Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

HOT TOPIC: Elections

Source: Capitol Ideas, Vol. 57 No. 5, September/October 2014

Articles include:
States Make Changes to Get Out the Vote
By Mary Branham
Ten states this year passed laws that would expand voter access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The most common improvements have been in online voter registration and other measures to modernize the voter registration system, as well as increasing early voting.

Voting System Technology a ‘Ticking Time Bomb’
By Kamanzi Kalisa
Voters want technology that matches what they are doing in their everyday lives. Current voting technology has become obsolete and, according to former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, it’s “a ticking time bomb.”

Faceoff on Voter IDs
By Jennifer Horne
Since 2010, 13 states have passed more restrictive voter ID laws. With a 2013 Supreme Court ruling invalidating Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, challenges to these types of voter ID laws have moved to a new section of the act. Experts believe states should prepare for more lawsuits.

Going the Extra Mile for Military Voters
By Kim Wyman
Washington state currently has almost 4 million active registered voters. Nearly 65,000 of them are military or overseas voters. As secretary of state, it is my highest priority to make sure all of our registered voters have a chance to take part in our elections, no matter if they live in my state or serve in the most remote corners of the world. I have made advocacy of our military families a signature issue.

State Campaign Finance Laws: Show Me the Money
By Jennifer Ginn
Court challenges to national campaign finance laws, in the past, made few changes as to how and what politicians had to disclose. Supreme Court cases decided in the past seven years, however, are having a dramatic effect on campaign finance law. Many states are taking action on their own to ensure their voters know who is funding political races in their state.

Restoring the Right to Vote for Felons
By Liam Julian
The idea of disenfranchising felons has a long history in the United States, going all the way back to the colonies in the 1600s. Although a few states passed legislation in the past two years that make it harder for convicted felons to regain the right to vote, people in general and legislators specifically appear to be leaning toward making felony disenfranchisement laws more permissive.

Elections 101
By John G. Matsusaka
Ballot propositions are among the most visible features of American democracy. Since 2000, voters have decided 1,692 state-level ballot propositions covering a wide array of issues, including same-sex marriage, education, primary elections and marijuana legalization.

U.S. Elections: High Public Confidence, Low Voter Turnout
By David Carroll
Over the last 25 years, the Carter Center has observed nearly 100 elections in 38 countries around the world. These experiences have generated a wealth of information about electoral practices across the globe. In addition, they provide an interesting basis to compare how elections are conducted in the U.S.

Justice Should be Accessible by All
By Cheri Beasley
North Carolina is one of 22 states that elect trial judges by judicial district and appellate judges and justices in statewide elections. Judicial elections in the state were partisan until 2002; now, all judicial elections are nonpartisan by popular vote. North Carolina is at a crossroads. In nonpartisan judicial elections, advancement of a partisan or ideological agenda has no place in the fair application of the rule of law. Special interest money spent to determine the outcome of cases before the court is abominable and the people of North Carolina deserve better.

Global Measures of Electoral Credibility: Voter Turnout, Finance
By Ayesha Chugh and Hani Zainulbhai
Global measures of electoral credibility include voter participation and political finance. While these variables are useful, electoral credibility is ultimately a nuanced concept that requires consideration of the full context of an election.

10 Questions–Oregon Works to Make Every Voice Heard
By Mary Branham
Kate Brown believes “your vote is your voice,” and she’s taken steps as secretary of state to ensure every voice in Oregon is heard. The state has a relatively high voter turnout, but Brown thinks it should be higher.

By the Book–State Elections Performance
Nearly 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2012 presidential elections, below the high mark in 2008 but still above most presidential elections. Five of the 10 states with the highest turnout have election day registration.

Ballot Titles and Voter Decision Making on Ballot Questions

Source: Jeff Hastings and Damon Cann, State and Local Government Review, Vol. 46 no. 2, June 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
From gay marriage to taxation to environmental issues, many of our nation’s most important policy issues are decided by voters through ballot questions. Conventional wisdom holds that information provided on the ballot about the ballot questions heavily influences voters’ choices in those elections, but there is little empirical evidence of this. We apply theories of framing to voters’ choices on ballot questions and design an experiment to test the hypothesis that ballot title wording influences voters’ decisions. Even on a matter that is hotly contested and where the policy is relatively noncomplex and relatively well understood by voters, we find strong framing effects for changes in ballot title wording, though the effects are driven primarily by influencing whether individuals who previously supported the measure abstained from participation.

The US Keeps 34,000 Immigrants in Detention Each Day Simply to Meet a Quota

Source: Robert M. Morgenthau, The Nation, Vol. 299 nos. 9 & 10, September 1-8, 2014

On any given day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeps at least 34,000 immigrants locked up while they wait for their cases to be heard in immigration court. Many of these detainees are incarcerated not because they are dangerous or likely to skip their court dates, but because ICE must meet an arbitrary quota set by Congress. This quota, which is often referred to as the “detention-bed mandate,” is a disgrace and should be eliminated. The quota is written into the federal law that appropriates funding for ICE. Congress requires the agency to “maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds” at any given time. The quota was first enacted in 2007, and it appears yet again in the 2015 appropriations bill currently pending in the House of Representatives….

Kochonomics in Wisconsin and North Carolina

Source: Anna Chu, Center for American Progress Action Fund, September 2014

From the summary:
…This report focuses on how Kochonomics is playing out in two states: Wisconsin and North Carolina. We chose these states for several reasons. First, the Koch brothers have a direct financial interest in these states, given that they own several subsidiaries operating in both North Carolina and Wisconsin. Second, conservative leaders have assumed much of the elected political leadership in these states and have put in place policies that have benefited a wealthy few with little to no regard for the effects on average taxpayers. Lastly, we chose Wisconsin and North Carolina because the Koch network selected them as targets for their conservative philosophy. In 2012, David Koch admitted that, “We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.” Tim Phillips, the head of the Koch-backed issue advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, called North Carolina a “model state” for its activities. “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states,” said Phillips. “North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that—more so than any other state in the region. If you could turn around a state like that, you could get real reform.” Indeed, Phillips admitted that North Carolina “was one of the states we were most active” in pushing its conservative agenda.

We divide this report into three sections. The first lays out the financial stake Koch Industries has in Wisconsin and North Carolina and how public policies in these two states would affect the Koch’s bottom line.

The second section looks at how the Koch network has funded state leaders in Wisconsin and North Carolina who can and have put in place policies that benefit the wealthy few, including the Koch brothers, regardless of the effect such policies have on everyone else. We focus on two ardent followers of Kochonomics—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R). Both Walker and Tillis have received large campaign contributions from Koch Industries in their respective states. The Koch network is also helping Walker and Tillis in their 2014 election campaigns: Walker is running for re-election as governor and Tillis is vying for a U.S. Senate seat representing North Carolina in one of the most competitive races in the country.

The third and final section of the report looks at the various effects that Kochonomics has had on both Wisconsin and North Carolina. In general, we show that the conservative policies put into place by Koch-supported lawmakers have benefited the wealthy few. In general, we show that the conservative policies put into place by Koch-supported lawmakers have benefited the wealthy few. Specifically, we focus on the issue of tax and find that:
∙ In Wisconsin, the Koch network aggressively pushed for tax cuts that heavily favor millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations. One of the resulting benefits to the Kochs is that they could see their income tax rate on the manufacturing activities of Koch Industries subsidiaries in Wisconsin drop to as low as 0.15 percent. Conversely, over the past four years, Wisconsin’s working and low-income families have had to pay $170 million more in additional taxes.
∙ In North Carolina, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity advocated for—and state lawmakers passed—tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent by an average of more than $10,000 annually, while working families making between $52,000 and $84,000 per year would actually have to pay an average of $74 more in taxes. Moreover, state lawmakers eliminated local business taxes, further reducing the taxes of Koch subsidiaries in North Carolina. …

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.

Misclassified: Contract to cheat

Source: McClatchy, Special Report, 2014

Across the country, roughly 10 million construction workers spend each day in a dangerous and fickle industry. They hang drywall, lay carpet, shingle roofs. Yet in the eyes of their bosses, they aren’t employees due the benefits the government requires. Employers treat many of these laborers as independent contractors. It’s a tactic that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Yet when it comes to public projects, government regulators have done nearly nothing about it, even when the proof is easy to get. The workers don’t have protections. The companies don’t withhold taxes. The regulators don’t seem to care. McClatchy reporters in eight newsrooms spanning seven states spent a year unraveling the scheme, using little-noticed payroll records that show how widespread the practice has become and what it costs us all.

Part 1: Stimulus scam
Part 2: In plain sight
Part 3: On workers’ backs
Part 4: Cheating companies
Part 5: How to fix

View stories by state:
∙ California
∙ Florida
∙ Illinois
∙ Missouri
∙ North Carolina
∙ South Carolina
∙ Texas