016 offered same-day registration or were targeted battlegrounds in the tight presidential election, according to an analysis released Thursday by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project. The six highest-ranking states have rules that allow eligible voters to register at the polls or update their information there before casting a ballot. In order, they were: Minnesota (74.8 percent), Maine (72.8 percent), New Hampshire (72.5 percent), Colorado (72.1 percent), Wisconsin (70.5 percent), and Iowa (69 percent). All but Minnesota, the leader for the second presidential election in a row, also were targeted by the presidential candidates. This was the first report on 2016 turnout to be based on certified election returns.
The U.S. Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal of a ruling that struck down a North Carolina voting law based on racial bias, the state’s new Democratic attorney general says. Lawyers for Republican lawmakers still want the appeal considered. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office also rejected accusations made by the GOP’s lawyers that he had a conflict that disqualifies him in the matter. Stein was a state senator opposed to the 2013 law and testified in the trial for the groups and voters who challenged the law. It required photo identification to vote in person, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during the early-vote period.
A proposal to allow people to register to vote closer to Election Day was narrowly rejected by a House committee Thursday.
Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, crossed party lines to join with Republicans to table the bill – a procedure that blocks it from moving forward. The proposal, Senate Bill 224, would have allowed people to register at early-voting sites, which operate until the weekend before Election Day. As the law stands now, the registration period ends 28 days before the election.
A controversial proposal to use provisional ballots to stanch voter fraud is winding its way through the state Senate. The bill would introduce — for the first time in state history — provisional ballots to Minnesota elections. Provisional votes would be cast, then set aside until a challenged voter’s eligibility is reviewed by election authorities and either affirmed or denied. Officials would have seven days to make that decision. The provision was initially introduced as part of a stand-alone bill, Senate File 1225, authored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. It has since been rolled into Kiffmeyer’s much larger election omnibus bill, Senate File 514. Yet it consistently takes center stage in committee deliberations.
A bill that would have required all counties to provide same-day Election Day registration stalled in a House committee Thursday. HB285 would have enacted a five-year pilot program to expand on a test program that eight counties participated in over the past three years, but a majority of the House Government Operations Committee voted against giving the bill a favorable recommendation to the full House floor. “My concern is local control,” Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, said, arguing individual county clerks should be able to opt into the program, not be required by the state. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said data collected over the past three years shows same-day Election Day registration does not cause problems with voting and helps more voters cast a ballot, even if they forgot to register ahead of time.
New Hampshire: Same-Day Voter Registration Likely Here To Stay, For Now | New Hampshire Public Radio
While Representative Norman Silber, a first-term Republican from Gilford, initially hoped to get rid of same-day voter registration, he now says it seems like more trouble than it’s worth at this time. “I think there’s too many problems associated with that at this time,” Silber told the House Election Law Committee Wednesday, explaining his plans to revise and resubmit the bill that would’ve included the repeal. Speaking after the committee hearing, Silber said he decided to change plans after hearing concerns that getting rid of same-day voter registration could require the state to comply with other federal voting mandates.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled an extensive voting reform package Wednesday that aims to streamline New York’s voter registration system, boost voter participation and increase voter turnout. Standing with elected officials, good government groups, union members, and voting reform advocates outside Federal Hall in Manhattan, Schneiderman released the legislation, called the New York Votes Act. The bill contains provisions to update the state’s voting systems by adding early voting, automatic and same-day voter registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, increased language access at the polls, online absentee ballots, and more. “Any law that makes it easier to vote is a good law; any law that makes it harder to vote is a bad law,” said Schneiderman, in a statement Wednesday. “New York has long been a bastion of democracy, but our state’s current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy.” New York State has seen abysmal voter turnout for years. In 2014, the state ranked 49th of 50 in the country, with just 29 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the general election. While other states have tweaked their voting laws to encourage participation, voter turnout in New York has only grown worse, with just 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Starting Jan. 1, 16 and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote before they begin casting ballots at age 18. It’s just one of several changes to voter laws in the new year that aim to encourage citizen engagement and make voting more efficient. The first of the year also will see another law take effect that allows voters to head to their county’s election office on Election Day to register and vote. Currently, voters need to register about two weeks before the primary and general elections. “This creates a fail-safe for people who missed the 15 day deadline and still want to vote,” said Kim Alexander, the California Voter Foundation’s founder and president. Lawmakers passed the new same-day registration law in 2012, but it was placed on hold until the state certified the California voter registration database known as VoteCal. VoteCal was certified in the fall, so same-day registration — already in place in other states to boost voter participation — can now go forward.
A federal judge Tuesday blocked Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois, declaring a state law allowing the practice unconstitutional because it created one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. Voters will still be able to register Nov. 8 and cast a ballot for president but only at a limited number of sites, including the county clerk’s office, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The ruling, handed down on National Voter Registration Day, is the latest front in a broader battle between Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republicans led by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Democrats pushed through the same-day registration law in the lame-duck session that followed the November 2014 election, weeks before Rauner took over from then-Democratic-Gov. Pat Quinn. It was billed as a way to get more people involved in the democratic process after a trial program resulted in long lines, particularly in Chicago, where it was used at five sites by nearly 2,900 people, some who waited hours to vote.
California: New voter database clears path for 16-year-old pre-registration, other laws | The Sacramento Bee
After years of technology glitches and vendor problems, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla made it official Monday: the state’s new voter registration database is finally complete. Padilla’s certification of VoteCal as the system of record for voter registration in California clears the way for the state to begin pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds via paper registration forms. Starting in January, people will be able to register to vote on Election Day. Also, Monday’s announcement checks off a requirement of 2015 legislation to offer automatic registration of voters at the DMV when they apply for a new license or file a change of address . That system is scheduled to working by July 2017.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to restore a period of early voting in Ohio during which people could register and vote on the same day. The court’s brief order came in response to an emergency application from Democratic groups. There were no noted dissents. The case, Ohio Democratic Party v. Husted, No. 16A223, has its roots in the 2004 general election, when Ohio voters faced exceptionally long lines, leaving them, in the words of one court, “effectively disenfranchised.” In response, the state adopted a measure allowing in-person early voting in the 35 days before Election Day. As registration in the state closes 30 days before Election Day, the measure introduced a brief period, known as the Golden Week, in which voters could register and vote at the same time.
The looming election and the Supreme Court will converge in the coming months as voting rights challenges on issues such as Voter ID, early vote cutbacks and same-day registration make their way to the high court. Challenges during an election year are always fraught, but this cycle things could grow even more complicated because the court only has eight members to review the cases, and there’s a good chance that it could split 4-4. In the recent past, the Supreme Court has signaled that it does not like courts to disrupt rules and regulations too close to an election out of the fear that it could cause confusion to voters. As such, there might be a sentiment on the court — when it rules on one of the emergency motions it is certain to get — to vote to preserve the status quo until after the election and then agree to take up one or two cases and settle the big issues concerning the meaning of the Voting Rights Act and how the Constitution applies to current laws regulating the voting process.
Far-reaching voting changes in North Carolina approved by Republicans three years ago and upheld by a federal judge now head to an appeals court that previously sided with those challenging the law on racial grounds. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Tuesday, just two months after a lower court ruled photo identification requirements to vote in person, early-voting restrictions and other changes violated neither the federal Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution. The appeals court’s decision to accelerate review of the case reinforces the stakes involved with the outcome in an election year, particularly in North Carolina. The presidential battleground state also has big races for governor and U.S. Senate on the fall ballot. “The legislative actions at issue must be analyzed in the context of the high levels of racially polarized voting in North Carolina, where many elections are sensitive to even slight shifts in voting,” lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department wrote in a brief heading into the arguments before three judges in Richmond, Virginia.
Ohio: State asks federal judge to delay reinstating ‘Golden Week’ allowing registration, voting | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio has asked a federal judge in Columbus to hold off enforcing an order requiring the state to allow voting during Golden Week, when voters can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. U.S. District Judge Michael Watson last week struck down a state law that eliminated Golden Week, ruling that the 2014 law violates both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That law shortened early voting from 35 days before an election to 28. Husted said then that the state would appeal the ruling.
The competitive presidential contests on both the Republican and Democratic tickets drove record turnout in Tuesday’s primary, suburban election officials say. But Cook County Clerk David Orr said that the tens of thousands of residents registering to vote on Election Day was even more surprising than record turnout. “That was shocking, in a good way,” he said In suburban Cook County, 682,022 voters cast ballots, almost 100,000 more than in the last contested presidential primary on both sides in 2008. Around 23,000 of them registered and voted on Election Day. In DuPage County, 267,754 people turned out to vote, 25,580 more than in the 2008 primary. Of that number, around 3,700 participated in grace-period registration on Election Day. Kane and Lake county officials say they also saw record turnout, with nearly 7,500 same-day registrants between them.
Minority leaders in Kansas and other voting rights advocates are pushing for passage of a bill this year that they say would dramatically increase voter turnout by allowing people to register to vote on Election Day and still have their vote counted. “Same-day registration” is already allowed in 10 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Hawaii will become the 11th state in 2018. “We really believe everybody should have access to voting anytime, not just a few days out of the year. As long as they come with ID, why shouldn’t they be able to vote?” said Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, who recently introduced a same-day registration bill in the House. Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, is sponsoring a same-day voter registration bill that would allow people to register to vote on Election Day. Supporters argue that it would increase voter turnout, especially among young and minority voters. But some skeptics fear it could open the door to widespread voting fraud.
North Carolina: Same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting back – for now | Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina voters again have two options for casting ballots in the March primary that were repealed for 2014 elections — at least for now. The General Assembly had stopped allowing people to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day during the early-voting period. And they also decided that the votes of people who went to the wrong precinct on election day would no longer be counted. But those changes were put on hold until a trial court judge rules on challenges that have been filed against them. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling confirmed that delay last April, but it’s gotten more attention recently as the primary nears. Same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting were used by more than 100,000 people the last time they were permitted in statewide elections, in November 2012.
A handful of groups are getting together to push for changes to the state’s voting laws. The organizations – like Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters, and the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group – say they’re asking for modest changes. They want to create a pre-registration system for teenagers to get on the voting rolls before they turn 18, and allow same-day registration for everyone. Another suggestion is for Pennsylvania to start in-person voting before Election Day — something that 33 states already allow.
African-American leaders in Kansas want the state to allow people to register to vote on Election Day. The proposal included in the Kansas Black Leadership Council’s 2016 legislative agenda is a response to the state’s requirement that people provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, in order to register to vote. People who do not do so when they try to register at the DMV, for example, are placed in suspended status until they provide documention.
Pennsylvania: Coalition pushes for voting reforms to get more to the polls in Pennsylvania | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bemoaning a 25 percent turnout in this fall’s general election, a nonpartisan coalition wants to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote, proposing reforms like same-day registration and optional voting by mail. But it’s unclear whether reforms could have an impact on next year’s presidential election. Keystone Votes is seeking a sweeping overhaul of restrictions on voter registration and access to the polls. Many voters “really struggle to make it to the polls on Election Day,” said Karen Buck, executive director of Philadelphia-based SeniorLAW Center. And all voters, she said, “would welcome more flexibility and choice in deciding when and how to cast a vote.” Other members of the group include the state League of Women Voter Pennsylvania Voice, Common Cause Pennsylvania and the state ACLU.
Nationally, some experts say policies governing the voting process in the United States prevent eligible voters from getting to the polls on Election Day. After the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act, officials in North Carolina grappled with the passage of a new voter ID law and a reversal of many voting procedures civil rights leaders spent years trying to win. “This is our Selma,” Rev. William Barber, a Protestant minister and political leader in the state, told PBS NewsHour. “We’re talking about taking away rights that people have utilized in elections, some since 2000.”
The Voting Rights Act was signed into law 50 years ago to rectify a “clear and simple wrong.” Throughout the Jim Crow South, African Americans were systematically denied their right to vote through tactics like literacy tests and poll taxes. The Voting Rights Act outlawed these and other targeted voting restrictions. It also sought to prevent future violations in particularly problematic regions of the country through Section 5 of the act, which requires certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit any proposed changes in voting procedures for “pre-clearance” by the federal government. This pre-clearance safeguard has allowed the Department of Justice to block discriminatory changes to voting laws over 700 times between 1982 and 2006. Unfortunately, this pre-clearance protection was dismantled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, just a day before the court also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While Section 5 was technically left untouched, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority, the court ruled that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which determined which jurisdictions would be subject to pre-clearance, was unconstitutional because it relied upon formulas that were out of date. The effect of this ruling essentially stripped the federal government of its ability to block discriminatory voting laws in those places until a new formula is established.
For the first 48 years of its existence,the Voting Rights Act — signed by President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago this week — was one of the most popular and effective civil rights laws in American history. Centuries of slavery, segregation and officially sanctioned discrimination had kept African-Americans from having any real voice in the nation’s politics. Under the aggressive new law, black voter registration and turnout soared, as did the number of black elected officials. Recognizing its success, Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the act and expanded its protections. The last time, in 2006, overwhelming majorities in both houses extended the law for another 25 years. But only seven years later, in 2013, five Supreme Court justices elbowed in andconcluded, on scant evidence, that there was no longer a need for the law’s most powerful tool; the Voting Rights Act, they claimed, had done its job