Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Voting Rights Gazette. We hope to educate, engage and activate during a time that our democracy faces nationwide voter suppression. Our goal is to read the plethora of articles being written about voting, and then synthesize and summarize them for your review. Your feedback is appreciated..—Voting Rights Gazette editors
“Your place for all the information you need about voting rights,
voter suppression, and voting trends to prepare you to fight in the 2022 election.”
July 29, 2021
“Trench Warfare” the Political Forecast for the Next Few Years
The Pew Research Center recently released its Validated Voters survey, which surveyed adults who definitely voted in November based on voting records. The overall takeaway: we should brace for more years of what the survey called “trench warfare between two coalitions that are becoming more and more inimical in both their demographic composition and vision of America.”
Among the findings: GOP constituencies are shrinking, but the party’s hold over them is tightening, and voters of color may be less of a block than we think. Most interesting: Millenials and Gen Z cast almost 30% of votes, and three-fifths were for Democrats. For the whole deep-dive into last November’s votes, go to https://bit.ly/3zrjfaZ.
Ohio Bans Voter Education Efforts
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has just signed a bill banning the Ohio secretary of state from conducting voter education efforts, including collaborative efforts the secretary of state ran with businesses, such as breweries and barber shops. The secretary of state, a Republican, says he plans to continue to run these programs, “and if somebody wants to challenge my ability to do that, well then I guess we’ll see them in court.”
You can read about it here: https://bit.ly/3rDuFpn.
…but make one mistake, and you’re a felon?
Some Voter Suppression Laws Causing Alarming Exodus of Election Officials
What’s the newest threat facing the 2022 election? It’s not legislatures giving themselves the power to overturn their states’ vote —it’s the raft of laws that seek to criminalize even tiny mistakes by local election officials.
In Iowa, for example, a new law would impose fines and criminal penalties on election officials for errors such as failing to seek approval for overtime pay for election judges. In Ohio, already one in four directors or deputy auditors of elections have quit, and in Pennsylvania, 21 directors or deputies have left or plan to leave before 2022.
And in Alaska, a group of Anchorage GOP members harassed and doxxed election workers in a mayoral runoff election in May. “The observers grew openly hostile…Emailed threats poured in, with one announcing that election officials ‘should be publicly executed.” (https://wapo.st/3is3SIo)
Says Indivisible Illinois’ leader on Voters’ Rights and Protection Rose Colacino, “The threat to our elections may not come just from voter suppression laws. If people are too scared to volunteer to be election judges or poll watchers, how will we be able to even hold a free and fair election in the first place?”
Voter Verification in an All Vote-by-Mail Environment
The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs held a webinar on July 8 on the controversial topic of voter identity verification, specifically in an all-vote-by-mail environment.
Focusing on two counties in Oregon, one urban and one rural, the webinar looked into the methods used to verify ballots and signatures, and what to do about those whose signatures are hard to verify or who cannot provide a signature at all. Oregon uses primarily vote-by-mail, making it a good subject for the study.
Oregon relies heavily on information gathered from their DMV and other databases, including for signature verification. Thanks to multiple validation processes that move through different teams at different levels, the state has experienced a low incidence of fraud. Ballot rejection only happens with involvement of very experienced managers
However, as society moves away from requiring paper signatures, the quality of signatures has dropped over time, particularly for younger voters who may not yet have a stable signature.
What is needed, said the presenters, is an identity validation system that is relevant to them, such as a two-factor authentication system. In addition, as more young voters enter the voting arena, a method other than the postal service is required when there is occasion to notify voters if there are problems verifying their ballots.
A similar problem is faced by disabled voters who may be physically incapable of supplying a signature. Whatever alternative is found for these voters should be made available to all voters, said the presenters.
Their proposed solution: opt-in alternatives to signatures that are currently used in the commercial market and two-factor authentication for ballots. This, they say, will expand voter access for everyone.
Despite these issues, the presenters noted that the current signature-verification protocols work for most voters and administrators. In fact, voters who were contacted because of problem ballots were surprised (and pleased) to find that someone really was checking signatures.
You can read a more detailed report and watch the webinar at this link: LINK.
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