Editorials: Everyone says turnout is key. So why does it keep going down? | Dan Balz/The Washington Post

Tens of millions of dollars will be spent this year in an effort to boost turnout in the November elections. But the longer-term trends suggest that any marginal increase in what is expected to be a low-turnout election won’t have much effect on one of the chronic problems of America’s politics. The Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) recently issued a dreary summation about participation in the primary elections so far this year. Based on the 25 states that have already held their primaries, the report chronicled a pattern of voter indifference and, in some cases, record low turnout. In 15 of the 25 states with statewide primaries, turnout was the lowest ever, and only three of the 25 saw an increase over the last mid-term election in 2010. One of those that produced increased turnout was Mississippi, but that happened during the extraordinarily contested run-off election between Sen. Thad Cochran (R) and his tea party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Editorials: The clear sin of contracting North Carolina’s voter participation | Gene Nichol/NewsObserver.com

North Carolina’s new voter ID law, currently being litigated in federal court in Winston-Salem, is an election lawyer’s dream. Ending same-day registration, cutting early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminating a popular high school civics program encouraging students to register before they turn 18, expanding poll “observers” and instituting the country’s toughest photo ID requirement, the statute is a cornucopia of voter restriction. Small wonder we’ve been sued by the federal government. Winston Churchill once rejected a dessert by saying: “Take away that pudding; it has no theme.” The same cannot be said of our voter ID bill. It changes election law in dozens of disparate and intersecting ways. The principal features have only this in common: Each makes it harder to vote than it was before. Such is life, here, at the leading edge of American voter suppression. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that one of the potent challenges to the statute hasn’t been seen in our voting rights jurisprudence before. Seven college students from across the state argue that the oddly constructed identification measure violates the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You remember it, the provision that reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 and says, interestingly, that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged … on account of age.”

National: Obama administration to join voting rights cases in Ohio and Wisconsin | MSNBC

The Obama administration plans to join lawsuits against Republican-backed voting restrictions in two major swing states, Attorney General Eric Holder has said. The moves would represent the first time that Holder’s Justice Department has intervened against statewide voting laws outside the areas that the Supreme Court freed from federal oversight in last year’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling. They underline the administration’s intention to aggressively protect voting rights across the country, not only in the mostly southern jurisdictions directly affected by Shelby. “I expect that we are going to be filing in cases that are already in existence in Wisconsin as well as in Ohio,” Holder said in an unaired portion of an interview with Pierre Thomas of ABC News, according to a transcript provided by the Justice Department to msnbc. The interview was conducted Friday in London, where Holder was attending meetings about terrorism threats.

North Carolina: College students challenge North Carolina voting law | USA Today

Starting in 2016, students in North Carolina will have to present a photo ID to vote. Among the forms of acceptable identification are driver’s licenses, passports and military IDs. College IDs, however, are not accepted. The new law has troubled many students in the college community, and now seven students are suing. The students claim the photo ID requirement and measures such as the elimination of out-of-precinct voting are discriminatory against young people, joining organizations such as the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department in a legal battle against the state. The case challenges the constitutionality of North Carolina’s Voting Information Verification Act (VIVA), passed by the state Legislature in 2013. The law also eliminates same-day registration for voters and shortens the period for early registration.

Editorials: Millennials get cut off at the polls | Catherine Rampell/Washington Post

First they came for blacks, and we said nothing. Then they came for Latinos, poor people and married women, and we again ignored the warning signs. Now, after our years of apathy, they’re coming for us: the nation’s millennials. Across the country, Republican state policymakers have hoisted barriers to voting by passing voter-ID laws and curtailing electoral accommodations such as same-day registration and early voting. These policy changes are allegedly intended to eradicate the imagined scourge of voter fraud, but the real point seems to be voter suppression. For a time, the targeted populations were primarily racial, ethnic and income groups that traditionally vote Democratic. Now they happen to include Gen-Y’ers, more specifically my college-age brethren. We millennials may be fickle in our loyalties, generally distrustful of government institutions and unaligned with any political party, but our generation’s motley, liberal-to-libertarian-leaning ideological preferences still threaten red-state leadership.

North Carolina: Voting law changes fight in court | Associated Press

Sweeping changes to North Carolina’s voting law, considered one of the toughest in the nation, should be put on hold until at least after the November election, the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge Monday. Lawyers for the Justice Department and an array of civic groups said the Republican-backed measures were designed to suppress turnout among minorities, the elderly and college students — blocs that generally vote Democratic. Supporters of the measure said they ensured fair elections, prevented voter fraud and no group was disenfranchised during recent party primaries. Representing the NACCP, lawyer Penda Hair tried to draw a direct line between the new law and voting rights won during the civil rights era. “We can never forget we are walking on sacred ground when it comes to African-American and Latino voting rights,” Hair said. “The long arm of slavery and Jim Crow still reaches into the present.”

Editorials: ‘Monster’ Voting Law Challenged in Federal Court | Ari Berman/The Nation

In March 1965, Carolyn Coleman, a young activist with the Alabama NAACP, marched to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act. After the passage of the VRA, Coleman spent a year registering voters in Mississippi, where her friend Wharlest Jackson, an NAACP leader in Natchez, was killed in early February 1967 by a car bomb after receiving a promotion at the local tire plant. A year later, Coleman was in Memphis organizing striking sanitation workers when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Coleman devoted her life to expanding the franchise for the previously disenfranchised, serving as president of the North Carolina NAACP and Southern voter education director for the national NAACP. For the past twelve years, she’s been a county commissioner in Greensboro’s Guilford County. Nearly fifty years after marching for voting rights in Alabama, Coleman testified in federal court today in Winston-Salem against North Carolina’s new voting restrictions, which have been described as the most onerous in the nation. The law mandates strict voter ID, cuts early voting by a week and eliminates same-day registration, among many other things. After the bill’s passage, “I was devastated,” Coleman testified. “I felt like I was living life over again. Everything that I worked for for the last fifty years was being lost.”

Delaware: Same day voter registration supporters criticize State Senate for failure to vote on bill | DPM

Local advocacy groups are expressing their disappointment over Delaware’s State Senate failing to consider same day voter registration as the 147th General Assembly drew to a close Monday. The Same Day Registration Coalition, an assembly of more than a dozen organizations including ACLU Delaware and Common Cause Delaware, called on lawmakers to take up the issue again in 2015. Apryl Walker, a spokesperson for the group, says lawmakers worried about keeping their seats in an election year was just one factor contributing to HB 105 not getting a vote before the close of the legislative session on Monday.

Hawaii: Governor signs same-day voting registration measure | Hawaii News Now

A measure taking aim at Hawaii’s worst-in-the-nation voter turnout is now law. Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed a bill making Hawaii the 12th state in the country where late registration could be done on the day voters head to the polls. But same-day voting registration won’t begin until the 2018 elections to give state election officials time to phase in the program. “Hopefully, this will improve voter turnout and as I say, the delayed implementation gives the county clerks and the Office of Elections time to make sure it’s implemented accurately,” Abercrombie said.

Illinois: Quinn Signs Bill Relaxing Voting Restrictions | WTTW

Illinois citizens will now be able to register to vote on the same day as voting. Today, Gov. Pat Quinn signed that into law and other new provisions that he says will expand voter access. But some Republicans are calling the new law purely political, and are criticizing the shadowy way in which it came about. This law will only affect the coming November election, not future elections, which have set off criticism that this relaxation of voting laws will ultimately benefit Democrats – not enfranchise more voters as supporters contend. But the governor and other lawmakers say they will revisit the law after the election, they just want to see how it works first. “This bill is designed to take a look at some new ideas,” Quinn said. “We want to see how it works. I think a lot of the election authorities asked us to make this a bill that would be for this election and take a look at how this works out.”

Editorials: Will Same-Day Voter Registration Law Fix Hawaii’s Poor Voter Turnout? | Honolulu Magazine

On June 30, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation into law that will eventually allow same-day voter registration, first at absentee polling places beginning in 2016, and at all precinct polling places on Election Day starting in 2018. Lawmakers hope the adoption of HB 2590 will improve Hawaii’s abysmal voter turnout. Allowing same-day registration in other states, including Connecticut and Colorado, has boosted voter turnout. Other studies have shown election-day registration can increase turnout between 7 and 14 percentage points. Hawaii has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation, with just 44 percent of eligible voters actually casting ballots in last year’s presidential election, even when local boy Barack Obama was on the ballot.

Illinois: State to allow same-day registration, expand early voting hours | The Washington Post

Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification. “Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.”

Illinois: Same-day voter registration coming to Illinois | Chicago Tribune

Sweeping Illinois election law changes likely to be in place this fall mean it’ll be easier to register, vote while away at college and cast an early ballot. Democrats say the relaxed rules will allow more people to exercise a basic democratic right, but Republicans are leery the moves are aimed at pumping up the Democratic vote in what has been a decidedly blue state. The changes are part of a measure lawmakers approved this spring that Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign into law this summer. The biggest one will allow same-day registration for the first time, meaning Illinois voters could register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day.

Delaware: Same-day voter registration supporters push for bill’s passage | Delaware Newszap

Advocates for same-day voter registration met at Frazier’s restaurant Friday to pump up support for getting legislation passed. The bill, H.B. 105, if approved would make Delaware the 13th state in the nation to allow eligible voters to register to vote on the day of the election at their polling place. Currently, the registration deadline is 24 days prior to an election. The Central Delaware NAACP said Friday that states with same-day voter registration have a voter turnout around 10 points higher than states that do not.

Illinois: State one step closer to Election Day registration, voting | Associated Press

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.

Editorials: More Voting Games in Ohio | New York Times

Someday, after they figure out how to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate, Republicans will probably be embarrassed by how much time they have spent making it harder for Americans to vote. For now, though, the beat just goes on. In a misguided effort to hold on to power despite an ever-shrinking base of older white voters, Republican lawmakers around the country continue to impose all sorts of barriers to the ballot box. One of the most egregious examples is happening in Ohio, a critical swing state in presidential elections and the scene of many recent disenfranchisement attempts.

Utah: Mail-in ballots, same-day registration: Many in Utah gain more options in voting methods | Associated Press

Voters in about a dozen Utah counties have more flexibility in this year’s election primaries. In seven of those counties, residents may choose their preferred candidate by mail. Such ballots aren’t exactly new technology, said Brian McKenzie, election manager for Davis County, but officials for the first time are relying on them to collect the bulk of county ballots. After Weber and Duchesne counties logged higher turnout with mail-in ballots during recent elections, “a few more counties said, ‘Let’s give this a try,’ ” Justin Lee, deputy state elections director, told the Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/UoA6HX.)  Voters wishing to cast votes in person, who have lost their ballots, or who simply want to drop them off may use one of seven centers that will be open on primary day, McKenzie said. The six other counties include Beaver, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, San Juan and Sevier, Lee said.

Montana: Gallatin County voters weigh in on late voter registration | NBC

The day before the election marks the end of late voter registration, giving election officials a brief break before same day registration and voting begins early Tuesday. However, a referendum on the ballot this November could push late registration back. Legislative referendum 126 would end late voter registration on the Friday before election day and eliminate election-day registration all together. We spoke to Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder Charlotte Mills on how the move might impact her office.

National: Red, Blue States Find Some Common Ground on Elections Reform | Stateline

After nearly five years of partisan feuds over state elections laws, there are growing signs that lawmakers are finding common ground on both sides of the aisle, in blue and red states alike. During legislative sessions this year, several states enacted changes designed to ease the voting process, such as online voter registration and same-day registration.  When Illinois finishes the rollout of its online system this summer as expected, more than 100 million eligible voters will live in states offering online registration — about half of the nation’s eligible voters, according to the United States Elections Project. The raft of new measures comes on the heels of a bipartisan presidential elections commission report released in January that encouraged states to “transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters.”

Hawaii: State likely to allow same-day voter registration | Washington Post

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) is likely to sign legislation allowing eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day after the legislature passed the measure by a wide margin. Anyone eligible to cast a ballot would be able to register on Election Day at early voting sites beginning in 2016, or at regular polling places starting in 2018. Scott Nago, the state’s chief elections officer, supported the bill in written testimony before the legislature. Abercrombie has not said whether he will sign the bill, but Democrats expect him to do so. Elections officials and Democrats who backed the bill said they hoped it would boost turnout in a state with the lowest participation rates in the country.

North Carolina: Judge says lawmakers can’t ignore subpoenas | News Observer

A federal trial judge declined Thursday to side with North Carolina lawmakers who believe they are not required to provide documents to groups seeking answers about how a disputed elections-overhaul law was passed. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder upheld the March decision of a magistrate judge who told General Assembly members they didn’t have absolute immunity from responding to subpoenas seeking such information. Schroeder’s decision provides another incremental court victory to the U.S. government, several advocacy groups, and voters who filed lawsuits to block provisions of the 2013 law. The plaintiffs argue that a reduction in the number of early voting days, the elimination of same-day registration during early voting, and a requirement for photo identification that will go into effect in 2016 are discriminatory and erode voting rights.

Massachusetts: Panel recommends early voting, rejects same-day registration | Lowell Sun

Voters will be able to cast their ballots more than week before an election starting in 2016 under new early-voting rules recommended by a House-Senate panel that reached a deal late Monday afternoon on broad new election reforms. The pact would also authorize online voter registration and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, but excludes a Senate-backed provision to allow same-day voter registration at the polls. It also recommends random post-presidential election audits of select precincts to verify the accuracy of vote counts. “I think it’s a great bill and I’m very proud,” said Sen. Barry Finegold, co-chairman of the Election Laws Committee and the lead Senate conferee negotiating the final bill. “I think it’s going to give more opportunities to the electorate to participate and the fact that we’re going to be able to get younger voters to pre-register will be huge. It’s a big step in the right direction for more people to participate in the electoral process.”

North Carolina: Voting law causes confusion at the polls | MSNBC

North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law was in effect for the first time in Tuesday’s primary election. And there were plenty of signs that the law could make it harder to cast a ballot for many in the Tar Heel State. Tuesday’s off-year election wasn’t a good test of the law’s impact because turnout among Democrats—who are likely to be most affected by the restrictions—was tiny. Additionally, the law’s most high-profile provision, a photo ID requirement, won’t go into effect until 2016. Still, there was ample cause for concern about the law’s effect on future elections, when turnout will be higher. Two such races to keep an eye on include this fall’s U.S. Senate race, when Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, faces Republican Thom Tillis, and 2016, when Gov. Pat McCrory will stand for re-election, and the state figures to once again be a presidential battleground.

North Carolina: Voting law gets first test in Tuesday primaries | Al Jazeera

On a recent weekday night in central North Carolina, about 20 people, mostly African-American senior citizens, gathered in a neighborhood church. After an opening hymn, a congregant walked to the lectern and asked all to bow their heads. “As we listen to each speaker tonight,” she said, “we ask for better understanding of how to fulfill our right to vote.” The evening’s order of business was to educate people about the complexities of the state’s new voting law, enacted in August by the Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature. Tomorrow’s primary elections, in which voters will choose local officials as well as nominees for congressional races, will be the first time North Carolina voters go to the polls since the law’s passage. Though Tuesday’s voting is unlikely to provide a significant test of the new law — turnout is typically low in midterm elections — voting-rights advocates are keeping an eye on provisions, such as curtailed early voting and the end of same-day registration, that they say will disproportionately affect poor, working-class and African-American voters. (The best-known element of the new law, requiring voters to show government-issued identification at polling places, is not scheduled to go into effect until 2016.)

North Carolina: Voting rights advocates say they’ll monitor precincts to see how law is being implemented | Associated Press

During Tuesday’s primary elections for one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, voter advocacy groups will be trying to gauge the effects of a new state law that requires photo IDS at the polls, reduces the number of early-voting days, and eliminates same-day registration. Eight Republican candidates are competing to be the candidate who will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan in November. The contest is an important one for the GOP, which is trying to regain control of the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm elections — and it is the first election in North Carolina held since the elections overhaul took effect. Several provisions of the new law are being challenged in at least four federal and state lawsuits. A key part of the law — requiring voters to show photo IDs — won’t start until 2016, although voters Tuesday will be asked if they have photo IDs. If they don’t, they can still vote, but will be asked to sign an acknowledgment of the ID requirements and will be given information on how to obtain a photo ID, in some cases for free.

Hawaii: Lawmakers pass same-day voter registration | Associated Press

Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that will allow voters to register at polling places on the same day they vote. The measure (HB 2590) aims to encourage voting in a state where turnout is often dismal. Once the nation’s highest, Hawaii’s voter turnout cratered at 44.5 percent, the nation’s lowest, in the 2012 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The House and Senate passed the bill that will allow voters to register at early voting sites beginning in 2016 or at their assigned polling places on Election Day starting in 2018.

Hawaii: Is Same-Day Voter Registration in Hawaii on its Way? | Honolulu Magazine

In a blog post last week, we wrote: “Believe me, you really don’t want to be that guy who waits in line for an hour on election day only to get turned away because you can’t register on the spot.” That remains true this year, but things might change for the next election cycle if our state lawmakers approve a bill that would allow for same-day voter registration. If the proposal gets passed, the initial phase of implementation would begin in 2016. While county clerks who administer voter registration and polling places voiced some concerns about logistics such as staffing, the state Office of Elections has been openly in favor of the bill because of its potential to increase voter registration, which has been persistently low even when local voters had the opportunity to vote for a Hawaii-born president.

Hawaii: Same-day voter registration measure to get final hearing | Hawaii News Now

In the 1960s, Hawaii had the highest voter turnout in the nation. Fifty years later, it is now 50th among the 50 states. Now, state lawmakers are considering a measure to reverse the trend by allowing same-day voter registration. According to the State Elections Office, only 42 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2012 primary election. Just under 62 percent turned out in the general election. House Bill 2590 would allow voter registrations at early-voting sites in 2016, and same-day registration in 2018. Same-day voter registration is already allowed in eleven states and the District of Columbia.

Hawaii: Same-Day Voter Registration Bill Heads to Final Conference | Maui Now

A measure that would provide a process for the public to register to vote at polling sites on election day will be heard in a final conference committee on Friday, April 25, 2014. Representative Kaniela Ing of Maui who introduced the bill noted that Hawaiʻi has the lowest voter turnout in the nation and said, “It’s time we end this shameful distinction and foster a stronger public voice. There are all kinds of reasons people do not vote; arbitrary registration deadlines should not be one of them.” House Bill 2590 would allow voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016; and late voter registration, including on election day, beginning in 2018.

Nebraska: State Enacts Progressive Reform To Expand Voting Rights | ThinkProgress

Nobody would mistake Nebraska for a politically moderate state. It was the first state in the country to enact a 20-week abortion ban. They passed legislation restricting scientists’ ability to study climate change. Approximately 60 percent of voters cast a ballot for Mitt Romney in 2012, the ninth highest percentage of any state. So it was perhaps surprising when Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed LB565 last week, a bill that enacts a form of same-day voter registration, one of the most progressive voting reforms in the country. The bill was passed by the nominally-nonpartisan-but-functionally-Republican unicameral legislature 37-3, with nine lawmakers abstaining. The new law allows citizens to register to vote at the polls during the early voting period and cast their ballot on the same day. Same-day registration will be available until the second Friday before Election Day.