Working to Protect the Vote in 2014 and Beyond
By Tim O‘Brien, Voter Protection Project Manager, League of Women Voters
Last week, I blogged about how 2013 has been one of the most “active” years related to voting rights this country has ever seen. While there were many setbacks in the past 12 months, there were some victories as well. In 2014, we hope to build upon these victories and focus on proactive election reforms, while also continuing to battle back against attacks on voters’ rights at the local, state and national levels. With the continued leadership of the League, these victories will continue in 2014 and beyond.
Fighting to Restore the VRA and Fully Implement the NVRA:
The League is taking a multi-pronged approach to combat the harmful effects of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the law that prevented widespread discrimination in voting for nearly 50 years. The Court’s bad decision will allow more changes to election laws and practices at the state and local levels to occur with little or no scrutiny and with little recourse until after an election when the harm to voters has been done. The League is working to set up a system to monitor and respond to these changes.
Additionally, the League is pushing for urgently needed reforms to our outdated election system in order to address low voter turnout and the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities and low income individuals at the polls. The League is organizing our grassroots network, educating the public and working in coalition with other voting rights groups to develop and implement a plan to renew and restore the VRA in a bipartisan fashion in 2014.
In the wake of the positive Supreme Court decision upholding the integrity of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), League advocates will continue to urge state leaders to fully comply with the federal requirements set forth in this landmark law. Commonly known as “Motor Voter,” the NVRA streamlined the confusing array of state laws that hindered the voter registration process. The law made it easier for Americans to register to vote by requiring states to provide voter registration opportunities when citizens obtain a driver’s license or seek services at other government agencies, as well as through mail-in registration. Leagues are working to inform public assistance agencies of their obligation to provide voter registration opportunities to individuals; guiding agencies and elections officials so that their registration work is as effective as possible; and taking legal action when necessary.
Continue the Fight for Pro-Voter Reforms and Against Voter Suppression:
The League will build upon its pro-voter reform successes in 2013, as well as continue our efforts to defeat voter suppression proposals, to protect and expand voting rights in communities across the country.
In 2014, we can expect continued battles against voting restrictions in Alaska, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. In addition to these threats, we know we will see voter photo ID laws implemented in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Virginia, and there is no doubt that other states will be added to this mix in 2014 as the political landscapes change before and after the mid-term elections.
While the League will be busy protecting the right to vote, we’re also committed to reforming our elections in order to better serve voters. The League has identified five proactive elections administration reform priorities that the League will work to implement:
1. Permanent and Portable Statewide Voter Registration
2. Improved Polling Place Management
3. Expanded Early Voting
4. Secure Online Voter Registration
5. Electronic Streamlining of Election Practices
We are hopeful that we will see some positive reforms in 2014. Specifically, we think we might see advances in secure online voter registration in Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania; automatic voter registration in Oregon; electronic streamlining in Minnesota; and the expansion of early voting in New Jersey.
With the right combination of determination, reputation and organization, state League advocates have been and will continue to be remarkably successful in advocating against voter suppression and discrimination at the state level. We are excited by the promise of 2014 and believe that continuing to fight the ground game at the state level will be an essential and highly effective approach to protecting the right to vote and increasing the franchise to ensure that elections are free, fair and accessible for every eligible voter.
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