Thanks to everyone who helped Protect Maine Votes to victory on Tuesday. A People’s Veto overturned the Republican legislature and governor’s ban on same-day voter registration. Protect Maine Votes had this to say:
“Same-day registration has worked for almost 40 years, helping Maine to be a national leader in voter participation,” said Barbara McDade, the president of the League of Women Voters of Maine and an early leader in the campaign to restore same-day registration. “Mainers take their elections seriously, and today they have rejected attempts to rollback voting rights and erect unnecessary barriers to the ballot.”
The Protect Maine Votes/Yes on 1 coalition is made up of 23 partner organizations and fielded a team of more than 1,000 volunteers to collect signatures for the People’s Veto of a law that eliminated same-day voter registration.
“Mainers stood up for the integrity and security of our elections today,” said Shenna Bellows, the co-chair of the campaign’s steering committee and the executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “We must remain vigilant against any future attacks on voting rights. Maine voters have sent a clear message: No one should be denied the right to vote.”
Unfortunately, Mississippi voters didn’t see it that way. They approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to require a government-issued photo ID at the polls. A big step forward, and a giant one backward for voting rights in the United State.
In other news:
- In other news, the news! Maybe because it was election week, or maybe because the country is waking up to the issue, traditional media coverage now exists about the problem. Consider this from ABC News:
It is almost one year to the day that Americans will head to the polls for the 2012 election, but for residents in seven states, casting those ballots could be a bit more difficult than in the last go-round.
New laws requiring voters to show photo identification are set to take effect in Kansas, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. [...]
Prior to 2011, there were only two states with strict photo ID laws, Georgia and Indiana. Over the course of the year, four states tightened their existing ID laws to now require photos and three passed new voter ID laws.
In Texas, for example, where voters in past years have had to show some form of identification, they will now have to provide a government-issued photo ID.
- Along those lines, don’t miss this fantastic column by Erika L. Wood, an associate professor of law at New York Law School, on the fraught history of voting rights in the U.S., specifically on the disenfranchisement of felons.
Nationwide, 13 percent of black men have lost the right to vote, a rate that is seven times the national average. But the ripple effects of large-scale incarceration now extend well beyond the individuals who are imprisoned, and as a result minority communities throughout the country have lost political influence. It’s a simple equation: communities with high incarceration rates have fewer votes to cast. The whole community suffers the result. [...]
For all of the history and all of the politics, the right to vote is a very personal piece of empowerment. If as a society we want those who have done wrong to do right, then this one act can signify a life change. As one New York resident, reflecting on voting for the first time in 2008 after having her rights restored, put it: “I felt like I was finally a productive member of society. I’ve never before felt like I could make a difference in terms of what happens around me. But I walked out of the polling place on Election Day feeling like I mattered.”
- Last week, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Justice Department to investigate new voting laws in his state and around the nation to determine “whether new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout.” He also requested investigations by the Senate.
This week, 40 of his House colleagues, including Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Kathy Castor, joined his call for congressional investigations, writing to House leadership [pdf]:
Congress has the Constitutional authority to act to protect the rights of all voters. In the face of voter suppression laws being enacted across the nation, Congress must determine the extent of the problem and provide appropriate remedies. Despite years of progress, inequities and obstacles still remain. We must work together to strengthen our nation’s democracy and ensure that the voting rights of all Americans are protected. Again, we respectfully request that Committees hold a hearing to address this extremely important matter.
Fat chance of hearings in the Republican-controlled House, but it’s an important marker to set, and helpful in keeping the issue on the front burner for Democrats and for the activist community.