Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NASS Designates September National Voter Registration Month

Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Voter Registration Month, an initiative led by our partner, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), which represents chief state election officials.

The goal of designating September 2010 as National Voter Registration Month is to make eligible voters aware of registration deadlines and requirements for this year's November 2 general election.

Everyone can help make this month a success by encouraging friends, family, coworkers, and clients to register to vote, in addition to checking their registration status. For more information visit www.canivote.org and www.NonprofitVote.org.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Nonprofits in Action

The Monitor recently reported on a group of ten nonprofit organizations in the Rio Grande Valley that have banded together to increase voter turnout in the November elections.

“We’re going to change the culture of the Valley because we need change and the only way that will happen is through our vote,” one of the coalition coordinators said.

The group, recognizing the importance of getting people in isolated communities to vote, plan to reach out to voters through phone calls, mail, and community walks. The coalition hopes to increase voter turnout by 10% in a county with some of the lowest turnout rates in Texas. In 2008, only 43.2% of registered voters in the county turned out, compared to a statewide 59.3%. The coalition will also host voter education seminars and two candidates forums next month.

Want to learn how your nonprofit can help your community have their voices heard and their votes counted? Order our newest guide, A Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies. You can also visit our website to access other resources and information.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Look Back at the Women's Suffrage Movement

Today we celebrate Women’s Suffrage Day, because on August 26, 1920, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment became the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The passage of the 19th amendment ended a 70 year struggle that involved:

• 56 referendum campaigns directed at male voters
• 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters
• 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions
• 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks
• 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms
• 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses

For decades, women would rally, march, protest, and even spend time in jail, for the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. A handful of states did grant women the right to vote before the passage of the 19th amendment, but it wasn’t until 1916 that public sentiment began to shift in favor of women’s suffrage.

President Woodrow Wilson was reelected on a Democratic Party platform that supported women's suffrage, but his inaction on the issue prompted suffragettes to picket the White House in the winter of 1916-17. After the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, the administration’s attitude became increasingly intolerant toward the protests. When spectators assaulted the picketing suffragettes, the police did not interfere, and eventually arrested the suffragettes on charges of obstructing traffic.

This did little to stop the protests. Again, the police arrested several women who were sentenced to jail time. The imprisoned women conducted a hunger strike, saying it was the only protest left to them. After a couple of weeks, the prison doctors ordered the women to be force-fed. Newspapers printed sympathetic stories about the women's jail terms and the forced feedings, and support for the cause grew.

Finally on January 9, 1918 President Wilson announced that he favored suffrage for women. The next day the House passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, and in August it became the 19th Amendment.

In the last 90 years, women have embraced their right to vote: we noted last week that voter turnout rates for women have equaled or exceeded voter turnout rates for men in recent elections. And while women may be registering and voting at high rates, they only make up 18% of political leaders.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I moved...how do I vote?

I moved to another state. What should I do?

I moved within my state. What should I do if I moved within my county or town? If I moved to a different county or town?

The election is right around the corner and I never updated my registration after my move. What should I do if I moved nearby? If I moved within my county or town? If I moved to a different county or town?

The Brennan Center's new guide, "Voting After You Move," intends to answer all these questions for our countries more mobile voters that hope to cast a ballot in their state's upcoming primary, or in the general midterm election in November.

Thanks to the Brennan Center for a great resource!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Do polling places affect your vote?

This new Tom Jacob's article in Miller-McCune describes some fascinating studies on polling places, which show that polling place location (both in terms of physical proximity and type of facility) might affect not only voter turnout, but actual Election Day voting decisions.

On how physical proximity affects turnout:
  • A 2005 study on Atlanta's 2001 mayoral election showed that people who lived closer to their polling places (especially those without cars) were more likely to show up on Election Day than those who lived further away.
  • In addition, those whose polling places were recently moved just a little closer to their homes (due to an increase in number of precincts) were also more likely to turn out, indicating that increased convenience outweighed any confusion over a new polling location.
  • A 2003 study in 3 Maryland counties found that for each 1-mile increase in proximity to the polling place, turnout jumped by 0.453 percent, or nearly half a point.

On how the type of polling place facility affects the vote:
  • A 2008 Arizona study found that, in the 2000 election, those had voted in schools were more likely to have voted in favor of a school-funding ballot measure.
  • A follow-up experiment to the study found that those who were shown pictures of schools prior were more likely to, afterward, indicate support for education funding than those who were shown pictures of a church. Those shown pictures of a church were more likely to indicate support for limits on stem cell research.
  • A study published this year found that in 2006 in South Carolina, those who voted in churches were more likely to have voted for a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage than those who voted elsewhere.
The article goes on to discuss whether "early voting" is the answer - that is, whether taking the polling place location and its possible effects out of the equation can produce less opportunities for last-minute bias while casting a ballot.

Whether or not early voting means less locational bias - and it's unclear that this is the case -, the serious downfalls of mandatory and exclusive early voting systems (that such systems generally have no great effect on turnout, that they systematically exclude those without consistent permanent addresses, and that they diminish Election Day community excitement and celebration) hardly seem to make early voting an effective type of solution.

Read more about polling place effects, issues with early voting, and voter turnout in general in the rest of the Jacobs' article here.


Friday, August 20, 2010

"People are voting like crazy up here"

That’s what one county clerk had to say about Colorado’s recent primary. The turnout rate was over 40% for both Republicans and Democrats, matching or exceeding the turnout rate for primaries in the last three decades. That amounts to over 713,000 ballots cast, surpassing 2008’s turnout by more than 100,000.

In part, clerks and election experts attribute the high rate to the ease of voting by mail. Forty-six of the state's 64 counties held mail-ballot-only elections, and a large number of voters in the remaining counties also chose to vote by mail.

Voting by mail also saved Colorado a great deal of money. In Douglas County, taxpayers saved roughly $200,000 - half the cost of a typical election. Counties found that costs per voter were reduced from about $43 per voter at a polling site, to around $6 for each mail-only-ballot voter.

Oregon has been conducting all of their elections entirely by mail since 1999, while 38 of 39 counties in Washington have already implemented all-mail voting.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Miss Manners on questions in line to vote

As we wind our way through the primary season and towards November 2nd, it's good to have a reminder about polling place etiquette.

This was a recent letter to an advice column on waiting in line in polling places in small towns: What do you do when family and community friends (or strangers, for that matter) start asking you about your political or candidate preferences while you're in line to vote?

Read more.

Via electionline.org

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

90th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage

American women won the right to vote 90 years ago today. Although we will not celebrate Women’s Suffrage Day until next week, August 18 was the date on which the last vote required to ratify the amendment was received.

By August 1920, Congress had already passed the 19th Amendment, and 35 states had ratified it. However, one more state needed to ratify the amendment in order to amend the Constitution.

In the Tennessee House, the vote was tied and deadlocked. Finally, on the third round of voting, the youngest state legislator changed his mind. He had just received a letter from his mother, urging him to do the right thing. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, ensuring that women would have the right to vote.

In recent elections, voter turnout rates for women have equaled or exceeded voter turnout rates for men. Of the total voting age population:

• In 2004, 60.1% of women and 56.3% of men voted.
That's 67.3 million women and 58.5 million men - a difference of 8.8 million.

• In 2000, 56.2% of women and 53.1% of men voted.
That's 59.3 million women and 51.5 million men - a difference of 7.8 million.

• In 1996, 55.5% of women and 52.8% of men voted.
That's 56.1 million women and 48.9 million men - a difference of 7.2 million.

Read more about women’s turnout.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Making absentee ballots available to all in PA

A Pennsylvania senator wants to amend the state constitution so that residents would not need an excuse to vote with an absentee ballot.

Currently, Pennsylvania is one of the 20 or so states that stipulates voters can only use absentee ballots if they are in the military, working, sick, or out of town.

But Senator Mike O’Pake of Reading, PA says that this system leaves many people out.

“Voting is a right. It’s not supposed to be a test of whether you can physically make it to the polling booth,” says O’Pake. Read more.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Info from Yesterday's Webinar

Thanks to everyone who participated in yesterday’s webinar “Voter Participation Basics for Nonprofits,” with Bridgette Rongitsch and Julian Johannesen.

We appreciated all of your questions, and please don't hesitate to contact us with further questions:

Bridgette Rongitsch
National Director
e-mail: bridgette@mncn.org
phone: 651-757-3085

Robynne Curlee
State Outreach Coordinator
e-mail: rcurlee@nonprofitvote.org
phone: 651-757-3086

Julian Johannesen
Research and Technology Associate
e-mail: julian@nonprofitvote.org
phone: 617- 357-8683

You can download yesterday's PowerPoint presentation in addition to the audio portion of the presentation in MP3 format. The presentation and accompanying audio can also be viewed online here.

You can sign up for upcoming webinars and download our previous webinars by visiting our website's webinar page. Upcoming webinars appear at the top of the page and previous webinars appear at the bottom of the page.

All of our resources are available for download on our website. Visit our "Find Resources" page to learn more. Many of our publications are available to order, free of charge for 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

Starter Kit Orders
Fill out the order form if you would like to order our new, "Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies."

Poster Orders
Order a Get Out the Vote Poster from our website by filling out this order form.

Web Badges
If you would like to link your page to ours, visit our web badge page.


Indiana online voter registration going well

Indiana is six weeks and 2,500 new registrants into its new online voter registration program, which became effective July 1st and made Indiana the 8th state to offer the convenience system to its citizens. (See earlier post on the upward trend of states offering online voter registration options).

Although the program relies on its strict government-issued voter ID policy, requiring online registrants to enter in their driver's license or state ID number before proceeding to the registration page, election administrators believe that the program will lead to less processing delays for election offices and more voters on the rolls come November.

A study from Pew on online registration in the 2008 election
further describes the benefits of online voter registration. Analysis of programs in Washington and Arizona showed that offering online voter registration not only increased registration among younger voters (who tend to be more web-oriented), but also increases the rate at which registrations lead to votes on Election Day.

In Washington, 85.3 percent of online registrants voted, compared with 82.4 percent turnout statewide.

In Arizona, 94 percent of online registrants voted, compared with 85 percent of traditional registrants in 2008.

The study also showed that online voter registration is:

  • Popular - 95% of those who registered to vote online said they would recommend the program to others
  • Saves time and money - Some Washington counties reported that online applications required 1/5 of the time to process compared to paper application. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, it costs an average of three cents to process an online application compared to an average of 83 cents per paper application.
  • Reduces error - Online voter registration allows voters to electronically send their information directly to election officials, reducing the opportunity for human and data entry errors.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Voting Rights of Ex-Offenders

The practice of disenfranchisement began in the United States at the end of the civil war in an effort to prevent anyone except white male landowners from voting. Now, however, after both women and African Americans have won their right to vote, another group remains segregated from voting rights.

Using information from the Brennan Center for Justice, Nonprofit Vote has developed a new page on our website that tracks each state’s felony disenfranchisement laws.

48 states do not permit felons to vote during their time in prison, the exceptions being Maine and Vermont. The majority of states have laws that prohibit ex-offenders from voting, even after they have completed their sentence. These laws vary, and in Kentucky and Virginia, ex-offenders are never again allowed to vote unless pardoned by the government. The United States is the only country that permits permanent disenfranchisement of felons even after sentences have been served.

Misinformation about ex-offender voting rights abounds, as researchers found that nearly 30% of people with criminal convictions surveyed in New York in 2005 thought they would never be eligible to vote again. However, this summer the New York legislature passed a law requiring criminal justice agencies to provide voting rights information to people who are again eligible to vote after a felony conviction.

New York’s new law is the latest in a national trend. Twenty-four other states already require certain state and local agencies to inform people when their voting rights are restored following a criminal conviction. Supporters of these laws argue that they will correct years of misinformation, promote successful reintegration, and help protect public safety, while building civic participation among traditionally disenfranchised communities.

Last year a retired New York parole chief testified before the New York Senate Elections Committee, “having the right to vote and learning how to exercise that right gives one a voice and a stake in the community; it promotes positive behavior and serves as a powerful conduit for making the transition from criminal to becoming a law abiding member of the community.” Read his full testimony here.

Check out our website for up to date information about the laws in your state and stay tuned for our upcoming Disenfranchisement Fact Sheet!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2010 Census Cuts Costs

As the 2010 Census nears completion, it will end the fiscal year 22 percent under budget and return $1.6 billion to the Treasury.

In part, saving money was made easier because 72 percent of households completed the mail-in form (analysts had predicted a 65% return rate). Commerce Secretary Gary Locke noted that “For every 1 percent additional mail-back response, we save some $85 million in paying people to go door-to-door.”

Additionally, about $800 million set aside for disaster contingency planning was fortunately not needed.

The official census report will be out later this year.

Read the Census Director’s Blog here.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Which Election Reforms do Voters Support?

A new study, from R. Michael Alvarez and Thad E. Hall of Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, looks at which types of "convenience voting" reforms are most supported by the American people.

The study gathered data from 10,000 voters, 200 people from each of the 50 states, to examine the strength of support for each of three election reform areas - voter registration, Election Day streamlining, and protecting the security of elections.

Data findings include:
  • 75.6 % support requiring photo identification to vote
  • 57.5% support making Election Day a holiday
  • 48.3% support automatically registering citizens to vote
  • 43.7% support Election Day Registration
(Click here to see more)

Along with finding occasionally strong regional biases for or against certain reforms, the study's qualitative findings include:
  • Non-white voters are less supportive of voting by mail, but are more likely to support automatic registration or Election Day Registration
  • Voters who have had a registration problem in the past are overwhelmingly in favor of both automatic and Election Day Registration
  • Strong support for the idea that a voter's experience on Election Day at their polling place is associated with the election reforms they support
To read the report, click here.

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Enforcing the Motor-Voter Law

The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was designed to increase participation in federal elections. As a provision, state motor vehicle offices began offering clients the opportunity to register to vote, and the law became widely known as the motor-voter law.

However, the law also requires public assistance offices to proactively register voters. Although many potential voters can be reached through DMV offices, agencies that administer food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, disability assistance and child health programs are able to target historically underrepresented populations, such as low-income individuals, people with disabilities, minority populations, and new military recruits. Unfortunately, enforcement among public assistance offices (until recently) has been lax.

That began to change last year with the settlement of a 2006 lawsuit--backed by voting rights groups--aimed at bringing Ohio into compliance with the NVRA.

The result of the case has been overwhelming: in the first six months of 2010, more than 100,000 low-income Ohio residents applied to register to vote at public assistance offices. That number (17,000 applications per month) is almost a ten-fold increase in the number of registration applications public assistance offices collected before the lawsuit (1,775 per month).

A similar lawsuit against Missouri was settled in July 2008 and since then, nearly 250,000 voter applications have been submitted through public assistance agencies in the state over the past two years.

On the national level, the Justice Department will also begin enforcing the public assistance section of the law. In April, the Justice Department sent states a set of guidelines, marking the first time in 15 years that the Justice Department has explained what kinds of offices are covered and what procedures are to be used.

This national push will hopefully register hundreds of thousands of additional, hard to reach voters; voting rights groups estimate that 2-3 million low-income Americans could be registered each year if all states complied with the NVRA.

Read more about the Ohio lawsuit here.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Maryland Allows Voters to Print Absentee Ballots

Starting with the September gubernatorial primary election, Maryland voters will no longer have to wait for the postal service to deliver their absentee ballots. Instead, voters will be able to print their official absentee ballot and mailing label from the internet.

The On Demand Ballot System was developed by the Maryland State Board of Elections and the Center for American Politics and Citizenship in an effort to potentially lower costs that some voters face and to increase the ease of voting for those far from home, particularly overseas voters, members of the armed forces, and college students. Read more here.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Voting Behind Bars in the NYTimes

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times comments here on the imminent federal discussion of the racially disproportionate impact of felon disenfranchisement in the United States, and whether that impact creates a "result" (under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act - see bottom) of a race-based denial of voting rights.

From the Times...

It has been nearly three months since the court “invited” — that is to say, ordered — Solicitor General Elena Kagan to “express the views of the United States” on whether laws that take away the right to vote from people in prison or on parole can be challenged under the Voting Rights Act as racially discriminatory.

The order came in a case from Massachusetts, Simmons v. Galvin, an appeal by prison inmates challenging a 10-year-old state constitutional amendment that stripped them of the right to vote while incarcerated. They seek Supreme Court review of a ruling, issued a year ago by the federal appeals court in Boston, that Congress never intended the Voting Rights Act to apply in prison. The federal government was not involved in the case. Now the administration — presumably under the direction of whomever President Obama names to succeed Ms. Kagan as solicitor general — has to come up with a position.
FYI - Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act:
"No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting shall be imposed" that "results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Massachusetts Passes National Popular Vote Law

On Wednesday August 4, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the national popular vote bill. The new law is part of a nationwide effort to award the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote, bypassing the Electoral College. Massachusetts is now the 6th state to sign on, joining Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington.

However, the new law will take effect only when it has been approved by enough other states to guarantee that the majority of Electoral College votes would go the winner of the national popular vote. Massachusetts has 12 electoral votes, bringing the combined total of the six states to 73, 27% of the 270 needed to activate the law.

To learn more about the National Popular Vote, click here.

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Trick or Vote: Returning Halloween 2010

It’s never too early to plan your costume, design a haunted house, or buy candy in anticipation of the spookiest night of the year. This year you can add something else to your list of Halloween activities – get out the vote!

Alongside a swarm of trick-or-treaters, Trick or Vote volunteers hit the streets on October 31, 2008, knocking on over 100,000 doors in 35 cities to distribute nonpartisan voter guides and to remind people to vote.

They’re back for this year’s midterm election and will expand to 50 locations, aiming to make over 200,000 voter contacts.

To learn more about Trick or Vote or to find an event near you, visit their website.