On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage,
making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather
than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex
couples. Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of
representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act,
Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he
would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative
As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.
Early Voting Shows Big Gain Nationally, Hits Majority in Ten States
The final numbers for early voting have been posted by the United States Elections Project
at George Mason University and they are big: 30% of votes nationwide
were cast early and a majority of voters cast their votes either by
mail or in person before Election Day in ten states. The total
increase is 50% over the number cast in the 2004 presidential election.
And even more striking, Coloradans cast 79% of their
votes early, the vast majority through mail-in ballots. These numbers
make clear that the electoral landscape is changing in many states, and
the endorsement by so many voters will likely fuel further adoption of
early voting this session and beyond.