PFAW Releases New Toolkit on Getting Money Out and Voters In to Our Democracy

Americans today face twin threats to the integrity of our elections. The threats are multifaceted and formidable, involving all branches of government at the local, state and federal level – from legislative bodies, to governorships, to courthouses. The aims are clear:

  • Manipulate the campaign finance system to get "the right people" elected.
  • Manipulate the balloting process to make it harder for "the wrong people" to vote.

These measures must be confronted. But we also need long-term proactive and pro-democracy strategies of our own.

The “Money Out, Voters In” campaign embodies this long-term vision premised on the concept of political equality, of one person = one vote.

We believe in a democratic system where all Americans have equal access to the voting booth and where all Americans, regardless of wealth, can express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field.

Through A Guide to Democratic Reform, a new toolkit released today by People For the American Way, we provide the structural framework for enacting this vision. We do not have all the answers, nor could we. We must embrace an evolution of ideas, tactics, and legislative language to achieve our goals. Yet, as the local, state, and federal initiatives cited herein show, much of that work is already well-underway.

Click here for information about critical allies and other resources.

PFAW

Minnesotans Reject Voter ID

Earlier this year, the Minnesota state legislature passed SF 509, requiring photo ID at the polls. Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, but proponents led by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer managed to bypass him by pushing through a constitutional amendment version (HF 2738) and sending the voter ID question to voters. Efforts went forth to remove it from the ballot but the MN Supreme Court denied the challenge.

An aggressive “Vote No” movement was waged all the way up to Election Day. ACLU of Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action, Take Action MN, and Our Vote Our Future all campaigned and distributed information about the harmful and discriminatory nature of voter ID. The Minnesota League of Women Voters issued an excellent fact sheet that debunked the most common misleading claims regarding voter ID, and a popular “I Pledge to Vote NO” Facebook page got information out over social media networks. But organizations continued to grow weary as polls showed that voters were willing to approve the amendment all the way up to the week before Election Day.

But the campaign apparently worked – Minnesotans ended up opposing voter ID on Tuesday and the amendment failed 54.2% to 45.8%. Minnesotans do not need to fear having to present a photo ID to vote in future elections, and the question can largely be put to rest.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, conservative groups and legislators sought to restrict the right to vote and disenfranchise multiple groups of people. Minnesotans proved to want to preserve the right to vote for all.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Election Day Registration takes center stage in California

UPDATE: The California legislature has passedAB 1436 and sent the bill to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. Governor Brown has not publicly stated his position, but he has been supportive of voting rights in the past. Kathay Feng, California Common Cause: "Politicians in other states have been pushing new restrictive laws and campaigns to manipulate election results for their political gain. Governor Brown can take a stand for free and fair elections by signing Election Day Voter Registration into law." Assuming it becomes law, it will not take effect until 2015 when the state’s new voter registration database is expected to be certified.

With the right to vote under attack, it is refreshing to see positive electoral reform making its way from the east coast to the west.

In California, the Assembly-passed AB 1436 provides for Election Day Registration. Where current law requires voters to submit an affidavit at least 15 days prior to an election, the new proposal would allow voters the ability to register as late as Election Day. Ballots would be cast provisionally and counted upon verification of registration. It would take effect in 2016.

Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-42), the bill’s sponsor:

This bill helps assure all eligible Californians will have the chance to determine who speaks for them in Washington, Sacramento and their home towns. I’m pleased that the Assembly has recognized the importance of increasing voter turnout in our state.

While waiting for the Senate to take action, be sure to visit our friends over at Demos for more information.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Fight over voter ID heating up in Minnesota

8/6/2012: Voter ID supporters have accused Secretary of State Mark Ritchie of unlawfully altering the ballot measure’s title. In a Senate hearing about Ritchie’s actions, they claimed that the legislature has the exclusive right to draft ballot measures. However, a bipartisan group of law professors pointed out that the state constitution mandates that the Secretary "provide an appropriate title" for ballot questions. The Minnesota Supreme Court reviewed the issue in late July. A ruling is expected later this month.

7/26/2012:The Elections Committee of the Minneapolis City Council has released a report on the ballot measure. While it does not take a position for or against, it does highlight a lack of clarity and the substantial costs and administrative burdens of implementation. Oral arguments have been heard in the relevant litigation. A decision is expected soon, as state officials have said they need to begin preparing the ballots by late August. Meanwhile, grassroots groups like TakeAction Minnesota are fighting back against this attempt to suppress the vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota along with the League of Women Voters Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action, and five Minnesota voters have challenged an amendment to the Minnesota constitution (HF 2738, sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer) because it would confuse some voters into believing that prohibited forms of identification, such as student or company ID, would be accepted. The plaintiffs argue that the amendment is misleading and false because the ballot language references valid photo identification while the amendment uses the phrase government-issued.

With oral arguments in the case set for July 17, several prominent Minnesotans have joined the fray, including former Presidential candidate, Vice President, and US Senator Walter Mondale:

Minnesota has the best record of openness, of honesty, of voter participation, of any state in the union. This is a clean, solid, exemplary state. This constitutional amendment is designed to discourage voting.

And former Governor Arne Carlson:

"It comes from the Koch brothers,'' said Carlson, referring to David and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries and major funders of a number of conservative causes nationally.

"This is an outside force, coming to Minnesota, telling us how our Constitution ought to be designed," added Carlson.

Mondale and Carlson will help lead the Our Vote Our Future coalition against the ballot measure, which University of Minnesota student research has cautioned will fundamentally change the state’s election system.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Michigan Primary raises citizenship question

UPDATE: With the so-called Secure and Fair Elections package facing auncertain future, confusion is surely looming for Michigan’s August 7 federal primary election.The vetoed citizenship check box remains, but without legislative force behind it, as Secretary of State Ruth Johnson conceded, checking it remains optional. Left is the question of whether voters know their option or if elections officials will enforce the rule. Elsewhere military access to absentee ballots has been called into question by DOJ.

Are you a citizen? was the question posed by the Michigan Primary even before voters were asked to decide between President Obama or Santorum and Romney.

The question of citizenship is not new:

Under the Michigan Election Law, voters have to swear under oath they are an eligible voter — which includes U.S. citizenship — when they apply to vote and it is verified by the Secretary of State's or local clerks' offices when the application is processed.

What is new is the added step of asking it at the polls.

The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill, sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, which requires voters to affirmatively state their citizenship before receiving a ballot at the polls. The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Elections and Redistricting Committee. Critics say Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson appears to be implementing an election bill prior to it being signed into law.

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Booher paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005, 2007 and 2009 while a state representative.]

Katy Flanagan, Project Vote’s Director of Election Administration:

Secretary Johnson appears to be implementing an election bill that hasn’t even passed the House--much less been signed into law. The legislative process would be meaningless if politicians could just enforce the bills they like. Our goal is to ensure no eligible voter is turned away from the polls. To protect everyone’s right to vote, our election officials should be enforcing existing laws, not proposed legislation.

Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan, continues:

Requiring voters to affirm their citizenship, again, at the polls on Election Day and on absentee voter ballot applications is a solution in search of a problem. This new requirement will only confuse long-time voters who affirmed their citizenship when they registered to vote for the first time.

Simply put by Kyle Caldwell, CEO and President of the Michigan Nonprofit Association:

Our elections must be free from fraud and we can do it without creating redundant steps.

Serious concerns have been expressed over Secretary Johnson’s claim that existing authority authorizes this change. And over her claims of its benign application that appeared yesterday to be anything but benign.

Groups have received reports from voters in various precincts around the state who are surprised and angry about this unnecessary and burdensome requirement. Additionally, there are also reports of inconsistent application of this new requirement by election officials.

We’re left with the suspicion that this is yet another tactic that falls right in line with The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Fight over voter ID heating up in Minnesota

UPDATE: The Elections Committee of the Minneapolis City Council has released a report on the ballot measure. While it does not take a position for or against, it does highlight a lack of clarity and the substantial costs and administrative burdens of implementation. Oral arguments have been heard in the relevant litigation. A decision is expected soon, as state officials have said they need to begin preparing the ballots by late August. Meanwhile, grassroots groups like TakeAction Minnesota are fighting back against this attempt to suppress the vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota along with the League of Women Voters Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action, and five Minnesota voters have challenged an amendment to the Minnesota constitution (HF 2738, sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer) because it would confuse some voters into believing that prohibited forms of identification, such as student or company ID, would be accepted. The plaintiffs argue that the amendment is “misleading and false” because the ballot language references “valid photo identification” while the amendment uses the phrase “government-issued.”

With oral arguments in the case set for July 17, several prominent Minnesotans have joined the fray, including former Presidential candidate, Vice President, and US Senator Walter Mondale:

Minnesota has the best record of openness, of honesty, of voter participation, of any state in the union. This is a clean, solid, exemplary state. This constitutional amendment is designed to discourage voting.

And former Governor Arne Carlson:

"It comes from the Koch brothers,'' said Carlson, referring to David and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries and major funders of a number of conservative causes nationally.

"This is an outside force, coming to Minnesota, telling us how our Constitution ought to be designed," added Carlson.

Mondale and Carlson will help lead the Our Vote Our Future coalition against the ballot measure, which University of Minnesota student research has cautioned “will fundamentally change the state’s election system.”

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Veto pen put to paper in Michigan

UPDATE: Despite hopeful signs from Governor Rick Snyder’s office, the fight against voter suppression is far from over in Michigan. Senators Darwin Booher and David Robertson have introduced SB 1219, identical to the vetoed SB 803. The ballot coaching provision in HB 5061 was referred back to the House Committee on Redistricting and Elections. SB 754 is also likely to return.

In a move hailed by voting rights advocates, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder separated himself from his conservative allies last week when he vetoed HB 5061, SB 803, and SB 754, all part of a voter suppression package tied in part to ALEC.

Melanie McElroy, Common Cause Michigan, Executive Director:

Governor Snyder's veto pen should send a strong message to Lansing politicians that it's time to halt these voter suppression efforts once and for all.

Susan Smith, League of Women Voters of Michigan, President:

Fortunately, the governor saw that this was a bill that was not only unnecessary, but put up barriers, obstacles for certain parts of the population.

Diana Kasdan, the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, Counsel:

Gov. Snyder did the right thing by vetoing this restrictive bill, which would have been bad for Michigan voters and could have violated federal law. In the past two years, a wave of restrictive laws has passed across the country that could make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. These measures, like the one in Michigan, are bad policy and must be rejected. It is good Gov. Snyder recognized that fact.

Governor Snyder did, however, sign SB 751, which creates an inactive voter list whose absentee ballots are now required to be automatically challenged. The fate of HB 5221, another suppressive bill with ALEC ties, has yet to be determined.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Push for citizenship data goes viral

After granting Florida access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, the Department of Homeland Security has begun discussions with a growing number of states who’ve requested the same.

State election chiefs, including Texas Secretary of State Esperanza Andrade and New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, claim the SAVE database will help identify noncitizens, but it is not a complete list of citizens, and therefore not entirely reliable. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has even acknowledged that he doesn’t have any confirmed cases of voter fraud, yet has pressed DHS for data, and recently filed open-records requests with jails for lists of anyone held on an immigration detainer since 2010 and ran them against the state’s voter registration database.

The growing push for such information has left voting rights advocates worried that more Florida-like purges are on the horizon – a threat that could potentially leave thousands of eligible voters disenfranchised for November’s general election.

Elena Nuñez, Colorado Common Cause, Executive Director:

Particularly in Colorado, as a swing state in a hotly contested election, we should all be doing everything we can to encourage all eligible voters to register and participate. To have the chief elections officer putting out a message that he thinks that some people shouldn't be on the rolls creates this atmosphere that's unwelcoming.

Carlos Duarte, Mi Familia Vota Texas, Director:

This is happening so close to the election that the actual effect is going to be disenfranchising people who otherwise should be eligible to vote.

Viki Harrison, Common Cause New Mexico, Executive Director:

I think the real crisis in voting is that 50 percent of New Mexicans who are eligible to vote are not registered. And we’re worried about things like this?

For more information, click here, here, and here, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focusreport by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Good news for voting rights in Connecticut

UPDATE: Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed HB 5024 on May 31. Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii signed HB 1755 on July 5.

The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details the worst of the worst of the Right’s fight to suppress the vote. Many states have indeed taken up this fight with voter ID, proof of citizenship, and other suppressive legislation.

This weekend it was refreshing to see Connecticut buck that trend.

On May 5, by a 19-16 vote, the Connecticut Senate passed HB 5024, the same-day registration bill introduced by Representatives Christopher Donovan (D-84) and Brendan Sharkey (D-88) and Senators Donald Williams (D-29) and Martin Looney (D-11). It passed the House on April 30 by an 83-59 vote. Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to sign it into law.

Governor Malloy:

Despite the pervasive climate across the U.S. to restrict voting rights, Connecticut has moved in the opposite direction—one that ensures the integrity of our electoral process and fair, accessible elections.

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman:

These reforms allow more people to have their voices to be heard in a place where it truly matters – the voting booth . . . And I believe there is nothing more important than that.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill:

This common sense yet long overdue reform is something we have tried to implement in Connecticut for years, and now we have made history by moving elections in our state into the 21st Century.

Other voting rights supporters who cheered the news include Miles Rappaport, former Connecticut Secretary of State and current President of Demos, Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common Cause Connecticut, and others.

HB 5024 is also notable for its creation of online voter registration, an issue also before the Governor in Hawaii.

PFAW Foundation

Supreme Court declines to issue stay in Arizona voter ID case

Back in 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which required people in the state to produce proof of citizenship in order to vote and use public services. Two years later, PFAW Foundation joined voting rights supporters in filing suit against its voting-related provisions. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down the law’s requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship, but upheld its voter ID provisions. In April of this year, the full Ninth Circuit ruled the same.

Last week, the US Supreme Court refused to continue a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which had previously been granted by Justice Kennedy at the request of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Horne had sought to keep the citizenship provisions in place pending appeal.

Following the SCOTUS decision, Horne now contends that "Right now almost everybody uses the state form. We can’t ask for identification on the federal form, but we can on the state form." But Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling means that the proof of citizenship requirement should no longer be applied, regardless of which registration form is used. He noted, "In a presidential election year it’s particularly significant."

Even if the Supreme Court eventually agrees to hear Arizona’s appeal, any decision on the merits of the case would come down after Election Day. So the Ninth Circuit’s opinion goes into effect, and proof of citizenship will not be required in Arizona for the November election.

Also known as the Taxpayer Citizen Protection Act, Proposition 200 remains the ALEC model for voter ID and proof of citizenship nationwide. Compared side-by-side, you can see that the two measures are virtually identical.

For more information on ALEC in Arizona, check out the November 2011 report and the April 2012 update, co-authored by PFAW Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Media and Democracy, and Progress Now.

For more information on voting rights, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation