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.
Proposed legislation would allow Indiana residents to register to vote on Election Day. Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, has filed the bill for the legislative session beginning Jan. 3, and it has drawn mixed reactions in Northwest Indiana along party lines. “Once again, I am filing a proposal to allow for same-day voter registration in Indiana. Requiring Hoosiers to register to vote 29 days before an election is an unnecessary obstacle for people to exercise their constitutional right to vote,”
Amid heightened conversation across the country about voting rights and who has access to the ballot, Maryland voters are deciding whether to amend the state constitution to allow people to register on Election Day. The Democratic-backed initiative, which was opposed by most Republican lawmakers and has not been endorsed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), is one of two statewide questions on the ballot for the midterm elections. … Maryland already allows residents to register during early voting, which this year ends Thursday, but they cannot do it on Election Day.
State elections officials on Thursday added a third proposal to the Nov. 6 ballot that would expand voting rights in Michigan. The Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously to certify signatures for a ballot initiative that would amend the Michigan Constitution to allow for no-reason absentee voting by mail, guarantee continued straight-party voting and let residents register to vote up to and on Election Day. The approval from canvassers comes a day before the deadline for inclusion on the November ballot and roughly a week after the ballot committee Promote the Vote asked a federal judge to force state certification of the proposal.
Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan – one of the organizations backing the plan – said the lawsuit takes issue with the state’s process.
“The fear is that the process is insufficient, that it’s inconsistent with what other initiatives have received, and that it’s standard-less,” Moss said.
Promote the Vote tracked down 13 people out of the 24 signatures deemed invalid from the sample of 500 and had them sign affidavits, but that wasn’t enough to get the proposal over the necessary hurdles and onto the ballot, according to Moss.
Michigan: Group submits signatures for ballot measure to expand voting in Michigan | The Detroit Free Press
More than 430,000 signatures were submitted Monday for a 2018 ballot initiative to expand voting in Michigan by allowing absentee ballots to be cast for any reason and implementing measures such as same-day voter registration. Organizers of the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP’s state and Detroit branches. “Democracy is most effective when the most possible people participate,” ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said during a news conference outside the state elections bureau. “It is time that we had voting reforms in the state because people have died to win and exercise their right to vote. Voting should be easier, it should be accessible and it should be something that everybody can do.”
Massachusetts’ top court on Monday unanimously upheld a state requirement that people must register to vote 20 days before an election, ruling in a case that could impact the ability of thousands of citizens to cast ballots. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the state’s top election official by reversing a lower court judge’s 2017 ruling that concluded the registration cut-off violated the state’s constitution. The 7-0 ruling by the top court came in a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on behalf of two organizations, Chelsea Collaborative and MassVote, and several individual qualified voters.
New Hampshire: Attorney General: Send voter suit over Election Day registration to state Supreme Court | Union Leader
The attorney general wants the state Supreme Court to take over the lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party and the N.H. League of Women Voters over a new election law, Senate Bill 3, which establishes requirements for Election Day voter registration. The key issue is an April decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Temple ordering the state to turn over its voter registration database to the plaintiffs, who say they need the data to make their case. “The court exceeded its authority in ordering the release of the (database), and has put in jeopardy the privacy rights of over a million active and inactive New Hampshire registered voters,” according to the motion filed by Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards, representing the state in support of the law.
Democratic lawmakers last week introduced legislation that would make Delaware the 19th state with same-day voter registration. Under the bill, Delawareans could sign up to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. “Our goal as a society should be to encourage more people to be part of the electoral process, not less,” main sponsor House Majority Whip John Viola, D-Newark, said in a statement. “Right now, we have an arbitrary deadline to register to vote of three weeks before an election. “Some people, often young people or those who just moved to the state, don’t think to register to vote until it’s right before the election, and by then it’s too late. Election Day registration has been around for decades and is proven to safely and effectively increase voter turnout, so it’s time for Delaware to take this step forward.”
A new house bill introduced Wednesday in Dover would make it possible to register to vote on Election Day, making The First State the 19th in the union to adopt Same Day Registration. Under HB 400, a person could register to vote at his or her polling place on the day of a presidential, state primary, general or special election. All they would have to do is show a valid government issued photo ID, a current utility bill, a bank statement or other government document that displays name and current address.
A Washington House committee is considering a bill that would allow people to register to vote and then cast ballots on the same day. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue). “If you look at the five other states that have same-day voter registration, you’ll see that they have increased their voter participation, in some cases, as much as 10%, which is significant by any measure.”
Massachusetts is still fighting a ruling that struck down its voter-registration deadline of 20 days prior to an election, but the state on Thursday proposed same-day voter registration in the commonwealth. Secretary of State William Galvin filed the bill on Jan. 25, six months after Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins struck down the 20-day rule as unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts represented the challengers who brought the underlying suit, including voter Rafael Sanchez, and the groups Chelsea Collaborative and MassVote.
Washington: State bills allowing same-day voter registration, local redistricting to empower minorities move ahead | Sequim Gazette
The state Senate passed several bills aimed at expanding access to voting and promoting minority representation in local governments through redistricting. On the evening of Jan. 17, in a reconvened Senate floor vote session, the body passed SB 6021, which would allow voters to register for elections in-person up until 8 p.m. on the day of an election and eight days before if registering online or by mail. The bill passed 29-20 and now goes to the House.
Indiana: Lawmakers push for Election Day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting | Indianapolis Star
Election Day voter registration and expanded voting by mail should be considered by next year’s Indiana General Assembly, a panel of lawmakers decided Thursday. The committee’s chairman Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, said he already is drafting legislation for the upcoming legislative session that would allow Hoosiers to mail in absentee ballots without having to provide an excuse required under current law. Hoosiers currently have to send in an application eight days before election day in order to receive an absentee ballot. On that application, they have to choose one of the 11 specific reasons available to vote absentee, such as working during the full 12 hours the polls are open or being away from the county during that same time period. Already, the state doesn’t check a person’s excuse to make sure it’s valid.
On Sept. 12, a New Hampshire Superior Court judge allowed Senate Bill 3 — a bill that changes the proof of residency requirements for voters who choose to register same-day — to take effect but blocked a portion of the bill imposing fines on voters who are unable to produce the required documents. Hanover town clerk Betsy McClain said that before the bill, voters who chose to register same-day could verbally confirm their residency and sign a document on-site if they were unable to produce proper identification on voting day, swearing under penalty of perjury that they live in the town of Hanover. Now, these voters will need to fill out a different form and return to the clerk’s office within 10 days of registration to provide proof of residence. Acceptable proof of residence documents include a driver’s license, a utility bill or, according to McClain, “[proof of] residence at an institution of learning.”
At the summer study committee on election laws, it was announced lawmakers are planning to file bills for same-day voter registration and the ability to vote by mail. While we don’t have details on these bills there were plenty of suggestions on improving voting laws. In a time where many issues can cause divide, some want election laws to be different. “Voting in elections should be among the most inclusion activities we experience as Hoosiers,” said Julia Vaughn with the organization Common Cause. “Our assumption should be that people want to participate.”
Voting-rights advocates are floating a proposal that could make it easier to vote, but the state’s top election official is dead-set against it, raising the possibility of voter fraud. The idea is election-day registration, a system used by 16 states and the District of Columbia, where voters can register or update their voting information at the polling place on election day. “All the states that have election-day registration are at the top of voter turnout,” voting-rights expert Kevin Kennedy said in the keynote speech at “Democracy Tomorrow,” a daylong voting-rights seminar held Friday at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex. About 10 to 15 percent of voters take advantage of the same-day option in the states that have it, Kennedy said. It especially attracts late deciders, who may not think about voting until the election is upon them, he said. While some election officials consider those voters to be lazy, “I’m thinking they’re busy,” he said.
The Seventh Circuit on Friday found no evidence that allowing same-day voter registration in large Illinois counties discriminates against voters in small counties, and vacated a preliminary injunction won by a Republican congressional candidate. Republican Illinois congressional candidate and Tea Party leader Patrick Harlan sued the Illinois State Board of Elections in 2016, claiming a state law guaranteeing same-day registration for high-population counties only benefits urban Democrats. Illinois requires counties with a population of over 100,000 allow citizens to register when voting, but smaller counties don’t have to – and none do because of the cost and logistics involved. Only 20 Illinois counties out of 102 allow same-day registration, but these counties account for 84 percent of the state’s population.
Efforts to streamline access to the ballot in Massachusetts are picking up steam after a court tossed out a state’s 20-day voter registration cutoff deadline. Voting right advocates say they’re renewing their push for two measures, including one that would let eligible voters register on Election Day and a second that would create a new automatic voter registration system. The rekindled interest comes after Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled Monday that the requirement that voters register at least 20 days before an election violates the Massachusetts Constitution and potentially disenfranchises thousands of would-be voters.
Foxboro Town Clerk Robert Cutler grimaces when asked about same-day voter registration. “We’d definitely need an updated computer system,” Cutler says, “and the state hasn’t gotten that ready yet.” Same-day voter registration — citizens not yet signed up to vote being able to walk in to a polling place on Election Day and cast a ballot — is a possibility in Attleboro area communities as a result of a lawsuit by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the 20-day deadline to register before the election is unconstitutional and unnecessary in these days of vastly improved technology.
The Fourth of July celebration is over, but the legal fireworks are just getting started in a trial that got underway Wednesday focusing on a key concern of the founding fathers – the right to vote. Jessie Rossman, one of the lawyers handling the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says as early as 1887, the state Supreme Court ruled that the cut-off for voter registration should occur as close to Election Day as possible. Rossman argues the technology is available to allow for same-day registration, so she says the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional. “Every year, thousands of people in Massachusetts are disenfranchised and unable to vote as a result of this 20-day registration cut-off,” she states.
State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, (D) Erie, today urged enactment of his legislation that would free qualified state residents to go to their polling place on Election Day, register to vote and cast their ballot” “My House Bill 101 – same day voter registration — removes unwarranted, archaic and costly barriers to voting, increases voter turnout and can save money,” Bizzarro said. Bizzarro, speaking at a Capitol news conference where various voting-reform measures were outlined, said studies have shown that states that have implemented same day voter registration have higher rates of participation than states like Pennsylvania, where a person has to register at least 30 days before an election to cast a ballot.
If the Senate agrees with the idea, Alaskans will be able to cast their ballots on the same day they register to vote. On Friday morning, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 22-17 to approve House Bill 1, which allows Alaskans to register to vote on Election Day, then cast a ballot for statewide office. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, who said in a prepared statement that it may improve voter turnout. “The right to vote embodies the spirit of American democracy, casting a vote is the most effective way to have one’s voice heard in the political process,” he said. “When we exercise our right to vote we impact our community far beyond election night, we elect individuals to act on our behalf to manage government services, set policies that shape our state, and invest and develop our resources.”
The Nevada Senate approved a bill Tuesday extending voter registration before Election Day, in some cases allowing same-day registration, and expanding voting hours in some jurisdictions. Senate Bill 144 was one of several election-related bills voted on as the Nevada Legislature faced a deadline Tuesday to pass bills out of their house of origin.
SB144 was approved on a 12-9 partisan vote, with state Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas, voting with Democrats to approve it. Specifically, the bill extends voter registration until the last day of early voting, which is the Friday before a Tuesday election. Under existing law, voter registration closes on the third Tuesday before the election.
Secretary of State Jim Condos announced today that eligible Vermont voters are now able to register to vote on any day up to and including Election Day. As of January 1, 2017 Act No. 44 (S 29) An act relating to election day registration officially went into effect, and will be implemented immediately for all local and state elections going forward, including any special elections and Town Meeting Day, which is Tuesday, March 7. Vermont became the 14th state to enact Election Day Registration, eliminating Vermont’s voter registration deadline. This means a person can register at their polling place on the day of an election, and can then vote in that election. Registration will still be available at a person’s Town or City Clerk’s office on any day prior to the election during normal business hours.
New Hampshire: Abandoning same-day voter registration could be expensive | New Hampshire Union Leader
When it comes to achieving one of Governor-elect Chris Sununu’s top priorities – reforming New Hampshire’s election laws – the Newfields Republican is presented with a troublesome bargain. It’s possible that he could convince the Republican-led Legislature to get rid of the state’s same day voter registration law which he says is too “loose” and makes us more vulnerable to fraud. But in so doing, he’ll likely have to accept even more expansive and expensive access for the public to register to vote, a trade off which many of his fellow conservatives will not like. “This presents a whole host of not only expensive, several million dollars to pay for it, but a lot of undesirable things as well,” said State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, who has authored more than a dozen other bills to overhaul election laws in 2017. “I don’t think it would resolve the concerns but it would introduce other problems.”
Though there is no evidence behind President-elect Donald Trump’s recent claim of “serious’’ voter fraud in New Hampshire, the state could see a handful of election law changes now that Republicans are in charge at the State House. Gov.-elect Chris Sununu wants to eliminate Election Day registration, while fellow Republicans in the legislature have long sought a 10- or 30-day residency requirement. They say the changes would give voters more confidence in New Hampshire’s election systems. ‘‘It’s simply about doing things the right way,’’ Sununu recently told WMUR-TV of his calls to eliminate same-day registration. Sununu was not immediately available for a comment to The Associated Press. The offices of both the Attorney General and Secretary of State say there aren’t enough complaints to back up any assertions of wide-scale voter fraud. Trump tweeted Sunday that the media is ignoring ‘‘serious fraud’’ in New Hampshire, Virginia and California, without providing evidence for his claims.
Chicagoans may be able to register to vote on Election Day in their polling places, after all. A federal appellate judge on Tuesday halted a lower court judge’s decision to bar Election Day voter registration in polling places, after the Illinois Attorney General’s office argued last week that the statute doesn’t inhibit, but enhances the right to vote. The attorney general’s office on Sept. 30 filed a motion for a stay of the lower court ruling, pending appeal. A judge on Tuesday granted that motion, while also giving the defendants until Thursday to provide a statement about why they believe the appeals should be expedited, according to court records. The decision means same day registration in polling places will continue this Election Day, on Nov. 8. A federal judge on Sept. 27 ruled that the Illinois State Board of Elections must stop enacting Election Day voter registration in polling places because the practice doesn’t treat big cities and rural areas equally. The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan came on National Voter Registration Day, a day aimed at ensuring voters are registered for the November election.
Illinois: Legal interpretation expands same-day voting registration opportunities | Northwest Herald
Legal interpretation of a federal ruling curtailing expanded same-day registration will allow the practice at early voting stations. The state’s county clerks, after a conference call last week, agreed that early voting stations still would be allowed to register people to vote, McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan said. Legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections concurred with the interpretation, she said. U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan slapped a preliminary injunction on a state law that requires counties with more than 100,000 residents to implement a system by which voters can register at the same time they cast ballots at any polling place through Election Day.
A federal lawsuit has raised questions about whether Illinois’ new Election Day voter registration rules are constitutional, a situation that could complicate how polling sites are run this November. Illinois tested same-day registration in the 2014 governor’s race, with all election authorities required to offer it in at least one location. It was popular, with long lines on Election Night, particularly in Chicago. When lawmakers made same-day registration permanent the next year, they expanded it, ordering highly populated areas to make it available at all polls. That change is at the heart of a federal lawsuit brought by Republicans, who argue it’s an unfair and unequal system because voters in less populated and GOP-leaning areas don’t have equal access. They’re asking a judge to end all precinct-level Election Day registration, which would impact voters in 21 of 102 counties and five cities: Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Bloomington and East St. Louis.