Strengthen U.S. voting rights for a better future

The Kansas City Star

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 penned his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, no African American in Kansas City and possibly the country held a post like A. Shelley McThomas.

Since 2007, she has been the director of the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners. She sees herself as a sentry, guarding the sacrifices that King and others made, ensuring that all of those who are eligible have the right to vote.

McThomas remembers seeing police attacking civil rights marchers. Those courageous individuals paved the way for voting rights, integration and opportunities. Their work and McThomas’ alma mater, Howard University, created for her a self-confidence and drive on her jobs in the media, public relations and executive posts — especially when it comes to voting.

“Voting is the foundation on which democracy is based,” said McThomas, who was born and raised in Kansas City. “It is the way that members of a free society speak their opinion and let their voices be heard in terms of representation.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/08/04/4386035/strengthen-us-voting-rights-for.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/08/04/4386035/strengthen-us-voting-rights-for.html#storylink=cpy

Congress Members Move to Restore Voting Rights Act

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is taking steps to reinstate the civil-rights law invalidated by the Supreme Court.

From In These Times BY Cole Stangler

Fifty years ago this August, the young chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, spoke alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. to one of the largest crowds ever assembled at the National Mall. A key demand was the “protection of the right to vote,” something that was enshrined in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) two years later.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter Registration Citizenship

By JESSE J. HOLLAND 06/17/13 06:09 PM ET EDT AP

WASHINGTON — States can’t demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections unless they get federal or court approval to do so, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a decision complicating efforts in Arizona and other states to bar voting by people who are in the country illegally.

The justices’ 7-2 ruling closes the door on states independently changing the requirements for those using the voter-registration form produced under the federal “motor voter” registration law. They would need permission from a federally created panel, the Election Assistance Commission, or a federal court ruling overturning the commission’s decision, to make tougher requirements stick.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the court’s majority opinion, said federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”

Rep. John Lewis’s (D-Ga) Long Fight for Voting Rights

Texas Redistricting Fight Shows Why Voting Rights Act Still Needed

The last time Texas redrew its political maps in the middle of the decade, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest Tom DeLay’s unprecedented power grab in 2003.

Now Texas Republicans are at it again, with Governor Rick Perry calling a special session of the legislature to certify redistricting maps that were deemed intentionally discriminatory by a federal court in Washington and modified, with modest improvements, by a district court in San Antonio last year. Republicans want to quickly ratify the interim maps drawn for 2012 by the court in San Antonio before the court has a chance to improve them for 2014 and future elections. “Republicans figured out that if the courts rule on these maps, they’re going to make them better for Latinos and African-Americans,” says Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust.

Expand the Franchise

We Vote America supports and promotes initiatives to expand the Franchise.  From Voter Education and Citizen Responsibility, to streamlining and standardizing the voting process, We Vote America, stands with our fellow Americans to help ensure that this great country remains Of, For and By the People.

We Vote America promotes access to the polls and participation in our elections by:

     Working for Universal Suffrage for all eligible Americans;

     Advocating for a National Holiday for all Federal Elections and state holidays for all state-wide general elections;

     Promoting Standardized and Automatic Registration, Early Voting periods, and Absentee or VBM Rules and procedures; and

     Eliminating institutional restrictions to access.

There are no valid arguments for restrictions to voting.  While some of the loudest voices call for Voter Identification, evidence supports the position that in-person Voter Fraud is essentially non-existent.  Institutional Voter Fraud through Jerrymandering, restrictive and limited early voting rules, selective Voter ID laws, and intentional mis-information are much greater threats to our democracy and much more wide spread.

Elections are one of the baseline criteria we use in judging the quality of democracy in other countries.  How fair, and open are the elections?  What is the integrity of the results?  We need think no further than the recent ‘elections’ in Pakistan.  Long lines, broken Ballot Boxes, re-counts, whole election districts re-voting.  What happens when we turn that lens around and look at elections in America?  How would we fare against our measure for open, free, and fair elections?

Another criteria we use/impose on elections in foreign countries is Voter Turnout.  Is the will of the people represented?  Several countries have developed methods to increase Voter Turnout.

Examples from a recent article, Seven Voting Reforms Other Countries Have Used To Boost Their Turnout Rate in Think Progress May 2013.  “…Despite our status as the world’s oldest democracy, just over half (53.6 percent) of voting-age Americans cast a ballot in 2012. In fact, of 169 countries ranked by turnout level, the U.S. has the ignominious honor of taking 120th place.  France (71.2 percent turnout) and Sweden (82.6 percent turnout) have automatic registration.  Australia (81.0 percent turnout), Greece (69.4 percent turnout), and Brazil (80.6 percent turnout) put Election Day on the weekend.  Dozens of countries, ranging from Uruguay (96.1 percent turnout) to the Dominican Republic (70.2 percent turnout) to Singapore (55.3 percent turnout), require citizens to vote.”

We can do better.

We Vote America, is a non-partisan voting rights advocacy and education group dedicated to informing the American populace of their rights, privileges, and responsibilities as citizens of our great Country. 

JOIN US.  We Vote America is currently seeking partners and benefactors to assist in our efforts to provide the information and tools to develop and deliver our message of Universal Voter Rights to Americans of all ages, regardless of their economic, political, or social positions or perspectives.  We Vote America stands for protecting the rights of ALL Americans to legally vote and participate in the American Democracy.

Seven Voting Reforms Other Countries Have Used To Boost Their Turnout Rate

 

From: Think Progress  By Scott Keyes on May 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm

If the United States and all the other countries of the world were to line up by voter participation rate, we would find ourselves ranked lower than war-torn countries like Sierra Leone, massive countries like Indonesia, and baby democracies like East Timor.

Despite our status as the world’s oldest democracy, just over half (53.6 percent) of voting-age Americans cast a ballot in 2012. In fact, of 169 countries ranked by turnout level, the U.S. has the ignominious honor of taking 120th place.

Early Voting Means Easier Voting

NEW YORK TIME – Editorial Board 3 May 2013  New York State is a national laggard when it comes to voting. The state has one of the worst voter turnout records in the country, not least because the act of voting is cumbersome and uninviting. In November, 53.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots, leaving New York 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for voter participation.

One fix would be to allow early voting. There are 32 states that give voters a chance to cast their ballots early and in person, some providing polling spots on weekends. Democrats in New York’s Assembly voted this week to give voters as many as 15 days and two weekends before Election Day to cast their ballots in person. The bill would require multiple voting sites in each county. This would reduce long lines, especially in the cities, on Election Day.

All but one Republican voted no. And Senate Republicans are resisting, too. Why? Not, they say, because they want to discourage voting. Their complaint is that early voting would be too expensive for upstate counties. That problem could be addressed by cutting back on the extra hours and adding a little extra state money.

There are other ways that New York’s reluctant legislators could make voting a less frustrating experience. They could make it easier for voters to change parties, which can take longer than a year. They could simplify confusing ballots. They could require the New York City Board of Elections to hire qualified people, not simply political cronies, to run the elections. They could set up a system of public financing to encourage greater competition in most races, which in turn would help attract people to the polls.

Early voting, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports, would be a good start. The Senate leader, Dean Skelos, and his fellow Republicans should agree to give voters a break on Election Days.

Which States Saw Voter Turnout Jump, Decline Most Last Year?

GOVERNING.COM – By | May 13, 2013

Most states saw voter turnout drop last year, driven in large part by young adults and non-Hispanic whites heading to the polls at lower rates than in years past.

In all, new estimates published by the Census Bureau indicate 38 states recorded declines in turnout of eligible voters compared to the 2008 general election, led by South Dakota (-6.8 percent), Alaska (-6.6 percent) and Oklahoma (-6.3 percent). The national turnout rate dipped to 61.8 percent last year, down from 63.6 in 2008 and 63.8 percent in 2004.

West Virginia was the only state with an estimated turnout below 50 percent — only 47.8 percent of eligible voters casted ballots. Hawaii, president Obama’s childhood home, registered the next-lowest rate of 51.6 percent.

A few states did, though, experience a noticeable uptick in turnout.

Mississippi recorded the largest increase as eligible voter turnout swelled from 69.7 percent in 2008 to 74.5 percent last year – also the nation’s highest rate behind the District of Columbia. The state saw a similar jump in the percentage of eligible voters who were registered, up 7.2 percent from 2008.

So how did Mississippi have such a significant increase while turnout plummeted elsewhere? The answer is indicative of a national trend that saw eligible black voters turn out in record numbers.

The Census Bureau estimates 82.4 percent of eligible blacks voted in Mississippi, up nearly 10 percent from 2008. Here’s a table breaking down voter turnout in the state, comparing 2008 and 2012 estimates:

 

  2012 % Voter Turnout   2008 % Voter Turnout
Total 74.5 69.7
White non-Hispanic 71.8 68.4
Black 82.4 72.9

Nationwide, the Census Bureau estimates 66.2 percent of eligible black voters casted ballots, a historic high that increased 1.5 percent from 2008. It marked the first time that blacks voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census began tracking eligible voters in 1996.

By contrast, national turnout among other race and ethnic groups fell slightly from 2008. Non-Hispanic white turnout decreased 2 percentage points; Hispanic turnout decreased 1.9 percent and turnout for Asian voters, who participated at the lowest rate of any group, dipped 0.3 percent.

Voting patterns among racial groups were not uniform across all regions, though.

Black voter turnout surpassed non-Hispanic white voters in much of the eastern part of the country, particularly in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York. In the central region — stretching from North Dakota down to Texas — turnout was roughly the same. Out west, turnout among non-Hispanic whites continued to exceed that of black voters.

After Mississippi, the highest voter turnout gains found in states are likely attributable to Mitt Romney’s candidacy.

Utah, with its high Mormon population, saw turnout increase from 53.1 percent to 57 percent of eligible voters. Similarly, Massachusetts voters came to the polls in greater numbers with their former governor on the ballot as turnout increased 3.7 percent.

Other states registering smaller increases in estimated voter turnout from 2008 (although some were not considered statistically significant) were Idaho, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, Montana and Tennessee.

A drop-off in participation among younger voters also accounted for the lower turnout rates most states experienced.

White, Hispanic and black voters between the ages of 18 and 24 all came to the polls at lower rates than 2008. The only age group recording an increase was those 65 and older, who remain far more likely to vote than any other age group.

Shedding light on anonymous ads

 

Like clockwork, there’s something voters have come to count on with each election: more and more anonymous advertisements sponsored by mysterious, innocuous-sounding groups, voicing support or opposition for a candidate. These groups are taking advantage of loopholes and lax enforcement and leaving voters to wonder who these people are, where the money came from and about their true agendas. Voters can’t be detectives — they want to know who is behind political ads and what their hidden agenda may be before they vote.