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Voting Rights 2008: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Fallout from Montana Voter Challenge Plan Continues:  Last week we highlighted the tremendous job that Forward Montana and other local advocates did in bringing a massive attempt to challenge voters in Montana to a stop.  In just a few days the plan was abandoned amid serious public backlash.  This week there has been additional fallout as the executive director of the state GOP has stepped down.  Clearly trying to keep people like deployed soldiers from voting wasn't a popular activity in the big sky state.

Voter Suppression Update

A couple of weeks ago, we outlined the rash of voter suppression activities cropping up, like clockwork, around the nation. This week we cover the new suppression efforts that have come to light since.

Left in the Cold — Utility Shut-Offs and State Responses

Working families struggling to make utility payments are feeling the chill as companies shut off their gas and electricity. Shut-offs are up across dozens of states, particularly Michigan where unemployment is high, with a 22 percent increase in the number of families left without heat or electricity. The state's Heating and Warmth Fund, which helps those in need pay delinquent heating bills, has seen a record 42 percent increase in people applying for heating payment assistance.

Vote Suppression Watch

Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before, are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates. Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression campaigns have been reported:

Reports Find Election Administration in Swing States Not Significantly Improved

Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved backward since the last federal election in 2006.  Examining the most recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states are moving important reforms.