Saturday, June 12, 2021

State's Voting Rights Roundup

A Review of States's Voting Action:


New York: Democratic Legislators have Passed a Bill (S05160) that would apply Nonpartisan Redistricting Criteria to Local Governments in 23 Counties that have their own County Charters, opening up those Jurisdictions to Lawsuits if they Pass Maps that Don't comply with the Legislation. The Criteria Include: Requirements that Districts be Compact and that they "shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties."

If enacted into Law, the Bill could have an especially Large Impact on several Major Suburban Counties such as Nassau County on Long Island, where Republican Gerrymanders have given the GOP Control of the County Legislature even though Democrats frequently Win the County in Statewide or Countywide Races, Nassau hasn't Voted for a Republican for President since 1988. The Bill wouldn't apply to the State's 39 Non-Charter Counties, such as the Five that make up New York City, because almost All of these Jurisdictions already have Strict Rules governing Redistricting.


Illinois: As expected, Republicans have filed a Federal Lawsuit challenging Illinois Democrats' newly enacted Legislative Gerrymanders because they were drawn using Population Estimates instead of Data from the Census, which won't be released before August 2021, on September 30th 2021. Republicans contend that the Estimates are Insufficiently Accurate and therefore Violate the Orinciple of "One Person, One Vote" established by federal Court precedents. Latino Voter Advocates also filed a Separate Federal Lawsuit making a similar Claim. Democrats passed these Maps, last month, using Estimated Figures in order to Complete Legislative Redistricting ahead of a State Constitutionally Mandated June 30th Deadline. Had Lawmakers Failed to enact New Districts by then, Legislators would have had to cede Control over the Process to a Bipartisan Backup Commission with a 50-50 chance of having a GOP Tiebreaker who would let Republicans Pass their own Gerrymanders in this Blue State.

Redistricting Expert, Michael McDonald, has Theorized that Illinois Democrats, and Lawmakers from Both Parties in other States who are also contemplating using Population Estimates, are doing so with the Expectation that even if Courts later Strike Down those Maps, Legislators will still get the First Crack at Drawing Remedial Plans rather than letting a Court or a Backup Commission take over. If so, that could give Illinois Democrats a Chance to Revise their Gerrymanders with Official Census Data later this year.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Republican-controlled State House has Unanimously Passed a Bill that would let Officials in Dozens of Municipalities choose whether to Postpone District-based Local Elections set for this fall and Extend the Terms of Current Officeholders, in order to give those Localities more Time to Redraw their Electoral Districts due to Delays in receiving Census Data. The Bill would allow them to Delay those Elections so that they take place alongside the March 2022 State Primary, but the Change would Not apply to Future years.

The same House Bill would also Permanently Shift Local Elections in the Capital of Raleigh, which is the State's Second-Largest City, to take place in November of Even-Numbered years beginning in 2022 and coinciding with Federal Elections every Two years thereafter at the Request of City Officials. This change could see Turnout Increase considerably and make the Electorate more Demographically Representative of the eligible Voter Pool, and it would also Save Money on Eection Administration.

The GOP-Run State Senate had previously Passed a Version of the Bill with Unanimous Support several days earlier, but that Package didn't include the Change in Raleigh. A subsequent Vote on the Changes made by House Lawmakers will therefore be needed in the Senate before the Bill can go to Gov. Roy Cooper (D).


Colorado: Democrats have Passed a Bill in both Legislative Chambers that aims to Reform Recall Elections and Expand Voting Access, sending it to Gov. Jared Polis (D) for his Expected Signature. This Bill would Add New Requirements to Recall Elections with the intention of Preventing Republicans from trying to Abuse them to Win Races with Low Turnout. It would also Expand Voter Registration Opportunities through State Health Agencies and Colleges and Discourage placing Mail Ballot Drop Boxes at Law Enforcement Buildings to Avoid intimidating Voters.

Connecticut: Connecticut's Democratic-run Legislature Adjourned, on Wednesday, without the State House Passing a Major Voting Access Bill that the Senate had previously Adopted. Lawmakers are likely to Return for a Special Session later this year, but there's No Guarantee that this Legislation will be considered when they do. The Bill would have adopted Automatic Voter Registration at Multiple State Agencies, Ended the Disenfranchisement of People on Parole for Felony Convictions, Allowed Online Absentee Ballot Applications, and made Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes Permanent. State Senate Democrats also Failed to Pass a House-Approved Bill that would have Eased some Statutory Restrictions on Absentee Voting, such as Ending a Prohibition on People who are Caregivers for Sick or Disabled People to Vote Absentee.

Maine: Democratic Legislators have given Preliminary Approval largely along Party Lines to Three Bills in both Chambers that seek to Expand Voting Access. The First Bill would see Maine finally Adopt Online Voter Registration, which only a Handful of States still lack. The Second would establish a Permanent Absentee Voter List, letting Voters Opt-In to Automatically Receiving a Mail Ballot in All Future Elections, which I think is a Wrong Option. The Final Measure would allow Student IDs to be used for Voter Registration purposes.

Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has let Three Bills Expanding Voting Access that were Passed by Democratic Legislators become Law without his Signature:

- Create a Semi-Permanent Absentee Voting List whereby Voters who Opt-In will receive a Mail Ballot in all Future Elections without having to Request One each Election. I Disapproce. However, unlike other States with similar Permanent Absentee Ballot Lists, the Maryland Law will Remove Voters who don't Vote in Two Consecutive Election Cycles from the List, requiring them to Reapply if they want to get back onto the List. A little better.

- Strengthen Voting Access on College Campuses, Military Bases, Retirement Homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these will be able to Request an In-Person Voting Location, and Colleges will be Required to establish Voter Registration efforts on Campus and give Students an Excused Absence to Vote if needed. The Law will also let Military Service Members Register Online using their Identification Smart Cards issued by the Defense Department.

- Requires Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes inside Jails and Prisons for Incarcerated Individuals who remain Eligible to Vote. Additionally, it Requires that Prisoners be given Voter Registration Forms upon Release, since All Citizens with Felony Convictions Automatically Regain their Rights upon Release aside from those Sentenced for Buying or Selling Votes.

Massachusetts: As part of an Amended Spending Bill, State House Democrats have Passed Measures to Permanently Expand Early Voting and No-Excuse Mail Voting. The New Laws would also Require the State to Send Applications for Mail Ballots to All Active Registered Voters, as it did last year due to the Pandemic. Massachusetts has had Early Voting and No-Excuse Mail Voting for State-Level General Elections for several years though Not for Primaries, and Mail Voting was little-used before the Pandemic in 2020. This Bill would Extend both to All State Elections going forward beginning in 2022, including Primaries and some Local Elections.

New York: Democratic Legislators have Passed a Bill that would Expand Early Voting Hours and Locations during the Nine-Day Early Voting period. The Bill sets a Formula for Counties to determine how many Early Voting Locations they must have.

Counties with at least 500,000 Registered Voters would have to have One Early Voting Location for every 40,000 Registered Voters, while Counties with Fewer than 500,000 Registered Voters must have One for every 30,000 Registered Voters, with a Maximum of 10 Sites for Smaller Counties. Each County, regardless of Size, would also be Required to have an Early Voting Location in its Largest Municipality. It would also Expand Early Voting Hours from Five to Eight on Holidays and Weekends, and Allow Sites to stay Open until 8 PM on Weekends, currently they Close at 6 o'clock.

Democrats have Passed a Bill that would Allow Voters to Track the Status of their Absentee Ballots Online, with most Assembly Republicans supporting the Bill but most State Senate Republicans Opposing it. Democrats also Approved a separate Bill along Party Lines that would Require Election Officials to begin Processing Absentee Ballots shortly after they Teceive them, rather than Waiting several Days after Election Day, to begin doing so, as was the case in 2020, which led to Delays in determining the Winners of several Key Races.

Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott 9R) has Signed a Bill passed by the Democratic-run Legislature with Bipartisan Support to make Vermont the Seventh State to adopt Universal Mail Voting, although the New Law Only applies to General Elections. Officials Mailed every Active Registered Voter a Ballot, November 2020 due to the Pandemic, but this New Legislation makes that Change Permanent, In-Person Voting will remain Available. The Law also Requires that Voters be Notified and given a Chance to Fix purported Problems with their Mail Ballots such as a Signature supposedly Not Matching the One on File.


Colorado: Democratic Legislators have given their Final Approval to a Bill that would make it Easier for Local Governments to Adopt Instant-Runoff-Voting (IRV), also called Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), for Local Elections by Providing State Support for Administering its Use. Cities already have the Option to use IRV, but this Bill would Remove remaining Hurdles to help Facilitate the Transition. The Bill now goes to Gov. Jared Polis (D), who is likely to Sign It.

Wyoming: Republicans in a Legislative Committee Voted to consider Two Bills that would Alternately Adopt Instant-Runoff-Voting (IRV) or a Top-Two Primary, in place of the Current Party Primaries. Wyoming currently requires only a Plurality to Win a Party's Primary.

Hardline Republicans are Worried that having Too Many Challengers to Rep. Liz Cheney (R) over her Vote to Impeach Trump will Split the Vote and allow her to Win Re-Nomination next year, with a Plurality, and are trying to Change the Electoral System. However, even if the GOP ultimately adopts any Electoral Reforms, it's doubtful whether there would be time to Implement the Change for this upcoming Election cycle. A previous Plan to Implement Runoffs ran aground earlier this year, in part for this Reason.

Furthermore, even if Republicans adopt a System like California's Top-Two Primaries, a Cheney Defeat is by no means Guaranteed, since she could then try to Win a General Election by joining together Moderate Republicans and Democrats if she were to Face-Off against a fellow Republican.


Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has Signed a Bill that will require Nevada Governors to fill U.S. Senate Vacancies with a Replacement Appointee who belongs to the Same Party as the previous Senator. However, while most other States that have Adopted a similar Same-Party Requirement have Structured it so that the Governor is Limited to Picking an Appointee from a List submitted by the Departing Senator's party, this New Nevada Law makes No mention of such a List and appears to give the Governor Wide Latitude over Selecting an Appointee.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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