“The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”
Former U.S. Congressman John Lewis
The right to vote is the bedrock of this Democracy. The goal of restrictive voting laws is to prevent marginalized communities from voting. Many fail to remember that this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
U.S. election laws date back to Article 1 of the Constitution. This gave states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Many Constitutional amendments and federal laws to protect voting rights have been passed since then. Each state has a chief election official and creates its own election laws and procedures. Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, is set by an 1845 law, and both houses of Congress would have to agree to change it.
This war is decades long and has its roots in institutionalized racism, and a planned systematized strategy to silence Democrats. The pandemic has further darkened the skies as there were no provisions or accommodations in state law for its existence, in addition to no additional funds. The infrastructure of mail in voting is complex and challenging. This is compounded by Republicans and Conservatives in state governments intent on blocking the vote, and now having a multitude of ways to do so.
The War on Voting
Updated September 21: It’s expected that the outcome of the presidential contest will most likely be decided in eight swing states; Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. So it’s no surprise the Republicans have focused their arsenal on these states, in addition to a continued assault on marginalized communities around America.
Absentee/Mail-In-Ballot Challenges & Rejections
Brad Raffensperger, a Georgia Republican Secretary of State, has raised the specter of fraud by announcing an “Absentee-Ballot Fraud Task Force” for 2020 that prosecutors will help lead. The task force, nine of whose 12 members are Republican, would investigate, among other things, “every signature mismatch” on a mail-in ballot. Raffensperger’s intention is clear: Intimidate and deter voters.
The challenges have not changed since the 2018 election. In the coming months, in the swing states and elsewhere, partisan fights could break out over whether to allow voters to request an absentee ballot online instead of by mail (many states currently don’t allow this), or waive the requirement that voters obtain witness signatures before returning their ballots (as North Carolina and Wisconsin, among others, mandate) because some voters are self-isolating during the pandemic.
Many states lack uniform criteria or training for matching the signature on a ballot with the copy of the voter’s signature that the state has on file. As a result, rejection rates can vary a great deal from county to county.
States including Pennsylvania and Michigan don’t require election officials to notify voters if their signatures are missing or have been rejected, so those voters don’t have a chance to fix the problem. The gaps in the law leave the decision up to county and local officials.
The April 7 Wisconsin Primary included the presidential primary, thousands of local offices and four judgeships, including a key seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Voting advocate groups including BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing for Community) asked Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers to postpone the election until it was safer to vote. The Wisconsin Assembly and Senate are firmly in the hands of Republicans. They refused to allow mailed in ballots to be sent to each registered voter.
Wisconsin shows how politically divisive basic access to voting could be in November. Three other swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — have the same kind of divided government, with Democratic governors and Republican-led legislatures wrestling for control, the dynamic that caused so much trouble in April.
Early Voting Blockade
“In the past the great majority of minority voters, in Ohio and other places that means African American voters, cast a large percentage of their votes during the early voting process”
Former U.S. Congressman John Lewis
Decades after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, black legislators and their allies increased access to voting by opening polling sites in the weeks before Election Day. In 2010, after taking control of most state legislatures, Republicans eliminated early voting and same-day registration where they could.
Contested Election Results
“This is a year when accusations of a stolen or broken election have more potential than they’ve had for decades to rip the country apart. It’s hard to overstate the importance of seeing the election done right. “It’s this simple: A disputed election in this environment poses an existential threat to American democracy.”
As the two parties clash over how to conduct an election in a pandemic, President Trump’s litigiousness and unfounded claims of fraud have increased the likelihood of epic post-election court fights.
The battle is playing out on two tracks: defining the rules about how the voting will take place, and preparing for fights over how the votes should be counted and contesting the outcome.
Nine Falsehoods that could Undermine the 2020 Election
CLAIM #1: There is widespread voting by ineligible individuals
TRUTH: This type of fraud is extremely rare.
CONSEQUENCE: More restrictive voting laws and lower levels of trust in elections.
CLAIM #2: The president can delay Election Day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
TRUTH The president has no authority to change the date of Election Day. CONSEQUENCE: A delay in the election could trigger a constitutional crisis and jeopardize the peaceful transition of power in the United States
CLAIM #3: Non citizens are voting in droves
TRUTH: Noncitizen voting is exceedingly rare
CONSEQUENCE : More restrictive voting laws and lower levels of trust in elections.
CLAIM #4: The Machines Malfunctioned — They Were Clearly Rigged
TRUTH: Malfunctions may be the result of wear and tear rather than hacking or manipulation. For example, vote flipping can be caused by the glue between the touch screen and the machine wearing down.
CONSEQUENCE: Inaccurate claims of hacking or vote-rigging could lead to extreme partisan conflict over election results in 2020.
CLAIM #5: A failure to announce results on election night is an indication of malfeasance in the election process.
TRUTH: In a close election, getting the right result can take time.
CONSEQUENCE:Rushing out election results can lead to inaccurate election night calls of outcomes, resulting in increased partisan conflict over election outcomes and decreased trust in democratic processes.
CLAIM #6: Election outcomes that differ from election night projections are suspect.
TRUTH: Ballots continue to be counted after election night and, in a close election, those ballots can change the outcome.
CONSEQUENCE: Increased partisan conflict over election outcomes and decreased trust in election outcomes.
CLAIM #7: Recounts, audits, and election contests are illegitimate attempts to undo a valid election result.
TRUTH: Recounts, audits, and election contests are all normal parts of the elections process that help to ensure that every valid ballot is counted accurately. CONSEQUENCE: Increased partisan conflict over and decreased trust in election outcomes.
CLAIM #8: Groups that help many voters cast their absentee ballots are engaged in illegal “ballot harvesting,” and laws that allow such assistance enable election fraud.
TRUTH: Partisans use the pejorative “ballot harvesting” to criticize two very different sets of practices: (a) illegal and illegitimate absentee ballot tampering and (b) legal and legitimate assistance to voters casting their absentee ballots. Voter assistance is not evidence of fraud.
CONSEQUENCE: Lower levels of trust in elections and more restrictive voting laws.
CLAIM #9: Aggressive voter purges are needed because voter rolls are infected with large numbers of ineligible voters.
TRUTH: Claims that voter rolls are “dirty” are overblown.
CONSEQUENCE: Purge numbers are growing. Improper purges can disenfranchise eligible voters, cause undue delays at the polls, and heighten distrust in our election systems.
Election Security Hacking and Interference
Disinformation about the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire. Russia has already begun to use the crisis to peddle false conspiracy theories and further divide Americans. It interfered in our 2016 presidential election; we must make sure that foreign actors and adversaries cannot use this moment of crisis to undermine our elections.
New evidence shows how Russia’s Election Interference has gotten more brazen. The Kremlin-linked operation behind 2016 election meddling is using similar tactics for 2020, plus some new ones.
The Fraud Distraction
In the 2000s, Republicans began passing strict voter-identification laws, which could be justified as a way to prevent fraud — though in-person voting fraud is extremely rare.
Trump has shifted to the preferred Republican justification for making it harder to vote — preventing fraud. With the threat of the pandemic rising, he called voting by mail “corrupt,” imagining “thousands of votes are gathered, and they come in, and they’re dumped in a location, and then, all of a sudden, you lose elections you think you’re going to win.”
He used a recent case to assail mail-in voting as dangerous, though election experts disagree. Officials in New Jersey argue that what happened in Paterson was being oversimplified and that the majority of ballots were rejected because they had been filled out incorrectly and not because they had been submitted illegally.
“The claim of fraud is a distraction,” Jena Griswold, the Secretary of State in Colorado where 95 percent of people voted by mail in 2018, “We have a history of clean elections. When we think there is the possibility of double voting, we send every case to the attorney general.” Our number for 2018 was 0.0027 percent.”
“All Americans deserve an election system that is secure and President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for universal mail-in voting would lead to fraud,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. LINK POLITICO trump aides exploring
Suppressing Turnout by Black and Latino Voters
“In 1965, the attempted march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7 was planned to dramatize to the state of Alabama and to the nation that people of color
wanted to register to vote.”
Former U.S. Congressman John Lewis
Republicans usually don’t talk openly about suppressing turnout Trump broke that rule, saying at a news briefing that he thought his party would lose if more people voted. The Democrats’ proposals, he said, “had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” *
Conservatives have long focused on increased turnout as a threat and have worked to minimize it. In the 2000s, Republicans began passing strict voter-identification laws.
Since the Supreme Court effectively gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, more than 1,600 polling places have been closed across the country.
Trump benefited from decreased turnout in 2016, especially in the vital swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, where participation by black and Democratic voters declined from the historic levels that lifted Barack Obama. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law accounted for some of the decline in turnout in Milwaukee, according to Neil Albrecht, the city election director.
Republicans target voter registration drives with new state laws. Bills in Florida, Texas, Arizona , Tennessee and other red states are requiring “training” before you can conduct a registration drive. Most believe this is a veiled attempt to suppress black voters after organized efforts in the 2018 midterm election cycle to boost voter turnout among African Americans and people of color.
Underfunding the Elections
Significantly changing how elections are carried out will cost money, and all states face a giant funding gap as they scramble to prepare for the unknowns of November. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates the pandemic-associated costs of properly running the 2020 elections (including the primaries as well as the general) at $4 billion. So far, Congress has promised $400 million, with Democrats pushing for more and Republicans blocking their bills.
The U.S. Postal Service Onslaught
Reforms will put additional stress on the already teetering United States Postal Service (USPS), which is on track to run out of money within weeks.
Yet, August 7, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s mail service. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around DeJoy, a former logistics executive and major ally of President Trump, and de-emphasizes decades of institutional postal knowledge.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chair of the House subcommittee responsible for postal oversight, called the reorganization “a deliberate sabotage” to the nation’s mail service and a “Trojan Horse.”
Some suggested Trump could try to stop local officials from counting remote ballots after Election Day and direct the Postal Service to not deliver certain ballots to voters using an emergency declaration, according to one of the people. The president can’t directly order the postmaster general to do anything, noting the Postal Service chief actually reports to a board of governors. But others argued the postmaster general, a Trump ally and Republican fundraiser, might still be influenced by Trump’s statements.
On Friday, August 13 it was reported that the Postal service to remove hundreds of sorting machines. Postal workers in various locations said machines have been dismantled.
Trump says Postal Service needs money for mail-in voting, but he’ll keep blocking funding. He says the U.S. Postal Service is incapable of facilitating mail-in voting because it cannot access the emergency funding he is blocking, and made clear that requests for additional aid were nonstarters in coronavirus relief negotiations.
Recent mail delays are fueling concern that Trump is undercutting the postal system ahead of voting.
The Voter Registration Purge
Republican officials have also increasingly pursued a practice that will matter in November no matter how voters cast their ballots, because it affects eligibility to vote by mail as well as in person — mass cuts to the voter-registration rolls. “Purges in and of themselves aren’t bad,” Kevin Morris and Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center wrote in a 2018 analysis. “They’re commonly used to clean up voter lists when someone has moved, passed away and more. But too often, names identified for removal are determined by faulty criteria that wrongly suggests a voter be deleted from the rolls.” Purging often disproportionally shaves away black and Latino voters.
Between 2016 and 2018, former Georgia Secretary of State Kemp purged more than 700,000 registered voters, more than 10 percent of the state total. Most people Kemp cut hadn’t responded to a notice sent by the state after they didn’t vote in the last few elections. An investigation by APM Reports from American Public Media estimated that at least 107,000 of them remained eligible to vote. Like many states, Georgia does not permit same-day registration, so people who show up to vote and find they can’t are not simply allowed back on the rolls.
If the 2020 election is close, purges in swing states could shape the results. According to the Brennan Center, in the two years leading up to the 2018 election, North Carolina, which has a Republican Legislature and at the time had a Republican governor, purged 11.7 percent of its voters; and Florida, also a Republican-controlled state, purged more than 7 percent, compared with 0.2 percent from 2008 to 2010.
Voting Litigation and Legislation Assaulting Voting in America
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, a Civil Rights-era law designed to prevent voter suppression in nine states and parts of seven other states.
Republicans are fighting in 17 states, including battleground ones. They have gone to court 40 times as part of a $20 million effort to challenge voting rules.
Republicans have already won some battles. A Democratic super-PAC and other left-leaning groups agreed to drop a lawsuit over voting rules in Florida after a judge refused to order changes immediately, including a request that the government cover postage costs for mail-in ballots.Another lawsuit seeking to extend the state’s absentee ballot deadline was dismissed in Pennsylvania.
In March 2020, the Republican Party in New Mexico sued to prevent 27 county clerks from shifting to vote-by-mail for the June primary. In April, three voters affiliated with the conservative group True the Vote filed a lawsuit to stop Nevada from conducting an all-mail primary election planned by the secretary of state.(A federal court rejected the suit at the end of the month, calling its claim of voter fraud “without any factual basis.”) In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton interpreted the state law that requires an excuse like illness for absentee voting to mean that a voter must actually be sick rather than simply be concerned about becoming infected.
Wisconsin Governor Edgers tried to postpone the primary date in light of the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked him. The conservative majority said that the governor’s authority by law to issue orders “he or she deems necessary for the security of persons and property” didn’t mean he could override other valid laws, including those governing elections.That meant voters had to choose between braving their polling places or sitting out the election.
On July 3 The Supreme Court handed down awful news for voting rights. The practical impact of both orders is that voters in Alabama and Texas will find it harder to cast a ballot during the pandemic:
Alabama law allows anyone to cast an absentee ballot during the pandemic, but it also imposes certain restrictions on those voters.Among other things, absentee voters must provide a copy of their photo ID, and their ballot must be signed by either two witnesses or one notary public. The Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of a lower court decision that blocked this from happening.
Texas law permits voters over the age of 65 to request absentee ballots without difficulty. But most voters under the age of 65 are not allowed to vote absentee. A trial judge’s order would have allowed younger Texans to vote absentee. Last month, the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked that judge’s order.The plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to hear their case on an expedited basis in time for November. The Supreme Court denied that request. The younger voters will likely have to risk infection at an in-person polling site if they wish to cast a ballot.
A conservative group, Judicial Watch, has sued in North Carolina and Pennsylvania over the accuracy of voting rolls in an attempt to purge 800,000 voters in Pa.
In Iowa, Republicans sued to prevent third parties from filling out personal information on absentee ballot requests. In Minnesota, they tried to prevent ballots from being sent to inactive voters. And in Nevada, the Trump campaign on Tuesday, August 4,2020, filed a lawsuit against the state over a plan to send ballots to active registered voters this November.
What is Trump now exploring? An option for Trump would be sending federal officials into states under the guise of ensuring “every vote is counted,” citing the 15th Amendment or the Voting Rights Act.
The Tennessee Supreme Court vacated a ruling that would have allowed all registered voters in the state to vote absentee in 2020
The War on Voting’s
On The State & Local Levels
“Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible
for every American to exercise their right to vote ”
Former U.S. Congressman John Lewis
Casting a Ballot By Mail and In-Person
A Reuters poll in April found that 72 percent of Americans want the government to require mail-in ballots in November to protect voters if the coronavirus continues to pose a threat, including 65 percent support among Republicans. Researchers have found that vote-by-mail hasn’t obviously helped one party or the other.
A long history of voter discrimination across the country, has contributed to a mistrust of voting by mail and a preference for casting in-person ballots While mail-in voting has expanded overall turnout, it doesn’t necessarily expand turnout among voters in minority groups such as African Americans and Native Americans, many of whom prefer in-person voting.
Absentee/Mail In Ballots
“It’s not as easy as people think. The boring stuff matters — the scut work of supply chain and logistics and management is crucial.”
Nathaniel Persily, Healthy Elections Project
More Americans than ever before are expected to vote by mail this year because of concerns about the coronavirus. One challenge facing election officials now: how to print and mail the millions of ballots voters are expected to request in the coming months.
Ballot printers must increase capacity to prepare for mail voting surge. With many states expected to expand mail-in voting for November, experts warn that existing ballot printing services could quickly become overwhelmed.One of of the biggest such vendors in the country is Runbeck Election Services. Getting ballots to the right voters is a complicated, multi-step process. States need to decide what their ballots will look like and to get approval from the U.S. Postal Service for the design of the envelopes.
States must purchase high-speed scanners to count votes. Companies warned that they were already at capacity for November, filling orders from longtime vote-by-mail states like California and Colorado. They could expand, but they would need to buy costly equipment that takes several months to obtain, For example, the machine that folds and inserts the ballot into the envelope can cost up to $1 million. It normally takes 90 days to order one piece of gear. Then you have to get it installed and check everything, because the security and quality control has to be very, very high.
If 60 percent of eligible voters make it to the polls, it would be the highest turnout for a presidential election in a half century. One way to improve those numbers would be to expand early voting.
Eliminating early voting has been found to decrease turnout in communities of color. Even one extra day of early voting would lead to a meaningful boost in turnout, especially for women and parents with young families.
Essential Election Workers, Clerks and Commissioners
State officials can advise on preparing for the pandemic, but it’s the local clerks and commissioners who have to make the logistics work. They are responsible, foremost, for following guidance from the CDC on operations, procedures, and facility preparation for the poll locations during this pandemic.
Clerks and commissioners must focus on voter education like How To Request an Absentee Ballot and How To Vote By Mail. Multi-lingual instructions will be crucial. Additional needed information involves Early Voting and Election Day Voting locations and hours.
They must assess and confirm that all poll locations will be staffed . Training must be provided for new election workers replacing vulnerable retirees.
The election workers at polls must be protected. They should be given face coverings and gloves, sanitation materials, and have safe social distancing guidelines between them and the public.
These officials must have preparations in place for anticipated long lines.
One big question for 2020 is how states will verify absentee ballots to guard against fraud while also ensuring that voters are treated fairly. You have to be open and transparent about how you’re verifying, or people will think you’re just throwing out Democratic or Republican votes to win.
States that have adopted universal vote-by-mail have shown it can be done securely. Election officials can create a clear, un-hackable paper trail for ballots, sending them to voters with a bar code that can be tracked. Voters must sign the ballots, which means signatures can be checked, and send them back in a certified inner envelope, also signed and also with a bar code. Another suggestion is for counties to use databases that chart the evolution of voters’ signatures over time rather than relying on a registration file that may be decades old.
It is so important for polling places open for people who don’t have stable mailing addresses — a group that increases as people are uprooted during an economic downturn — or whose disabilities, like blindness, make it hard to fill out a ballot unassisted.
The states must have a minimum number of polling locations within a community based on the size of the population, located in areas that can serve all populations in the municipality.
State and county election commissioners must follow guidance from the CDC on operations, procedures, and facility preparation . This includes equipping polling locations with sufficient supplies of soap and hand sanitizer, incorporating social distancing strategies like increasing the space between voting booths, and posting signs to encourage voters to stay at least 6 feet apart.
The states are responsible for adequately staffing each site. In addition, they must keep poll workers safe. Recommendations include encouraging workers to stay home if they’re sick or experiencing symptoms that can be indicative of COVID-19.
The election officials must develop multi-lingual educational materials sharing location, hours and safety precautions at Early Voting and Election day sites.
They are responsible for purchasing on-site machines like i pads/tablets for check-in, identification card scanners, and ballot scanners. Sites must also have machines like Image Cast and Automark for voters with disabilities. Directions and support must also be provided on site.
Increasing Turnout By Black, Latino and Native American Voters
In the decades after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stamped out forms of overt suppression, newly elected black legislators and their allies increased registration with state laws that let people register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and public-assistance offices, or register at the polls on the same day they voted.
Before she ran for governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams worked for years to register hundreds of thousands of new voters, many of them African-American and Latino, hoping to make Georgia (where people of color make up 40 percent of the population) more competitive for Democrats.
Last year, Ohio took the unusual step of releasing to advocacy groups in advance a list of 235,000 voters it planned to purge. A watchdog group called the Ohio Voter Project discovered that about 40,000 voters were being cut in error, about half of them from a heavily Democratic county with one of the highest percentages of people of color in the state.
For Native Americans, voting rights were hard-won. Mail-in voting could undo the gains. The problems related to mail-in voting are myriad for Native communities, advocates say. A lack of reliable mail access and a proliferation of nontraditional addresses on reservations, including those in North and South Dakota as well as the southwestern Navajo Nation, make home delivery impossible for many. For those with cars, simply visiting a post office to pick up and drop off a ballot can mean driving many miles on unpaved roads.
Tribal satellite voting offices on the reservations were the result of a 2012 lawsuit brought by three Native tribes to expand voting access on the reservations. Montana closed most of these sites when it switched to an optional mail-in voting system for the June 2 Primary. The Covid-related closures were a setback that required some voters to travel nearly 80 miles into town to collect and drop off their ballots, then 80 miles back. These satellite locations must be open for the November 2020 Elections.
5 Ways to Increase Voter Turnout in African American Communities
- Eliminate strict voter ID laws – these requirements serve to unfairly target low-income people, people of color, and elderly people by making it more burdensome to vote. Its example requiring photo ID that was disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African-Americans.
- Prevent unnecessary poll closures. Fewer polling places can present a significant barrier to voting, especially for individuals who lack convenient access to transportation and/or have child care and work responsibilities.
- Prohibit harmful voter purges – this voter suppression tactic is typically employed due to over reliance on inaccurate data and largely unsubstantiated suspicion that a resident recently voted in another state or did not participate in recent elections
- Prioritize African American voters in political outreach
- Recruit African American candidates for political office
5 Ways to Increase Voter Turnout in Latinx American Communities
- Eliminate voting purging policies
- Prohibit strict Voting ID requirements Experts found that eligible Latinos are “242 percent more likely to lack an accepted voter ID than are non-Hispanic whites.”
- Reform voter registration procedures. Same-day registration and automatic voter registration (AVR) are also promising pro-voter policies. 57% of eligible Latinx Americans are registered to vote, compared with 74 % of white Americans. But data show that when Latinx Americans are registered to vote, as many as 83 percent turn out on Election Day
- Address language barriers to voting, – provide bilingual voting information on their websites
- Prioritize Latinx American outreach in political campaigns – devote significant resources toward Spanish-language advertisements, polling, and canvassing in Latinx American communities.
5 Ways to Increase Voter Turnout in American Indian
and Alaska Native Communities
- Expand voter registration opportunities – The Native American Voting Rights Coalition, led by the Native American Rights Fund, recently found that nearly 1 in 3 American Indians are not registered to vote.
- Remove language barriers to voting There are 567 federally recognized Indian Tribes, many of which have distinct languages and cultural backgrounds. In fact, more than 1 in 4 AI/AN people—27 percent—speak a language other than English at home. Yet translated ballots and readings of voting instructions in Native languages were unavailable during the early voting period of 2016. This presented significant barriers for Native peoples, especially elders, who often have low literacy and education rates and were unable to cast their ballots during early voting in 2016.
- Eliminate strict voter ID laws They aim to suppress the voting power of marginalized communities, including American Indian communities. North Dakota, for example, enacted strict voter ID requirements that effectively disenfranchised almost 1 in 5 otherwise eligible American Indians.
- Expand the use of satellite polling stations, as described above.
- Reform mandatory vote-by-mail policies – Vote-by-mail policies are not a perfect solution to the problem of low voter turnout. Indeed, for eligible voters who do not have convenient access to the postal service, these policies can actually make it more difficult to vote.
5 Ways to Increase Voter Turnout in Asian Communities
- Collect robust disaggregated data on Asian Americans – Asian Americans have roots in more than 20 different countries and dozens of different cultural backgrounds. No one common language exists to unite the group, and there are significant socio-economic differences between ethnicities. Without robust data, policymakers struggle to fully understand and address the unique needs of the communities they serve.
- Eliminate language barriers to voting Nearly 1 in 3 Asian Americans are limited English proficient (LEP), meaning that they speak English less than “very well.” English proficiency differs significantly by ethnicity. in some ethnic communities, as many as 60 percent of voters prefer language assistance when voting.
- Prioritize Asian American outreach in political campaigns Most political campaigns fail to engage the Asian American community properly. In one survey, only 33 percent of Asian Americans reported being contacted by a partisan or nonpartisan organization regarding the 2016 election.
- End discriminatory voter purging policies Some states actively remove individuals from voter rolls due to clerical errors, reliance on inaccurate data, or if they suspect the individual voted in another state or has not voted recently. Known as “voter purging,” this blunt voter suppression tactic has disenfranchised thousands of Asian American people.
- Remove barriers to voter registration Once registered, the turnout disparity between Asian Americans and whites declines significantly. Yet only 56 percent of Asian Americans are registered to vote, compared with 72 percent of whites. Laws around the country have maintained this disparity by making it more difficult for Asian Americans to register to vote.
Third Party Assistance
Sometimes a voter may be unable to return the ballot in person or get it to a postal facility in time for it to be counted. In these cases, the voter may entrust the voted ballot to someone else—an agent or designee—to return the ballot.
Among the 26 states where a voter can designate someone to return their ballot, 12 have placed limits on the number of ballots any one agent can collect and return. Returning ballots for others is known as ballot collection or, pejoratively, “ballot harvesting.” The limits are based on the concern that saving people the task of returning their ballot can bleed into encouraging them to vote a certain way.
The pandemic has put a crimp on voter registration, potentially altering the electorate. Almost every place where Americans usually register to vote has been out of reach since March and it’s led to a big drop in new registrations right before a presidential election that was expected to see record turnout.
Voting Advocacy groups are not able to walk the neighborhood streets, set up tables at community centers and places where it’s easy to reach people in the community. Voters who rely more heavily on registration drives and other in-person means of registration, such as college students and people of color, are likely to be especially hard-hit.
At the federal level, the CARES Act provided $400 million in “Election Security Grants” to states, administered by the Election Assistance Commission. Though the legislation contained nothing specific on registration, the language is broad enough to allow some of those funds to be spent on registration. Some states, particularly those that rely most heavily on in-person means of registration and updating, should spend some of their available CARES Act funds on registration efforts.
Under a pandemic, states must ensure that all Americans can register to vote safely and easily. They must expand online and same day registration.
Another idea is to count the votes of moved or removed voters. Before every election, voters move without updating their registration information, or at least without election authorities having received this information. We can expect more of these voters in 2020, due to the unavailability of in-person means through which to update registrations.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) provides a partial answer to the problem of voters who have moved without updating their registration information. It enables people who have moved within the same “registrar’s jurisdiction” (in most states, the county) to cast a vote that should be counted, a practice known as “failsafe voting.” Voters who have moved within the same polling place area may update their information and vote by going to that polling place.
Some of those voters may wind up casting provisional ballots, as they are entitled to do under Help America Vote Act if they affirm in writing that they’re registered and eligible to vote in the jurisdiction.
Organizers have still continued to do the work around engaging folks by reaching people online, mostly over social media and video chats. They doubt, however, if they’ll be able to register as many new voters this year as they did in 2016.
In the end, the private sector must step up. Online retailer should step up to the plate, by directing voters to registration resources when consumers buy their products. As opportunities for face-to-face contact have declined, e-commerce revenues have risen substantially.
Those who are benefitting financially due to the pandemic have a responsibility to give back, by helping people register to vote or update their registrations. For customers in states with online registration, this can easily be done by directing them to the state registration portal after their purchases.
People in the handful of states without online registration can be sent to the National Mail Voter Registration Form, available on the EAC’s website. Available in fifteen different languages, this uniform form may be used by eligible citizens in every state and territory, following state-specific instructions.
Past and Pending State Litigation & Legislation
In Support of Voting
Stacey Abrams founded a voting rights group, Fair Fight Action, which sued Georgia later that November for suppressing the vote in several ways. One of them involved absentee ballots. Election officials had rejected thousands of them, often for errors like writing the date of the election in the field for a birth date. Daniel Smith, an expert for Fair Fight Action, found a higher rate of rejection for voters of color, who tended to support Abrams, than for white voters.
Arizona and Montana have enacted laws to sharply restrict third-party assistance to absentee voters in recent years. In January 2020, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arizona’s restriction, holding that it had a discriminatory effect on American Indian, Hispanic, and African American voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act and that it was passed for a discriminatory purpose, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. (This decision has been stayed pending Supreme Court review.)
Democrats and outside groups on both sides of the issue have similarly taken to the courts over voting rules — more than 160 lawsuits have been filed nationwide, according to election experts.
Pennsylvania sued over rejection of mail-in ballots due to problems with signatures. The Campaign Legal Center sued Pennsylvania , August 7, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, League of United Latin American Citizens Council, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and two individual clients. The federal lawsuit contends Pennsylvania is improperly rejecting mail-in ballots over issues with voters’ signatures without giving voters a chance to resolve those problems.
Native Americans sued Montana in 2012. Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribal members say that without satellite early-voting offices on their reservations, they must drive long distances to early-vote or late-register in their county seat. This is a burden for destitute tribal members who may not have vehicles or gas money for the trip, and the unequal access is illegal and unconstitutional, they say. The satellite offices were the result of a 2012 lawsuit . In the last few election cycles, advocates say the offices helped increase Native American turnout across the state.
The start of 2020 state legislative sessions has been marked by a flurry of activity around pro-voter reforms, particularly in states with Democratic control over both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office.
The War on Voting’s
On The Federal Level
Congress must act to protect our upcoming elections, keep voters and poll workers safe, and safeguard our electoral institutions for the long haul. It must provide the necessary funding and resources states desperately need to administer the vote, guard against foreign threats, and protect voters, election workers, and the public during the pandemic.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Past and Pending Congressional Legislation
Congress passed the Help America Vote Act
Emergency funds were made available to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle. This supplemental appropriation funding distributed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) will provide states with additional resources to protect the 2020 elections from the effects of the novel coronavirus.
The Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018 pending
This Act will re-institute what was known as “pre-clearance”. The pre- clearance provision, in effect from the 1960s until the Supreme Court struck it down in 2013, had required certain states with histories of discrimination to get permission from the federal government before making changes to their voting or elections laws. Since 2013, these states can pass virtually any such laws without oversight. States would now have to get clearance before passing laws which could adversely affect tribal members or reservation residents.
It requires tribal identification cards to be used as a valid form of voter ID, in states where voter identification is currently required. Depending on the state, acceptable forms of identification can include a birth certificate, driver’s license, or a hunting license — but often not a tribal ID.
This bill ensures that early voting, voting by mail, and other similar forms are available for every tribal voting precinct.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2020 pending
This Act will require that any state with a history of voting discrimination within the past 25 years seek federal approval before making any changes to its voting procedures.
It would also mandate that any state, regardless of its history, obtain clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, DC, before making any changes that would tend to burden voters of color, such as strict voter ID laws or closing polling places in areas with large numbers of minority voters.
The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 pending
This bill will give every eligible American the opportunity to vote by mail. It includes important protections to ensure these ballots are submitted, counted, and tracked.
The U.S. Postal Service
The debate over funding the Postal Service, which warns it could run out of operating funds at the end of September, is similarly split. The agency is burdened by hundreds of billions of dollars in debt and falling revenue.
It’s unknown whether the United States Postal Service can handle a surge of mail-in ballots in a timely fashion.Some have predicted the crush of remote voting could mean a final winner in the presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t be known for days or even weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be calling the House back into session to vote on the USPS bill. With heightened scrutiny of its operations, the Postal Service is now requesting a temporary pre-election rate increase, from mid-October through Christmas, although not for first-class letters. It said Sunday it would stop removing its distinctive blue mailboxes through mid-November following complaints from customers and members of the Congress.
The Five Step Response to the War on Voting in America
What You Can Do
STEP 1 : Identify the Problems during the Primaries
Identify the problems your state faced running Primary elections during this pandemic. Contact your election officials and demand answers and support for these , along with other voting concerns and challenges in Steps 2-4.
I’ve included the names and links to your State and County Election Commissioners, in addition to your State and Federal legislators, in the WHOM TO CONTACT section at the end of this post.
New York City
Why the Botched N.Y.C. Primary Has Become the November Nightmare
New York State
The Chaos in New York Is a Warning
Cuomo Signs Law Sweeping Election Reforms
After Delay, There’s Now a List of Winners or Losers in NJ Primary Elections…. More than a month later, state certifies election results
Pa. legislature’s delays could result in chaos for election officials and voters in November
How California is preparing for in-person voting this year due to coronavirus
California tosses 100,000 botched mailed-in ballots for presidential primary
The Massachusetts Republican and Democratic Party statewide primary is scheduled to take place on September 1, 2020. Research how they went.
Mass. 2020 Primary: What To Know About Voting By Mail Or At The Polls
A new law allows Mass. residents to vote by mail. Here’s how that’s already changing things
Kansas sees 240,000 mail-in ballot requests, more than ever before
What to expect at the polls Tuesday as Kansas, Missouri prepare for a pandemic election
STEP 2: Contact your State and County Election Commissioners
First confirm what your state and county is doing to safeguard every American’s right to vote. Then email/phone/write/ demand what is missing. Address the problems the primaries faced.
Your State and County Election Officials must:
Absentee/Mail In Ballots
- create an online ballot application system
- mail a ballot to all registered voters; automatically, before each election
- set up a system to receive and process an enormous volume of applications and subsequent mailed in ballots.
- purchase high-speed scanners to count votes
- establish secure drop-off boxes
- allow ballots to be dropped off at polling locations on the day of the election
- develop educational materials in multiple languages
- provide access to ballots in multiple languages
Essential Election Workers, Clerks and Commissioners
- share their CDC protocol for on site polling locations
- provide and share clear multi-lingual information about both Absentee/Mail In Ballots and In Person voting
- share staffing numbers per site
- share what the contingency plans are if election workers don’t show up
- keep poll workers safe. This includes plexiglass shields, face masks for workers, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and disposable stylus pens.
- share how they will verify absentee ballots to guard against fraud
- extend poll hours due to expected crowds
- share number of poll locations in marginalized communities, confirm their hours and nearby public transportation
- confirm that all sites have:
- tablets for check-in, identification card scanners, ballot scanners, and enough outlets
- proper lighting for both inside and outside
- machines, information and support available for people with disabilities
- share contingency plans should either of the digital tools or machines fail
- share contingency plans if election workers don’t show up
- explain how they will assess and manage waiting lines following social distancing criteria both inside and out, and prepare for bad weather
Increasing Turnout By Black, Latino, Native American and Asian Voters
- prohibit harmful voter purges
- eliminate strict voter ID laws
- reform and expand voter registration procedures and opportunities
- address and remove language barriers to voting
- prevent unnecessary poll closures
- expand the use of satellite polling stations
- reform mandatory vote-by-mail policies as they don’t work for everyone
Third Party Assistance
- allow third party assistance
- make it simple and safe for people to register to vote
- accelerate opportunities for online registration
- offer same day voter registration at the polling location
- provide automatic voter registration – at state sites like Motor Vehicles
- count the votes of moved or removed voters
- reform and expand voter registration procedures and opportunities
STEP 3: Contact your State Senator and Assembly/Representative
Your State Senators and Assembly/Representatives must:
- support election reform legislation being considered for your own state. Find out what that is by selecting your own state
- focus on the reforms we’re asking Congress below. Does your state have these in place?
- help to solve the problems identified during your state’s primaries
- support election reform as communicated to your state and county election commissioners regarding:
Absentee/Mail in Ballots
Essential Election Workers, Clerks and Commissioners
Increasing Turnout by Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian voters
Third Party Assistance
- support your State’s Attorney General’s legal action if/when they find actions were taken that impede the states’ ability to run free and fair elections.
STEP 4: Contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. House of Representatives Member
Share your conviction that the Congress must :
Absentee/Mail In Ballots
- require all states to mail every registered voter a ballot with pre-paid postage and a self-sealing envelope
- waive requirements that absentee voters submit copies of their IDs or include a notary or witness signature with their mail-in ballot
- require that states put in place robust ballot tracking tools to ensure voters can follow their ballot at every step
- create protections to ensure that individuals who vote by mail don’t have their ballots discounted or thrown out without justification
- require that every polling place be equipped with voting machines that are accessible for people with disabilities
- require states to provide repeated, advance notice of any changes to elections, including polling place closures or relocations, in multiple languages and formats, including mail, email, text, call, and social and traditional media outlets.
- require that states provide at least 30 days of early voting to accommodate voters while implementing social distancing and heightened sanitation guidelines during the pandemic
- protect the integrity of our elections during this time of crisis by countering disinformation and bolstering election security
- guarantee that foreign actors and adversaries cannot use this moment of crisis to undermine our elections
- ensure that social media platforms redouble their efforts to identify, prevent, and remove disinformation from their platforms, and alert users affected by disinformation campaigns
Funding the Election
In-Person Voting & Poll Workers
- require states to retain in-person voting on Election Day
- allow eligible individuals to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of a voter ID
- permit registered voters to vote at any polling place within their district
- extend polling place hours to help prevent overcrowding and promote social distancing
- ensure that every polling place is equipped with voting machines that are accessible for people with disabilities
- help states prepare to assist voters who need to vote in person. Many voters — including marginalized communities, rural communities, reservations, and people with disabilities — may face greater obstacles to participating in elections from home. They lack access to mail service or reliable broadband, or require language or other assistance to complete their ballot
- require states to extend polling place hours to help prevent overcrowding, and promote social distancing
- guarantee that every poll worker receives hazard pay
Post Election Audits
- ensure that states institute post-election audits
The U.S. Postal Service
- shore up USPS so that as many Americans as possible can vote from home.
- include $25 billion for USPS in the next coronavirus recovery bill to help the USPS
- support the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020
- support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act 2020
- support the The Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018
- ban states from purging their voter rolls unless an individual affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective documentary evidence, such as an official record of death or affirmative change of address.
- ban states from using returned mail or a registered voter’s failure to participate in the election as an excuse to purge voters from the rolls
- require that states restore to the rolls any voter whose name was removed since the current state of emergency was declared
- ensure that all Americans can register to vote safely and easily
- require all states to offer online registration as thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already do
Step 5: Get Out The Vote
“The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred,
so go out and vote like you never voted before.”
Former U.S. Congressman John Lewis
First review this extremely comprehensive guide to making sure your ballot gets counted, no matter where in America you live. Then:
Join a local civic group
Here is a profile on how effective they can be:
A Model on How a Civic Organization
Can Affect Change
The Bayshore Babylon Women’s Huddle
My sister is part of the leadership team of this grass roots non partisan organization. It models how a small civic association created a ripple effect on local voting practices in Suffolk County, New York.
A Focus On Voting
The steps the Bayshore Babylon Women’s Huddle took included:
- voter registration drive at all outreach events
- coordinating with other Suffolk County advocacy groups
- using statistics to determine that the number, placement and times of the early voting sites in Suffolk County failed to serve densely populated marginalized communities
- holding a joint press conference to share results
- inviting the NY Democratic Law Council to provide poll watching training to members
- working as poll watchers for the November 2019 Early Voting Week and Election Day
- consolidating polling site experiences and making recommendations
- a presentation to, and correspondence with, the Suffolk County Legislature
- communicating with both the New York State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine , Chair of Election Law and the Democratic Commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections
In the end, New York State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine reached out to the Suffolk Board of Elections. The results of these multiple efforts were:
- The addition of 3 new locations for early voting in densely populated marginalized communities
- The chosen sites were near public transportation
- All voters of Suffolk County will now be allowed to vote early at any election site located in the county, regardless of their own election district.
The organization did not end there. They continue with:
- sharing detailed information on the absentee ballot application process by developing flyers, You Tube videos, Facebook posts and using other social media sites
- posting Early Voting and Election Day site times and locations
- keeping their fingers on the pulse of election practice in Suffolk County in preparation for the November election
- creating a flyer on How To Stay Safe and Still Vote In The General Election. It includes Early Voting In-Person sites and times for Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Absentee Ballot application directions and deadlines, and Election Day hours and locations.
A Focus On The Census
(cut off a month early by U.S. Census Bureau
Deadline now 9/30/20)
The steps the Bayshore Babylon Women’s Huddle took included:
- receiving Census training by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table
- hosting a Census training lead by a government Census coordinator
- analyzing data to focus on communities with low Census response
- creating bi-lingual flyers explaining the importance of the Census in words and graphics
- coordinating with other advocacy groups including The Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, NY which paid for reproduction of flyers, buttons and stickers.
- financing and decorating a Census float with balloons, flags and bi-lingual banners for the Brentwood, N.Y. Puerto Rican Hispanic Parade
- volunteering in the Parade alongside the float with Census flyer distribution and advertisement
- sponsoring a Census information table at various outreach events sponsored by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, and the Sisters of St Joseph
- sponsoring a Census information table at the Concert for Immigrant Justice, sponsored by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the Long Island Jobs with Justice
- supporting bi-lingual Census flyer distribution through donated backpacks and Island Harvest Food Bank grocery bags
Get Out The Vote
- Volunteer with the grassroots organization known as Indivisible. It offers:
- Help to register family, friend’s and community members. Find your state’s Registration Regulations and Deadlines
- Need to confirm you are registered? Inform family, friends and community members that if they have not voted in a while, they need to check if their names were purged from voter rolls. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) will confirm you are registered.
- Share with family, friends and community members the state sites for Automatic Voter Registration,
- Help family, friends and community members with Online Voter registration.
- Send friends, family and community members in states without Online Voter Registration to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission’s site for the National Mail Voter Registration Form
- Share your state’s Early Voting Calendar .
- Attend virtual town hall meetings for your local, state and federal representatives, and voice your concerns and demands. The dates and times are usually posted on their websites.
- For my American friends and family living abroad. Democrats Abroad has coordinated specific actions and responses regarding voting and other crucial reform initiatives.
10. Volunteer With /Donate To:
Vote Forward – GOTV letter writing campaign to swing states
Fair Fight – Stacey Abrams national voting rights organization
Rock The Vote – building the political power of young people
When We All Vote – Michelle Obama
Native American Voting Rights Coalition
Movement Voter Project – supporting Black led organizations
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
The Voter Participation Center – young people, people of color and women
Postcards To Swing States
League of Women Voters
Vote Save America – adopt a state
Progressive Turnout Project – focus on battleground states
Let New York Vote
Brooklyn Voters Alliance – pop up registration sites +
Brennan Center For Justice
Campaign Legal Center
Open Progress Turnout Troop – texting to GOTV
Vote.org – provides up to date Covid 19 election rule changes per state.
11. Support grassroots Voting Advocacy Groups in the Swing States of:
Arizona – Arizona Advocacy Network
Florida – Florida Movement Voter Project
Georgia – Fair Fight Action
Michigan – Voters Not Politicians
North Carolina – Democracy North Carolina
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Stands Up
Wisconsin – Big Five Battleground Fund
12. Share How To Make Sure Your Vote Counts in November. which includes the steps of 1. Make sure you are registered to vote
2. In most states, Register to receive a ballot by mail
3. Look up when your state mails out ballots- and request one ASAP
4. Fill out your ballot, and make sure to follow the instructions exactly
5. Return your ballot ASAP by mail or a drop box
6. Early Voting is an option
7. You can, of course, vote in person
8. Manage your expectations for when we’ll get results
13. Create flyers with information specific to your state with clear directions on how to register, complete an absentee/mail in ballot application and the ballot itself. Steps should include where to place your signature, or if/what ID information is required. Contact local churches, community organizations and stores to see if they will allow a site for flyer pick up. Multiple community organizations, food banks, and political campaigns are now sponsoring drive-thru events. Contact them to see if your flyers can be included in any material distribution.
WHOM TO CONTACT
Who is responsible for Voting in America
at the State & Local Levels?
No state administers elections are exactly the same way as another state, and there is quite a bit of variation in election administration even within states. Each state’s election administration structure and procedures grew organically, as times changed and administering an election became an increasingly complex task. When election duties are divided between one or more offices on the local level, the most common division is between voter registration and the actual administration of elections.
The National Conference of State Legislators provides the Election Administration at the State Level for all 50 States. My focus will be on New York City, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts.
New York have a board or a commission that oversees elections. Appointments to these commissions are usually made by the governor, and confirmed by the Senate. They are most often structured so as to be bipartisan, with a certain number of members from each of the major political parties.
New York State Election Commissioners Peter Kosinski, Douglas Kellner, and Andrew Spano
New York County Election Commissioner
New York State Senator
New York State Assembly Member
New York City
New York City – The Board of Elections in the City of New York (NYCBOE) conducts New York elections within New York City. It is an administrative body of ten Commissioners, two from each borough upon recommendation by both political parties and then appointed by the New York City Council for a term of four years.
NYC Election Commissioners
New Jersey has a chief election official appointed by the governor. The chief election official is called the secretary of state.
New Jersey Secretary of State Honorable Tahesha Way
New Jersey County Election Commissioner
New Jersey State Senator and Assembly Member
Pennsylvania has a chief election official appointed by the governor. The chief election official is called the secretary of state.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar
Pennsylvania County Election Director, Supervisor and/or Clerk
Pennsylvania State Senator and House of Representatives Member
California has an elected secretary of state as the chief election official.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla
California County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters
California State Senator and Assembly Member
Massachusetts has an elected secretary of state as the chief election official.
Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin
Massachusetts City and Town Election Official/Clerk
Massachusetts State Senator and House of Representative Member
Kansas has an elected secretary of state as the chief election official.
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab
Kansas County Election Officer
Kansas State Senator and House of Representatives Member
Who is responsible for Voting in America
at the Federal Level?
Your U.S. House of Representatives Member
Your U.S. Senator
Next Post –
Crucial U.S. Senate Seat Races
You must be logged in to post a comment.