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.
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.
Now that the future of a controversial state election law is proving uncertain, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has wasted no time in ensuring that one of the more heinous provisions of HB 194 will be implemented anyway in time for this year’s election. The bill, which was enacted by the Governor and scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 30, includes a number of disenfranchising measures, among them, a prohibition against mailing unsolicited absentee-ballot provisions to voters. However, implementation has been endangered, as state advocates mobilize to gather more than 231,000 valid signatures to place a repeal of the legislation on next year’s ballot. If successful, the law would be suspended until the public’s final decision.