State of Elections

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Tag: Voter Turnout

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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Same Day Voter Registration in Hawaii

By: Avery Dobbs

The Hawaii legislature took an important step towards reducing barriers to voting rights in 2014 by voting to allow same day voter registration at the polls. This is a significant change from the state’s previous rule, which required voters to register at least thirty days before an election to be allowed to vote. The state sought this measure in hopes of addressing its chronically low voter participation rates and to make voting rights more accessible for all Hawaiian citizens. Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer, Scott Nago, spoke in support of the bill at the time by saying, “any qualified person who wants to vote should be able to register and vote”. The state will soon start to see the benefits of this law as it takes full effect in 2018.

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Squashing the Praying Mantis: Why Maryland 3rd Should be Redrawn

By: Zach Allentuck

The Washington Post called it the “second-most gerrymandered” district. Its shape is comical and unwieldly. It has been compared to a praying mantis. This is Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Yet, when the topic of gerrymandering in Maryland arises, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District receives an outsized amount of attention and focus. The focus on the 6th makes some sense; it is the focus of a federal court case. Certainly, from a lawsuit perspective, focusing on a district where the incumbent lost his seat because of gerrymandering makes more sense than a district where the incumbent kept his seat. However, the 3rd is still more gerrymandered, because it is a weirder shape and the margin of victory for Democrats in the 3rd is higher than it is in the 6th. It is good that both the current governor, Larry Hogan, and the former governor, Martin O’Malley, agree that the gerrymandering in Maryland is bad. However, they should speak out about the 3rd specifically, because, as stated before, the 3rd is more gerrymandered, and because it makes more political sense to focus on the 3rd. The two should draw attention specifically to the 3rd.

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Tennessee Looks to Encourage Voter Turnout With Some Help from the Digital Age

By: Caroline Drinnon

As of September 2017, Tennessee joined the ranks of another 35 states, plus the District of Colombia, in enacting an online voter registration system. Following a 2016 law that mandated an online voter registration system be in place by July (later extended to September) of 2017, the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office officially opened the website on September 1. Proponents of the system believe that it will streamline the registration system, reduce clerical errors, and lower taxpayer costs of the process. The registration process can be found here and requires a Tennessee driver’s license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID to be completed.

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North Carolina’s 2013 Voting Laws Were Struck Down By the 4th Circuit, But The State May Not Be Out of the Legal Fights Yet

By: Blake Willis

When the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina HB 589, the notorious law which toughened voter-ID requirements, limited early voting, and limited same-day registration, many who champion voter rights believed that North Carolina’s long-standing history as a state with suppressive voter laws may begin to change. However, that optimism may be short lived as North Carolina is now facing challenges on two other election law provisions.

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California’s New Motor Voter Law Benefits the Young, Not Undocumented Immigrants

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow for automated voter registration at the DMV for citizens obtaining or renewing a driver’s license or state ID. The law is being referred to as the New Motor Voter Act. California lawmakers are attempting to combat historically low voter turnout rates in the state by removing barriers to registration. The law will go into effect on the first of 2016, but it may not be immediately implementable. The goal is to have the system functional by the June 2016 primaries.

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Abysmal Voter Turnout and an Electoral Dinosaur: Indiana’s Meaningless Off-Year Municipal Elections

By: Jacob Kipp

All politics is local. That truism (often wrongly attributed to former Rep. Tip O’Neill) has long encouraged politicians to remember the people back home because, ultimately, those people will vote based on the issues that matter to them. But politics is looking a lot less local now. Local concerns have taken a backseat to partisan politics, and local candidates are looking more and more like extensions of their national counterparts. Perhaps these changes can help explain why municipal election voter turnout is plunging across the United States. Indiana, the state with the lowest voter turnout in the country for the 2014 midterm elections, held its most recent off-year municipal elections on November 3.

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Ranked Choice Voting in Maine

By: Emily Wagman

On October 19, 2015, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting delivered 70,000 signatures to Maine’s Secretary of State. While the signatures still must be verified, it is likely that the proposal will make it onto the 2016 ballot. Ranked choice voting is also referred to as instant runoff voting, which allows voters to rank their candidates in order of preference. If a voter’s first choice does not win, the voter’s vote moves to his/her second choice candidate. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has support from all sides of the political spectrum. Voters in Maine are especially concerned with the idea of majority rule since the current Governor, Paul LePage, won his first term with only 38% of the vote, which is not exactly a ringing majority endorsement. Moreover, voters are also concerned with the issue of spoiler candidates. The most recent gubernatorial election saw a three-way race between LePage (R), Mike Michaud (D), and Eliot Cutler (I). The results of that election show that Cutler was a spoiler candidate – LePage received 48.2% of the vote, Michaud received 43.4% of the vote, and Cutler received 8.4% of the vote. Had the votes Cutler received gone to Michaud, LePage would have been unseated.

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Vote Centers are here to stay in Indiana

by Shanna Reulbach

Indiana is one of several states pioneering vote centers, which are consolidated polling places open to any eligible voter in a locality. Vote centers came into existence in 2003, when Larimer County, Colorado first pioneered the configuration. Today, nine states have laws permitting vote centers, but Indiana was the first to use them on a large scale.

In 2006, the Indiana Secretary of State began a pilot program, allowing counties to test vote centers to determine if they would be an effective means of election day administration. Three counties, Cass, Tippecanoe, and Wayne, participated in the program from 2007 to 2010, and their reports prompted the state legislature to pass a bill during its 2011 session to enable all counties to adopt the vote center model as their permanent method for voting. Continue reading

Early Voting in Ohio: Voters Take it Easy as the System Tries to Adjust

Ohio law has allowed early voting since 2005, but the 2010 election will be only the second time that the full slate of statewide offices will be up for election the ballot.  Though the political parties, county election boards and yes, even the Tea Party, are now operating with the new system in mind, one question remains: is it all worth it?

Currently the Ohio voting period stretches for 35 days. Voters may vote early for any reason either in person at their county board of elections office or by mail until November 1. Additionally, the law has created the controversial so-called “golden week“, where citizens may register and cast absentee ballots at their board of elections on the same day. In 2009, the early voting law actually resulted in Barak Obama winning the state even though more votes were cast for John McCain on November 4, 2008, “Election Day”. However, it seems that, rather than dramatically increasing voter turnout, early voting is simply forcing a shift in old campaign strategies, due to timing issues, and making voting more convenient for those who otherwise would have voted anyway. Continue reading

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