Category Archives: voter registration

“Louisiana’s reasons for withdrawing from ERIC don’t add up”

Jessica Huseman:

In late January, Louisiana suspended its participation in a multi-state voter-roll-matching program known as ERIC, one week after rightwing conspiracy site Gateway Pundit baselessly accused ERIC of being “a left-wing voter registration drive disguised as voter roll clean up.” But if you ask Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office, staff will tell you the decision had “nothing to do with” Gateway Pundit. What did the secretary base his decision on? The staff won’t say.

“We’re not having that dialogue,” said spokesman John Tobler, who said “numerous” experts had expressed concerns over “election stuff.” Who? “I am not at liberty to disclose that,” he said.  What concerns? “We’re trying to get to the bottom of a major source of questions within the service provider” about “how the data moves and how it functions within their space,” said Tobler. What does that mean? Tobler won’t say, but he wants everyone to know “it’s not based on a conspiracy theory.”  

In broad strokes, the Gateway Pundit story on ERIC — the Electronic Registration Information Center — asserts falsely that the organization is  a front for lefty voter fraud funded by George Soros. That’s easily disproved. ERIC serves and is funded and overseen by its 30 member states, and employs a staff of three people. Those members are not “mostly blue states” as Gateway suggests, but a nearly even split. Soros has never given ERIC any funding.

Ardoin made the call unilaterally to suspend participation in ERIC on Jan. 27, saying in a press release the decision was made “amid concerns raised by citizens, government watchdog organizations and media reports.” The only media report was Gateway Pundit’s article. Tobler wouldn’t say who the watchdog organizations were, and I have seen no other public concerns expressed from watchdog groups about ERIC’s security or funding. 

Ardoin had all of the tools at his disposal to fact check the Gateway Pundit article and the resulting stream of misinformed public complaints. ERIC’s bylaws say specifically that no non-member states are given access to the data, and also address how the organization is funded. Ardoin, I assume, has read the bylaws: The state enrolled in ERIC in 2014, while Ardoin was serving as first assistant secretary of state. And even if he hasn’t, Louisiana’s current commissioner of elections, Sherri Hadskey, serves on ERIC’s board, and her predecessor served as ERIC’s chair…

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How to guarantee the right to cast a ballot?

I have seen a lot a skepticism lately about relying on courts to protect the equal right of eligible voters to participate in an election by casting a ballot and having it counted accurately. But unless Congress is going to exercise its constitutional power to create an entirely new federal bureau of election administration to run congressional elections (and states would willingly let this new federal bureau administer other elections, like gubernatorial and the popular vote to appoint presidential electors), what’s the alternative?

How can we tell if every eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot is meaningfully able to do so in a specific election (like the upcoming midterms)–and thus is not being denied their fundamental right to vote? First, assuming a state does not have same-day registration, the voter must have an adequate opportunity to register in advance. While same-day registration certainly makes access to the ballot easier, I would not argue that the absence of same-day registration is a denial of the right to vote, as long as the state provides its eligible citizens with a genuine opportunity to register in advance. If state officials failed to do that, in violation of existing federal law, it would be necessary to turn to the courts to enforce that right. (And even if federal law were to require same-day registration nationwide, it would be necessary to rely on federal-court enforcement of that right in the event of noncompliance, deliberate or otherwise, by state and local election officials.)

Assuming eligible citizens have a meaningful opportunity to register in advance, what about their opportunity to cast a ballot? The essential role of provisional ballots, as required by HAVA, should not be overlooked in this respect. All voters who believe themselves to be registered have an existing federal-law right to cast a provisional ballot. I worry about long lines at the polls as a practical obstacle to voters wishing to cast a ballot, including a provisional one if necessary, but voters who want to make sure they are not denied their right to vote must insist that they cast at least a provisional ballot and refuse to leave their polling place without being able to do so. If state and local officials fail to comply with this existing federal-law obligation to give a provisional ballot to all voters who request one, it would be necessary to go to court seeking an emergency TRO to make sure these provisional ballots get into voters hands while they remain waiting in line.

Compliance with the existing federal-law obligation to give voters provisional ballots is especially important in a presidential election for this reason: if voters who want to cast a ballot but who are denied the opportunity to cast one and leave their polling places without casting one, there is no possibility of a do-over after Election Day has passed, at least not under existing federal law. Why? Because if the claim is that a state’s popular vote in a presidential election is fundamentally defective because there were a group of voters (say, for example, many in Atlanta) who were denied their right to cast a provisional ballot, then the popular-vote election for the purpose of appointing the state’s electors will have “failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law” under 3 U.S.C. 2, thereby giving the state’s legislature the right to choose an alternative method of appointing electors (including direct appointment by the legislature itself).

Thus, as we contemplate the possibility of partisan state and local election officials (along with partisan state legislatures) attempting to engineer electoral outcomes in contravention to free and fair elections, including by denying eligible citizens the right to cast a ballot, we ultimately must rely on courts to uphold the law that guarantees the right to cast a ballot. Above all, this includes the key provisions of the federal Help America Vote Act that insist that no voter be turned away from the polls without having a chance to cast a provisional ballot, which must eventually be counted if indeed the voter was registered and eligible to participate in the election as the voter believed. I’m afraid that, as we think about how to safeguard democracy from the very real dangers that exist, we are neglecting the need to remain vigilant about the judicial protection, if necessary, of the essential right to cast a provisional ballot.

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“One Year After Executive Order Restored Voting Rights To Iowans With Felony Convictions, Most Haven’t Registered To Vote”

Katarina Sostaric at Iowa Public Radio:

One year after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring voting rights to an estimated 35,000 to 45,000 Iowans with past felony convictions, about 5,000 of the newly eligible individuals have registered to vote. Voting rights advocates say the state should put more effort into reaching people to let them know they can vote.

A report from The Marshall Project in June put the number of registered voters at 5,000, and the Iowa Secretary of State’s office told IPR 4,127 people had registered as of January 29. Iowa SOS spokesperson Kevin Hall told IPR it would cost $160 to provide a more recent number.

According to Hall, 3,179 of these newly eligible voters voted in the 2020 election.

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“As Kansas district attorney refuses to enforce election law, voter groups won’t resume registration drives”

Topeka Capital-Journal:

Voter advocates won’t resume registration drives in Kansas, despite the Douglas County district attorney’s refusal to enforce a new election law.

Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez, a Democrat, announced last week that her office won’t prosecute people who violate HB 2183.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Valdez said in a news release. “This law criminalizes essential efforts by trusted nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters to engage Kansans on participation in accessible, accountable and fair elections. It is too vague and too broad and threatens to create felons out of dedicated defenders of democracy.”

Valdez’s decision comes ahead of Tuesday’s primary elections.

However, the League of Women Voters of Kansas won’t be restarting its voter registration drives.

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Panic setting in over new voting rules

Politico reports on the fear among Democrats and voting rights activists that getting out the vote (GOTV) will be much harder in light of the new more restrictive voting laws being adopted in states like Georgia. The article is useful because it helps explain the intensity of the opposition to these laws. And without getting into a discussion here about how unjustified (or not) these new laws are from a policy perspective, it is worth noting an analytical distinction that often gets elided in the coverage of these laws: cutbacks in voting opportunities that are retrogressive, and thus are an impediment relatively speaking to GOTV efforts, are not necessarily voter “suppression” in the strict sense of disenfranchisement (i.e., a barrier to casting a ballot and thus participating in the election). If voters have a genuine opportunity to participate but choose to abstain, they aren’t being denied the right to vote. This is true even if voter turnout efforts on the left fail to reach their target goals, or even past turnout levels. To be sure, these laws may be cynically motivated by a partisan realization that turnout rates are variable, depending on how convenient voting is; if it is less convenient, some marginal voters may not bother to cast a ballot, even though they actually have an opportunity to do so. It is certainly appropriate to condemn that kind of cynical partisanship, since it is a form of bad faith and contrary to the ideal of structuring the rules of electoral participation in the public interest (based on a nonpartisan assessment of the overall relevant policy considerations). Even so, discussion of this topic (at least in my view) ought to be careful to use terminology that recognizes the distinction between new laws that hinder participation compared to new laws that deny participation. Often, it seems that the phrase “voter suppression” or similar language is employed to make the former seem more like the latter, or at least to lump the two categories together.

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DNC to Spend $25 Million on Voter Outreach and Litigation

NYT:

Facing an onslaught of state-level ballot restrictions and gridlock in Congress over voting rights legislation, the White House detailed a multimillion-dollar plan on Thursday to register voters and fight voter suppression.

In a speech at Howard University, Vice President Kamala Harris said the Democratic National Committee would invest $25 million in voter outreach and litigation.

… The $25 million investment is in addition to $20 million that Jaime R. Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, pledged would be spent before the 2022 midterm elections.

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Ninth Circuit Panel Rejects Extension of Arizona Voter Registration Deadline But Will Allow Voters Who Registered Past The Deadline to Keep Their Registration; Judge Bybee Would Have Rejected Those Registrations

Opinion. [corrected link]

The majority panel is made up of two Democratic-appointed judges; Judge Bybee is a Bush appointee.

I was shocked when this remedy was granted on the eve of the registration deadline, and given the signals sent from the Supreme Court this is as I expected.

It is possible there could be further litigation to roll back the registrations of those who voted after the original deadline, but it is not clear that anyone with standing on the issue will want to appeal.

I liked this line about Purcell in the majority opinion:

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Federal District Court, While Excoriating Florida for Its Incompetence, Won’t Extend Registration Deadline After Last-Day System Crash

The court found that the burden on the state in keeping the system going outweighed the risk of disenfranchisement. The court’s order concludes:

The state could have extended the registration deadline until midnight on October 6th, which would have given these potential voters a fighting chance. Instead, the state chose to notify the public during a normal workday and gave them only seven hours to somehow become apprised of their rights and register, all while also participating in their normal workday, school, family, and caregiving responsibilities. One would expect the state to make it easier for its citizens to vote.
Unfortunately for these potential voters, this Court cannot remedy what the state broke under these circumstances. This Court must consider the consequencesof extending voter registration deadline. Having done so, the motion for preliminary injunction, ECF No. 3, is DENIED.
In so ruling, this Court notes that every man who has stepped foot on the Moon launched from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. Yet, Florida has failed to figure out how to run an election properly—a task simpler than rocket science.

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“Florida extends voter registration deadline after website failure”

Politico:

Florida extended the deadline for voter registration after the state’s online portal crashed under the weight of heavy traffic hours before the Oct. 5 deadline.

Registration will be open for an additional seven hours, from noon to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in a written statement.

The move should short-circuit a lawsuit that civil rights and voting groups were preparing to file early Tuesday.

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“Florida voter registration system crashes on last day for filing”

Politico:

Florida’s online voter portal crashed on the final day of registration, prompting Democrats to accuse Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican state officials of trying to suppress the vote less than a month before Election Day.

Details: Secretary of State Laurel Leesaid the site went down briefly Monday. The portal appeared to continue with problems and in the early evening was down again or moving slowly, possibly overwhelmed by people trying to access it.

Lee, in a text on Monday evening, said her office thought it had handled the crash “right away”, but was “working now to see if there’s an ongoing problem.”

Floridians who want to vote in the November election have until 12 a.m. Tuesday to register, and Republicans and Democrats had mounted campaigns to urge people to sign up. With President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden on the ballot, turnout is expected to be high in the battleground state.

Democrats were suspicious of the timing of the crash, noting the system has had problems in the past when demand is high.

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