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Tag: Voter Turnout (page 1 of 2)

No Voter Left Behind? The Quiet Disenfranchisement of Native Americans

By Scott Meyer

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs website contains a list of frequently asked questions. Among them, “[d]o American Indians and Alaska Natives have the right to vote?” The simple answer, yes, belies the complex relationship between the indigenous peoples of North America, and the United States.

In 1924, the U.S. passed the Snyder Act, which entitled Native Americans born in the U.S. to full citizenship. Ostensibly the 15th amendment, which was passed more than fifty years earlier and granted U.S. citizens the right to vote, combined with the Snyder Act should have allowed Native Americans to vote. In practice, since the Constitution delegated to the states the administration of elections, several decades passed after the Snyder Act before Native Americans actually received national suffrage. The final two holdouts were Utah and North Dakota, which granted “on-reservation Native Americans the right to vote in 1957 and 1958, respectively”. However, even after gaining the right to vote, Native Americans faced many of the same challenges employed against African-Americans to stymie their votes. The passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), often associated with protecting African-American voters, also benefitted many American Indians who lived in covered states or counties, such as Alaska and Arizona. For decadesNative Americans filed lawsuits relying on the 14th and 15th amendment and various sections of the VRA to “gainequal access to election procedures and to have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”

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A Bumpy Road to Voting in Wisconsin: Absentee Ballot Issues

By: Brianna Mashel

This election cycle has been turned on its head by safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent reporting by the Pew Research Center, about four-in-ten registered voters (39%) say they plan to cast their vote by absentee or mail-in ballot this year (or already have done so), compared with 33% who say they plan to vote in person on November 3, and 21% who have voted in person or plan to vote in person at an early voting location before Election Day. In fact, even before the onset of the pandemic, voters casting mail-in ballots increased nearly threefold between 1996 and 2016 – from 7.8% to nearly 21% – and the Census Bureau’s voter supplement data found seven-in-ten adults favor allowing any voter to vote by mail. Nonetheless, there is significant variation from one state to another on the handling of absentee and mail-in voting.  A case in point is Wisconsin, which has opted to rely on its existing absentee voting system even though it is currently one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease.

In Wisconsin, absentee voting is relatively easy. Any registered voter is eligible to request an absentee ballot and voters do not need a reason or excuse to vote absentee. A ballot request and a copy of an acceptable photo ID with the applicant’s request must be received by the clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before Election Day. The completed absentee ballot must be delivered no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. This year, as many as two-thirds of all ballots, or roughly 2 million, are projected to be cast absentee. Although this process seems simple, Wisconsin voters have already experienced bumps in the road – literally.

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Everything is Bigger: High Voter Turnout in Texas Leads to Long Lines and Concerns About COVID-19 Spread Without Mandatory Masks

By: Caitlin Turner-Lafving

Early voting in Texas began on Tuesday, October 13, and turnout rates have been “bonkers.” As of this writing, Texas leads the nation, where more than 7 million people have already voted. On the first day of early voting, Harris, El Paso, and Travis counties broke records for single-day early voting turnout. Unsurprisingly, long lines in the state’s major urban areas have accompanied the high turnout. More than an hour after the lines were cut off on October 13, seven polling locations in Travis County, which includes Austin, reported wait times of more than 51 minutes.

Back in September, I wrote about Texas’s polling place closures and the dismissal of Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott. The plaintiffs filed suit in July, alleging that the state’s proposed election policies during the pandemic violate voters’ rights under the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 

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Opinion: North Carolina Voter Suppression, the Trump Campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party

By Maxwell Weiss

We are two weeks away from a presidential election with once-in-a-century, massive turnout, and the North Carolina Republican Party is continuing their decades-long effort to suppress votes. In past years, the GOP has used voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and in 2018, the first recorded instance of a federal election being called off over voter fraud in United States history. This year, the GOP weaponizes strict absentee voting laws as they try to suppress enough votes for President Trump to win the state.

President Trump himself is attempting to sow discord, specifically suggesting that North Carolina voters try to vote twice to “test” the system. In a September campaign rally, the President told voters to send in an absentee ballot and then go to the polls and vote again on election day. This is part of a larger pattern for Trump, who routinely spreads false information about widespread fraud despite clear evidence that there is absolutely no basis for conspiracy theories that absentee voting leads to election fraud.

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Voter’s Choice: The New Way to Vote

By : Elizabeth Harte

As the nation works to achieve a balance between election security and access to voting, California is rolling out a new system designed to “modernize elections.” Entitled “California’s Voter’s Choice Act,” the act was passed in 2016 and will become available for all counties to adopt in 2020. This extraordinary plan moves voting into the twenty-first century and does away with traditional, assigned voting places. In their stead, Californian counties that opt into the act will implement “vote centers.” These centers will serve as an all-purpose stop for Californians to ensure their voices are heard. For example, instead of the typical assignment to one polling place in their county, a Los Angeles County resident will be able to visit any center in their county most convenient to them and can do so up to ten days before the election. At a center, the said Angeleno can: “vote in person; drop off their ballot; get a replacement ballot; vote using an accessible voting machine; get help and voting material in multiple languages; [and] register to vote or update their voter registration.”

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Negative Campaigns in the U.S. and Voter Turnout

By: Yang Cao

The United States, as the world leader (for democratic countries at least), may excel in many fields, but in terms of voter turnout it trails far behind other industrialized countries. The voter turnout measured in terms of voting age population was only 55.7% in 2016, while the highest countries report that more than 80% of the voting age population actually votes. Studies show that demographics like education, income and age can help predict voter turnout; but, these factors cannot be the cause of such huge discrepancies in voter turnout between U.S. and countries that have highest voter turnout, as the U.S. should have similar demographics to those countries. On the other hand, some studies have concluded that, while the U.S. and countries like Sweden might have similar demographic, the U.S. has far more negative campaigns than Sweden and other European countries, and that rising negative campaign in the past decades is solely an American phenomenon. Given these facts, it is only natural to ask why politicians have to use negative campaigns instead of positive campaigns, which does not hammer voter turnout. Researchers have also proven that negative campaigns are more effective than positive ones, which means kind persuasion will not stop politicians from doing so. Meanwhile, outlawing negative campaigns is also unrealistic because of it would be content based and subject to strict scrutiny.

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The Will of the People—Who Gets to Decide? Overturning Initiative 77 in D.C.

By: Reeana Keenen

While working in D.C. this summer, I came across flyers on restaurant windows imploring D.C. voters to “Save Our Tips! Vote No on Initiative 77.” Later this summer when D.C. voters passed the Initiative 77 ballot measure, I heard people exclaim that D.C. had voted to eliminate tips for restaurant and other tipped workers. In fact, though, voters approved a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage progressively for tipped workers, while leaving in place the possibility of tips as a source of income. The measure passed with 56% of the votes.

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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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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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