States Act To Expand Voting Rights For Citizens
It’s been a busy week with minimum wage news: first, Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C. blocked increasing the federal minimum wage; then, a coalition of business, labor, and community leaders in Seattle, Washington announced a deal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15.
But there have also been a number of positive developments in the states on other issues, including efforts to expand voting access. We’ve put together a run-down of some of the best from the last few weeks:
1. Wisconsin: Federal Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law, Finds That ‘No Rational Person Could Be Worried’ About Voter Fraud. The April 29 decision, in an overwhelming win for plaintiffs who argued that the voter ID law suppresses ballot access in the state, could still be overturned on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But U.S. district judge Lynn Adelman did not hold back: he found not just that the law disproportionately deters minorities and low-income individuals from voting; but also that purported instances of voter impersonation are so infrequent, if they exist at all, that “no rational person could be worried about it.”
2. Hawaii: Aloha State Enacts Strong Voting Rights Law Including Same Day Registration. In 2012, even with its native son Barack Obama atop the ballot, just a paltry 44 percent of eligible Hawaii voters showed up to vote–the worst turnout rate in the country. On April 29, though, Hawaii lawmakers passed legislation to fix that, allowing citizens instead to register to vote when they show up to cast a ballot. Academic studies have found that allowing same-day registration increases turnout between 7 and 14 percentage points.
3. Minnesota: One Day After Judge Orders Online Voter Registration Shut Down, Legislature Passes Law To Revive It. This Monday, a district judge ordered Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to shut down the state’s online voter registration portal by Tuesday night because he lacked legislative authority when he launched it in September. On Tuesday, the Minnesota state legislature passed and Gov Mark Dayton signed into law a bill giving him that authority. Minnesota becomes the 23rd state to have online voter registration, which makes it easier for anybody with access to a computer to register and is simply common-sense for the 21st century.
4. Georgia: 12,000 Citizens Use New Online And Mobile Voter Registration System, More Than Double Than Expected. The new online system rolled out in the end of March, expecting around 5,000 users in the first month. Instead, more than 12,000 enrolled, including 7,000 newly registered voters, according to Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
And be sure to keep an eye out for…
5. Delaware: State Senate Set To Vote On Same Day Registration After Passing The House. The bill is an important step for expanding access to the polls in Delaware. But its not clear right now whether it’s a sure thing to pass.
BOTTOM LINE: Like we see with minimum wage legislation and so many other important issues for a more prosperous and just nation, cities and states are taking the lead while Congress stalls. When it comes to voting rights, at a time when some conservative-run swing states are doing whatever they can to roll back access, other states are showing the way forward for ensuring that voting is not a privilege, but a right.