“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.”
September 28, 2021
Democrats Unveil New Freedom to Vote Act
Last week, Senate Democrats unveiled their new compromise voting rights bill, the Freedom to Vote Act. Its primary focus? A national standard for how states conduct federal elections. If Democrats can get it passed, it would prevent the raft of new voter suppression laws recently passed in Republican-controlled states.
The proposed legislation, however, is not the same as the original For the People Act (S.1). It includes a voter ID provision, but it also includes much needed reforms such as federal protections to insulate election officials from undue partisan interference and intimidation. An excellent rundown of the bill and its chances of passage can be found at Marc Elias’s Democracy Docket at https://bit.ly/3lNL4oA.
Looking for a deeper dive? Voting Rights Lab has broken down the proposed law into how the Act might affect the national and 2021 state legislative landscapes regarding early voting, mail voting, cure process for vote-by-mail, hurdles to vote-by-mail, voter ID, online voter registration, same day voter registration, and automatic voter registration. (https://bit.ly/2XRpDuX)
Electoral Count Act Needs Immediate Reform
Massive changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act are needed immediately to prevent what one expert calls a potential “respectable bloodless coup” from happening in the future.
That’s the takeaway from information in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book Peril and a new paper by noted election law scholar Richard L. Hasen, entitled “Identifying and Minimizing the Risk of Election Subversion and Stolen Elections in the Contemporary United States.”
It was weak language in the Electoral Count Act, according to documents revealed in Woodward and Costa’s book, that apparently laid the basis for the White House to attempt to prevent the House from certifying Joe Biden’s election.
For instance, the Act doesn’t actually state that the vice-president’s role is purely ceremonial. That lack of clarity apparently led the White House to state that Vice-President Pence could discount not only sham lists of electors submitted by some states, but also the officially certified electors from those states. Counting just the remaining electors, the thinking went, would hand Trump the election. This, according to the Washington Post, was one of the goals of the January 6 insurrection. (https://wapo.st/3CsImeM)
Nothing on this scale has happened in the last 50 years, claims Hasen, but the constant drumbeat about voter “fraud” and a stolen election have made subversion of a future election all too possible.
His solutions? Paper ballot, chain-of-custody, and transparency requirements, including risk-limiting audits of election results; rules limiting the discretion of those who certify the votes; penalties for committing violence or intimidation of voters and elected officials; and rules to counter election disinformation campaigns, including false information on when, where, and how people can vote. (https://bit.ly/39nxnXN)
Election Officials Urge Inclusion of Election Security Funding in Budget Reconciliation Bill
Fourteen top Democratic state election officials are urging Congress to include $20 billion in election security money in the upcoming massive budget reconciliation bill.
Led by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who is also chairperson of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, the officials sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer explaining the need to fund better physical security protections for polling places and poll workers, especially in the face of continuing physical and verbal attacks. They are also asking for improved cyber protections and equipment upgrades.
There has been no big boost in election security funding since the 2000 disputed election. Attempts last year to increase that funding yielded only $1 billion, a quarter of what was asked for. (https://wapo.st/3AySwdp)
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is endorsing candidates who back his election lies for election-official positions, from secretary of state on down. Says Griswold, “If anti-democratic’ candidates are elected, you could imagine a secretary of state refusing to certify election results.” (https://bit.ly/2XyEoCl)
Legal Defense Committee Formed to Aid Harassed Election Workers
Two lawyers with deep ties to both the Democratic and Republican establishments have joined forces to create the Election Official Legal Defense Network to provide legal support to any elected or volunteer election worker facing harassment or intimidation.
Benjamin L. Ginsburg, a top GOP lawyer for 38 years, and Bob Bauer, a Democratic Party lawyer and former White House counsel in the Obama administration, started the network because “such attacks on people overseeing the counting and casting of ballots on an independent, nonpartisan basis are destructive to our democracy.”
The network pledges free legal services to anyone involved in the voting process, whether elected or volunteer. As reported previously in the Voting Rights Gazette, surveys show that over one third of election workers say they feel unsafe in their jobs. (https://bit.ly/3zAfQGr).
This Week’s Good News on the Voting Rights Front
Good news from California, Arizona, Nebraska, and Virginia!
In California, AB37 mandates that voters in all counties receive a mailed ballot for all elections. The bill also provides the ability to track the ballot and allows election officials to start processing mail-in ballots early. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. (https://bit.ly/2XUP1Qv)
In Arizona, activists are gathering signatures to challenge the state’s recently passed SB1485, which ended the permanent early voter list, and to challenge provisions in the state’s budget appropriations bill that stripped election authority from the Secretary of State. (https://bit.ly/2XUP1Qv)
Nebraska has introduced a prison gerrymandering reform bill, LB15, that would require that those incarcerated in Nebraska prisons be counted for redistricting purposes as residents of the community they lived in previous to incarceration. Currently, they are counted in the community where the prison is located. And last Wednesday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld that state’s similar law to count the incarcerated as living at their last known address for redistricting purposes. Republicans claimed the law would “dilute the power of Republicans in rural Virginia.” (https://bit.ly/3hZELgL, https://bit.ly/3ABPAfX).
Curious where redistricting stands elsewhere in the country? Head to this article from the New York Times for information on redistricting in 14 states and how power may shift in those states! (https://nyti.ms/2W45KQi)