Florida last week marked two victories that will help protect the integrity of the state’s elections, becoming the latest state where conservative efforts to suppress voter participation have stalled. As Progressive States Network has noted previously, conservatives emboldened by recent successful efforts to make it harder for people to vote should not count their chickens before they hatch in 2012.
A state that asks everyone, including the luckiest few, to pay their fair share during a time of historic inequality. A state with a minimum wage above the federal floor that helps boost consumer spending and power the economy. A state that has been able to avoid economically devastating budget cuts and public sector job losses by seeking responsible budget solutions.
What one word might describe a state that has adopted policies like the above to rebuild their economy? The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has one in mind: “poor.”
Many states are moving toward voting by mail: Oregon requires all elections to be conducted by mail, and Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington state allow voting by mail at some level. California and West Virginia have also enacted legislation allowing counties the option of conducting special elections entirely by mail.
With conservatives continuing to back state efforts to suppress the vote as a critical election year begins, Connecticut officials chose the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday last Monday to announce a package of election reforms that would boost voter participation and protect the right to vote. The legislation announced by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, and Secretary of State Denise Merrill includes Election Day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and online voter registration — reforms that have proven successful and popular in a bevy of states.
A huge victory in Montana last week restored the state’s longstanding ban on corporate political spending on behalf of state political candidates and parties, overturning a lower court’s ruling and flying in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that grants corporations the same free speech rights as individuals.
Exactly one year ago, conservatives swept the states on Election Day, thanks to promises to focus on jobs and the economy. But in states where conservatives were able to advance their agenda in 2011 sessions, voters only saw attacks on workers, the middle class, women, immigrants, and historically disenfranchised communities. This week, voters from every corner of the nation - form Ohio to Maine to Arizona to Mississippi - sent a striking and direct message in response, rejecting the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 on a range of issues.
Conservative efforts to roll back reforms that benefit working families have hit a major snag – the voting public. Citizens in Ohio and Maine are taking advantage of the ballot initiative process in their states to fight back against right-wing legislation rammed through their statehouses this year that aims more to tilt the 2012 elections rather than actually serve any constituents. As record numbers of voters in some states sign on to petitions to repeal harmful and politically motivated laws, they are sending a clear message, one both reflected in polling and which is resonating across the country: that they will not allow their states to move backwards by stripping workers and voters of fundamental rights.
Conservatives wasted no time in exploiting their numeric advantages following historic gains in state legislatures during the 2010 midterm elections, particularly in the area of voting rights. Of the over 285 election reform bills enacted in 47 states in 2011, the majority were passed in conservative-dominated legislatures and will serve to restrict access to the polls in time for the 2012 election. In addition to the passage of well-publicized voter ID legislation, successful rollbacks to existing laws, including shortening early voting periods and eliminating same day registration, will mainly serve to benefit conservative candidates at the public’s expense.
It has been more than 90 years since women fought their way to suffrage. In that period of time, we’ve experienced the Year of the Woman – when a record number of women ran and/or won congressional races in 1992 – and voter turnout rates for women that have consistently exceeded voter turnout rates for men since 1980. The gender gap that often gives Democrats the edge among female voters (except in 2010) and proved to be Ronald Reagan’s “woman problem” has forced all candidates to acknowledge the power of the female vote. Despite this growing clout, 2011 saw a barrage of state legislation that effectively moves women’s suffrage back in time and impedes access to the polls for millions of us.
The Iowa State Association of County Auditors released "A Report on Photo ID for Voting Purposes" in 2011, which details the cost of the laws in several states and outlines recommendations for implementation.