As voter ID legislation continues to be rammed through state legislatures across the country, conservatives are celebrating passage of these bills, intended to suppress turnout among traditionally progressive constituencies, as a victory. However, no one is actually winning – not minority, low-income, and other historically disenfranchised voters who will be disproportionately affected by the new laws, and certainly not already-squeezed state budgets forced to find millions of dollars to make these bills a reality
In recent weeks, state legislatures and voters alike have continued to push back against last year's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which took away the power of government to limit independent spending in elections and effectively overturned laws in 24 states that banned independent political expenditures from corporations and/or unions. In addition to legislative initiatives requiring shareholder approval of corporate political spending or expanding disclosure requirements for independent expenditures, two other tactics to limit the damage of Citizens United are also quickly gaining momentum: local referenda supporting an anti-corporate personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution and shareholder resolutions urging corporations to adopt political accountability.
Last week, Governor Rick Scott and the other members of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted unanimously to roll back rules that had made it easier for nonviolent felons to regain their voting and other civil rights upon completion of their sentences. Under the new requirements - which are among the strictest in the country - nonviolent offenders would have to wait five years upon their release from prison to even apply for the chance to have their rights restored without a hearing.
The right wing may be grabbing headlines for its audacious assault on organized labor and reproductive rights, but less well-reported have been their equally destructive attacks against another familiar target: young voters.
During a press conference on Monday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted unveiled a wish list of election reforms, one of which was an online voter registration system. Husted, a Republican, noted that permitting Ohioans to register to vote or update their registrations online would reduce the number of provisional ballots cast at the polls, which can prove costly and time-consuming to process. Indeed, records show that voters who had moved but had not updated their addresses were responsible for about half of the 105,000 provisional ballots cast during the midterm elections.
As states prepare for the worst and steel themselves against attacks on voting rights, a coalition of advocates in New Mexico celebrated a remarkable triumph just prior to the holidays. In response to a lawsuit filed by groups including Project Vote, Demos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claiming that New Mexico public assistance agencies were not offering clients the opportunity to register to vote as required under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera made history by issuing the first legal ruling on the issue of whether clients must “opt in” to receive voter registration materials.