Rhode Island: Senate Judiciary Committee votes to abolish master lever by next year | Providence Journal

The days of casting a vote in Rhode Island with a single stroke of a pen appear to be headed to an end — but one that will come later than originally anticipated. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 1 to do away with single-party voting, but not until 2015. If the measure passes the full Senate, it will have to go back to the House, which voted unanimously May 1 to eliminate single-party voting, effective immediately. The reason some committee members gave for the one-year delay: state officials need more time to educate voters who might be confused by the change.

Rhode Island: House Judiciary Committee backs abolishing the master lever in elections | The Providence Journal

This one was a long time in coming. After decades of setbacks, opponents of the “master lever” watched with delight Tuesday as a legislative committee did what perhaps no committee had done before: Send a bill that would abolish the master lever to the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill, which removes the “master-lever” or “straight-ticket” voting option from election ballots and requires the secretary of state’s office to provide training and “community outreach” to make sure voters understand the option will no longer be there. The vote followed more than 90 minutes of testimony from dozens of speakers, many of them repeats from past hearings in past years, where bills to abolish the master lever were held for further study. In the end, that only made the outcome — which sets the stage for a full House vote on Thursday — more pleasing. “To have it voted out of committee unanimously, you know, I’ve got to lie down and put a cool cloth on my head,” said Margaret Kane, president of Operation Clean Government, a group that by her count has been urging passage for about 20 years. “It’s the first time we’ve had reason to hope.”

Pennsylvania: Voting change proposed | Pittsburgh Tribune

By choosing just one lever or button, Pennsylvanians have had the ability to select either the Democrats’ or Republicans’ entire slate of candidates for more than 70 years. But that would change if a proposal in Harrisburg by state Rep. Eli Evankovich — and 15 Republican cosponsors — becomes law. The House State Government Committee had a hearing Dec. 11 on Evankovich’s legislation to eliminate the straight-party ballot option in Pennsylvania, which would mean voters would have to identify their preferred candidate in each individual race rather than being able to press one button to choose all Democrats or all Republicans automatically. Pennsylvania is one of only 14 states that provides a straight-party option, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Not only would the change reduce some of the polarizing partisanship in elections, Evankovich said, it would encourage voters to review candidates at the bottom of the ballot instead of simply choosing a party’s lineup based on the higher-profile candidates who are running.

Editorials: Democracy wins for ECSU student, but what about the rest of North Carolina? | Charlotte News Observer

The North Carolina Republican Party and its elected legislators haven’t been subtle about their aim to suppress voting. The GOP majority in the General Assembly and the Republican governor approved a Voter ID law, ended straight-ticket voting and pre-registration by 16- and 17-year-olds and cut back on opportunities to vote early. When it comes to weighing the public’s will through elections, they’re like a butcher with his thumb down on the scale. Now that they’re in charge, Republicans mean to hold on to power any way they can, even if it means bending, challenging or just changing the rules. But last week, a young man named Montraviaus King, a student at Elizabeth City State University in northeastern North Carolina, won a right that never should have been challenged. He can run for the city council there using his campus address as his official address, his voting address. So says the State Board of Elections, reversing a decision by the Pasquotank County Board of Elections.

Editorials: McCrory offers shallow rhetoric to justify North Carolina Voter ID law | Charlotte News Observer

Even as Gov. Pat McCrory put pen to paper Monday, specifically the pen that signed the Voter ID bill into law, two lawsuits were on the way in federal court, a third was being readied for state court, and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to use his authority to ensure voting rights in this state. McCrory mouthed the rationalizations of Republican ideologues in the legislature who have been giving the governor his marching orders for six months. The governor said the new law would prevent voter fraud. He didn’t bother to mention that voter fraud is about as big a threat in North Carolina as an invasion of dinosaurs (excepting the Republicans on Jones Street). And he of course didn’t linger on the other parts of the legislation clearly designed to give Republicans an advantage in future elections, blatantly political maneuvers: no more straight-ticket voting, which is favored by more Democrats than Republicans; no more same-day registration and voting, again something shown to be used more by Democrats; early voting periods will be shorter, and early voting also tends to draw more Democrats; no more pre-registration for students younger than 18, as the young tend to lean Democratic.

Editorials: North Carolina’s Attack on Voting Rights | The Daily Beast

For the first time since her 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has stepped into the partisan politics of the moment. Speaking to the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the former secretary of state slammed a “sweeping effort to construct new obstacles to voting, often under cover of addressing a phantom epidemic of ‘election fraud.’” What’s more, she argued, we must fix the “hole opened up” by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted a core provision of the Voting Rights Act. Otherwise, she warned, “[C]itizens will be disenfranchised, victimized by the law instead of served by it and that progress, that historical progress toward a more perfect union, will go backwards instead of forwards.” That Clinton gave a speech on voting rights was fortuitous, since yesterday was also when North Carolina Republicans passed a sweeping set of changes to the state’s election law. These measures were proposed just one week after the Court’s ruling, and were rushed through the state legislature. GOP Governor Pat McCrory calls them “common sense” measures, designed to “ensure the integrity” of the ballot box and “provide greater equality in access to voting to North Carolinians.” And that’s true, if you rob those words of their actual meaning.

Editorials: Tarring democracy in North Carolina | The Virginian-Pilot

It will be harder to cast a ballot in North Carolina now, thanks to a catch-all set of anti-voter legislation that – as it did in other states – addresses a problem that doesn’t appear to actually exist. North Carolina’s Republican-controlled government has eliminated same-day voter registration; reduced early voting; abolished a program to help high school students register; given party poll-watchers more authority to challenge voters; weakened disclosure for “independent expenditure” committees; ended out-of-precinct voting; made it more difficult to open satellite polling places, say at a nursing home; banned an option for straight-ticket voting; and – of course – approved a new photo-ID requirement. Gov. Pat McCrory said he’ll sign the legislation, despite not having seen at least one of its provisions – and apparently not even understanding the current system.

North Carolina: Republicans slammed over ‘suppressive’ voting bill | guardian.co.uk

North Carolina is set to introduce what experts say is the most “repressive” attack on the rights of African American voters in decades, barely a month after the US supreme court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The bill, which was passed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature this week, puts North Carolina on collision course with Eric Holder, the attorney general, who has announced plans to protect voter rights in Texas. Civil rights advocates and experts in election law are stunned by the scope of the new law. What began in April as a 14-page bill mainly focused on introducing more stringent ID rules, ostensibly to guard against voter fraud, snowballed over the last week as it passed through the North Carolina senate. By the time it was passed by both houses late on Thursday night, the bill had become a 57-page document containing a raft of measures opposed by voting rights organisations. If the bill is passed by the state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, voters will be required to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls, and early voting will be shortened from 17 days to 10. Voting rights experts say studies reveal that both measures would disproportionately affect elderly and minority voters, and those likely to vote Democrat.

North Carolina: Sweeping changes to elections headed to a vote | NewsObserver.com

North Carolina lawmakers are poised to approve one of the strictest voter ID requirements in the nation, curtail early voting, and limit voter registration efforts under a Republican-crafted bill that expanded Tuesday to include a far-reaching rewrite of the state’s election laws. The measure crystallizes a legislative term in which Republicans flexed their unprecedented political muscle to shift the state’s political compass, and ensures that the session ends with a bitter partisan fight that will draw more national scrutiny. The bill’s sponsors say the measures are needed to restore integrity to the state’s elections, despite statistics showing little verified voter fraud. Democrats say the legislation is a thinly veiled attempt by the state’s ruling party to cement its advantage for future elections, rammed through the legislature in the final days of the session. The full Senate is expected to approve the measure Wednesday and send it to the House, where Speaker Thom Tillis said it would pass.

Texas: Eliminating straight-ticket voting’s effect on area residents | KFDA

The convenience of straight-ticket voting could one day no longer be an option in Texas. Three Texas politicians are seeking to end or limit straight-ticket voting. Texas is one of only 14 states that still allow it. “There’s two bills out there. One that would completely take away the straight-party voting, the other would take away the straight-party voting in local offices,” Knoxie Mathes, Potter County Election Administrator says. We asked how this would effect voters in our area. The number of panhandle residents who utilize straight-ticket voting is high. More than half of voters in Randall County used this option during November’s election. Even more people voted this way in Potter County. “In the 2012 general election we had maybe about 15 to 16 thousand that vote straight party out of 26 thousand that actually voted,” Mathes says.

North Carolina: Voter ID, straight-ticket ballot bills filed | The Charlotte Post

N.C. lawmakers are scrambling to sponsor bills that would impact voter identification and straight party balloting. State Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, introduced legislation last week that would ensure registered voters can cast a ballot even if they lack identification. Ford’s bill, SB 235, would allow voters to present identification at a polling place or have their photo taken on site before casting a ballot. Ford, a freshman lawmaker, is pitching the legislation as an alternative to Republican-backed bills that would require ID in advance of voting. Democrats and progressive-leaning activists have complained that stringent voter ID laws unfairly disenfranchise the young, elderly and racial minorities – core voters in the Democratic camp. Military personnel and absentee voters – who historically vote Republican – wouldn’t be required to present identification.

West Virginia: Bill Would Eliminate Straight-Ticket Voting | Wheeling News-Register

Delegate Ryan Ferns has authored a bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting in West Virginia – a measure he said has the support of most leadership in the House of Delegates. Ferns, D-Ohio, said he dropped off his bill to the House clerk’s office Friday, and he expects it to be assigned a bill number and officially introduced today or Tuesday. “Straight-ticket voting encourages uneducated voting,” Ferns said. “We’re telling people if they don’t want to go through the read on a ballot, they have the option of voting for just one party. At the very least, voters should have to read the names for each candidate on the ballot.” …  West Virginia is one of 15 states to offer straight-ticket voting – the process of electing a party’s entire slate of candidates with just one marking, according to information compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Neighboring Pennsylvania and Kentucky have straight-ticket voting, as do Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Iowa: Bill to abolish straight-ticket voting advances in Iowa House | Sioux City Journal

It hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz yet, but a proposal in the Iowa House could change how a large chunk of Iowa voters cast their ballots. Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, has proposed doing away with most straight-ticket voting, the practice of voting once for all the people of a particular party on the ballot. The bill cleared a subcommittee last week, and it’s scheduled to come up this week in the House State Government Committee.

New Hampshire: Straight-ticket voting applauded, panned at House hearing | NEWS06

Advocates of a return to straight party ticket voting, abandoned by the state in 2007, made their pitch before the state House Committee on Election Law Tuesday. The measure would let voters cast a ballot for every candidate of a particular party in a general election with a single check. They could also vote for each office individually. Some saw it as a convenience for voters; others as an unnecessarily confusing complication to voting. Still others debated the place of straight-ticket voting in modern politics. “It is just a simplicity, a non-partisan partisan measure,” said Rep. Fred Rice, R-Hampton, a co-sponsor. “A number of voters go in and say ‘I know in advance that I want to vote for all one party or another;’ for them it is a convenience.”

Voting Blogs: Straight-Ticket Voting: In or Out? Depends Where You Live | Election Academy

One of my favorite election-geeky things about following the news from across the country is the occasional opportunity to see states heading in opposite directions on an issue. The latest example is on the question of straight-ticket voting: while policymakers in Rhode Island consider whether or not to eliminate the option, some legislators in New Hampshire are looking to reinstate it. Straight-ticket voting is currently authorized in 15 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; however, in 2012 New Mexico’s Secretary of State decided not to offer the option, which is not required under state law.

South Carolina: Vote-counting expert, former voting machines’ technician detail possible missteps in Richland County’s election | TheState.com

Planning Richland County’s 2012 election didn’t require rocket science, yet the ship exploded. Critics – which is pretty much everyone – say last week’s voting was an utter mess. Election Day was entwined with unmatched voter frustration, people who walked away because of long lines, vote-counting delays, lawsuits, ballot seizures, an election protest and recriminations about the motives of some county election officials. Early voters, trying to get a jump on Tuesday’s election, lined the sidewalk on Harden street at the Richland County administration building all day on Monday.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin straight-party voting abolished | GazetteXtra

Records show that 54 percent of city of Milwaukee voters—or 149,546 of them—cast straight-party ballots in the 2008 presidential election and that 53 percent of them voted that way in 2010. In both elections, city of Milwaukee voters cast six straight-party Democratic ballots for every one cast for Republicans. Straight-party voting has also been popular elsewhere: In Jefferson County, 46 percent of 2010 voters cast straight-party ballots in 2010. In La Crosse County, almost 44 percent of all votes cast in 2010 were straight-party ballots. In Rock County, straight-party ballots were 39 percent of votes cast in 2010 and 2008. But straight-party ballots—used by voters wanting to vote for all candidates of one party, unless they make exceptions for individual offices—are no longer allowed in Wisconsin. In a change that was overshadowed by the controversy over whether voters should have to show a photo ID to cast a ballot, Republican state officials banned straight-ticket voting.

New Mexico: State ends straight-ticket voting option | KRQE

A fixture on ballots for decades, the option to vote a straight party ticket is disappearing in New Mexico and won’t be available when people head to the polls in November. Voters historically could easily choose to support a party’s entire slate of candidates by making just one mark on the ballot or pressing a single button or level on a machine. But Secretary of State Dianna Duran has decided not to allow that in this year’s general election because there’s no provision in state law specifically authorizing it. “Her job is to follow the law,” said Ken Ortiz, the secretary of state’s chief of staff. What remains unclear is whether elimination of the straight-ticket option will disproportionately help or hurt Democratic or Republican candidates.