Category Archives: Elections

The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters in the 2014 General Election

Source: Jody L. Herman, Williams Institute, September 2014

From the abstract:
Ten states’ strict voter ID laws may create substantial barriers to voting and possible disenfranchisement for transgender voters in the November 2014 general election. Of the estimated 84,000 transgender people eligible to vote in these states, more than 24,000 individuals who have transitioned have no identification or record that accurately reflect their gender. Transgender people of color, youth, students, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities are likely overrepresented in this group.
Press Release

States Aim To Improve Voter Turnout

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, The Canvass, Issue 51, August 2014

The August 2014 edition of The Canvass features an article about voter turnout and the efforts by some states to increase participation in elections, a story that highlights state recount policies, interviews with a legislator and elections administrator and other elections-related news from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Dispatches from Freedom Summer

Source: ProPublica, 2014

A variety of voices revisit the events and lessons of Mississippi’s long hot summer of 1964.

Articles include:
Long a Force for Progress, a Freedom Summer Legend Looks Back by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Georgia Congressman John Lewis talks about what changed — and didn’t — because of the movement he helped to lead 50 years ago.

Interview With Civil Rights Legend John Lewis: Audio by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Listen to Nikole Hannah-Jones interview barrier-breaking Freedom Rider and longtime congressman John Lewis.

In His Professional Twilight, a Son of Mississippi Considers His Legacy on Race by Joe Sexton
Former federal judge Charles W. Pickering wants his life of accomplishment and controversy to have been a contribution to his state’s racial healing.

When Freedom Summer Landed in White America’s Living Rooms by Seth Wessler
An iconic civil rights print hung in one rural Maine home and helped shape a family’s commitment to justice.

A Brutal Loss, but an Enduring Conviction
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Rita Bender, 22 when her husband Michael Schwerner was killed by the Klan in Mississippi in 1964, says challenges remain in the fight for racial justice.

Ghosts of Greenwood by Nikole Hannah-Jones (audio) (photos)
A reporter goes to Mississippi and encounters the echoes of family and the struggle for civil rights.

Party of Lincoln Takes Aim at Black Voters – Georgia GOP rewrites laws to hedge against growing minority strength

Source: Lou Dubose, Washington Spectator, September 1, 2014

… In a state where African Americans make up 31 percent of the population, Democratic candidates, particularly those running for statewide office, are not competitive without the black vote. In any close election, African-American turnout determines which candidate prevails. … In November, Georgia’s restrictive ballot-access laws will get their first real test. … After Republicans won control of both houses of the General Assembly in 2004, they resorted to race as the primary criterion in drawing the congressional, legislative and even county commissioners’ districts, frequently “pairing” Democratic incumbents to force them to run against each other. They packed blacks into racially homogeneous districts and subdivided, where they could, those communities where whites and African Americans had built biracial coalitions of voters….

Growing Use of State Ballot Initiatives for Political Change

Source: Diane Rehm Show, August 27, 2014

Ballot initiatives have been in use since the early 1900s: Oregon was the first state to allow citizens to put laws on the ballot. This November, more than 100 ballot initiatives will face voters in 41 states. Issues on the ballot include minimum wage, medical marijuana and gun control. These measures have attracted more than $1 billion in campaign spending this year alone. As both parties use ballot measures to increase voter turnout, corporations are writing initiatives in some of the most expensive races in the nation. Diane and guests discuss the rise in ballot initiatives, who’s funding them and what they mean for the American political process.
∙ Reid Wilson – staff writer, The Washington Post
∙ Norman Ornstein – resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute
∙ Josh Levin – vice president of programs, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
∙ Susan MacManus – distinguished professor of political science, University of South Florida

Related Links:
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

Ballot Initiatives Become Pricey Playgrounds for Corporations and Political Parties
Source: Reid Wilson and Niraj Chokshi, Washington Post, Gov Beat blog, August 27, 2014

How Do Proof-of-Citizenship Laws Block Legitimate Voters?

Source: Stuart Naifeh, Dēmos, August 25, 2014

From the summary:
… These states insist that requiring such evidence is necessary to ensure that non-citizens do not fraudulently register to vote—something that occurs extremely rarely, if at all. In fact, these laws prevent numerous eligible voters from registering simply because they do not have an acceptable document showing their U.S. citizenship. At the same time, documentary proof-of-citizenship requirements do no more to prevent voter registration fraud by non-citizens than the threat of criminal prosecution and deportation has done ever since states began registering voters. Preventing legitimate voters from participating in our democracy is an unacceptable price to pay for stopping at most a tiny number of fraudulent voter registrations…. States that require documentary proof-of-citizenship vary in what kinds of documents they will accept. Unfortunately, although the laws on first read appear to permit a wide variety of documents to be accepted, the reality is that many of the acceptable documents either don’t exist or are not obtainable for many individuals. Both Kansas and Arizona, for example, claim to accept a driver’s license or identification card issued by another state if the document indicates on its face whether the applicant is a citizen. Since no state—including Kansas and Arizona themselves—issues licenses or identification cards containing such a citizenship indicator, these states effectively permit only their own licenses to be used. Similar problems limit voters’ ability to use the other acceptable documents. …

Implementing Reform: How Maryland & New York Ended Prison Gerrymandering

Source: Erika L. Wood, Dēmos, August 14, 2014

From the summary:
In 2010 and 2011, Maryland and New York took bold steps to correct the problem known as prison gerrymandering, a problem resulting from the United States Census Bureau’s practice of counting incarcerated individuals as residents of their prison cells rather than their home communities. When legislative districts are drawn based on the census numbers, incarcerated individuals become “ghost constituents” of districts that contain prisons. Although in forty-eight states incarcerated individuals cannot vote, have no ties to the local community, are often hundreds of miles from home, and spend an average of just three years in prison, they are allocated to legislative districts in a way that artificially inflates the political power of the districts where the prisons are located, while their home communities—often predominantly poor and minority—suffer the inverse effects of losing representation and voting strength for a decade.

Although the Census Bureau did not change its practice of counting incarcerated individuals in prison on a national level for the 2010 census, Maryland and New York took responsibility for correcting this injustice in their states. In doing so, these two states not only conducted an important experiment in policy innovation, but also demonstrated how various state and local agencies can work together to successfully implement new and important policy reforms to alleviate the problem of prison gerrymandering.

The efforts and coordination by state policymakers, corrections officials, data experts, technicians, planning personnel and lawyers was exemplary and should serve as an inspiration to those across the country who want to take a stand to end this injustice. As a result of their efforts and for the first time in history, the legislative and local districts in Maryland and New York are no longer distorted by prison gerrymandering.

This report provides detailed information about the specific steps Maryland and New York took to implement these new laws based on the 2010 census in conjunction with their redistricting schedules. It details the challenges each state faced as the first in the country to implement this reform—including legal disputes and data deficiencies—and the steps taken to meet and overcome those challenges. It also provides concrete recommendations, based on the experience and expertise of the actors in each state, to assist other jurisdictions in permanently ending prison gerrymandering.

How Balloting in Churches Sways Attitudes and Votes

Source: Jordan P. LaBouff, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, August 2014

Houses of worship have long been central to the functioning of American communities. Today, more than 350,000 congregations attended by more than 56 million people serve as centers of social as well as religious life in many U.S. towns and neighborhoods. Voting sites are also regularly located in church buildings. Some have challenged this practice as a violation of the separation between church and state enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but several state and federal district courts have upheld the use of churches as polling places, pointing out that citizens who prefer to vote elsewhere can use available alternatives such as absentee ballots. Legalities aside, it may matter that balloting often takes place in churches. A growing body of social science research demonstrates that people are unconsciously influenced by the locations in which they vote. Balloting in churches skews attitudes and votes in conservative directions. …