Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Quick wins for absentee balloting rights in Virginia and Nevada primaries

Virginia voting

Virginia, which held its presidential primary in March, just eased the rules for absentee ballots cast in the June 23 congressional primaries.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Two voting rights lawsuits have paid off quickly for advocates of expanding access to the ballot box in blue-tinged bellwether states where turnout in next month's primaries is already threatened by the coronavirus.

Partial settlement of a federal suit Tuesday means Virginians voting by absentee ballot, at least in the June 23 congressional nomination contests, won't have to find a witness to verify the ballot was filled out by the person submitting it.

Democrats agreed the same day to drop a Nevada court complaint after election officials in Las Vegas agreed to open more polling places for what's supposed to be predominantly vote-by-mail legislative and congressional primaries June 9.

The Virginia case, filed just three weeks ago by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the League of Women Voters, argued the state's witness requirement for mail-in ballots would unconstitutionally force some people to risk Covid-19 in order to vote. They pointed especially to the almost one-third of Virginians older than 65 who live alone, and are in the age group most vulnerable to the virus.

"This settlement is a common-sense solution that protects both public health and democracy," said the ACLU's Davin Rosborough.

But the state agreed to drop the requirement only for the primary, so the suit over the requirement in the general election will continue.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Federal suits challenging similar witness requirements have also been filed in presidential battleground Wisconsin and in South Carolina, which has a handful of competitive congressional contests this year while President Trump has a lock on its electoral votes. Eight other states have similar rules: purple-again-this-year North Carolina, solidly blue Rhode Island and reliably red Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.

The agreement in Nevada also applies to the primary only, although similar issues could resurface if the public health crisis persists in the state this fall.

Election officials in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and is home to 72 percent of the state's people, announced several changes to make voting easier in the primary — issues raised in a lawsuit also filed just three weeks ago.

The county has agreed to add two additional polling places, where only one had been planned; to proactively send mail-in ballots to all registered voters, including those listed as inactive on the rolls; to revise the way signatures on the ballots are compared with those in election records; and to notify voters in a timely way if their ballot is being rejected because of a signature matching issue.

The changes were almost everything sought by the plaintiffs (several Democratic campaign organizations and the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA) and so they withdrew their suit. But they urged the other 15 counties — especially Washoe, which is home to the 15 percent of the state living in and near Reno — to adopt the same changes.

The state is trying to get as many people as possible to vote remotely, a fundamental switch in a state where just 10 percent of the ballots two years ago were mailed in. And, despite the health benefits, the Democrats are worried too many people will still head out to the polls.

"These changes will undoubtedly make it easier for thousands of Nevadans who wish to vote by mail to cast their ballot," said Marc Elias, the attorney at the center of the Democratsic lawsuit strategy.

Read More

Trump and Biden at the debate

Our political dysfunction was on display during the debate in the simple fact of the binary choice on stage: Trump vs Biden.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The debate, the political duopoly and the future of American democracy

Johnson is the executive director of the Election Reformers Network, a national nonpartisan organization advancing common-sense reforms to protect elections from polarization.

The talk is all about President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance, whether he’ll be replaced at the top of the ticket and what it all means for the very concerning likelihood of another Trump presidency. These are critical questions.

But Donald Trump is also a symptom of broader dysfunction in our political system. That dysfunction has two key sources: a toxic polarization that elevates cultural warfare over policymaking, and a set of rules that protects the major parties from competition and allows them too much control over elections. These rules entrench the major-party duopoly and preclude the emergence of any alternative political leadership, giving polarization in this country its increasingly existential character.

Keep ReadingShow less
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Voters should be able to take the measure of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., since he is poised to win millions of votes in November.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

Kennedy should have been in the debate – and states need ranked voting

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

CNN’s presidential debate coincided with a fresh batch of swing-state snapshots that make one thing perfectly clear: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be a longshot to be our 47th president and faces his own controversies, yet the 10 percent he’s often achieving in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and other battlegrounds could easily tilt the presidency.

Why did CNN keep him out with impossible-to-meet requirements? The performances, mistruths and misstatements by Joe Biden and Donald Trump would have shocked Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who managed to debate seven times without any discussion of golf handicaps — a subject better fit for a “Grumpy Old Men” outtake than one of the year’s two scheduled debates.

Keep ReadingShow less
I Voted stickers

Veterans for All Voters advocates for election reforms that enable more people to participate in primaries.

BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Veterans are working to make democracy more representative

Proctor, a Navy veteran, is a volunteer with Veterans for All Voters.

Imagine this: A general election with no negative campaigning and four or five viable candidates (regardless of party affiliation) competing based on their own personal ideas and actions — not simply their level of obstruction or how well they demonize their opponents. In this reformed election process, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest appeal will win. The result: The exhausted majority will finally be well-represented again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person voting at a dropbox in Washington, D.C.

A bill moving through Congress would only allow U.S. citizens to vote in D.C. municipal eletions.

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

The battle over noncitizen voting in America's capital

Rogers is the “data wrangler” at BillTrack50. He previously worked on policy in several government departments.

Should you be allowed to vote if you aren’t an American citizen? Or according to the adage ‘No taxation without representation’, if you pay taxes should you get to choose the representatives who help spend those tax dollars? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over a bill to restrict voting to U.S. citizens.

Keep ReadingShow less
people walking through a polling place

Election workers monitor a little-used polling place in Sandy Springs, Ga., during the state's 2022 primary.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What November election? Half of the U.S. House is already decided.

Troiano is the executive director ofUnite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. He’s also the author of “The Primary Solution.”

Last month, Americans were treated to an embarrassing spectacle: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) tradingpersonal insults related to “fake eyelashes” and a “bleach blonde bad built butch body” during a late-night committee hearing. Some likened it to Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality TV series, and wondered how it was possible that elected officials could act that way and still be elected to Congress by the voters.

The truth is, the vast majority of us don’t actually elect our House members — not even close. Less than 10 percent of voters in Crockett’s district participated in her 2024 Democratic primary, which all but guaranteed her re-election in the safe blue district. Greene ran unopposed in her GOP primary — meaning she was re-elected without needing to win a single vote. The nearly 600,000 voters in her overwhelmingly red district were denied any meaningful choice. Both contests were decided well before most voters participate in the general election.

Keep ReadingShow less