Election Integrity News
Drawn from various sources and updated frequently by our editorial team, the Election Integrity News is a compilation of the latest developments in the area of election integrity. That means stories covering everything from the administration of elections, the security of the vote, voter suppression, gerrymandering, money in politics, and much more.
If a story catches your eye that you think would make for an interesting item, send it to us at FairElectionTips@whowhatwhy.org.
Latest News: August 12 – August 15
Election Security Gets Political as States Lack — and Refuse — Funds to Upgrade Infrastructure
It isn’t enough for people to expose the vulnerabilities in election equipment nationwide — states need the money to fix them. Such was the lesson from the second annual Voting Machine Hacking Village at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas last week. An 11-year-old shocked audiences as he hacked a machine at breakneck speed. Some reportedly were close to hacking a voter registration database, too. Nevertheless, some election officials resisted any serious implications of the hacks, arguing that they amounted to unrealistic scenarios of what could reasonably occur on Election Day. Naturally, voting machine vendors agreed.
But the lack of funding to address problematic equipment has repeatedly surfaced since the federal government appropriated funds to facilitate security upgrades. This year in Las Vegas, more experts focused on a fundamental problem: it’s one thing to find vulnerabilities, but another altogether to fix them. Few states — many of which have used the same equipment for two decades — have the resources to address the array of security and infrastructure issues.
And in Georgia, cybersecurity has gotten political after Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) rejected federal funding to address vulnerabilities. Kemp saw the funds as evidence of federal overreach into that state’s election administration. He’s now the Republican nominee for governor, and his position on these issues could prove pivotal. Georgia Democrats have both expressed concern about Kemp’s record and called for “immediate changes” to election proceedings in the state. A group of voters filed a lawsuit to push a transition to paper ballots in the upcoming midterm elections — a move Kemp appears unlikely to initiate on his own.
Ex-Felons Charged for Voting Despite Not Knowing They Couldn’t
Nine people in North Carolina have pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor after being charged with voter fraud — for casting a ballot while on probation. They were not aware they were not allowed to vote. Since in most cases this is simply a misunderstanding — even the North Carolina State Board of Elections admitted the pamphlets they give to felons on voting could be improved — charges are very rarely brought. In 2017, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement opened investigations in 562 cases of felons voting, but just 227 were referred to district attorneys and only 17 of them were indicted. Of those, 12 were charged by Alamance County District Attorney Patrick Nadolski, a Republican. While he says the charges were necessary to preserve the integrity of elections, there appears to have been a race element; nine of the 12 were African-American despite Alamance being two-thirds white.
Nicknamed the Alamance 12 by some, there is a concern this will reduce the number of voters within the county: Ebonie Oliver, Keith Sellars, Robert Chase Wade — three of the 12 — have all said they’ll never vote again despite being informed it’s legal for them to do so once their probation is completed.
Debbie Smith, 64, a volunteer for Down Home NC — a group which has organized protests for the 12 and traveled the county registering people to vote — has said she’s seen a hesitancy to vote from residents since the charges. Seeing that a simple misunderstanding can lead to a year of unsupervised probation, 24 hours of community service, and over $700 in court-related fees has scared many people away from voting. It’s disenfranchisement by confusion.
New Website Puts Voting Rights a Few Clicks Away for Felons
A new website created by The Campaign Legal Center helps felons maneuver through the legal maze and restore their vote. After answering brief questions on their location, status of their sentence, and specific questions based on state laws, the website informs them whether they can register. If they can’t, it explains their next step, such as contacting the state registrar or connecting with an advocacy group. Having all the information in one place makes it easier for felons to get answers, rather than fighting through legal jargon and endless phone calls to government officials.
There are an estimated 23 million felons in America, with 17 million of them eligible to vote. The remaining six million are disenfranchised despite the completion of their jail sentence. Although changes to laws are a must, this website is a great resource for restoring voting rights to felons. It has become a civil rights issue and pivotal in local races as it predominantly affects African-American voters. Making the legal system easier to navigate will go a long way to curtailing this problem.
Latest News: August 9 – August 12
Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Move to Shorten Early Voting
The Iowa Supreme Court reached a speedy decision in a lawsuit brought by organizations and individuals concerned with the details of a new set of voting laws. A judge ruled last week to shorten the state’s early voting period, overriding one portion of an injunction that a lower court issued previously. The order from the state’s Supreme Court only addressed the early voting portion of the injunction, which also addressed requirements to provide an ID number to apply for an absentee ballot and stringent signature matching measures.
The new procedures came as part of a much-contested voter identification law that Iowa implemented in 2017, which made a host of changes to election administration. Earlier this summer, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Taylor Blaire, a student at Iowa State University, filed a lawsuit, contending that the law violated the state constitution. The state Supreme Court decision was not unanimous — one justice dissented while another abstained.
Election Security Experts Don’t Like Blockchain
Many election security experts are wary of voting-by-smartphone — especially when the software relies on blockchain technology. West Virginia is the first state to permit such a system, allowing some voters, by and large people serving in the military overseas, to cast a ballot from their smartphones.
West Virginia piloted the program in May, working with a startup called Voatz. Reportedly, third party audits left election officials confident enough to move forward with the option for overseas voters. The convenience is clear, but many doubt that the system can be secured against manipulation. Other approaches, some contend, are simpler.
In the Voatz system, the company controls access to the ballot through biometrics. It stores records of ballots cast on a private blockchain, which it then verifies through computers that it controls. Algorithms ensure the data is valid, according to the company. Few cybersecurity experts are convinced.
White House to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Election Meddling
Under pressure to prove that he is serious about addressing cybersecurity threats, President Donald Trump plans to draft an executive order that will impose sanctions on foreigners who tamper with US elections. Trump has faced mounting criticism from both parties after the Helsinki summit, in which he appeared to back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conclusion that the Kremlin was not behind the hacking of Democratic emails.
Some experts, however, felt that the order lacked teeth and would not discourage Moscow from interfering in future races. Since the most severe sanctions are discretionary, they express skepticism at the prospect of Trump actually enforcing punishment on Russia. Former Pentagon official Michael Carpenter called the measure a “cover-your-behind exercise to show the administration is doing something when in fact it doesn’t oblige them to do much of anything.”
Latest News: August 5 – August 9
Foreign Adversaries May Attempt to Confuse Voters
Confusion could be among the most effective tools for foreign interference, and voter registration rolls among the most vulnerable targets, experts say. By intentionally confusing voters, foreign adversaries can encourage mass confusion about the process to keep people from voting. Changing votes is a much more intensive process than publicizing incorrect information about polling places or causing chaos at the ballot box.
Two cases have demonstrated just how effective the tactic can be. Both Maryland and California recently struggled with computer glitches that deleted thousands of voter records. In California, some people showed up to vote only to find out that they couldn’t, inciting not only confusion, but anger. Maryland notified 80,000 people the night before they were to vote that there was an issue with their registrations. Turnout was low in both states.
Moreover, targeting voter registration rolls could prove an efficient means to manipulate elections. Something as simple as a name or address change can keep a voter from casting a ballot. Many experts expect that Russia will not only attempt to hack voter registration systems, but use other strategies to spread misinformation about elections.
Kris Kobach Wants to Manage the Recount for His Own Election
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has refused to recuse himself from a recount of the primary race for governor that he ran in. Kobach ran alongside seven other Republicans in the state’s primary this week. He secured a majority, but by a sufficiently small number — 191 votes — to call a recount. As secretary of state, Kobach’s office administers elections and recounts. But, despite the apparent conflict of interest, Kobach announced he would not step aside. Critics were outraged by the decision, but hardly surprised — given Kobach’s record on election integrity issues. He co-chaired the now defunct Election Integrity Commission and — despite ample evidence of its shortcomings — has championed Crosscheck, a system used to purge millions of voters from the rolls in several states even though many of them should not have been.
New Voting Machines in Michigan Don’t Work for Blind Voters
Michigan recently upgraded its voting equipment, spending $40 million in state and federal funds. But the new equipment doesn’t meet the needs of blind voters. Michigan is home to 221,000 people who are visually disabled. Equipment that facilitates independent voting for blind voters exists, but the new machines fall short. Unlike the older versions, the keypads on the recently installed models don’t have braille and the audio instructions guide voters to buttons by referencing color, rather than location on the handset. Voters have complained about a lack of privacy with the new equipment, among the many issues that people with disabilities face at the ballot box.
Top Republican Invites Russian Officials to Discuss National Security in US
A week after the Senate introduced another sanctions bill against the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 US election, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) invited top Russian officials to Washington to discuss critical national security issues. The timing is strange, to put it mildly, given the fevered backlash President Donald Trump faced following the summit in Helsinki — where he seemingly agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia did not tamper with the electoral process.
Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met this week with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of an equivalent panel in Russia. Kosachev backed Putin’s claim that Russia is innocent, and deemed the report from US intelligence agencies — which concluded the opposite — a cynical ploy for “political gain.”
However, whether Russia influenced the election doesn’t seem to matter to Paul. “We all do it,” he said last month about foreign influence campaigns. “What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.”
Top Democrat ‘Very Concerned’ About Russian Hacking Threat
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said she fears Russia may have successfully hacked into the US election system, after reports of failed attempts in the past few weeks. “You have 21 states that were hacked into, they didn’t find out about it for a year,” she said in an interview with NBC. With the midterms elections just three months away, Klobuchar has pushed forward a bipartisan bill to bolster the country’s election security defenses.
Latest News: August 1 – August 5
Judge Rules to Increase Transparency in Campaign Finance
Thanks to a recent ruling in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, any group that spends at least $250 in independent expenditures has to report each contributor who gave $200 or more. Independent expenditures are money spent by an organization or individual, usually in support of a candidate, without coordination from said campaign. Often, however, coordination thrives through backchannels and a flexible interpretation of independence.
The recent ruling in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies established standards for disclosure stricter than any enforced in the last three decades. The decision could bring much more transparency to campaign finance and reveal to the public how election influence operates.
Democratic Candidate for Kansas Governor Under Fire for Backing Voter ID Law
Sen. Laura Kelly, the Democratic frontrunner for Kansas governor, is under attack from her primary opponents for supporting a controversial voter ID law in 2011 — one championed by leading GOP candidate Kris Kobach, who is the architect of various voter suppression schemes. The bill, which had strong bipartisan backing, imposed a proof-of-citizenship requirement on voters, effective in 2013.
Hoisting tough voter ID policies as his signature issue, Kobach, the state’s secretary of state, claimed such measures are necessary to prevent election fraud, but neither he nor other proponents of the law could provide proof of a problem beyond a few scattered examples of registration by non-citizens. In fact, a district judge ruled in June that such stringent policies disproportionately hamstring qualified voters who may forget to bring acceptable documentation. In the three years since the law came into effect, more than 35,000 Kansas residents were barred from registration — an alarming figure for a state with just 1.8 million registered voters.
In defense of her initial support for the bill, Kelly said she has always been an advocate for voting rights but wanted to first ensure that the state’s balloting process is secure. She didn’t know that Kobach would so aggressively enforce the law.
GOP Rejects $250 Million Election Security Measure
Senate Republicans blocked a $250 million bill aimed at bolstering election system security as the November midterms near. The initiative would have directed the Federal Election Assistance Commission to provide states grants to upgrade voting equipment and combat cybersecurity threats. Only one Republican supported the amendment, which failed on a 50-49 party-line vote — 10 short of the 60-vote threshold. Congress blocked a $380 million election security grant last month, which was proposed after US intelligence found evidence of Russian election tampering.
Republicans said it’s not sensible to allocate more funds to election security before properly assessing how states used the 2018 grant money. Yet with the midterms just three months away, and as reports of foreign interference continue to pile up, the US is in a race against time to protect its voting integrity.
Election Infrastructure Companies Lack Oversight, Sowing Vulnerability
The US’s decentralized election administration has plenty of flaws — and cybersecurity is principal among them. A handful of private election equipment companies provide election equipment nationwide, but national standards for security protocol are lacking. The businesses that supply and maintain voting machines and software nationwide have taken advantage of weak oversight: Few have robust or clear security processes in place. Without common security standards, the largely unregulated industry of election equipment has become an easy target for interference. Many companies’ security measures fall short of the standards held by other tech companies, but few avenues exist to enforce stricter requirements. Each state government is responsible for its own election security, which foments a lack of accountability.
Latest News: July 28 – August 1
Facebook Discovers More Fake Accounts, Deletes Them
Despite a significant investment to prevent such activity, Facebook intercepted a “disinformation operation” on its platform this week. The company found 32 pages and profiles that contributed to efforts to sway opinion in advance of the upcoming midterm elections using ads, events, and standard posts. Much of the material hinged on topics like race, mindfulness, and feminism. At least one of the pages was connected to the Internet Research Agency — the organization responsible for the 2016 interference.
Facebook removed all of the pages and notified the users who had engaged with the materials. The discovery of the fake accounts follows several months of tightened security measures. But as Facebook has cracked down on such practices, “disinformation operators” have grown more adept and developed new tactics. Many bought ads through third parties and turned toward event promotion — a corner of the social media platform that is less closely monitored and more integrated into a user’s life. Facebook discovered the fake accounts through a combination of investigations, artificial intelligence, and collaboration with law enforcement.
Midterm Battlegrounds Broadening With 99 Days to Go
With 99 days to go until the midterm election, the electoral landscape is starting to become clearer — and it’s not at all like previously imagined. Initially, many election analysts were predicting the battlegrounds to only be the well-educated, suburban districts that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. However, the map of competitive races actually seems to be much broader and it even contains some of the working-class and rural districts that constituted President Donald Trump’s base.
This is good news for Democrats, as they can start to see a clear path to regaining control of Congress. With many retiring Republicans contributing to the 42 open seats on the map, Democrats stand to benefit from a lack of incumbent opponents. So far, the results have been positive too: The Democrats are ahead in five districts that Trump carried by at least 10 points. Experts are unsure of the reason for this swing but one dominant theory is that a voter’s presidential choice plays a smaller role in determining their midterm vote than previously thought. This is bearing out, looking at the Democrats’ struggle in areas where Clinton was successful: They are tied or losing in many of the well-educated districts she carried in 2016.
Although Republicans have structural advantages in many states — such as gerrymandered maps and voter ID laws that suppress eligible votes — the courts may lessen the impact of these: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for example, struck down the state’s Republican-created electoral map as it was too gerrymandered; and, last week an Iowa judge blocked portions of a voter ID law. The GOP’s best bet appears to be a campaign that hammers at issues such as immigration and trade to divide the population and drive voters back to their traditional parties.
99 days is a long time in politics, but this far out, the broadened battlegrounds suit the Democrats and could lead to another divisive campaign.
UK Organizations Petitioning Government to Suspend Voter ID Program
More than 20 UK charities and organizations are petitioning the UK government to put a stop to the new voter ID laws tested in local elections in May. In 2018, five council areas required voters to present ID to vote, leading to 350 voters being turned away. In 2017, only 28 cases of voter impersonation occurred. The petitioners are pointing to these numbers as evidence of voter ID laws doing more damage than good.
Another issue is that the trials were carried out in areas with very similar demographics, meaning experts are unable to fully judge the impact this will have on minorities. As with all trials of this nature, it’s also difficult to calculate how many people were dissuaded from voting by this requirement.
The UK government was very happy with the results — and are hoping to push on and do a larger trial: “We plan to continue to pilot voter ID at next year’s local elections so we can explore further what works best for voters.” The statement went on to declare the tests a “success,” and called the requirement a “reasonable and proportionate measure.”
Wisconsin’s Election System Highly Vulnerable to Interference, Experts Warn
Local news has outlined all the ways that Wisconsin is a battleground for election integrity — and how divisive the issue has become. In the 2016 election, social media played a key role in manipulating voters, and the risk persists. Voting machines in the city of Marinette miscounted votes by a huge margin. Green Party candidate Jill Stein asked for a recount. The state district map was the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Now, state elections officials are figuring out what to do next. Wisconsin received $7 million in federal funding to address election infrastructure issues, part of which will fund new positions dedicated to cybersecurity at the state’s Elections Commission. In addition, it plans to implement election security trainings and amend its registration system. But their needs are bigger and more numerous than better job training.
The state’s election equipment itself is at risk, experts have concluded. Voting equipment is notoriously easy to hack, and few jurisdictions have adequate audit measures. Some see the decentralized nature of election administration as a safeguard against wholesale attempts to manipulate the vote, but others are less sure. Election integrity advocates are pushing for more comprehensive risk-limiting audits like the ones carried out in Colorado, but elections officials have yet to agree on how best to manage the numerous threats.
Latest News: July 25–July 28
The Homegrown Element of America’s Russia Problem
The constant conversation about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election obscures a more substantial homegrown problem, argues a recent article in Slate. While easier, and more dramatic, to focus on the nefarious intentions of an opaque foreign entity, the more significant troubling behavior lies at home. Members of the Republican Party, elected officials, and President Donald Trump’s voter base are all a little bit too comfortable with a blossoming pro-Russia position, the author posits.
From congressional visits to Russia on the Fourth of July to an unexpected alliance between the American evangelical right and Russia’s Christian authoritarianism, the connections are growing. Meanwhile, as little is being done to protect future American elections from foreign interference, domestic efforts to suppress the vote intensify daily. Hanging on to the power they currently hold is the first priority for Republicans and Trump’s constituents — not maintaining electoral legitimacy, the piece suggests.
Republican Representative Comes Down Hard on Electronic Voting Equipment
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who is chair of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his concerns over the security of electronic voting equipment. In an interview he said such equipment was “really dangerous” and “should not be used.” He says the counties he represents do not use electronic systems and is concerned about the lack of paper trail in digital voting. Nunes pointed to the ability to conduct a manual recount, which some electronic equipment renders impossible, as a necessity. Nevertheless, he remains a staunch supporter of Trump.
Iowa Judge Temporarily Blocks Three Provisions of Voter ID Law Ahead of November Midterms
Iowa scored a temporary election integrity victory, with Polk County District Judge Karen Romano blocking three provisions of the state’s new voter ID law: the shortening of the early voting period from 40 days to 29 days, the requirement of an identification number to cast an absentee ballot, and the ability of election officials to reject a ballot based on the signature not matching the one on record. The temporary blocks — which are part of a larger lawsuit filed by League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) and Iowa State University student Taylor Blair — cover the November midterms, with the rest of the lawsuit being decided after that.
Judge Romano’s block also requires Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to stop using language in election ads which lead voters to believe ID is mandatory in the midterms. The voter ID law does not come into effect until January 2019. Voters can vote in the midterms without ID by signing an “Oath of Identification.” However, recent advertisements from Pate’s office have been very misleading on this, leading to concerns that many voters will stay home.
Pate condemned Judge Romano’s decision, saying this law protected Iowa from voter fraud and was “overwhelmingly” supported by Iowans. He said the decision will be appealed immediately as he believes it makes “it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”
LULAC said it is happy with the decision but that this is just the first step in the larger fight for the integrity of Iowa’s elections: “This is just a first step, but we welcome it because it means every Iowan will continue to have his or her right to vote.”
New Emails Reveal GOP Plan to Gerrymander Michigan
Internal emails made public Wednesday reveal a concerted effort by Michigan Republicans to aggressively gerrymander the state’s electoral maps. The trove was submitted as evidence by the League of Women Voters of Michigan in a federal lawsuit that alleges GOP legislators unconstitutionally manipulated districts when they swept to power in 2010.
In one email, a staffer crudely bragged about wielding the widely deployed tactic of “clustering” or, in his words, “cramming Dem garbage” into just four districts to dilute their voting power elsewhere. In another email, an executive from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce predicted that the gerrymandered maps will help the GOP maintain power for years. The messages contain jarringly blatant examples of foul play: One aide said a Macomb County district is shaped like “it’s giving the finger” to Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), while another implied that the drawing of one district may have been dictated primarily by a now-retired congressman.
At the same time, the Michigan Supreme Court is deliberating a case that would allow an anti-gerrymander initiative to appear on the November ballot. The measure, if approved, could transfer map-drawing authority from the GOP-controlled legislature to an independent commission. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is the largest financial backer of efforts to prevent that from happening.
Latest News: July 15th–July 19th
Latest News: July 10th–July 15th
Latest News: July 5th-July 10th
Latest News: June 30th-July 5th
Latest News: June 27th-30th
Latest News: June 23rd-June 27th
Silicon Valley and US Intelligence to Cooperate on Election Security
Big tech and law enforcement are beginning to converse about how to handle digital interference in the upcoming elections, despite failures from both to identify or address these issues in the 2016 election. Executives from companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter met last month with officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. But just what they’re planning or talking about — besides “looking for more activity” and “running investigations” — is opaque.
The Washington Post suggests that if private tech companies and public law enforcement had cooperated during the 2016 election, they could have reduced the scope and scale of Russian interference. Facebook has complained about a lack of engagement and openness from intelligence officials. Just what the implications of such cooperation would mean beyond cyber-security for elections remains to be seen.
States Struggle With Time Crunch to Replace Voting Equipment
Congress allocated $380 million in funding to upgrade voting equipment state-by-state, and it has proven insufficient in more ways than one. The latest issue? Time. It takes more time than state governments have to outline their budget proposals, get them approved, then contract with equipment vendors, and eventually procure equipment.
As a result, it’s unlikely that the money will prove useful before the 2018 midterms. Some say that it would be more efficient to use the funds to hire security auditors, rather than investing outright in new equipment. Such auditors would inspect the machines on a county level, identify, and hopefully address vulnerabilities. The trend appears to be toward the former — upgrading outdated machines that may not come into use until 2020.
Mainstream Media Catches Up With Alabama’s Attacks on Voting Rights
Half a decade after the Supreme Court struck down a key requirement of the Voting Rights Act, Alabama has implemented a string of highly effective laws to curtail representation from marginalized groups — and the New York Times seems to be finally catching on.
Before 2013, certain states, including Alabama, needed to obtain federal approval to alter election laws, which worked as a safeguard against arbitrary restrictions that disproportionately harmed minority voters. But the ruling of Shelby County v. Holder created an opportunity for states like Alabama to pass laws without federal oversight — regulations ostensibly aimed at preventing voter fraud that actually just discouraged voter participation in majority-minority districts.
That decision has had a massive ripple effect: Alabama instated a photo ID law within 24 hours of the Supreme Court decision; studies have shown that black and Hispanic voters are more likely than whites to lack acceptable documentation. A year after the ruling, the state shut down 31 driver’s license offices — the most-frequented place to obtain photo ID. (Eight of 10 counties with the highest concentration of black voters were subject to office closures). Alabama also closed at least 66 polling places between 2013 and 2016, many in counties dominated by marginalized voters. Much of this news has been covered by WhoWhatWhy and others — and it’s reassuring to see major news outlets giving these issues their due.
The Decades-Long Process for a Florida Felon to Become a Voter Again
The process for a felon in Florida to become a full citizen again is long, obstacle-filled, and ends with the governor asking if you go to church or take your parents out to eat often. Once convicted, a felon in the state loses their right to vote, sit on juries, or purchase firearms for the rest of their lives. In order to get their rights renewed, they must file an application with the state government and then wait: The current wait time is approximately a decade, due to the wait list that consists of 10,000 people. Current Governor Rick Scott (R) changed the laws to state that felons must wait between five and seven years after they complete their sentence to even apply. There are currently 1.5 million people in the Sunshine State who have had their rights stripped due to a felony charge, accounting for 10% of eligible voters. This is the highest rate in the country.
Once the application has been selected, the Florida Commission on Offender Review begins its formal investigation. The commission is looking for any evidence the felon has turned their life around, and the investigation typically takes six months to a year before a hearing date occurs.
The hearing itself takes place in a cabinet meeting room in the lower level of the Florida Capitol before the Executive Clemency Board. This board consists of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam. They meet four times a year, seeing around 100 people each time, although some people can have their rights restored without a hearing.
The felon presents a case of why they should be granted their rights back, and witnesses are able to testify for them in person or through a letter. The felon is then interrogated by the board, with no questions off limits — after all, there are no guidelines to what evidence they can or cannot make their ruling based on. Questions of drug use, alcohol consumption, family relations, employment records, church attendance, and anything else they deem to make a morally sufficient voter can be enquired about.
Latest News: June 20th-23rd
Michigan Clears Anti-Gerrymandering Measure for Midterm Ballot
Delivering an important victory for election integrity activists, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved a ballot proposal on Wednesday that calls for sweeping changes to the current redistricting process.
The proposal, created by the non-partisan group Voters Not Politicians, will transfer map-drawing duties from legislators to an independent, 13-person commission comprising “four Democrats, four Republicans, and five Independent members.” Under the current redistricting system, Michigan Republicans have managed to dominate the state legislature while tying for— or losing — the popular vote. (They hold a whopping 63–47 majority in the House.)
The proposal threatens to unravel this stranglehold they’ve maintained through gerrymandering, and GOP groups have asked the courts to block it — so far to no avail. After the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously cleared the measure for the midterm ballot, their last remaining hope became an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court. Should the higher court back the lower court’s decision, voters will get the rare chance to rid their state of gerrymandering, one of the biggest threats to democracy.
Arizona Laws Making It Even Harder for Native Americans to Vote
It may be 2018, but — for Native Americans in Arizona — voting is as tough as it has ever been. Since the US Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that certain states no longer needed to have their voting laws pre-cleared, Arizona has opened the floodgates on voter suppression laws — most of which have directly hurt the Native American population.
Mail-in ballots — which account for 80 percent of Arizona’s voting in 2016 — are a huge obstacle for Native Americans, as they often live in extremely rural places without an address, or even a PO box. The rise of mail-in ballots has led to a decrease in polling stations, making voting more of a tough-to-arrange event than a proud civic duty.
A 2016 law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature against “ballot harvesting” — a term coined to describe mailing in a ballot that isn’t your own — is another blow to a community where only one of every four people has a vehicle. The law — opposed by Democrats and currently working its way through the legal system — would make a felon out of those who offer such assistance to the sick or elderly Native Americans who still want to vote.
This is on top of the fact that the rollback of the Voting Rights Acts has resulted in a large decrease in the number of US polling stations and the hours they’re open, refusal to place stations on reservations, and eliminating language services.
Latest News: June 16th-20th
Judge Shuts Down Kobach’s Latest Attack on Voting Rights
After a series of court decisions that have disappointed election integrity advocates, a federal judge in Kansas struck down a law implemented by Secretary of State Kris Kobach requiring proof of citizenship in order to vote. Kobach has been a champion of ever-stricter limits on voting rights, often pointing to “widespread” voter fraud to legitimize his efforts. He has failed, however, to provide evidence to substantiate his claims.
The ruling came down from federal District Judge Julie A. Robinson, who wrote in her decision that there were “a small number of noncitizen registrations in Kansas … largely explained by administrative error, confusion, or mistake.” Kobach intends to appeal the decision.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters and private citizens in 2016; it went to trial earlier this year. Kobach opted to represent himself. Judge Robinson has additionally required that Kobach complete six hours of education related to following proper legal procedures and providing evidence.
Not long after Judge Robinson delivered her opinion, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Kobach claiming he unjustly exposed voters’ data — including Social Security numbers — through the Crosscheck program he has long touted as essential to a secure vote.
A Return to Paper Ballots?
While it seems likely that electronic voting machines — even the most vulnerable ones — are here to stay, paper ballots are looking like an attractive option to some election officials (and election security advocates). Electronic machines by and large replaced older systems after the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 under the specter of the controversial Florida recount two years prior.
But the faults and flaws of those machines have become increasingly apparent, and many stakeholders believe a return to the tried-and-true paper ballot is the most secure way forward. Electronic machines, whether they are connected to the internet or not, present ample opportunities for tampering and interference. Some of the paperless machines don’t even keep an auditable record of ballots cast, making a true recount impossible.
A full return to paper ballots is unlikely any time soon. Despite $380 million in funding allocated for election security, many states are struggling to update their existing outdated equipment. States like Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have made the transition to a vote-by-mail system, which some argue is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to increase security.
Supreme Court Delays Decision on Pivotal Gerrymander Cases
The US Supreme Court deferred rulings on a pair of seminal partisan gerrymander cases on Monday, squandering yet another chance to profoundly alter the country’s undemocratic redistricting process. The two cases — one from GOP-controlled Wisconsin, the other from Democrat-controlled Maryland — are cited by some as being the most egregious examples of gerrymandering.
In the Wisconsin case, the justices asked lower courts to reexamine whether the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to challenge the statewide map; in the Maryland case, they simply decided to use the current, disputed maps for the upcoming midterms. All nine justices reached a consensus that both cases could not be adjudicated. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have dismissed the cases rather than sending them back to the lower courts.
Justices Explain Reason Behind Gerrymander Stalemate
The reason the Supreme Court returned the gerrymander case from Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, back to the lower courts is to prevent a neutral, apolitical body from becoming too political and straying from the law, according to Chief Justice John Roberts. In his opinion, it is not appropriate for America’s highest court to choose “the Democrats over the Republicans,” for such a move will “cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country.”
While there was clear cause for the Supreme Court to outlaw racial gerrymandering, i.e., drawing districts in a way that blatantly suppresses minority voters, interpretations of the Constitution become blurrier with regard to partisan gerrymandering, i.e., drawing districts in a way that suppresses voters of one party. Partisan discrimination is more difficult to prove than racial discrimination.
Roberts, with three other conservative justices, decided that the liberal challengers of the Wisconsin case have no standing, as they failed to provide convincing evidence that they had been wronged on the basis of political affiliation. But rather than dismissing the case, he gave the challengers a chance to provide lower courts new evidence that proves Wisconsin’s current electoral maps “demonstrate a burden on their individual votes.”
Latest News: June 12th-16th
South Carolina's Ex-Felons Are Allowed to Vote, but Few Are Aware
In South Carolina, felons can retain their voting privileges immediately upon return to civilian life. But due to a lack of information and a spate of typical readjustment challenges, most returning citizens don’t know that they can, once again, register to vote.
Although South Carolina is one of 21 states that restores voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, it is not obligated to educate detainees of such rights. The participation of ex-felons in elections can make a crucial impact on state and national politics; with the midterms less than six months away, it may even determine who takes control of the House.
Could North Carolina’s Latest Voter ID Attempt Survive Legal Challenge?
If Republican lawmakers get their way in North Carolina, the state could amend its constitution to require photo identification at the polls. But can such an amendment withstand legal challenge?
Voter ID laws have historically been instruments of discrimination, and remain a potent (and popular) voter suppression strategy. Experts say that an identification requirement isn’t unconstitutional in the abstract — it depends on the motivation behind the laws. A federal court has already struck down an attempt to establish voter ID requirements in North Carolina two years ago. In 2016, the Fourth Circuit courts found that North Carolina’s previous attempts to require identification targeted African American voters with “surgical precision.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R) maintains that the proposed law does not discriminate. But the proposed bill doesn’t specify details about what kind of identification would be required, which could influence whether or not such legislation could endure. For example, were lawmakers to allow a wide variety of identification, it might be harder to fight, whereas strict requirements are more obviously and directly discriminatory.
Wisconsin Turns Blue in Special Election
Much to the dismay of Governor Scott Walker (R), Wisconsin voters leaned left this week when they elected progressive Democrat Caleb Frostman in a State Senate special election. Frostman’s victory is a major blow to the Republican establishment, and the latest of 44 districts to “flip” from red to blue since the 2016 presidential election. The district where he won voted overwhelmingly for both President Donald Trump in 2014 and Walker in 2016.
Walker had pushed hard to prevent the election to fill the vacant seat. His attempts to delay the election were met with widespread outcry — it looked very much like the governor was leaving a quarter of a million residents unrepresented in hopes of staving off a Republican loss. Unrepresented Wisconsinites eventually brought their case to court, where a judge rejected the claim from Walker and his team that special elections were a “waste of taxpayer resources.” Walker finally called for elections in March.
Latest News, June 8th-12th:
Supreme Court Upholds Ohio’s Voter Roll Purge
Led by its conservative majority, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s system of removing from rolls those who have not voted in two successive presidential elections and have also failed, in the interim, to answer a written notice. President Donald Trump backed the court’s decision.
Voting rights groups consider the purge system a draconian means of maintaining voter rolls and are worried that other states will follow Ohio’s example and use similar processes as a tool for voter suppression. Others are already using less aggressive policies. In Florida, for example, non-responsive voters are not purged but are instead placed on inactive status, and can still vote by mail or at the poll. Removal is possible only if the voter, declared inactive, does not vote in two consecutive elections.
GOP Credits Demographic Clustering, Not Gerrymandering, for Its Advantage in Congress
As the US Supreme Court weighs key cases that could overhaul the current redistricting process, Republican lawmakers are claiming, with flimsy evidence, that their dominance in Congress is a result of demographic clustering rather than aggressive gerrymandering.
They deployed this argument in purple states — Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — whose egregiously gerrymandered maps have been challenged or thrown out by courts. The GOP and its expert witnesses contended that Democrats tend to cluster in urban areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, while Republicans are more evenly spread out in suburbs and rural districts. Since Republicans outnumber Democrats in far more neighborhoods, it makes sense that their representatives would consistently win majority in Congress.
But while urban-clustering among Democrats is a real phenomenon, statisticians and competing experts said that it would give the GOP only a slight electoral advantage — if mapmakers used traditional, fairer procedures. After sweeping into power in 2010, Republicans redesigned the current maps in secret headquarters, drawing on new software to create surgically precise boundaries that made clustering look organic.
NAACP Threatens to Sue Over Voter ID Laws in North Carolina
The battle over voter ID laws continues in North Carolina. The NAACP threatened earlier this week to sue the state over the proposed constitutional amendment that would require photo identification at the polls. Such an amendment wouldn’t require a signature from the Democratic governor, but the public will have to vote it into effect this November. Part of the NAACP’s strategy is to discourage companies like Amazon and Apple, both of which are considering building campuses near the state’s major universities, from setting up shop in the state. Big business, they figure, could help their cause and convince residents to vote against a voter ID law.
Indiana Slows Down on Voter Suppression, Despite Ohio Decision
Just before the US Supreme Court handed a big win to voter suppression in Ohio, a federal judge in Indiana prevented the state from rolling out another program that would remove “suspicious” voters from the rolls. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt found the law to be in violation of the National Voter Registration Act, and ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Indiana law uses a system to flag voters that might be duplicates that is modeled after the infamous and deeply flawed Crosscheck program designed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Critics have demonstrated that the system overwhelmingly targets minority voters and is a fast track to disenfranchisement. It remains unclear whether or not the state will appeal the decision.
Latest News: June 2nd-8th
House Member Unveils Bill Mandating Reporting of Foreign Meddling
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member on the House Intelligence Committee, proposed a measure that would require campaigns to promptly report foreign election interference to law-enforcement agencies. Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election would have been less successful, Swalwell argues, had the Trump campaign informed FBI or Justice Department officials of its contacts with foreign agents, notably the infamous Trump Tower meeting, ahead of which a Kremlin-connected lawyer offered dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The legislation, dubbed the Duty to Report Act, would legally obligate candidates and their campaigns to alert the FBI when a foreign power offers incriminating information on an opponent seeking the same office. Failure to report such would be a criminal offense whether or not they were solicited. Those involved with a campaign, including immediate family, must file a report if they are “told about, are offered, or receive” material from a foreign source.
North Carolina GOP Pushes Hard, Again, for Voter ID
North Carolina could be on the cusp of passing a constitutional amendment about voter ID laws, depending on what the state legislative bodies decide. A bill sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore (R) and his Republican colleagues puts the question of requiring photo identification at the polls to a public vote on the November ballot. The specifics of the law — including what types of identification would be required — would follow in a separate bill.
State senate leadership is reportedly already discussing language, though the original bill will first have to pass the House. Advocates hope to wrap up the current legislative session in the next month, meaning North Carolina could see a vote in the next few weeks. To pass, the bill needs to pass both chambers and secure support from three-fifths of lawmakers. Republicans have enough of a majority in the North Carolina House for the proposed bill to pass uncontested.
This isn’t the first time that North Carolina has tried to implement strict voter ID laws. Its last attempt in 2013 fell flat after a 2016 US Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that the law, supported by a Republican majority, “targeted black voters with almost surgical precision.”
Los Angeles County Misprints Voter Rolls, Causing Confusion
Many Californians arrived at the polls in last Tuesday’s primary to discover that their names had been left off the voter rolls in over a third of the voting precincts in Los Angeles County. Thanks to a printing error, the election authorities inadvertently left off nearly 119,000 names from vote rosters across the county. That amounts to almost 2.5 percent of voters. Poll workers reassured voters that they could still vote via provisional ballot. The cause of the printing error was not immediately clear. Two hotly contested House seats fall within Los Angeles County. Delays are expected in counting and verifying the provisional ballots; some have called to keep the polls open for additional days.
Latest News May 30th-June 2nd:
Year-Long Review Shows No Voter Fraud in New Hampshire
In an announcement that didn’t really surprise anyone, virtually no voter fraud was found in New Hampshire in 2016; Donald Trump lost fair and square. In a presentation to the Law Ballot Commission, Secretary of State Bill Gardner also showed how his department used the controversial Interstate Crosscheck system to whittle down a list of 94,610 voters — the number of people with the same first and last name as somebody from out of state — to just 142. Of these 51 have been sent to the attorney general for investigation while the other 91 are awaiting more information. Considering Trump lost by 2,732, this discrepancy barely registers.
However, looking closer at the cases reveals there isn’t anything even resembling a cohesive voter fraud plan at all: Ballot Law Commission Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards says history shows a lot of these cases will be misunderstandings rather than intentional voter fraud: Spouses sending in absentee ballots right after the spouses death or people voting everywhere they have properties.
New Hampshire is currently a state trying to push through laws requiring proof of residence, such as a state driver’s licence, which would make it more difficult for college students to vote. The bill has passed and is just awaiting approval from Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who has asked the Supreme Court if the law is constitutional.
The emergence of proof there is not a systematic voter fraud plan in place — and virtually zero intentional voter fraud at all — should lay waste to the attempts by Republican legislators across the country attempting to pass voter suppression laws like the one in New Hampshire. It won’t, but it should.
Trump Says Russia Probe Puts Midterms at Risk
Federal investigators working on the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election are meddling in the upcoming midterms, according to President Donald Trump. In a flurry of tweets comprising no proof, he accused Democrats of using special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — a “witch hunt” — to influence the midterms, especially after Republicans eclipsed them in the polls. The inquiry, which recently turned a year old, has yielded 17 indictments and five guilty pleas, unleashing a torrent of scandals on the White House.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani deemed Mueller’s findings “illegitimate,” and admitted to smearing the latter’s credibility to shield the president from impeachment. While it’s true that several members on the special counsel team have donated to Democrats, both Mueller and the man who appointed him, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are registered Republicans.
Iowa Under Legal Scrutiny for State Constitution Violating Voter ID Law
The first legal challenge against a voter identification law passed last year on behalf of Iowa’s newly Republican-dominated legislature was filed last Wednesday.
The voter identification law will go into full effect in 2019, and requires citizens to present ID if they wish to vote, otherwise they would only be able to cast a provisional vote. Voters’ ballots will remain uncounted until they return with acceptable ID. Currently, if someone without an ID wishes to vote, they are asked to sign an oath verifying their identity.
With litigation funding from Priorities USA Foundation, an NGO specializing in voting-related lawsuits, The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and Iowa State University student Taylor Blair have been named as the plaintiffs involved in the suit. Arguing that these steps burden the peoples’ rights to vote, therefore violating the Constitution. This justification, alongside concern over the law and how it may affect “minority groups, college students, the elderly and disabled students” are the lawsuit’s key points.
Portions of the law have gone into effect this year, and will be applied in the state’s June 5 primary elections. Defending the voter ID law, Secretary of State Paul Pate has made clear that the request to halt fractions of the law’s arrangements will not be granted as early voting has already begun. Instead, he argued this “baseless and politically motivated lawsuit” was “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.”
The lawsuit claims that, “each of the challenged provisions burdens the right to vote directly by complicating and slowing down elections administration in Iowa.” Pate, however, firmly believes that implementation of the voter ID law will not deny eligible voters the right to vote.
How a Decades-Old Supreme Court Decision Inspired Today's Gerrymandering
Though the term “gerrymandering” has existed for more than two centuries, it was only about 30 years ago that the practice became so effective, widespread, and lethal to democracy. Ironically, the roots of modern gerrymandering can be traced back to a pivotal 1986 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed one prominent method of subjugating minority voters: by spreading them across districts so their numbers are too small to matter in a given election.
Partisan lawmakers, in response, concocted another strategy that proved far more damaging and enduring: packing African American constituents into select areas that became known as “majority-minority districts.” The practice, while engendering the long-overdue elections of black officials in the South, also ensured that minority voters remained permanently voiceless in the surrounding, majority-white districts, which far outnumber those they dominate. As a result, most legislative districts in the South stayed solidly red. “It’s an irony: more African-American districts meant less Democrats were elected,” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican political consultant.
California’s Republican Candidate for Secretary of State Promises More Election Integrity
The Republican candidate running for California’s Secretary of State Mark Meuser has promised to clean up the voter rolls and return integrity to the state’s elections. Meuser, a constitution and election law attorney, is trying to ride the interest in election integrity created by a recent lawsuit in which the State of California and Los Angeles County were sued by Judicial Watch and Election Integrity Project California. These organizations say they seek fairer elections.
The lawsuit wasn’t without good reason: Los Angeles County’s registration rate is 144% of its adult population, while California’s rate is 101% of its population. The lawsuit also alleges that California has the highest rate of inactive registrations of any state in the country, while Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any county in the country. There are even reports of people who have died almost 40 years ago still on the voter roll.
Meuser accuses the Democrats of not placing any priority on the voter roll or election integrity and he has promised to fix this. He said the role of a Secretary of State is to take over these counties if necessary, to ensure fair elections. The worry is, should he be elected, based both on his comments and the history of his party, the possibility of the introduction of voter ID laws. California currently has none but their introduction could damage election integrity in a state with such a high immigrant population.
Native American Tribes in North Dakota Fall Short in Reaching Settlement Over Voter Identification Requirement
Backlash is mounting against attempts to implement more severe voter ID laws in North Dakota. A new provision put forth by the state would require locals prove their residency with a street address — a requirement that poses problem in Native American communities where people often use post office boxes, which are not considered sufficient proof of eligibility.
North Dakota remains the only US state to not require registration prior to casting a vote. Since 2004, North Dakotans citizens were required to present ID. However, those without ID could sign an affidavit saying they were eligible to vote. North Dakota’s Republican-led legislature has made a point of advocating for stricter requirements, which have an outsize impact on Native American voters’ ability to cast a ballot. The suggested new standards would require a street address.
Following the recent proposal, US District Judge Daniel Hovland suggested talks between the state and representatives of the Native American community, which have so far been unproductive (and behind closed doors).
Despite Hovland’s suggestions that all members be involved in the settlement, “sit down for one day and create workable and reasonable solutions so that all homeless persons, and all persons who live on Native American reservations in North Dakota, can have a meaningful opportunity to vote,” a consensus has yet to be reached on how tribal members can provide sufficient identification in order to vote.
Republican Secretary of State, Al Jaeger, has denied any matter of discussion on potential proposals and solutions, saying they “possibly may continue.” Tom Dickson, a lawyer for tribal members, while optimistic that a settlement will be reached, said that “the ball is in the state’s court.” These contrasting responses to confidential proposals leave North Dakotan citizens defending either side of the agreement unsure of what is to come.
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Latest News: May 26-30th
Pennsylvania Moves Toward Transferring Redistricting Power to Citizens
Pennsylvania took a crucial step toward combating gerrymandering, as the Senate State Government Committee unanimously voted to create an independent citizens commission to handle the redistricting process. The amendment, Senate Bill 22, gathered widespread bipartisan support: 15,000 Democratic and Republican voters who participated in the state primary signed a petition endorsing it. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out the state’s 2011 electoral map on grounds of blatant discrimination against minority voters, and subsequently ordered the enactment of new districts.
Still, the victory is but an incremental one. The bill is up for a vote in the state Senate early next month. Then it will be delivered to and deliberated by a House committee — with at least one Republican chairman saying he would not even consider it. Only after passing both sessions will the proposal be approved for a statewide voter referendum. This means that its supporters have little room for error if they wish to clear all three legislative hurdles before the 2021 redistricting cycle.
Meanwhile, lawmakers seeking to maintain the status quo are mounting a fierce resistance. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), who ruled out debating Senate Bill 22, and all 15 Republican members of his committee voted for a separate amendment that would endow the majority party with even greater redistricting power.
Poll Shows Californians Like ‘Top-Two’ Primaries
California voters have no intention of abandoning the state’s “top-two” primary elections — despite opposition from political parties (and some candidates). A new poll from USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times shows widespread support for the system and little popular interest in revisiting the primary elections of the past.
The top-two system is something of a compromise between open and closed primary systems. In a closed primary, voters can only cast a ballot in their party of registration. Independent voters tend to dislike this system, which in effect prevents them from casting a meaningful ballot. California ran closed primaries for several decades. Voters opted to transition to an open primary system in 1996 that allowed all voters to elect nominees for all political parties, much to the dislike of the major political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties challenged it in a case that went to the US Supreme Court and ruled in their favor. The judges found that allowing non-members to select the nominees of political parties was unfair.
A decade later, though, voters implemented the current top-two primary system, and enthusiasm is still high. Voters cast ballots for their preferred candidate and no party is guaranteed a spot on the ballot — California allows two members of the same party to face off in the general election.
Abortion Tops the List of 2018 Campaign Issues
Abortion is slated to be among the most pivotal issues in the 2018 elections. Both parties are betting on their proposals and positions to bring voters to the polls and shape political conversations. Pro-choice advocates are organizing around federal funding for Planned Parenthood and access to health care. Democrats celebrate the increase in women running for office. President Donald Trump and the GOP are doing much the opposite in an effort to secure the representation to pass a ban on late term abortions and confirm Supreme Court nominees. Democrats want to flip Congress to halt efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and limit the right to choose. And issue-driven donations are flowing in across party lines — candidates and parties alike are counting on the issue to motivate voters to show up, and pay up.
Latest News, May 23-26th:
Republican Primary Candidates Disagree on Whether Puerto Ricans Should Be Allowed to Vote
Florida’s Republican primary candidates can all agree Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but whether that means they should be allowed to vote is apparently more complicated. Political newcomer John Ward stated he didn’t believe Puerto Ricans who were displaced by Hurricane Maria should be able to participate in the election: “First of all, I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote. And it’s not lost on me that, I think, the Democrat Party’s really hoping that they can change the voting [registration] in a lot of counties and districts. And I don’t think they should be allowed to do that.” Ward later clarified the comments by stating he believed they were citizens, but thinks they should only register if they intended to become permanent residents of the state.
For a party attempting to win over Puerto Ricans in the state — a demographic which is registering as “no-party-affiliation” in increasing numbers — Ward’s comments have caused quite a backlash. His GOP primary opponent in Florida’s 6th congressional district, former state Rep. Fred Costello, called his comments “horse manure”. He believes the GOP should be ensuring Puerto Ricans vote for them, rather than denying them the vote.
While this will have little impact on the 6th congressional district race, where Puerto Ricans only make up 7% of the population, it could affect the midterms statewide. With the Democrats portraying the Republicans as ignorant, Ward’s comments (and refusal to back down on them) couldn’t come at a worse time.
Wisconsin Voter Registration Initiative Could Topple Governor Scott Walker
An initiative started in 2012 as a direct answer to Governor Scott Walker’s (R) voter suppression laws could topple him in 2018. Madison election clerks in metro voting districts, who are designated as “ambassadors,” started to train voting rights workers on how to register and vote under Walker’s repressive laws. These groups have been targeting the demographics most affected by the laws — such as the homeless, students, those living in poverty — and assisting them in guaranteeing they can vote. This help includes anything from driving them to the DMV to get an ID to helping them fill our their registration forms.
The results? November 2016 saw Madison’s voter turnout rise while the rest of the state’s fell. In April, the capital’s turnout nearly doubled the rest of the state’s. The city now has a state-record 15 early-voting sites. And other municipalities are taking note. Kenosha, the state’s fourth-most populous city, adopted a similar ambassador style outreach program in 2017 and saw their turnout double in a single year. Milwaukee is opening 20 voter registration kiosks at libraries all across the city, while increasing the number of early-voting sites from three to eight.
The result of all of this could be the removal of Walker, as the increased number of voters could give the Democrats enough votes to topple him. While the ambassadors are impartial and instead just want an election which is fair and open to all, removing Walker would certainly be a step towards accomplishing this goal.