Georgia's rolls keep swelling thanks to automatic voter registration
Another 310,000 voters have been added to the rolls in Georgia so far this year, the state says.
It's a sign that one of the most widely hailed ways for expanding turnout, automatic voter registration, is working exceptionally well in one of the emerging electoral battlegrounds of the coming decade.
Georgia is among the 18 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have created so-called AVR, all in this decade, and the result in the Peach State seems to be more new potential voters than in any of the other states. The Brennan Center for Justice, which promotes easier ballot access, says the rolls expanded from 6 million when the law took effect in 2016 to almost 7 million at the time of the 2018 midterm — estimating that as a 94 percent increase above what would have been expected without the new law. All the other sates saw the rolls swell after AVR, but no other state came close to Georgia's boost, the progressive advocacy group says.
Fair Fight Georgia, the progressive group launched by Democrat Stacey Abrams after her bid to become the nation's first black female governor helped produce that surge, says this year's registrations bode especially well for her party. The group estimates the new voters are 47 percent non-white and 45 percent younger than 30, with most living in cities and suburbs.
If the trend continues, it could mean almost three-quarters of a million new voters in Georgia by November 2020, when both of the state's Senate seats will be on the ballot and a potentially decisive 16 electoral votes will be up for grabs in the presidential election. Last year only 55,000 votes separated Abrams from the winner, Republican Brian Kemp. The GOP has not lost a statewide race since 2006.
The AVR system in Georgia is like those of most states that use it: The Department of Driver Services transfers information about the newly licensed into the secretary of state's database that enrolls new voters. Except for new drivers who opt out, they become registered voters as soon as their eligibility is confirmed by the secretary of state.
All states would have to use such a system under HR 1, the comprehensive political process overhaul passed by the Democratic House this year but sidelined by the Republican Senate.
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Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has a message for corporations: The country is in trouble, so get off your butt.
The foundation made its pitch to the business community in a newly published white paper chronicling the sorry state of civics education, the role that corporations can play in healing a divided country and why it should all matter to businesses.
The health of civics education is "quite bleak," foundation President Carolyn Cawley said in an introduction to the paper, which she called "the first step in our efforts to make the business case for civics."
With the support and buy-in of the private sector, the foundation believes, the country stands a better chance at improving civic education and engagement, which in turn could heal the in-fighting, distrust and misinformation undermining the health of the country and well-being of corporate America.