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This afternoon, Governor Hickenlooper will sign an election reforms bill that will enfranchise more voters and make voting a lot easier for citizens in the Centennial State.
This historic piece of legislation makes Colorado the third-such state to allow all citizens to vote by mail behind Washington and Oregon. The bill will also allow same-day voter registration and cut the costs of elections for the state, helping eliminate some of the confusion for voters at the polls.
The bill also eliminates the category of “inactive” voters, that has been used as a mechanism to purge voters from the rolls.
The bill is an important victory for voters in Coloroado.
Check out the new op-ed piece in the Denver Post by Joan Fitz-Gerald and Donetta Davidson. Davidson is executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association and a former Colorado secretary of state. Joan Fitz-Gerald is president of America Votes, former Jefferson County clerk and former president of the Colorado state Senate.
Colorado has a sound election system, but we can improve our system substantially so it better serves voters' needs, takes advantage of our technology, and saves tax dollars.
House Bill 1303, the Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, meets all of those goals.
If you're reading this, you likely voted by mail last November, and you're in good company: Seventy-two percent of Colorado voters joined you. Mail ballots are a convenient, secure and private way to cast a ballot that is increasingly popular among Colorado voters.
HB 1303 answers the demand of these voters while providing ample options for voters who prefer to vote in person. It eliminates the "inactive-failed-to-vote" status that created confusion for voters. It creates a graduated registration system that scales down the demand on the system as Election Day approaches.
New Radio Interview Of America Votes’ President With Host Dennis Creese In Colorado: “Impact Of State Legislatures On Workers & Their Families”
America Votes' President, Joan Fitz-Gerald, joined "The Labor Exchange" on KGNU-AM Radio this week to talk about politics, policy and the labor movement. Click here to listen to the full interview.
Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature are attempting to ram through a bill that would skirt the powers of circuit courts in the states. The measure would blatantly undermine the check-and-balance between the state legislature and state courts by taking away the circuit courts’ ability to block all or portions of state laws.
Here’s how state Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) justifies the bill: “A county judge elected by ‘a small fraction of the state’ shouldn't be able to stop a law that affects the entire state.” What Craig failed to note is that these judges are not using city charters or county ordinances to make decisions – they’re applying the Wisconsin Constitution.
The real issue at hand is that conservatives are feeling the sting from progressives, who have relentlessly challenged extreme right-wing laws such as voter ID and the anti-union collective bargaining laws in 2011. Circuit courts have granted several injunctions that temporarily blocked portions of these laws until higher courts could determine their constitutionality.
The separation of powers is important to maintain a balance between the three branches of government. This is clearly a conservative power play to undermine the “check” created by the state constitution to help prevent such extreme laws from being enacted.
America Votes partner One Wisconsin Now released a statement saying, “Under [the GOP legislature’s] scheme, our justice system would be turned on its head to satisfy their seemingly insatiable quest for political power. While they flout the Constitution, people's rights would be denied."
Republicans in the state legislature are hoping to push this through quickly to limit the amount of opposition voiced against the measure. It is up to Wisconsin progressives to protect the state constitution by spreading the word of the conservatives’ power-grabbing ploy and stopping this bill from gaining any traction.
This is a personal guest post by AV Communications Fellow JP Phillips.
Growing up in rural North Carolina as a gay teen was not easy. Growing up in a strict, conservative Baptist household as a gay teen was even harder. So needless to say, it took some courage to make the bold decision to come out at the age of 17.
It is hard to believe that I went from then, to where I am today.
Since coming out, I have taken part in helping Gay/Straight Alliances become strong afterschool clubs in high schools. I led a LGBT youth group to help teens know that they are not alone and give them guidance in life. I have attended Pride events and parades, and I’ve had the privilege of having my own parents fully embrace my sexual orientation. (I love you, mom and dad!)
But the United States is also a different place since I came out more than a decade ago. Over the years, great strides in the LGBT movement have propelled faster than I ever would have imagined possible. We have gone from seeing the nightmare death of Matthew Shepherd, to passing hate crime and anti-bully legislation across the country. We’ve gone from President George W. Bush, in 2004, who had the nerve to stamp on my rights declaring that I do not deserve the right to marry, to President Barack Obama, who embraced marriage equality during his 2013 inaugural speech. These years have been truly awe-inspiring.
We are, at this moment, witnessing history being made – not just for LGBT people, but for all Americans. It is so uplifting to see public opinion shift dramatically in favor of marriage equality, and to have elected a number of openly gay legislators such as Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Jared Polis. It is even greater that we can finally have our voices heard on equal rights in the Supreme Court of the United States. But nothing has prepared me for the immense amount of joy that I feel every single time a member of Congress comes out in favor of marriage equality. To have the majority of the sitting Democratic senators (and two sitting GOP senators) tell me that I do deserve equal rights – that I am NOT the “lesser-than” that I was told I was in the past – is the most rewarding feeling I believe I can ever have. It’s not just Democrats from the bluest of blue states anymore, but the movement has spread to legislators all across the nation.
I don’t believe anybody in the LGBT community thinks this battle is anywhere close to being won. But we can see the horizon. Our voices are being heard and, for the first time, we can finally feel equality within our grasp.
I wrote this post so I could publically say thank you to everyone who has made this path possible. Thank you to all the activists who risked their lives and safety at the beginning of the LGBT movement. Thank you to all of those who were brave enough to come out and publically declare, “I am a proud gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered person.” And thank you to our current political leadership for taking the bold stance to stand on the right side of history and say that marriage is a right that should be enjoyed by all citizens of this great country. Together, we can continue to push forward and make marriage equality a reality.
- JP Phillips
The North Carolina Republican Party has recently filed bills that would reduce early voting, put an end to same-day registration and eliminate Sunday voting (“Souls to the Polls” drives) altogether. Republicans in the state appear to know that their time in power will be limited, so in order to increase their chances of winning, they are trying to make it more difficult for people to vote against them.
Why would the GOP want to reduce early voting and make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots? It is true that voters from both parties take advantage of early voting, but progressives have used it more effectively and have seen a much higher turnout for early voting. Therefore, if there is less early voting, the state GOP is hoping there will be less progressives voting.
More than 50% of people that voted in North Carolina cast their ballots during the early voting period. U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has voiced her position on these proposals, saying, “We didn't see the long lines that took place in Florida because our legislature had the foresight to be sure we made it so voting was easy and people could do it. I think it's an issue of fairness. ... When you look at the popularity of early voting in North Carolina, it certainly made a difference in our state."
GOP advocates for these measures like to say that early voting has become costly for the state, and cutting it would save the state money. However, the head of the State Board of Elections said that shortening early voting periods will end up costing taxpayers more money because the state will have to add more polling places and buy more voting machines to handle the higher volume of people trying to vote on a fewer number of days. On top of this, electioneers would need more staff on hand to maintain order in the large crowds and count all of the extra ballots being cast on Election Day. Clearly, the GOP legislators have not thought this through thoroughly.
Early voting is not only used by the majority of North Carolina voters, but it also is extremely popular and they want it left in place. A recent poll by PPP showed that 78% of North Carolina voters in the state support early voting and 53% of voters want to keep Sunday voting in place.
Working class people have full schedules, families and other commitments that make it difficult enough as it is to get to the polls. So again, why would the North Carolina GOP want to make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots? Because they are the only ones who benefit when voter suppression laws are passed - that’s why.
America Votes staff went down to the Supreme Court this morning to show our support for marriage equality and LGBT rights. Check out pictures from the rally!
For more on the SCOTUS marriage equality cases, see our Monday post.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases this week that are directly at the heart of marriage equality; one focuses on repealing California’s Proposition 8 (“Prop 8”) and the other on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Tides are changing in public opinion on marriage equality. We have gone from 2004, where then-President Bush and the GOP lobbied hard for a Federal Marriage Amendment, to today where marriage equality has the support of more than 50% of the U.S. population in survey after survey. We are certainly at a pivotal point in our history for LGBT equality.
But it is not SCOTUS’ job to rule based on public opinion -- they must decide the two cases before them on a constitutional basis. The first case before the court on Tuesday, March 26th, is centered on Prop 8 in California. This was a ballot initiative that passed with just over 50% of the vote that took away the right to marry for LGBT people living within the state. The case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will decide to uphold or repeal the decision by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. In the Court’s opinion they wrote, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” They cited the landmark SCOTUS case of Romer v. Evans writing that, “The Constitution simply does not allow for 'laws of this sort.”
Anti-gay marriage lawyers say that by striking down Prop 8, the Court ignored the democratic process and took away the voting voice from millions of California voters who voted in favor of the measure. What they fail to remember is that our Constitution specifically protects minorities from the majority: “majority rules/minority rights.” Progressives feel strongly that it is, in fact, unconstitutional for a majority vote to strip away rights from LGBT citizens that the state legislature had already granted. This clause was written into the Constitution to guarantee this protection and the U.S. Supreme Court should very easily be able to uphold the decision by the lower court in this case.
The main topic of the second case on Wednesday, March 27th, United States v. Windsor, is centered on DOMA. DOMA is a federal statute that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and allows states, business and organizations to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples that were married in states where it is legal. SCOTUS is widely expected to strike down DOMA because it so blatantly discriminates against a certain group of people and treats LGBT couples as lesser than their heterosexual counterparts. The Obama administration is already opting not to defend the statute as the President himself has deemed it to be unconstitutional.
Whatever way SCOTUS decides, there is no doubt that we are currently in the process of making history for LGBT equality. We have reached a point where marriage equality is now viewed as inevitable. People understand how these discriminatory practices are really affecting the lives of others and why they need to be eliminated. Let’s hope that SCOTUS decides to stand on the right side of history and do the right thing by ruling in favor of marriage equality for all.
The RNC forgot to mention "extreme, out-of-touch policies" in their list of fix-ups.
The Republican National Committee's "Growth and Opportunity Project" report, aka "autopsy" report, was yet another disappointment for progressives and offered no hope for real changes in the Grand Old Party. The report was overly focused on changing the Republicans' strategy to win elections without acknowledging the party's biggest problem: extreme, out-of-touch policies.
A large section of the report discussed taking a more "inclusive" approach to voters by increasing outreach to minorities, women and youth to add more diversity to the party. Progressives can give the GOP a little credit for finally recognizing the importance of these voters (at least on paper) and considering a change to the party's stance on immigration reform. But where are changes to the rest of the policies that repel voters in the first place?
If the GOP thinks it can be more "inclusive" by simply tweaking their message and hiring more minorities and women, they've got another thing coming. We see the bills conservatives push through state legislatures and Congress that disproportionately impact non-white, non-male voters. These Americans vote against candidates who support policies that hurt public schools, discourage fair wages, block heath care coverage for those without insurance and take away womens' rights to birth control and other family planning services.
But the biggest - and most ironic - problem with the GOP's "inclusive" strategy is that Republicans continue to attack our voting process in the states. If the GOP wants to eliminate early voting and require IDs at the polls, millions of the voters they want to "include" wont be able to vote at all.
How's that for an "inclusive" strategy?
The Supreme Court heard the case of Shelby County v. Holder today.
The Voting Rights Act is under attack by the right; specifically Section 5 as discussed in our recent blog post. To show our support for the Act, America Votes attended the Alliance for Justice’s Rally to Protect the Voting Rights Act.
Unfortunately, it appears that the conservative members on the Court are ready to strike down the provision, deeming it unnecessary. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion is that, “the historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable [but] things have changed in the South.”
Does Roberts really think that we have achieved true enlightenment and that racism is no longer prevalent in today’s world? Earth to Roberts! Come back to reality.
Racism is not only openly apparent in everyday life, but still happens within our electoral process. There are plenty of such occurrences to show proof of this, such as this incident in South Carolina. This law is not outdated. This law is necessary to protect voting rights for all people. While there may no longer be poll taxes, restrictive voter ID laws, long waiting and other barriers to the ballot remain.
The bottom line: Doing away with Section 5 will not only be a step backwards for our electoral system but a step backwards for the civil rights movement as a whole.