Fixing Democracy: At the Brennan Center for Justice, Erik Opsal has written an essay that includes three prescriptions for improving governance: modernize voter registration, ditch the filibuster and combat the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that has made money an even bigger factor in elections. On the first matter, he writes:
America’s voter registration system is ramshackle. It’s straight out of the 19th century, relying on paper forms to register voters. If a voter registers at the DMV, they have to fill out a form, that form is mailed to an election office, and a county official types it into a database. This is not only inefficient and costly, it’s prone to inaccuracy. One mistyped letter or number and a citizen can show up on Election Day and not be able to vote. Not only does it prevent that one voter from having their say, it also affects others by causing bottlenecks and long lines at the polls.

It is time to harness new technology to modernize our voting system, which would add more than 50 million eligible Americans to the rolls, permanently. The Brennan Center’s modernization proposal would use existing computerized lists to pass names of eligible voters from state agencies on to election officials. Citizens could also register or update their registration online or at the polls, and registrations would move with a voter when they move within a state. In recent years, at least 21 states — without fanfare and in a bipartisan way — have implemented parts of this proposal.

Ohio's Jon Husted at it again on provisional ballots: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will probably get an award from the Heritage Foundation or the Koch brothers or somebody of that ideological texture for being a model of voting suppression over the past 14 months. If it could keep Democrats away from the polls, he tried it.

Unsuccessfully in the big leagues, as it turns out. Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown both won their races. But down-ticket there are still contests to be decided, and Democrats are accusing Husted of tossing out provisional ballots that might cost two Democrats seats in the Ohio state legislature.

Among the many reasons, provisional ballots are cast in cases when a voter has changed a home address and moved to a new precinct or county, among other reasons. A federal court ruled before the election that the state must count the votes of citizens who cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct because of a pollworker's erroneous instructions. Democrats think that approach should apply to other matters, too. But the conservative Sixth Circuit Court overturned that rule.

Automatic recounts are going in two counties—Tuscarawas and Cuyahoga—where Republican incumbents lead Democratic challengers by a few hands full of votes. If Democrats lose these two races, the Republicans will have large enough majorities in both chambers of the legislature to place constitutional amendments on the ballot without the need to attract a single Democratic vote. In Tuscarawas County, 114 provisional ballots have been tossed out, and in Cuyahoga County race 270 have been. Democratic Rep. Debbie Phillips said that pollworkers were given were given plain brown manila envelopes instead of the official provisional ballot envelopes—part of which must be completed by the voter or the ballot won't be counted.Democrats say Husted is also tossing out ballots citizens cast at their former precinct even if they live in the same county and congressional district. That violates the 1993 "motor voter" act.

Ohio has the highest count of provisional ballots in the country, more than 200,000 this year, concentrated in urban areas that are heavily Democratic. In 2008, one in five provisional ballots was tossed out.

(Please continue reading below the fold.)

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller backs voter ID law: It was a surprise to liberals and progressives and set off a mini-Twitterstorm when Miller said he this week that he wants a voter ID in the state. Capitulation to the forces of voter suppression seemed to be the sentiment, according to Jon Ralston:

Miller portrayed the move as “upgrading an antiquated and aging paper roster system by implementing electronic rosters with the enhanced feature of a photograph of each registered voter, preventing ineligible voters from impersonating other, eligible voters at the polling place,” according to a release from his office. And more: “The law, which is currently in the drafting process in preparation for the 2013 Nevada Legislature, will seek to import existing photographs of eligible voters from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database of drivers' licenses and state identification cards, into an ‘electronic poll book’ as an adjunct to the existing poll books that currently use signatures for identifying voters. When photographs of the eligible voters are not available through the database, poll workers will be available to take photos at the polling place at the time of voting and verify their identity by way of an affidavit."
Three other states may join voter-ID crusade: At the top of the list is Montana. Republican State Rep. Ted Washburn plans to introduce a law to permit only three forms of ID: a state-issued driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, or a tribal ID card. Military cards, passports and student IDs would not be permitted.

In Iowa, Secretary of State Matt Schultz is back at it, this time seeking to come up with a verification process for signatures on absentee ballots. Hugh Espey at the Des Moines Register vivisects Schultz's latest plan and tells him to "stand down."

Virginia already has tighter voter ID restrictions thanks to Republicans in the last legislative session, but state Delegate Mark Cole wants to make them tougher by disallowing bank statements and utility bills as acceptable ID.

Holder defers action in Texas case pending Section 5 review: A three-judge panel gave a thumbs-down to the new voter-ID law in Texas Aug. 30. But it did not deal with the state's claim that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. That issue will be addressed by the Supreme Court this session in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. Many observers think the court will rule against Section 5, which gives the federal government authority to "pre-clear" any major voting procedure changes in part or all of 16 mostly Southern states. The law was passed to demolish Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans from voting.

Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to hold off on further proceedings on other issues in the Texas case until the Supreme Court makes its ruling on Section 5.

Six Democratic congressmen want investigation over Florida voting: The entire six-member Democratic congressional delegation from Florida has written to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights asking it to hear testimony on the state's election law. A former governor, former GOP state chairman and two Republican consultants told the Palm Beach Post that the law—HB 1355—was specifically designed to cut down Democratic turnout at the polls. The chairman and one consultant said the law was also directed at keeping black voters away from the polls. The letter stated:

“Recently former governor Charlie Crist and former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, as well as an anonymous group of Republican consultants, alleged that the Republican controlled legislature passed HB 1355 in order to intentionally suppress Democratic turnout,” the letter said. “The law limited access to the polls for minorities, seniors and students. In particular it reduced the number of early voting days and imposed new restrictive regulations on voter registration groups.

“In light of these allegations we are extremely concerned with the integrity of this law and the justification for its implementation,” the letter continued. “Therefore we believe that a hearing must be held as soon as possible. As you know, trust in our democracy is what holds our country together. Voters must be able to trust that elected officials are acting in their best interest.”

•••  •••  •••

“The 2012 Voting Wars, Judicial Backstops, and the Resurrection of Bush v. Gore” by Rick Hasen:

The story of the 2012 voting wars is a story of Republican legislative and to some extent administrative overreach to contract voting rights, followed by a judicial and public backlash. The public backlash was somewhat expected—Democrats predictably made “voter suppression” a key talking point of the campaign. The judicial backlash, and the resurrection of Bush v. Gore in the Sixth Circuit, was not. The judicial reaction, from liberal and conservative judges and often on a unanimous basis, suggests that courts may now be more willing to act as backstops to prevent egregious cutbacks in voting rights and perhaps to do even more to assure greater equality and fairness in voting. However, it is possible that this trend will reverse in future elections.
Political geniuses, political fools by Roger Simon

Beware of partisan efforts to restrict voting by Andrea Kaminski

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