In this episode of How to Win Friends & Save The Republic from the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, American Promise president and regular Fulcrum columnist Jeff Clements discusses the work aimed at winning the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and ensuring that every American has an equal vote and an equal voice.
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California became the largest state to permanently adopt universal mail-in ballot distribution when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure into law Monday.
The Golden State, like many of the others that expanded access to mail-in ballots as an emergency change in 2020, saw record turnout in November. The state extended this policy into 2021, including in the September recall election. Once again, it saw higher than expected turnout.
"When voters get a ballot in the mail, they vote," said California legislator Marc Berman, author of the vote-by-mail bill. "We saw this in the 2020 general election when, in the middle of a global health pandemic, we had the highest voter turnout in California since Harry Truman was president."
The law does not require voters to cast their ballot by mail. Californians who are more comfortable voting in person can still do so.
California is the eighth state to adopt universal mail-in ballot distribution, following Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii, Nevada, and Vermont. A handful of states have gone the opposite direction in 2021 and either barred or limited sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and/or ballots, regardless of the impact it had on turnout.
The new California law applies to both the primary election in June and the general election in November. For most races, it means every voter will receive a primart ballot that includes all candidates running for legislative seats, statewide offices and Congress, regardless of party. The presidential election, however, is a bit more complicated.
California has a nonpartisan open primary for all races except the presidential election, in which the parties are allowed to choose whether voters registered outside a political party can participate. Some parties don't. Under the new law, voters will have to request a specific party's ballot within a certain period of time if their chosen party even allows such a request.
If they don't pick a party, voters registered No Party Preference will receive a blank page for the presidential primary. There are more than 5.1 million registered NPP voters in California.
This "semi-closed" system has contributed to widespread confusion in California.
As co-publisher of The Fulcrum, Debilyn Molineaux's name is synonymous with cross-partisan bridge building and the importance of civil dialogue in a democratic society. In this episode of How to Win Friends and Save the Republic from the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, Debilyn discusses her path from advertising to being a candidate for public office to co-founding some of the most influential bridging organizations in the democracy ecosystem.
Maine has long been at the forefront of political innovation, from the way its ballots are designed, to its clean election funds program, to same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting, to implementing ranked-choice voting. The state made further changes when it adopted semi-open primaries 2021.
Open Primaries, which partnered with Open Primaries Maine to move the needle on primary reform in the state, released a new report on the multi-year process that culminated in the preliminary votes approving legislation to change the primary system. The report also offers political reform advocates ideas that can be used across different reform efforts.
Approximately one-third of voters have been barred from the primaries each election cycle, but under the proposed legislation independent voters can select the party primary in which they choose to participate.
The campaign to build cross-partisan support for open primaries focused its message on fairness and inclusion, not electing moderates. The goal was to bring voters together around the idea that all citizens, regardless of party, should be treated fairly in elections.
And the messaging worked. Open Primaries and Open Primaries Maine garnered the support they needed among voters and in the legislature to push the bill through after five years of effort an compromise.
Check out Open Primaries' full report here.
Chad Peace is a nationally recognized leader in election law, voter rights, and a legal strategist for the Independent Voter Project. On this episode of How to Win Friends and Save The Republic, Peace discuss his background, the rise of independent voters, and how that is affecting the landscape of the democracy reform movement across the country.
Michael O'Neil, U.S. Communications Manager for the Green Party, joins T.J. O'Hara, host of the Deconstructed podcast from IVN, to discuss the Green Party's past, present, and future. Michael O'Neil has over 15 years of political communications experience and has served the Green Party in a variety of capacities for the past 12 years, including roles as Assistant to the Campaign Manager for Dr. Jill Stein's 2016 presidential campaign and co-manager of that campaign's Brooklyn, NY Office.
States have enacted a greater number of restrictive voting laws in 2021 than in any previous year — and they've done so at a rapid pace.
As of mid-May, 14 states had signed into law 22 provisions restricting access to the ballot box, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been tracking state voting legislation. This year's total shatters the previous record-high from 2011, when 14 states enacted 19 restrictive voting bills by October of that year.
The heightened activity around voting legislation is a direct result of the 2020 election, in which states were forced to make last-minute and temporary changes to accommodate voters during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, Republicans have been largely pushing limitations to voting access, while Democrats are advocating for expansions.
The last time the country saw such a concentrated effort to restrict voting access was a decade ago. Following the 2010 elections, Republicans gained significant control in state legislatures, allowing them to steer the policy agenda and approve limits on voting access.
Now, states are seeing a new wave of voting restrictions, mostly aimed at absentee voting. Included in the 22 bills already enacted this year are provisions reducing the time voters have to request and return a mail ballot, limiting access to ballot drop boxes and imposing stricter signature or voter ID requirements for mail voting.
Other restrictions that have been approved include reduced hours for early in-person voting, eliminating Election Day voter registration, limiting polling place availability, and banning snacks and water hand-outs for voters waiting in line.
With one-third of the state legislatures still in session, more bills could be on their way. There are 61 measures with restrictive provisions advancing in those statehouses, and half of them have already passed one chamber. At least 389 restrictive voting bills have been introduced across the country this year.
At the same time, many states have also been pushing to ease access to the ballot box. At least 880 such bills have been introduced in almost every state this year. Of these bills, 28 have been signed into law in 14 states. Another 115 of these bills are advancing through statehouses, with two-fifths of them already passed in one chamber.
Some of the provisions included in these bills include expanding early voting opportunities, adding ballot drop boxes, making it easier to register to vote, bolstering vote-by-mail access and restoring voting rights for people with past felony convictions.