Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Early Voting Underway in Many States

In an earlier post, we spelled out the differences between early voting in person and early voting by mail. With November 2nd only five weeks away, some predict that at least one-third of the nation's ballots will be cast before Election Day.

Voting is already underway in seven states, and will begin in Arizona, California and Illinois in the next two weeks. (Incidentally, groups in Illinois launched a "Vote Naked Illinois" campaign to inform voters of changes in voting law that now allow Illinois citizens to vote early.)

The Early Voting Information Center (EVIC) has created a calendar that tracks each state’s window for early voting. See it here.

70% of Americans are now able to take advantage of no-excuse early and absentee voting. Check out this New York Times graphic that breaks down the percentage of ballots cast before Election Day in 2006 and 2008.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Got Contact?

Each election cycle, voters brace themselves for an onslaught of stories, campaign ads, and direct mailings. However, a new report released by the American National Election Studies (ANES) shows that the intensity of direct voter contact we perceive is, in fact, overstated.

In examining electorate mobilization, ANES polled citizens, asking: “Did anyone from one of the political parties call you up or come around and talk to you about the campaign?” And year after year, the majority answered with a resounding “No.”

The highest percentage of contact came in 2004, when 43% of Americans were contacted by a major party. The graph below compares the percentage of people that said a major party did or did not contact them in the specified year. (The graph was created using this data.)

ANES data also revealed that in midterm election cycles, an average of only 27% of Americans were contacted by either party. Assuming trends continue, an abysmally low number of eligible voters will be contacted this year before November 2.

Interestingly, research also shows that the most effective way to engage voters and increase turnout is through direct contact. With the political space left unoccupied by the major parties, there is a great deal nonprofits can do to reach out to their communities. And with a number of hotly contested ballot measures--that could greatly impact nonprofits--there is also incentive for them to do so.

To read the results of other questions in the ANES survey, click here.


New estimates show slight changes for 2010 apportionment

With less than three months to go before final 2010 state census population numbers are unveiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, a new study (based on estimates released this summer from Esri, a mapping and GIS company) points to new predictions on how many congressional districts will shift with the new census.

Election Data Services, Inc. estimates that if the new apportionment was made with the Esri provided data, six states—Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington—would each gain a single seat, Florida would gain two seats, and Texas would gain four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Eight states would lose single seats— Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, while the states of New York and Ohio now stand to each lose two seats.

Read the press release.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Countdown to voter registration deadlines

We're getting closer to voter registration deadlines; early October will mark the 30 day deadline, closing voter registration for the 2010 November midterm elections in more than half of the states. Most other states will close their registration a few weeks after that (to see if your state offers Election Day Registration, visit nonprofitvote.org and click on your state in the drop-down menu).

To help, Rock the Vote has launched "Electionland.com", where voters can click on their state and actually post their questions on voter registration, from "Where do I register" to "Am I registered?", and get an answer posted by a Rock the Vote representative blogger. In some states, you can even post questions directly to candidates, or view information about 2010 ballot measures. Other voting information is also available.

Try it out!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Recapping Yesterday's Webinar

Many thanks to those of you who joined us for yesterday's webinar "Voter Education for Nonprofits," with Bridgette Rongitsch and Julian Johannesen.

Please don't hesitate to be in touch if you have further questions.

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

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

Yesterday's PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here, and you can download the audio portion of the presentation in MP3 format. You can also view the presentation and listen to the audio online.

Don't forget to visit our website's webinar page where you can sign up for upcoming webinars and watch previous webinars. Upcoming webinars appear at the top of the page and previous webinars appear at the bottom of the page.

During yesterday's webinar we mentioned this Harris Poll on public trust of nonprofits. We also mentioned our fact sheet on Federal Funds and Voter Participation.

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. Here are some to help you get ready for the election:
  • Order a Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies or download it.
  • Get a Vote November 2 Poster by filling out this form.
  • To learn more about voting in your state, visit your state page.
  • Place a web badge on your website to help visitors access important voting information.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Campaign Donors Dodge Disclosure

Since a 5-4 Supreme Court opened a wide door to outsider political giving - even calling it a form of "free speech"! - the New York Times reports more donations are coming from 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporations and other entities that don’t have to disclose who their donors are. Before the court decision, this type of stealth political giving was far more limited. Still, most campaign donations from donors and PACs flowing through “normal” channels still are reported due to the successful passage of disclosure laws at the state and federal level. All that disclosure is now online. Two great websites that help practicioners and the media track the source of contributions by donors and their interests are: FollowtheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.

The Court decision to ok unlimited independent expenditure campaigns remains highly unpopular. In polls, the public overwhelming favors more campaign finance reform not less. More disclosure will help. But the most promising solution is to provide public matching funds to candidates who agree to limits on spending and to accept only contributions from small donors. Systems like this already work in many states and cities. Now in the wake of the controversial Court decision, a fair election funding proposal that would make far-reaching changes in how campaigns are funded is making unprecedented progress in Congress. After years of grassroots work, The Fair Elections Act gets its first ever House vote tomorrow in the Committee on Administration. Follow the progress of the Fair Elections Act here.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Voting Systems: Problems and Solutions

The Brennan Center for Justice released a new report, “Voting System Failures: A Database Solution.” The report--inspired by tales of failed voting machines and lost votes--suggests a simple solution to the mayhem: a “new and better regulatory structure to ensure that voting system defects are caught early, officials in affected jurisdictions are notified immediately, and action is taken to make certain that they will be corrected for all such systems, wherever they are used in the United States.”

Specifically, the Brennan Center calls for the creation of an accessible national clearinghouse that tracks reports of voting system malfunctions. The key elements of the envisioned clearinghouse are:
  1. A Publicly Available, Searchable Centralized Database. Election officials currently rely on voting system vendors for information about malfunctions, defects, and other problems. The 4,600 separate jurisdictions that administer elections would benefit greatly from the shared knowledge of election officials, vendors, and voters.
  2. Vendor Reporting Requirements. Vendors rarely have a legal obligation to notify election officials or the public about problems with their systems. Reporting requirements would increase product transparency and better equip election officials to deal with product defects and vulnerabilities.
  3. A Federal Agency with Investigatory Powers. There is no mechanism to prevent the same failures--with the same machines--from occurring repeatedly in different jurisdictions. It is critical to empower an appropriate government agency to investigate allegations, to enforce record keeping, and to ensure that action is taken to address failures or vulnerabilities.
  4. Enforcement Mechanisms. That same government agency must also have the power to levy civil penalties on vendors who fail to meet reporting requirements or do not remedy known vulnerabilities with their systems.
Read the full report here.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Young Voters in 2010

Will they turn out or won't they? A recent Rock the Vote poll says young voters are still engaged on the issues that matter for the November election, but an earlier Gallup poll suggesting a decline in young voter enthusiasm.

CIRCLE has a new fact sheet that attempts to shed light on predictions, comparing youth voter turnout state by state from recent elections. In the 2008 presidential election youth voter turnout rose two percentage points compared to the 2004 election, which saw an increase of nine percentage points compared to the 2000 election. This rise in the youth vote in 2008 was not equally distributed among educational, racial, and gender groups. For instance, young white voters made no gains in voter turnout in 2008 while minority youth turnout increased for all groups. (Read more.)

Also check out CIRCLE’s newly re-launched website full of youth voter turnout research and data at www.civicyouth.org.

Read more.

Photo source-MTV


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inmates Vote in D.C.

Volunteers from the Re-Entry Network for Returning Citizens were busy in Washington D.C. last week, registering an often overlooked group of voters – jail inmates. While D.C. law does not allow individuals incarcerated for a felony to vote, prisoners convicted of misdemeanors and those awaiting trial may still exercise their franchise.

Inmates casting ballots in D.C. is nothing new, but the population is often overlooked, and many simply assume they can’t vote while jailed. However, one of the organizers noted that engaging inmates in civic duties, like voting, is an important first step toward their successful re-entry into the community.

To learn more about felon disenfranchisement, visit our page on the voting rights of ex-offenders.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

November Ballot Measures

On November 2, voters in 35 states will vote on at least 149 ballot questions. That number might change because there is still time for state legislatures to add referendums. However, the deadline for citizen-initiated ballot measures has already passed in the states that allow that process.

There are two basic kinds of state ballot questions:
  • Referendums are votes for or against laws that have already been passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. Certain actions - such as passing state constitutional amendments or bond measures - can automatically trigger voter referendums, and all 50 states require an automatic referendum under certain circumstances. Citizens in 23 states can also petition for a referendum to overturn any law.
  • Initiatives appear on the ballot when individual citizens (which includes interest groups and lobbies) gather the requisite number of signatures of support by the state deadline. Voters in 26 states can put initiatives or popular referendums on the ballot, and this year, forty-two citizen-initiated measures have qualified for the ballot.
Ballot measures address a variety of issues this year: voters in Illinois will get the chance to create a recall procedure for removing the governor, midterm, with a popular vote. Rhode Island voters will determine the fate of the state's official name (which is currently "Rhode Island and the Providence"), and Californians will decide whether or not to fully legalize marijuana. South Dakota has the this year’s only "popular referendum" -- an effort to overturn the state's ban on smoking in casinos.

The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that there are usually around 200 total ballot measures in national election years. In the past 10 general elections dating back to 1990, voters approved 1,204 of 1,943 measures that appeared on state ballots. That 62% success rate has been fairly constant, and only once in that period did fewer than half of the ballot measures pass (in 1990 only 42% were approved). The highest rate of passed ballot measures in that period was in 1998, when 175 of 236 proposed ballot questions – 74% – were approved.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Preregistration bill for 16 year olds signed in Delaware

On September 8th, Delaware became the 6th state to allow 16 year olds to pre-register to vote when they apply for their driver's license at the state DMV, joining Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and also the District of Columbia. (Additionally, California and Oregon have adopted a 17-year-old pre-registration age.)

A recent article cited the DE Division of Motor Vehicle statistics that more than 26,800 16- and 17-year-olds applied for their driver’s license from 2007 to 2009. During the same three-year period, the state Department of Elections reported that about 14,000 18-year-olds registered to vote.

Pre-registration laws are an important step that more and more states are taking in order to combat the high disparity between youth and adult voter registration rates, helping to make voting a "habit" as early as possible for our nation's young people. For more on youth pre-registration, check out this fact sheet from FairVote.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Info from Yesterday's Webinar

Thanks again to everyone who tuned in for yesterday's webinar, "Voter Registration and Voter Education for Nonprofits," with Bridgette Rongitsch and Robynne Curlee. If you have questions or would like to continue the conversation, please feel free to be in touch using the contact information below.

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

You can download yesterday's PowerPoint presentation here. You can also download the audio portion of the presentation in MP3 format. In addition, you can view the presentation and listen to the audio online here.

You can sign up for upcoming webinars and access our previous webinars by visiting our 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 to 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Here are some to help you get ready for the election:
  • Order a "Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies" or view it online.
  • Snag a Vote November 2 Poster by filling out this form.
  • Visit your state page to learn more about voting in your state.
  • Download our Guide to Voter Registration.
  • Place a web badge on your website to help visitors access important voting information.
Voter registration deadlines are approaching quickly, but there's still time to take action. Project Vote offers a state-by-state guide to voter registration and Rock the Vote has an online voter registration tool to help register new voters.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Early Voting Options

Depending on your state, early voting can mean two different things:

1. Early voting by mail - often known as absentee voting - is conducted by mail-in paper ballot prior to the day of the election. While all states offer some version of it, there is a great deal of variance in procedure. 29 states offer "no-excuse" absentee voting, while other states permit voters to vote absentee only under a limited set of circumstances.

2. Early voting in person allows voters to cast their ballot before election day by visiting an election official’s office or other satellite location. These voters do not need to offer an excuse for not voting on election day. Early voting is usually available during a period of 10-14 days before the election, typically ending on the Friday or Saturday preceding the election. 32 states currently offer some sort of early voting.

To learn more about the early voting options in your state and to request an absentee mail-in ballot, visit your state’s voter information page on our website, www.NonprofitVote.org.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Online Voter Registration Now Available in Nevada

Nevada is now the 9th state to allow new voters to register online. Nevada joins Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oregon, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah, and Indiana.

The program, unveiled last week, requires new registrants to have a Nevada-issued driver’s license or state ID number.

In its first phase, it is currently available to residents in Clark County, home to 72% of the state's population. To learn more, visit the Nevada secretary of state's Election Center website.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Voting after foreclosure

For those who in the past few years have had their homes foreclosed on or are currently in the middle of the process, voting in the 2010 presents special challenges. Whether foreclosure has forced former homeowners to move to new counties or states, or whether these former homeowners have been forced to "bounce around" staying with friends or relatives, the increased number of displaced people this year means increased issues of where to vote, updating registrations, showing documentation of residence and meeting new, unfamiliar deadlines.

Moreover, these issues represent a disproportionate problem. A recent study shows that of the homeowners who obtained mortgages between 2005 and 2008, 8% of African American and Hispanic borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure versus only 4.5% of white borrowers. of the total homeowner pool, 17% of Hispanic individuals, 11% of African Americans, and 7% of white borrowers have faced foreclosure.

The Fair Elections Legal Network has responded by issuing a new report entitled Lose Your Home, Keep Your Vote: How to Protect Voters Caught Up in Foreclosure, that urges election officials to interpret state law and issue clear guidance in ways that would protect voters in residential limbo this November.

FELN has also published helpful state guides to inform voters of their rights.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Updates on MOVE Act Waiver Applications

Last year President Obama signed the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which requires election officials to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election. The first election effected by the law is this year’s November 2 general election. However, the law also allows states to apply for a waiver from the 45 day requirement under certain circumstances.

Ten states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands sought waivers. The results of the petitions are below.

Waiver Accepted:
  1. Delaware
  2. Massachusetts
  3. New York
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Washington
Waiver Denied:
  1. Alaska
  2. Colorado
  3. Hawaii
  4. Wisconsin
  5. District of Columbia
  6. U.S. Virgin Islands
Maryland initially applied for a waiver, but the Defense Department found the state to already be in compliance. States who were denied waivers must send ballots to military and absentee voters by September 18.

Issues of MOVE act compliance will not fade after this year’s election. The Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act – adopted this summer by the Uniform Law Commission – will ask states to extend the 45-day requirement to state and local elections.

Information collected from electionOnline Weekly, produced by electionline.org.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The wiki world has a new addition: Ballotpedia, “a community of users dedicated to fairness and openness in politics.”

Like other wikis, Ballotpedia allows registered users to add content, edit the site, and fix mistakes. Ballotpedia also employs a handful of writers to create, edit, and monitor content.

Ballotpedia covers a slew of issues: elections, ballot measures and access, petitions and ballot law, recalls, school and local ballot measures, and state legislatures. It is also one of the only resources with comprehensive information on ballot measures in each state.

The site was launched in May 2007 and is currently sponsored by the Lucy Burns Institute, a 501(c)(3) based in Madison, WI. The Lucy Burns Institute also sponsors WikiFOIA and Judgepedia.

Ballotpedia currently hosts 107,392 articles and claims 2,435 registered users.

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