Republicans—with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below)—are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Two Democrats, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia, also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies—the young and minorities—which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
Republicans – with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below) – are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Democrats Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies – the young and minorities – which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
How would you like to vote on weekends? And online or by phone? Those are just a couple of ideas Elections Ontario floats in its annual report released Friday*. The annual report does not cover the recent general election, and much of it would have been written before the writs were drawn up and Ontarians re-elected Premier Kathleen Wynne and sent her Liberals back to office for a fourth term. And though voter turnout ticked up slighty to 52.1 per cent in 2014 from 48.2 per cent in 2011, the number is still low and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa offers a few ideas to get Ontarians back to the polls. “Other democracies hold elections on weekends and their experience suggests that should Ontario follow suit, voter turnout may increase,” the annual report states. It also points out that schools are often used as polling locations and moving elections to non-school days would facilitate that process. The report also calls for a rethink of the traditional ballot box.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed Wednesday that weekend voting could help increase voter turnout in elections. During The Hill’s Voting in America event, sponsored by advocacy group Why Tuesday?, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) called weekend voting a “practical” and “common-sense solution” to ensure that hard-working people have the opportunity to vote, boosting turnout. He was joined by former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who suggested the Saturday voting model has worked well in states such as Louisiana. “We don’t encourage people to vote enough,” Lott said. Speakers discussed the issue in the immediate aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) shocking defeat, in which turnout was low in Tuesday’s primary.
Florida: Court rules Florida voter purge illegal, but will it stop GOP voting tweaks? | Christian Science Monitor
A panel for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday deemed illegal a 2012 attempt by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens and other ineligible voters. The ruling, which the justices said was intended to thwart future questionable roll purges, comes amid a new wave of pitched battles between Republicans who say they want to make voting fairer by curbing voting-booth shenanigans and Democrats who say adding restrictions to voting is a blatant attempt to keep poor people and blacks – many of whom are Democrats – from casting ballots. Since the US Supreme Court unshackled most Southern states from the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act last year, Republican-led legislatures have launched efforts to create what they say are more uniform election systems to ensure that each vote is equal. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin have curbed weekend voting, which critics say would most affect blacks who often carpooled to polling places from church on Sunday. In North Carolina, Republicans have stiffened early-voting and registration rules.
On Election Night 2012, referring to the long lines in states like Florida and Ohio, Barack Obama declared, “We have to fix that.” The waits in Florida and Ohio were no accident, but rather the direct consequence of GOP efforts to curtail the number of days and hours that people had to vote. On January 22, 2014, the president’s bipartisan election commission released a comprehensive report detailing how voting could be smoother, faster and more convenient. It urged states to reduce long lines by adopting “measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before the traditional Election Day.” That would seem like an uncontroversial and common sense suggestion, but too many GOP-controlled states continue to move in the opposite direction, reducing access to the ballot instead of expanding it. The most prominent recent examples are the swing states of Wisconsin and Ohio. Yesterday Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation eliminating early voting hours on weekends and nights, when it’s most convenient for many voters to go to the polls. When they took over state government in 2011, Wisconsin Republicans reduced the early voting period from three weeks to two weeks and only one weekend. Now they’ve eliminated weekend voting altogether.
Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election. Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
It’s that time again, when primary voters start casting their ballots for the midterm elections. As in recent years, voters face new rules and restrictions, including the need in 16 states to show a photo ID. But this year, some voting rights activists say they’re seeing a change — fewer new restrictions and, in some places, even a hint of bipartisanship. Although that wasn’t the case last month in Ohio, when the Legislature voted along party lines to eliminate a week of early voting. Lawmakers also agreed to prevent local election officials from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. “We’re talking about disenfranchising thousands of folks,” Democratic state Rep. Alicia Reece said on the House floor. “And don’t tell me it can’t be done, because our history has shown it has been done.”
Voting on the weekend could be a thing of the past in Wisconsin. The state Assembly will vote on a bill Thursday that would limit early voting hours to weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The measure would also require the state to pay half the expenses for small communities offering early voting. The state Senate passed the bill last week 17-16. All Democrats voted against it. State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, wrote the bill.
Wisconsin: In narrow vote, Senate backs ending early voting on weekends | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
After being blocked by Democrats a day earlier, Republican state senators narrowly approved bills Wednesday to end weekend voting before elections, allow lobbyists to make political donations earlier in the political season and curb lawsuits by those exposed to asbestos. Under one bill, approved by a one-vote margin, early voting in clerks’ offices could occur only on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Clerks would not be able to hold early voting during all of that period, however, because they would be limited to allowing a total of 45 hours of early voting a week. Democrats told Republicans they saw the move as an effort to suppress voting by their supporters. “I feel like I’m in 1906, fighting the fights that people who came long before me had to fight,” said Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who is African-American. “I would argue it screams of backward-thinking mentality, all the way back to Jim Crow, and you should be ashamed.”
While voting rights advocates have zeroed in on North Carolina where the governor is getting ready to sign a controversial voting law, Republicans in Wisconsin are readying their own voting overhaul. The latest legislation comes from state Sen. Glenn Grothman who is pushing two bills to restrict early voting and a third that would reduce requirements on donor disclosures. These latest attempts to change election law could be called the aftershocks of the state’s Republican takeover of 2011. After winning full control of the state house and governor’s mansion for the first time in more than a decade in 2010, Republicans began pushing a hard right agenda that included a ban on collective bargaining and new strict voter ID requirements. The state did continue its tradition of voting for Democrats in the presidential race last year in choosing to re-elect President Obama over Mitt Romney last year.
North Carolina’s omnibus bill to change election law has drawn a fair share of criticism from voting rights supporters, but Republicans in Wisconsin appear eager to give their North Carolina colleagues a run for their money when it comes to new restrictions on voting. The latest legislation comes from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who’s pushing two bills to restrict early voting and a third that would reduce requirements on donor disclosures. One proposal would create new limits to the amount of early voting that can be offered by local elections officials, shrinking the number of hours, ending all weekend voting and allowing ballots to be cast only during regular business hours. Wisconsin enjoys some of the highest rates of voter participation in the country year after year, which has been attributed to its ample early voting period; the new proposal could significantly reduce that. The state’s chapter of the League of Women Voters is concerned that the legislation would “reduce the opportunities for voters across the state who have daytime jobs or family commitments.”
A federal judge has denied a request by Ohio’s elections chief to hold off enforcing his court’s order on disputed early-voting days. Secretary of State Jon Husted asked the judge to stay the ruling that restores early voting on the final weekend and the Monday before the November election while the state appeals the decision. Husted said he did not want to confuse voters by setting hours a court could later change. A judge in Columbus said Wednesday that Husted did not demonstrate his likelihood of succeeding on appeal or show “sufficiently compelling reasons” for the stay. He said Husted also didn’t show there would be enough time after the appeals process to set new hours.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted frustrated by court challenges but confident in state’s elections operation | cleveland.com
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a young and rising star in the Ohio Republican Party, has become one of the most embattled election officials in the country, thanks to a spate of recent court decisions his critics have used to fuel their charges of voter suppression. Judges in three courts have ruled against Husted and forced the secretary to set early voting hours on the weekend before Election Day, revisit how provisional ballots are handled and rewrite misleading ballot language for a redistricting proposal. Those rulings came on the heels of a barrage of state and national criticism Husted already faced over Ohio’s uneven rules for early voting. He responded last month by setting uniform hours throughout the state, but invited more criticism by excluding weekend voting.
Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday rescinded his directive forbidding Ohio counties to set their own voting hours for the weekend before the Nov. 6 election, pending a legal appeal. But Husted asked a federal court to issue a legal stay that would effectively accomplish the same thing. His court motion was the fourth development in eight days regarding “final-weekend” voting. *U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus ruled Aug. 31 that Ohio laws prohibiting final-weekend voting were unconstitutional, adding that he “anticipated” Husted would set a “specific, consistent schedule on those three days.” *Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed the ruling, and Husted issued a directive prohibiting counties from setting their own hours while the appeal was pending, saying he was trying to prevent more confusing changes. *When the Obama campaign objected to that directive, Economus quickly set a hearing for next Thursday, demanding that Husted attend in person.
A federal judge ruled Friday that Ohio must allow in-person voting on the weekend before the presidential election, a victory for Democrats who claimed Republican efforts to close down early voting were aimed at discouraging voters most likely to support President Obama. The ruling is the second this week on Ohio voting. Ohio has allowed in-person voting the weekend before the election since 2005, and U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus said Friday that the state did not offer a convincing argument as to why it was changing the rules now. The change contained an exception for military voters, and the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats said all voters should be allowed to vote on the weekend.
“Our vote is our passport to democracy and freedom,” said Charles Holmes, a retired pastor from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio. He was speaking this morning to a group of 180 protesters in front of the offices of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in downtown Columbus. “In Ohio and all across the nation, there is an effort to take away your vote, by tricks like photo ID and reducing the number of early voting hours,” Reverend Holmes said. “This is reprehensible.” As the November election nears, the controversy over voting rights and voter suppression has been heating up in Ohio and other key battleground states. On Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections for refusing to back down on a proposal to allow weekend early voting. Husted had issued a directive on Wednesday that all 88 Ohio counties would allow some weekday evening early voting hours, but no early voting on weekends. “Secretary Husted is wrong to punish Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie for voting to extend weekend voting hours,” Reverend Holmes said. “We owe these two men the debt of our gratitude for standing up for all voters, not just some. Jon Husted is supposed to be an impartial referee. But he’s working in partisan ways to reduce the total vote count, just as his mentor, Ken Blackwell, did in 2004.”
Earlier this month I reported how Ohio Republicans were limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, while expanding them on nights and weekends in Republican counties. In response to the public outcry, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who intervened in favor of limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, issued a statewide directive mandating uniform early voting hours in all eighty-eight Ohio counties. Husted kept early voting hours from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays from October 2 to 19 and broadened hours from 8 am to 7 pm from October 22 to November 2. But he refused to expand early voting hours beyond 7 pm during the week, on weekends or three days prior to the election (which is being challenged in court by the Obama campaign)—when it is most convenient for many working Ohioans to vote. Rather than expanding early voting hours across the state, Husted limited them for everybody. Voter suppression for all!
Ohio: Election Official Says Early Voting Process Should Not Accommodate Black Voters | Huffington Post
An Ohio GOP election official who voted against the weekend voting rules that enabled thousands to cast ballots in the 2008 election said Sunday that he did not think that the state’s early voting procedures should accommodate African-Americans. “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Priesse said in an email to the Columbus Dispatch Sunday. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
Ohio: Some elected officials decry loss of extended voting hours, others say mail ballots better option | cleveland.com
Elected officials, ministers and labor leaders are railing against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision last week not to offer evening and weekend voting hours in Cuyahoga County leading up to the November election. Standing Monday on the steps of the county Board of Elections, U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge said Husted and the two Republican board of election members should be ashamed for limiting voting access that has been offered to voters in four of the past five years. Joined by dozens of other Democrats, she said the move would disenfranchise elderly, disabled and working class voters — especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods — and “shave points” in a possibly tight election in a swing state. “This isn’t about finances,” Fudge, of Warrensville Heights said. “This is about politics.” “We are not going to allow them to take our rights sitting down.”
Ohio: Secretary of State Husted decides against extended hours for in-person absentee voting | cleveland.com
Early-voting hours in Cuyahoga County for the November presidential election will be more restrictive than for the March primary after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted decided not to allow weekend voting. Husted announced his tie-breaking vote Friday, two days after the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections deadlocked along party lines on whether to open board offices on the last two Saturdays and Sundays in October for voting. Husted did not wait for the board members to submit written proposals regarding their views, which is the usual procedure following a tie vote. A representative from Husted’s office was present at the elections board meeting Wednesday night and heard both sides of the issue, said spokesman Matt McClellan. Based on that, Husted was able to make a decision, McClellan said. McClellan added that when Husted had training sessions for board of elections officials in June he made it clear that while extending hours for in-person early voting was a local decision, he would vote against it if there were tie votes.
For the 2010 general election, 35 states and the District provided voters at least one alternative to casting their ballot on Election Day through in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or voting by mail. Specifically, 33 states and the District provided in-person early voting, 29 states and the District provided no-excuse absentee voting, and 2 states provided voting by mail to all or most voters. Of the 9 states and the District where GAO conducted interviews, all but 2 states provided voters the option of in-person early voting in the 2010 general election, and 5 states and the District offered both early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Implementation and characteristics of in-person early voting varied among the 7 states and, in some cases, among the jurisdictions within a state. For example, 5 states and the District required local jurisdictions to include at least one Saturday, and 2 states allowed for some jurisdiction discretion to include weekend days.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the first major U.S. report on the costs and benefits associated with holding elections on weekends – though it said it could not “draw valid conclusions” about what impact moving elections to weekends would have on voter turnout. Under federal law passed in 1845, elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Lawmakers chose Tuesday in order to give voters one travel day after the Sunday day of rest to get from their farms into town to vote. Critics say the practice of voting on Tuesdays is outdated and depresses turnout.