I. In Focus This Week
Voters vote on the future of voting
Ballot initiatives in several states shape future of elections
From marijuana to minimum wage to healthcare, voters in 42 states and the District of Columbia will consider more than 150 constitutional amendments, initiatives, referendums, ballot measures and advisory questions on November 4.
This year, several states will ask voters to decide on the future of how elections are administered in their states.
In Arkansas, voters will cast ballots on petition issues, in Connecticut it’s early voting. In Illinois voters will have their say on a voters' bill of rights and in Maryland voters will decide how to regulate special elections.
Missouri voters will also decide the fate of early voting in that state and in Montana residents will voice their opinion about election-day registration. New Mexico voters will make decisions about school elections and in Oregon, voters will once again weigh in on whether or not to move the state to a top-two primary system.
What follows is a brief look at each measure, how it got to the ballot and who does/doesn’t support it. We’ll be sure to track these on November 4 and let you know how the do.
Voters in Arkansas will determine whether or not to approve a constitutional amendment that would require ballot signature groups to get at least 75 percent of the required signatures in order to get additional time to gather more signatures once the initial batch has been turned into the secretary of state’s office.
Current law does not allow groups to gather additional signatures once the initial group has been submitted to the secretary of state’s office for verification.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have argued that if approved, Amendment Issue 2 will limit citizen’s ability to put issues on the ballot. Those in support of the amendment, including Sen. Bill Sample who introduced the bill, argue that if approved, it will prevent groups from submitting false signatures.
Senate Joint Resolution 16 (SJR 16) was overwhelmingly approved in 2013.
Constitutional Amendment Question 1 will allow the Legislature to expand early voting in The Nutmeg State. The amendment, which was legislatively-referred, would eliminate the need for an excuse to vote absentee and eliminate all restrictions to offering early voting.
Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Gov. Dan Malloy and many other Democrats support the Amendment.
“Today marks a historic and significant step forward for modernizing elections in Connecticut so we can finally enact early voting in our state,” Merrill said in a statement at the time. “This is about allowing Connecticut voters cast their ballots in a way that works better with their busy mobile lives, and in turn getting more voters to participate in Democracy.”
Opponents have argued that it will open the state up to a “carte blanche” change in voting laws.
House Joint Resolution No. 36 was approved in 2013 along party lines. The House approved the bill 90-49 and the Senate approved it 22-14.
Many state and local editorial boards have come out in support of the question.
The Illinois Legislature is asking voters to approve an Illinois Right to Vote Amendment.
Under the constitutional amendment, it would be unlawful to deny any person the right to register to vote or cast a ballot based on race, color, ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income.
Gov. Pat Quinn, numerous Democrats and a handful of Republicans support the amendment. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan was the lead sponsor on the legislation.
“The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter-suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures,” Madigan told The State Journal-Register.
Proponents argue that the amendment would prohibit future legislatures from attempting to institute restrictive voter ID laws.
Opponents, which essentially are a handful of Republicans in the legislature argue that among other things, the measure was introduced to keep other measures off the ballot because only so many are allowed on the ballot each cycle.
“This is an amendment in search of a problem,” Rep. David Reis told the paper. “All we are trying to do is clog up (the ballot).
HJRCA0052 was approved 109-5 in the House in April and unanimously approved by the Senate that same month.
Although Maryland has not been plagued with the problems of special elections like some states and although all the county executives running for governor this year failed to make the November ballot, the state is thinking ahead.
Amendment Question 2 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would permit a county charter to provide for filling vacancies through special elections, exempt those elections from being held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and allow the elections to be conducted by mail.
Currently, while vacant county council seats can be filled by special election, the county council appoints someone to fill a vacant county executive seat.
In January of 2014, the Montgomery County Council reached out the county’s legislative delegation seeking their help change the state constitution to allow for county executive special elections.
House Bill 1415 was unanimously approved by the Senate and approved 129-6 in the House.
Missouri’s Amendment 6 is probably the most controversial of the elections ballot measures this elections cycle.
If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state constitution to allow for six days of early voting beginning in 2016.
A citizen-led initiative that would have provided six weeks of early voting failed to make the November ballot.
Many elections officials from Secretary of State Jason Kander to county clerks opposed the amendment. Some oppose early voting in general, but others, including Kander, propose how this measure is written.
“I’m a huge proponent of early voting, but I can’t support changing the constitution in a way that will require us to go back and fix it almost immediately,”Kander told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The amendment would cover six business days, ending the Wednesday before an election. Ballots would not be cast on Saturdays or Sundays.
“It will lead to confusion among voters, political campaigns and local election authorities while costing the state up to $2 million.”
Outspoken Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren is on the record as opposing the amendment because she does not believe election administrative procedures should be put in the state constitution.
House Joint Resolution 90 was approved 22-8 in the Senate and 94-57 in the House.
Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), who shepherded HJR 90 through the senate, is planning to run for secretary of state in 2016.
Several major newspapers in the area, including the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have come out against the amendment. The Star’s editorial board went so far as to call the proposal a sham.
Based on Letters to the Editor, one might think that LR 126 is the hottest issue in Montana this election cycle, but it’s not. In fact, a recent article from The Associated Press said the referendum is seeing no support.
LR 126 would end election-day registration by moving the voter registration deadline to 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election. Election-day registration was first approved for Montana voters in 2005.
Sen. Alan Olson (R), who sponsored the legislation argued that by eliminating election-day registration would lift a burden off of county election administrators.
And some administrators agree with Olson.
“We really do not have time to be registering people walking through the door,” Rosebud County Clerk and Recorder and Election Administrator Geraldine Custer told the AP. “It’s a lengthy process.”
Olson told the news organization that there is no organized effort to approve the referendum.
“I just thought let the voters decide,” Olson said.
Montanans for Fair and Free Elections is leading the charge against the ballot measure. Gov. Steve Bullock and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch are opposed to the measure as is every Democrat elected in the state legislature.
A multitude of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, AARP and Western Native Voice all oppose the referendum.
SB 405 was approved in April 2013. The House voted 58-42, with three Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition and 29-20 in Senate on straight party vote.
Amendment Question 1 is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would change the dates for school elections.
If approved, school elections would need to be held on different dates than partisan election dates thus allowing school elections to coincide with municipal, bond and conservancy district elections.
This isn’t the first time New Mexico voters have faced this issue. In 2008, 73.6 percent of voters supported Amendment 4 but that percentage failed to meet the required three-fourths majority.
House Joint Resolution 2 was approved in the spring of 2013 by 50-7 vote in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Oregon could soon be the filling in the West Coast top-two primary sandwich if voters approve Measure 90 that would create an open, top-two primary similar to what is in place in California and Washington.
A related initiative, which would have created a top-two system, also allowed voters to vote for more than one candidate failed to make the ballot.
In 2008 Measure 65, another measure that would have created a top-two primary system failed 66 percent to 34 percent.
Gov. John Kitzhaber supports the measure as do a number of organizations and political parties.
John Arnold, a hedge-fund manager and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have donated almost $3 million (combined) in support of Measure 90.
Not everyone is happy with the measure however. Protect Our Vote, a group opposed to the top-two primary recently received $400,000 from a PAC largely funding by the Oregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union Local 503.
II. VIP Update
VIP gets ready for Election Day
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Voting Information Project (VIP) has been busy running up to Election Day 2014. VIP, which was developed by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Google, and election officials nationwide, offers cutting-edge technology tools that give voters access to the customized information they need to cast a ballot on or before Election Day. This year, VIP is offering free apps and tools that provide polling place locations and ballot information for the 2014 election across a range of technology platforms. Read More>>>
III. Election News This Week
- An upside down flag is a symbol of distress. When the D.C. Board of Elections printed an upside down flag on the cover of the 2014 voter’s guide, one had to wonder. Initially a spokeswoman for the board said it was done on purpose to engage voter interest. The board’s director followed up and admitted that was indeed a mistake, but that the information inside the book was correct. At a regularly scheduled press conference following the mistake, D.C.’s Mayor Vincent C. Gray said he had no faith in the board’s ability to conduct an election.
- On Wednesday, the Orange and Los Angeles county registrar of voters teamed up to hold a voting workshop at a new citizen naturalization ceremony. Neal Kelley from Orange and Dean Logan from Los Angeles were on hand to answer questions and assist the new citizens with getting registered to vote. “This is an exciting time for new citizens – with an opportunity to vote as soon as they are sworn in,” Kelley, said. “One of the first things many new citizens are interested in is how they can participate in the upcoming election.”
- The Putnam County, Tennessee election commission has officially adopted a policy that will prevent voters from taking photos, texting or talking on cell phones will in polling places on November 4.
- According to a poll from Reason-Rupe, 73 percent of Americans favor restoring voting rights to nonviolent ex-drug offenders. Eighty-two percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Independents, and 66 percent of Republicans all favor allowing nonviolent drug offenders who have served their sentences to vote.
- Despite a settlement in a federal voting rights lawsuit voters on the Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations to do not have early voting sites this cycle because authorities on those reservations failed to submit the proper paperwork in time.
- Residents of Burlington, Vermont will be asked in a March referendum whether or not legal non-citizens should be allowed to cast ballots in local elections. Non-citizens were allowed to vote in local elections in the 1800s. The city of College Park, Maryland is also considering allowing noncitizens to vote. If approved College Park would become the third municipality in Maryland to allo noncitizen voting in local elections.
- The King County, Washington elections office is partnering with the Seattle Public Library to help disabled voters cast their ballot. On three dates before the November election, officials from King Elections will be at the library’s LEAP Lab to help disabled voters use the state’s online ballot marking program. "Partnering with the Seattle Central Library combines expertise and resources in a wonderful way to help voters who need accessible options to vote privately," said Sherril Huff, King County Elections Director.
- One of the most important rules in life is to never ask a lady her age. But go ahead and ask New York City voter Luz Pabellon how old she is and she’ll tell you 73. But if you check her voting information with the city’s board of elections, they will tell you she’s 164. Unlike some other things in New York City, this one has a logical explanation. According to The New York Post, when the board converted its voter files over to an electronic database, it board plugged in “01/01/1850” as the default date for those whose birth dates were unknown or unclear. And it turns out Luz isn’t alone. About 850 people in New York City are officially 164-years-old.
- Personnel News: Ernest Apponte and John W. Mooney have been nominated to fill two vacant seats on the Atlantic County, New Jersey board of elections. Janice Yohai, a Fairfax County, Virginia volunteer is the recipient of the county’s highest award for volunteerism for her efforts to educate residents about Virginia’s voting process and getting residents registered to vote. Len Lenihan has been nominated to serve on the Erie County, New York board of elections. Nancy Johannes, former deputy director of the Greene County, Ohio BOE will officially retire at the end of the month after the board voted to reclassify her position to administrative support.
- In Memoriam: Vernon, Connecticut Democratic Registrar of Voters Judith A. Beaudreau died Sunday. She was 62. Beaudreau worked for the town for more than 30 years. She oversaw many voting changes including the switch from lever-voting machines to optical scan. “Connecticut lost a warrior for democracy on Sunday with the passing of Vernon Registrar of Voters Judi Beaudreau,” U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Courtney, D-2nd District, told the Journal Inquirer. “Judi’s tireless work over the last 20 years to modernize and digitize Vernon’s voting system set a path-breaking example for the whole state, which she implemented as state president of the Connecticut Registrar of Voters Association.”
IV. Research and Report Summaries
A Broken Promise: Agency-Based Voter Registration in New York City - Center for Popular Democracy, Citizens Union of the City of New York, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, October 2014: A new evaluation of a New York state law requiring voter registration opportunities to be provided at 18 city agencies found many of the agencies failing to do so. In 84 percent of client interactions, officials did not comply with the requirement to offer voter registration application forms. Additionally of all agency employees who responded to inquires about training related to voter registration procedures, none said they received any regular training.
V. Legal Update
Florida: Last week a Florida Appeals Court ruled that a write-in candidate was wrongly disqualified from running for a state House seat. The court’s action will most likely once again cancel the primary race for the seat that was scheduled to coincide with the November 4 general election.
Kentucky: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals ruled that Kentucky officials may prohibit campaign activity on public property near polling places, but not private property.
New Mexico: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion by the Sandoval County clerk and the county’s elections director to expedite their appeal of a voter lawsuit. The plaintiffs wanted their appeal heard before the November 4 election, but court denied that timeline.
North Carolina: This week the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that an early voting site should be opened on the campus of Appalachian State University. The court lifted its stay on a lower court ruling paving the way for early voting on campus. The state’s board of elections has already filed an appeal with the N.C. Supreme Court.
Texas: Just after 5 a.m. Eastern on October 18 (a Saturday), the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will let stand Texas’ voter ID law. While the court did not rule out the possibility of ruling on the law’s constitutionality at a later date, it did rule not to make a change to the state’s voting procedures this close to the election.
VI. Legislative Update
New York: Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) is expected to introduce legislation that will allow Gotham residents to register to vote online without having to submit a paper form. The bill would require the city BOE to create a secure website to allow voters to register using the same form that is now sent by mail.
North Carolina: The Gastonia city council will vote this week whether or not change its election cycle and return to holding elections every two years.
VII. Tech Thursday
Idaho: This week Idaho joined the ever-growing list states and local governments offering voters all the information they need right at their fingertips. The polling place locator is available for Apple and Android products. “A registered voter can enter their address and the application will display their polling place address and a map to the location,” Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told a local television station. The app was created in conjunction with the Voter Information Project and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Alabama: Voter registration deadline
Arkansas: Voter ID
Colorado: Secretary of state race
Connecticut: Voter fraud
District of Columbia: Board of Elections
Florida: Voting convenience
Idaho: Secretary of state race
Illinois: Ballot access
Louisiana: Voting barriers
Minnesota: Secretary of state race
Nevada: Secretary of state race
New Hampshire: Voter registration
New Mexico: Secretary of state race
New York: New York City polling places
Ohio: Secretary of state race
Oregon: Top-two primary
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia elections
South Carolina: Early voting
Tennessee: I Voted stickers
Wisconsin: Government accountability board
Wyoming: Secretary of state race
IX. Upcoming Events
NPR Presents Michel Martin: Voting Rights — in partnership with WFAE, NPR's Michel Martin is taking the studio to the story, she's going where the nation's most important conversations are happening. Michel joins audiences in Charlotte to talk voting rights. Voting rights are under the microscope in communities across the United States, and North Carolina is no exception. There are court challenges around the state’s voter ID law: from the elimination of same-day voter registration, the reduction of early voting times to the shifting demographics of voters. What’s happening in North Carolina is a window into what’s going on across the country. Where: McGlohon Theater, Charlotte, North Carolina. When: October 27 7pm-9pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
EVOTE2014: Verifying the Vote — The Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation is hosting a 6th annual conference on electronic voting. This conference is one of the leading international events for e-voting experts from all over the world. One of its major objectives is provide a forum for interdisciplinary and open discussion of all issues relating to electronic voting. The format of the conference is a three-day meeting that deals with the topics from a both a theoretical perspective and a practical one. Practical papers should use case studies. No parallel sessions will be held, and sufficient space will be given for informal communication. Where: Lochau/Bregenz, Austria. When: October 29-31, 2014. For more information, click here.
National Student/Parent Mock Election — Now in it’s 34th year, the National Student/Parent Mock Election invites you to join the world’s largest national mock election and nation’s larges civic education project. Since 1980, students have learned what it means to be informed voters, casting votes for Presidential, U.S. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. What’s more, students continue to demonstrate the value of civic engagement – from organizing their own debates and campaign activities to holding student rallies. When: October 30, 2014. For more information and to register, please click here.
National Conference of State Legislatures Forum— Fifty states, one voice is the theme for this year’s forum. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss policy with national experts working on pressing issues as part of NCSL’s standing committees, advocate for the states on Lobby Day and participate in special programming developed for legislative staff. There will be a block of sessions on elections and will cover: Motor Voter, campaign finance, redistricting, partnerships, primary systems and legal action. The elections sessions will be on December 11. Where: Washington, D.C. When: December 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
X. Job Postings
Counsel, Brennan Center Democracy Program, New York City — The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is seeking an experienced attorney to work in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. The Counsel will be assigned primarily to our Voting Rights and Elections team, which works to ensure that voting is free, fair, and accessible for all Americans. Our current signature proposal is to modernize the voter registration system which would save money, increase accuracy and participation, and add an additional 50 million voters to the rolls permanently. At the same time, we actively defend against to restrict the vote by spearheading strategic impact litigation, groundbreaking studies, and national public education campaigns. The Counsel may also be assigned to another team as well. Qualifications: The position requires a J.D.; 6 or more years of legal experience (including clerkships, if any) in the public interest, private, or government sectors; and admission in the New York State Bar either before or shortly after it commences. The ideal candidate will have a strong litigation background; demonstrated success in policy advocacy; a strong entrepreneurial spirit; a passion for the work of the Center; and experience working with the media. This position requires the ability to work effectively in a team-based and deadline-driven environment. It also requires exceptional writing skills (for a variety of audiences, including legal, legislative, journalistic, and public); excellent analytic, strategic, and research skills; creativity, versatility, and flexibility; strong coalitional and coordination skills; and the ability to work effectively with diverse clients and allies. Demonstrated commitment to the public interest field a real plus. Salary: The salary is highly competitive in the field and commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits package as well. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.