All politics is local, as the saying goes, and the same is true of election law. Although the U.S. Constitution protects the right to vote, local laws can expand its scope and influence democratic representation. Voters across the country are making choices this fall that will not only affect state and local elections, they will also serve as the catalysts for nationwide reforms. Maine voters, for instance, will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting, a system in which people select their first, second, and third choices for each office. This reform would make it easier for third parties to gain support and would provide a better sense of the electorate’s overall preferences. In Missouri, voters are considering whether to amend the state constitution to allow a photo ID requirement for voting. In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the prior voter ID law violated the state constitution, so to enact voter ID law in Missouri the voters must change the state constitution.
Alaska voters will determine whether to expand voter registration opportunities by using the state’s permanent fund dividend application, which residents must submit annually to receive a dividend derived from oil revenues, as a voter registration tool.
In San Francisco, voters will decide whether to expand the voter rolls by lowering the voting age in city elections to 16 and by allowing non-citizens to vote in school board elections. Howard County, Maryland voters will decide whether to enact a public funding option for local candidates, which supporters say will lead to fairer elections.
In addition, voters in all 50 states will elect state representatives, many of whom will draw legislative maps in four years as part of the decennial restricting process. Both parties vigorously engage in partisan gerrymandering — with little oversight from the courts — meaning that the identities of those who draw the lines matter a lot. Given that incumbents tend to win most of the time, the representatives elected this year will likely still be around come 2020 when redistricting begins.
Full Article: The good news on voting and democracy: Column.