State of Elections

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Tag: absentee voting

Connecticut’s Long Road to Early Voting

By: Sarah Crowe

Connecticut citizens are surprisingly constrained when it comes to voting, and they are being left in the lurch while lawmakers wrestle with making elections more accessible. Currently, in-person voting is only permitted on Election Day, and early voting is not permitted at all. Furthermore, a voter must be outside their municipality during all polling hours to qualify for an absentee ballot. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, a Democrat from Hartford, declares: “We make it as hard as any state in the country to vote and to exercise your constitutional right. That’s the bottom line.” In an effort to ameliorate the situation, lawmakers have proposed joining the thirty-seven other states that have adopted early voting. This proposal requires a constitutional amendment, and the lengthy process for such an action means that voters would likely not see any change to their voting laws for years.

The process for amending the Connecticut constitution began in April 2018, when the House of Representatives passed a resolution allowing for a referendum on early voting. 81 representatives voted for the bill, and 65 voted against it – a simple majority, not the three-quarters approval required in order to pass a constitutional amendment – meaning that if the Senate approves the bill, it must then be voted on again by the legislature. If the resolution survives that vote, this referendum will make it on the ballot in 2020: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide opportunities for early voting in person during the fourteen days prior to the day of an election?” Should the citizens of Connecticut decide that the answer is yes, the General Assembly would pass such legislation in 2021. This would allow early voting in the 2022 elections.

As the bill works its way through the labyrinthine process, the legislators themselves also wrestle with the prospect of voting expansion. While three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the resolution in the House of Representatives, others argue that early voting is costly and unnecessary. Republicans contend that Connecticut’s 77 percent voter turnout in 2016 means that access to the polls is not a problem, and that resources would be better spent preventing voter fraud. A proposal to audit absentee ballots as well as a voter ID law both failed to pass in the House of Representatives. Democrat Roland Lemar, of New Haven, said of the measures, “Since 2000 there are 31 total documented cases of voter fraud over 1 billion ballots that were cast in this time. You are literally 75 times more likely to be hit by lightning than to see a case of voter fraud in Connecticut.”

Ultimately, Connecticut voters aren’t going to see any voting expansion within the next couple of years due to the difficulty in passing a constitutional amendment. However, the potential benefits from early voting are valuable enough that the wait will be worth it. Confining voting to a single day prevents people who work long hours or can’t make it to the polls for other reasons from participating in their electoral system. A referendum and amendment will hopefully allow voters to be able to enjoy early voting in the 2022 elections.

 

The White Rabbit of Pennsylvania: Absentee Ballots [Are] Late For a Very Important Date

By Allie Amado

So you want to use an absentee ballot in a Pennsylvania election? Here are a few tips to make it worth your trouble:

  1. Mail your absentee ballot request at least one week before the election. But I suggest much earlier.
  2. Once you receive your ballot, take care to mark it according to the instructions.
  3. Place your ballot in the mail as soon as possible.
  4. Cross your fingers and hope your ballot reached the county election office before 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election.

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Are Rhode Island’s Mail-In Ballots a “Gigantic, Illegal Loophole?”

By: Eric Lynch

Ken Block, a two-time former gubernatorial candidate, made headlines in early October 2017 over a provocative tweet regarding voter identification (“voter-ID”) and mail-in ballots. Mr. Block claimed that mail-in ballots violated Rhode Island’s voter-ID law and are effectively a “gigantic, illegal loophole” to performing widespread voter fraud. Block implored the Rhode Island legislature to attend to this matter immediately. In response, Mr. Stephen Erickson, a Rhode Island State Board of Elections member, considered such a measure as “another effort to limit people’s ability to vote.” Mr. Erickson asserted that the Board “regularly rejects mail[-in] ballots where there is a substantial difference between the two signatures or if the witnesses does not provide enough information so that they can be identified and questioned.”

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Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part II

By: Michael A. Villacrés

In a previous post, we examined New York’s restrictive voting laws. During the state’s presidential primary in April 2016 it emerged that thousands of voters had been purged from the registration rolls in the months leading up to the primary, creating a public scandal.  The day after the primary vote, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat, announced an investigation into New York City’s Board of Elections after his office received over one thousand complaints of voting irregularities.

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Territorial Voting Rights: 7th Circuit Asked to Rule on Absentee Voting by U.S. Territory Residents

By: Stephen Fellows

In September 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments for Segovia v. United States.   The Plaintiffs, a group of Illinois citizens residing in Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, want the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections in Illinois.  They initially brought the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The complaint stems from Illinois’ Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which implemented the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act (OCVRA) of 1975.  The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) replaced the OCVRA in 1986. The UOCAVA guarantees the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections to Americans, both military and civilians, residing overseas.

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Why Michigan should remove restrictions on who may cast an absentee ballot

By: Sara Krauss

Michigan Absentee Voting On the Rise

Michigan voters are voting via absentee ballot in increasingly high numbers. In the November 2016 election, approximately one-fourth of Michigan voters used an absentee ballot to case their votes. In the August 2016 primary election, that number was even higher in many counties. In Kent County, 43 percent of votes were cast via absentee ballots; in Grand Rapids, 40 percent of votes were absentee; in Ottawa County, roughly one-third of voters voted via an absentee ballot.

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De-Clawing a Badger: Western District of Wisconsin Softens State Voter ID Law

In a sweeping opinion handed down in late July, United States District Judge James Peterson struck a substantial number of voting provisions from the books in Wisconsin. The opinion, which spans 119 pages, found that multiple voter restrictions enacted by the state legislature were motivated by a desire to advantage incumbent and aspiring Republican officials. The court first rejected the plaintiffs’ facial challenge, relying on a 7th Circuit decision which held that even if some voters have trouble complying with the law, and those voters tend to be racial minorities, the law is not necessarily facially unconstitutional. This initial victory in preserving the overall voter ID law marks the extent of the defendants’ success in the case.

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The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

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Vilified and Disenfranchised: Indiana’s New Law Blocks Sex Offenders from Common Polling Place

By: Jacob Kipp

The public’s sentiment toward sex offenders has long been overwhelmingly negative, fueling an ever-increasing number of legal restrictions. Perhaps the most reviled of all offenders are child molesters, which  have been the target of national registration programs (though such registries are often over-inclusive). Those registries are widely used to restrict sex offenders from being anywhere near schools, parks, or youth centers. But what happens when sex offenders want to exercise their right to vote and are not allowed into their polling place because it happens to be a school?

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