(With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fifth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states. Read the full article here .)
With a close presidential election on the horizon, this year saw conservatives continuing to ramp up their voter suppression efforts. Party leaders in Pennsylvania and Florida admitted as much, confessing that their efforts were intended to benefit conservatives in time for the elections. However, attempts to stack the deck for partisan gain encountered a number of obstacles and were nowhere near as successful as they were last year, ultimately ensuring that — despite a continuing spate of efforts in legislatures, the courts, and by partisan elections officials to roll back the fundamental right to vote — 2012 was not the banner year that the right was hoping for. If 2011 was “The Year of Voter ID,” then 2012 will certainly go down as “The Year of Right-Wing Overreach,” as courts and federal enforcement agencies struck down such blatantly partisan tactics. Though the year is far from over and several important voter suppression battles have yet to be decided in advance of Election Day, there were some key victories for democracy that bode well for 2013.
Though UFO sightings are more common than in-person voter impersonation, over thirty states introduced or carried over legislation focused on an almost entirely non-existent problem. These included an assortment of new voter ID proposals and measures to “strengthen” existing laws by requiring photo ID, but also some bills to expand the type of photo ID acceptable at the polls. The national right-wing strategy behind voter ID laws became clearer this year as the corporate backers of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were taken to task by the public for their support of state legislation to suppress the vote. [Read More] 
Performing an important check on partisan right-wing legislators eager to tilt the electoral playing field in their states, the courts have made a number of important rulings that largely affirmed individuals’ right to register to vote and access the polls easily. [Read More] 
Conservatives attempted to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment by using the same faulty rationale for voter ID laws — keeping non-citizens from “stealing” our elections — to push for a new initiative: purges of non-citizens from the voter rolls. [Read More] 
2012 also featured some bright spots that bucked the trend of imposing barriers to registration and voting. From same day registration to online voter registration to eliminating waiting periods for ex-felons, progress was made on expanding voting rights in some states. [Read More] 
Though more studies showed in 2012 that voter ID is a misguided, ineffective means of addressing electoral fraud, the upside of the conservative focus on “protecting the sanctity of the vote” and the rolls may be the highlighting of the need to update our antiquated, patchwork voter registration system. The components of voter registration modernization ensure that records are more accurate, opportunities for fraud are reduced, and that the overall process is more efficient — all while saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year, something that liberals and conservatives can agree upon.
If history is any indication, one of the biggest problems plaguing Election Day will be partisan misinformation campaign designed to skew the vote — not undocumented immigrants, as conservatives insist. The confluence of near-universally weak state laws on deceptive practices and a historically close election could result in record numbers of voters kept from the polls. Legislators should take advantage of public discussion of disenfranchisement to champion legislation that protects voters.
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Latest SB 1070 Ruling and 10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class
Last week, a federal district court in Phoenix issued a mixed ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. Immigrant communities declared partial victory with the decision to strike down a portion of the law that makes it a crime to engage in everyday activities with an undocumented individual, but the ruling failed to block the “racial profiling” provision of the law, disappointing Arizonans who believe in freedom, justice, and equal treatment under the law. PSN's Suman Raghunathan explains this latest court ruling on state anti-immigrant efforts here .
Also this week, with new Census Bureau statistics showing inequality rising and median household income declining, Progressive States Network joined more than 20 organizations to release a plan recommending concrete proposals to strengthen the economy for the long-term by creating good jobs and addressing the economic insecurity that has spread to millions of U.S. families. Read more about the report, "10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class for Hard Working Americans," here. 
In this week’s Research Roundup : Reports from Demos and Common Cause on protecting the freedom to vote against intimidation and suppression attempts both at the ballot box and before election day, the Iowa Policy Project on the invisible epidemic of wage theft, the Herndon Alliance on questions to be prepared to answer on state health exchanges, Demos on fourteen bold policy proposals to build a strong and diverse middle class, the National Women’s Law Center on how public sector job losses have hit women hard, the Department of Health and Human Services on how the health care law has saved an estimated $2.1 billion for consumers, a video from CLASP showing businesspeople in Washington, D.C. talking about the effects of earned sick days, and the Economic Policy Institute’s 12th edition of their authoritative State of Working America firstname.lastname@example.org 
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