Category Archives: voter registration

A two-track election administration complication for non-citizen voting in the District of Columbia

In the fall of 2022, the District of Columbia enacted a law that permitted residents who were not United States citizens to vote in local elections. Local voting opportunities for non-citizens have been the source of some recent expansion and litigation, with many interesting questions about participation in democracy. And DC is no different. The House recently voted to disapprove of this law by a 260-162 vote, although its fate in the Senate and before the President is much less clear.

But I wanted to highlight a unique election administration challenge for DC. Federal law prohibits non-citizen voting in federal elections, including the selection of presidential electors and the delegate from the District of Columbia. The DC law doesn’t change that or challenge that. But DC is in a position that most localities aren’t when they administer elections for non-citizens in local elections. For this, let me highlight the testimony from the Executive Director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections, Monica Evans, last fall:

Continue reading A two-track election administration complication for non-citizen voting in the District of Columbia
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“Activists Flood Election Offices With Challenges”

New article by Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon at N.Y. Times describes how “false theories about election fraud” underly activists efforts to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls in many key battleground states.

Groups in Georgia have challenged at least 65,000 voter registrations across eight counties, claiming to have evidence that voters’ addresses were incorrect. In Michigan, an activist group tried to challenge 22,000 ballots from voters who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s August primary. And in Texas, residents sent in 116 affidavits challenging the eligibility of more than 6,000 voters in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is the state’s largest county.

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“Black Church Leaders in Georgia Intensify Their Voting Rights Push”


[A]fter Georgia Republicans passed an extensive law last year with a variety of balloting restrictions, Jackson and other Black faith leaders across the state worry that they need to do more to help Black Georgians exercise their right to vote.

So this week, more than a dozen of these faith leaders are starting Faith Works, a project with an initial budget of $2.6 million that will seek to organize voting operations across more than 1,000 churches in Georgia.

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Arizona Coalition Submits Signatures for Initiative to Expand Voter Registration and Early Voting


Citing efforts by Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature to restrict access to voting, a coalition of advocacy organizations, community groups and volunteers is attempting to drastically expand voting rights in the battleground state through a ballot initiative. On Thursday, the coalition gave state elections officials the signatures of more than 475,000 Arizonans who want to see the issue put to a vote in November.

The “Arizona Fair Elections Act” ballot initiative seeks to enact dozens of provisions to expand access to voting and lessen the possible influence of special interests on state lawmakers….

The initiative, among other things, would allow voter registration on Election Day; would ban purging of the Permanent Early Voting List for those who have previously not voted; would allow food and water to be given to people waiting in lines to vote; and would reverse current law to allow early ballots to be turned in by those who are not just family members or caregivers.

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DOJ Challenges AZ Voter Registration Law

From the press release:

The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the State of Arizona challenging voting restrictions imposed by House Bill 2492 (2022), a recently-enacted law set to take effect in January 2023. The United States’ complaint challenges provisions of House Bill 2492 under Section 6 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) and Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964….

The United States’ complaint contends that House Bill 2492 violates the NVRA by requiring that applicants produce documentary proof of citizenship before they can vote in presidential elections or vote by mail in any federal election when they register to vote using the uniform federal registration form created by the NVRA. This requirement flouts the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc., 570 U.S. 1 (2013), which rejected an earlier attempt by Arizona to impose a similar documentary proof of citizenship mandate on applicants seeking to vote in federal elections. The United States’ complaint also contends that House Bill 2492 violates Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act by requiring election officials to reject voter registration forms based on errors or omissions that are not material to establishing a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot. has this story, and the Hill this one.

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“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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