It's Been a Pretty Great 36 Hours for Voting Rights Advocates

Hawaii update: HB 2590 still has to be signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie in order for it to become law. Voting rights advocates believe that he will approve the measure but will be working through the next week to ensure that he does.

PFAW has been keeping you informed about what has gone right for voting rights at the state level in 2014. In the last 36 hours alone, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have added new entries to the "win" column.

Thanks to the passage of HB 2590, Hawaii will likely have same-day registration for early voting in 2016 and add it for Election Day in 2018.

The measure (HB 2590) aims to encourage voting in a state where turnout is often dismal. Once the nation’s highest, Hawaii’s voter turnout cratered at 44.5 percent, the nation’s lowest, in the 2012 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

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“It’s about making elections relevant to the modern world,” Rep. Kaniela Ing, D-Kihei, Wailea, Makena, the bill’s introducer, said in a statement. “Today’s policy decisions will impact young people for decades to come, and it doesn’t make sense to exclude them because of arbitrary registration deadlines based on technological limitations that no longer exist.”

Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said in written testimony supporting the measure that any qualified person who wants to vote should be able to register and vote.

In Minnesota, after the online voter registration system launched by Sectary of State Mark Ritchie was forced to shut down, legislators acted quickly, and Governor Mark Dayton signed into law its replacement.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota Legislature’s revival of online voter registration on Tuesday, just one day after a judge had ordered the system shut down, ruling that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie overstepped his authority in creating it last year.

“I am very pleased that this bill passed with bipartisan support in both bodies, and I look forward to signing it into law today,” Dayton said in a statement, soon after the Minnesota Senate gave the measure final approval.

The quick action means that Minnesotans’ access to Web-based voter registration, which more than 3,600 voters have used since September, will continue unimpeded. With Dayton’s signature, Minnesota officially joins about half of the states in offering some form of voter registration online.

In Wisconsin, US District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled against the state's voter ID law, saying that "it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."

From the American Civil Liberties Union:

"This law had robbed many Wisconsin citizens of their right to vote. Today, the court made it clear those discriminatory actions cannot stand," said Karyn Rotker, ACLU of Wisconsin senior staff attorney.

"This is a warning to other states that are trying to make it harder for citizens to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This decision put them on notice that they can't tamper with citizens' fundamental right to cast a ballot. The people, and our democracy, deserve and demand better."

We can win, and let's not forget that.

Check out PFAW’s website for more voting rights updates.

PFAW

Minnesota Safe Schools Bill Becomes Law

Amid last week's activity surrounding the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's Day of Silence and the PFAW-led safe schools letter campaign came a state success for the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying an harassment. In the wee hours of April 9, the Minnesota House of Representatives took the final vote on the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. That afternoon Governor Mark Dayton signed it into law.

PFAW activists proudly joined OutFront Minnesota and the Safe Schools for All Coalition in supporting the bill as it moved to the Governor's desk.

PFAW will continue to stand up for safe schools.

We have released a policy toolkit designed to help activists understand and address the problem head-on. We hope that you'll use it to continue your own work on this important issue.

We also hope that you'll check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

Then visit our website and Right Wing Watch for more LGBT equality updates.

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: Minnesota fighting the voting rights battle on multiple fronts

UPDATE: Federal District Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit against Election Day voter registration brought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, affirming its constitutionality. Secretary Ritchie praised the decision, saying "Minnesota’s same-day voter registration serves as a model for our nation and, in part, accounts for our consistent top ranking in voter participation among all states." This ruling is a victory for voting rights, but the fate of Election Day registration is now in the hands of Minnesotans, who will vote on a constitutional amendment this November that would effectively eliminate it. For updates on all aspects of the fight over voting rights in Minnesota, click here.

3/22/2012: After more than 9 hours of floor debate, at just after 2 am yesterday, the Minnesota House passed its version of the voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738), sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer. The Senate moved on its version earlier this month, and now a floor vote appears imminent. Once both chambers agree, rules state that the question will bypass Governor Mark Dayton and go to the voters in November.

Minnesota is currently fighting voting rights battles on multiple fronts, including voter ID and same-day registration.

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed SF 509, legislation requiring photo ID. Following Governor Dayton’s veto, supporters vowed to carry on. Now a voter ID constitutional amendment (SF 1577) is making its way through the Senate. Yesterday it passed the Finance Committee and will next go to the Rules Committee.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a [party-line] vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has suggested a possible compromise:

The proposed legislative fix of state election law would incorporate "electronic poll books," technology that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card.

Ritchie, a Democrat, appeared recently before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the benefits of the system, which would allow election officials to look up existing drivers' license photos or to take new photos of each voter up at the polling place.

"It doesn't disrupt absentee voting, or voting by service personnel overseas," he said. "It doesn't disrupt our voter registration system, our same-day registration system. It doesn't disenfranchise anybody."

Though its traction is yet unclear.

Republicans in the House and Senate passed a voter ID requirement last year, but Dayton vetoed it. State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, a sponsor of last year's bill, said he has been working with the governor and the secretary of state this session on an updated version. Howe said electronic poll books would help achieve the goal of proper voter identification.

"I can't speak to whether this does anything on the constitutional amendment for photo ID," Howe said. "But I can tell you that I personally, along with many of my colleagues, want to see things done as much as we can legislatively."

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Howe is an ALEC member.]

In other news, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, joined by the Minnesota Freedom Council and Representative Sondra Erickson (another ALEC member), has filed a lawsuit that could greatly impact the state’s same-day registration system. The plaintiffs contend that same-day registrants should face the same eligibility checks faced by advance registrants, and their votes should not be counted until their eligibility is verified.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. The fact is that same-day registration increases voter turnout and is good for democracy.

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: Minnesota fighting the voting rights battle on multiple fronts

UPDATE: After more than 9 hours of floor debate, at just after 2 am yesterday, the Minnesota House passed its version of the voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738), sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer. The Senate moved on its version earlier this month, and now a floor vote appears imminent. Once both chambers agree, rules state that the question will bypass Governor Mark Dayton and go to the voters in November.

Minnesota is currently fighting voting rights battles on multiple fronts, including voter ID and same-day registration.

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed SF 509, legislation requiring photo ID. Following Governor Dayton’s veto, supporters vowed to carry on. Now a voter ID constitutional amendment (SF 1577) is making its way through the Senate. Yesterday it passed the Finance Committee and will next go to the Rules Committee.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a [party-line] vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has suggested a possible compromise:

The proposed legislative fix of state election law would incorporate "electronic poll books," technology that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card.

Ritchie, a Democrat, appeared recently before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the benefits of the system, which would allow election officials to look up existing drivers' license photos or to take new photos of each voter up at the polling place.

"It doesn't disrupt absentee voting, or voting by service personnel overseas," he said. "It doesn't disrupt our voter registration system, our same-day registration system. It doesn't disenfranchise anybody."

Though its traction is yet unclear.

Republicans in the House and Senate passed a voter ID requirement last year, but Dayton vetoed it. State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, a sponsor of last year's bill, said he has been working with the governor and the secretary of state this session on an updated version. Howe said electronic poll books would help achieve the goal of proper voter identification.

"I can't speak to whether this does anything on the constitutional amendment for photo ID," Howe said. "But I can tell you that I personally, along with many of my colleagues, want to see things done as much as we can legislatively."

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Howe is an ALEC member.]

In other news, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, joined by the Minnesota Freedom Council and Representative Sondra Erickson (another ALEC member), has filed a lawsuit that could greatly impact the state’s same-day registration system. The plaintiffs contend that same-day registrants should face the same eligibility checks faced by advance registrants, and their votes should not be counted until their eligibility is verified.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. The fact is that same-day registration increases voter turnout and is good for democracy.

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