Voting rights and partisan gerrymandering, traditionally the preoccupation of wonky party strategists and good-government groups, have become major flash points in the debate about the integrity of American elections, signaling high stakes battles over voter suppression and politically engineered districts ahead of the 2020 presidential race. When Democrats take the majority in the House on Thursday, the first bill they plan to introduce will be broad legislation focusing on these issues. Early drafts of their proposals include automatic voter registration, public elections financing and ending gerrymandering by using independent commissions to draw voting districts. But action and anger go far beyond Congress. With voters increasingly aware of the powerful impact of gerrymandering and doubtful about the fairness of elections, voting issues have become central to politics in key states including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
A Senate committee approved a new automatic voter registration plan Wednesday, sending to the floor a proposal that advocates say is tighter than one Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected last year. Democratic Sen. Andy Manar’s plan would allow residents to automatically register to vote when they visit certain state agencies. The Senate committee endorsed Manar’s measure Wednesday with a 10-3 vote. Rauner vetoed similar legislation last year, fearing it did not contain enough safeguards to prevent voter fraud. Rauner’s spokeswoman, Eleni Demertzis, wouldn’t say whether he supports the new plan. The updated version requires residents to confirm their eligibility before information is passed along to election officials or confidentially opt out instead. Its predecessor would have filed applications regardless, leaving election officials to follow up.
The Nevada Assembly voted 27-15 Wednesday to approve a program that would automatically register people to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or identification card at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Currently, residents can register to vote at the DMV but they have to “opt in” making a conscious choice to be registered. If Initiative Petition 1, or IP1 becomes law, anyone applying for a license or ID will be automatically registered and will have to choose not to be registered. Current and former members of the military testified during committee hearings that the petition would make it easier for military personnel on active duty — who move many times during their careers — to register to vote.
New Jersey: Democrats postpone attempt to override Christie veto on voter registration bill | NJ.com
State Assembly Democrats have postponed a planned attempt Thursday to override Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of a bill that would automatically register people to vote when they receive or renew their driver’s license. Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), the main sponsor of the measure, said Democrats called off the vote because of “several absences in our caucus today. Given the general decline in voter participation, this bill is too important to leave to fate,” Coughlin said in a statement shortly before Thursday’s Assembly session was set to begin. “We look forward to announcing a new date soon.” There were 54 “yes” votes in the Assembly when it passed in June – the veto-proof majority necessary in the 80-seat house.
Nevada: Initiative would automatically register some DMV customers to vote | Las Vegas Review-Journal
An initiative to automatically register people to vote when they apply for or renew a Nevada license or identification card was filed this week with the secretary of state’s office. The measure, backed by a group called Nevadans for Modern and Secure Elections, would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to transmit information to the secretary of state’s office to register people to vote or update their information. People could opt out of the program. Right now, people can register to vote at the DMV, but they have to “opt in.” The measure will not appear on this year’s general election ballot. A description of the initiative says it is “designed to increase the accuracy of registration rolls by ensuring that qualified citizens who move within Nevada and update their contact information at the DMV will have their voter registration information automatically updated.”
Once again Oregon has found itself on the leading edge of election reform. On January 4 2016, the state became the first in the country to begin automatically registering voters who visit the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for a new or renew a driver’s license or state ID. Since Oregon Motor Voter launched one month ago, the state has added 4,348 voters to the rolls. Under the law, once the voters are registered they receive a Motor Voter card from the Oregon Elections Division and they have three options: Do nothing and remain registered, opt-out, or choose a political party.