Minnesota legislators passed a landmark voter registration modernization bill
recently that would, absent a veto, have registered or updated the
registration of voters automatically when they applied for a driver's
license, learner's permit or ID card. It would also use information in
motor vehicle and corrections databases to verify and maintain voter
rolls. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. John Marty,
would have made Minnesota the first state in the nation to proactively
register voters, and made it among the most advanced in maintaining
clean, accurate voter rolls. The bill was designed to build on the
state's already first-in-the-nation portability bill, which requires automatic updates to voter registrations based on changes of address.
However, Governor Pawlenty vetoed this historic legislation last week...
In the final week of their legislative sessions, the Colorado and Indiana legislatures gave final approval to bills allowing residents to register to vote online. Colorado Senators passed HB 1160 and Indiana House Members passed HB 1346;
both bills allow residents with driver's licenses or state-issued ID
cards to register to vote online. The legislation has been sent to the
governor in both states. In Colorado the governor is expected to sign
the bill, while Indiana's governor has not indicated support or
On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage,
making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather
than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex
couples. Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of
representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act,
Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he
would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative
As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.