Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris and Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh today joined the New York City Campaign Finance Board to push an initiative that would automatically put all eligible New Yorkers on the voter rolls. Lamenting low turnout and registration rates in last year’s elections, the Democrats appeared on the steps of City Hall with various…
Editorials: Digital election reforms will encourage participation in our democratic process | The Buffalo News
Another Election Day has come and gone, giving us a chance to consider an unresolved issue. That is, how to improve the American voting system. We are still operating under some obsolete rules and procedures. Those need to change if we ever hope to reverse the woeful turnouts of recent elections and ensure that all eligible citizens are able to register and vote without undue barriers. The proposed Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 has a component called Voter Registration Modernization that is intended to bring the American voting system into the 21st century. It is based on proposals from the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal advocacy group in New York. It requires the government to take responsibility for making sure that every eligible voter can become registered and remain that way. Modernizing voter registration, securely, might involve electronic, online and same-day registration. The bill has other aspects that would need more discussion, but the part dealing with technology seems clear-cut.
We have just begun a new year, a new session of Congress and a new term for President Barack Obama. But as we look forward to 2013 and beyond, we cannot forget the lessons learned from the past few years. The 2012 election season saw an abrupt reversal of America’s long tradition of expanding voting access. Voters were alarmed by the fact that more than 41 states had introduced, and in many instances passed, legislation that would make it harder for them to vote. These changes are now well-known — voter ID restrictions, cuts in early voting hours, reduced registration opportunities and executive actions making it harder to restore voting rights. Advocates and experts sounded the alarm — in the media, the courts and elsewhere — to ensure no voter would lose their rights. The result: Far fewer voters were affected by these changes than originally predicted. The voters won. But what now that the 2012 elections are over? Does that mean that the work is done and that problems that were so feared just a few months ago are behind us? On the contrary.
If Capitol Hill Democrats have their way, every American soon will have the option to grab their laptop, plop down on the couch and register to vote. Yet unlike other hot-button voting rights issues, such as early voting and same-day registration, the idea is gaining momentum among some state-level Republicans. Online voter registration is a central provision of a voting rights bill jointly filed last week by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats. The measure, called the Voter Empowerment Act, collectively so far has 168 cosponsors in both chambers — all Democrats. But at the state level, the issue is largely nonpartisan, as half of all states with online voter-registration programs already in place have Republican-led state legislatures. And of the eight state legislatures with bills this year proposing the idea, five are GOP-controlled, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
On two major occasions – during his election night speech and second inaugural address – President Obama has highlighted the need for election reform. “By the way, we have to fix that,” he said on November 6 about the long lines at the polls in states like Florida. Shortly thereafter, the cause of election reform seemed to fall by the wayside, with more pressing events, such as the Sandy Hook shooting and the fiscal cliff, dominating the news. But Obama returned to the issue on January 21, saying “our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” Now the question is whether the Obama administration and Congress will actually do something to fix the shameful way US elections are run. There are smart proposals in Congress to address the issue. The most comprehensive among them is the Voter Empowerment Act, reintroduced today by Democratic leaders in the House, including civil rights icon John Lewis, and Kirsten Gillibrand in Senate.
President Barack Obama emphasized the need to modernize the U.S. election system in his Inaugural Address. One bill to do just that is set to be introduced Wednesday by the civil rights hero Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) — who knows a thing or two about how to expand democracy. Under his reform plan, states would have to take responsibility to make sure that every eligible voter is on the rolls. How? By taking existing computerized voter rolls, and expanding them with names voluntarily collected when citizens deal with government — including the Department of Motor Vehicles for drivers’ licenses, the Social Security Administration or other agencies. Any voter could opt in with the click of a mouse. The proposed bill would bring our antiquated system into the 21st century. The “Voter Empowerment Act,” introduced by Lewis with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), could transform the way we choose our leaders.
With both a tradition of helping service members get their votes counted as well as a tight turnaround between its primary and general elections this year, Washington state officials decided to move up its primary date a few weeks, from late August to early August. The Military Voters Protection Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group, cited that schedule adjustment as an impressive effort to help ensure that the ballots of those serving in war zones are counted, and on Tuesday named Washington among 15 states that make extraordinary efforts to enfranchise military voters. The group noted state efforts to register service members to vote, to meet obligations to get absentee ballots out at least 45 days before elections, and legislative efforts to make good practices into law. The project says that less than 20 percent of 2.5 million military voters were able to request and return their absentee ballots in 2008 elections, and that in 2010 only 5 percent of military voters were able to successfully vote by absentee ballot. Those states making the list of 15 “all-stars” include Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Eric Eversole, executive director of the military voter project, identified the states doing the worst job at helping military voters as Alabama, California, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) this week is unveiling his next step in the battle over voting rights in the form of a pop-up Web application that informs people where to vote and how to register. Hoyer and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues dated Monday to introduce the new application and encourage members to use it, specifically recommending sharing it through social media. The letter urges that it is the “responsibility” of elected leaders to help inform constituents about the democratic process. “In the last year, we have witnessed a nationwide assault on American citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote,” they wrote. “Aside from the unnecessary, expensive, and ineffective new Voter ID laws, we have also seen targeted purges of eligible, registered voters from state rolls. Little has been done to educate the public about these actions. As a result, there are thousands of eligible voters at risk of being turned away from the polls while attempting to make choices about their federal representation.”
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law introduced the Voter Empowerment Act of New York bill on June 7. The bill will automatically register eligible consenting citizens at designated government agencies; permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds; automatically transfer registrations of New Yorkers who move within the state; provide access to voter registration records and registration of eligible citizens online and allow people to register or change their party later in the election cycle.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law joined with good government and advocacy groups on June 7 to announce the introduction of the Voter Empowerment Act of New York, a nonpartisan initiative to increase voter participation as the 2012 election season commences. This legislation would amend the election law to update, streamline and make more efficient the voter registration process in New York. Currently, the single biggest barrier to voting is our antiquated registration system. The proposed bill would improve New York’s voter participation by automatically registering citizens to vote with their consent and updating their registration information when they interact with specific government agencies. It would also computerize the entire registration process, reducing typographical and clerical errors that come with hand-written registration documents and making it easier for eligible voters to register.
House Democratic leaders on Thursday introduced legislation to streamline Americans’ trips to the polls. The bill is a response to a slew of recent state legislation – some proposed, some already law – setting stricter standards for voters to register or cast a ballot. Supporters of those state efforts — including new picture ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements – say they’re necessary to weed out ineligible voters and maintain the integrity of elections. But critics contend they’re designed to suppress eligible voters, particularly minorities and low-income Americans who tend to vote Democratic.