Maine on course to be the 18th state with automatic voter registration
Maine looks to become the latest state to embrace an increasingly popular initiative for boosting turnout in elections: automatic voter registration.
The Democratic-majority state Senate voted, 19-14 along party lines, for its own so-called AVR bill on Monday. As soon as Wednesday afternoon the senators were expected to cast an identical vote for similar legislation approved last week in the Democratic state House. After a budgetary review, the bill would go to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills for her expected signature.
Under the bill, starting in January 2022, eligible Mainers who have not registered in their municipalities would be automatically added to the voter rolls when doing business with the motor vehicle bureau or another agency that collects similar information – unless they ask to opt out.
Republicans in Augusta have been united in opposition to AVR. The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center says it would open elections to "potential fraud and abuse," citing California's mistaken addition of hundreds of voters to the rolls last year.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have adopted automatic voter registration in time for the 2020 presidential election.
The liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, which promotes easier ballot access, says that in each state where AVR has been in effect for a while, registration has increased well above what it would have been otherwise. The biggest gain was in Georgia, where between 2014 and last fall the rolls swelled to almost 7 million from 6 million — what the center calculated as a 94 percent increase above what would have happened without automatic registration.
A prominent civil rights group, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has gone to federal court to get Arkansas to change the way seats on its top courts are filled.
The statewide election of all the judges on the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals violates the Voting Rights Act by denying "black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process," the group argued in a lawsuit filed Monday.
The state's population is 16 percent black but, because of the statewide election process, the suit maintains, no African-American candidate has ever been elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The suit asks a federal judge to strike down the current election procedure and replace it with a new one. It suggests using a cumulative system, in which voters can choose several candidates on the ballot and those with the most votes fill the vacancies.
"Judges matter," said Natasha Merle of the NAACP. "Black voters in Arkansas have been consistently denied fairness and the opportunity to elect judges of their choice."
The named plaintiffs are three African-American voters and a pair non-profits, Christian Ministerial Alliance and Arkansas Community Institute.
Have an idea to promote public engagement at the intersection of faith and democracy?
If so, a Washington-based funding consortium called Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is soliciting proposals and plans to distribute about $300,000 to support five to seven projects.
"This exploration is a natural extension of PACE's mission to deepen and enrich philanthropy's support of democracy and civic life," Kristen Cambell, executive director of PACE said in a statement announcing the funding.
A great deal of attention has been paid in recent years to seeking ways to bridge the social and political divides in the country. But, PACE says in its funding announcement, the potential of faith as a catalyst for these sorts of efforts has been largely unexplored. "While many institutions seek to engage people of faith in bridge-building and pluralism efforts, few organizations are funding specific interventions to engage people of faith in using their faith to support the well-being of democracy," the group says.
More information about the initiative and a link to the RFP to apply for funding is here.
Former Rep. Claudine Schneider wants her Republican Party to return to its roots. The first thing they need to do? Pass HR 1 in the Senate.
An increasing number of the country's largest publicly traded companies are disclosing more than ever about political spending habits that the law permits them to keep secret.
That's the central finding of the fifth annual report from a group of academics and corporate ethicists, who say the average score among the biggest companies traded on American exchanges, the S&P 500, has gone up each year since 2014.
Though corporate political action committees must disclose their giving to candidates, those numbers are very often dwarfed by the donations businesses make to the trade associations and other outside groups that have driven so much of the steady rise in spending on elections. Conservatives say robust disclosure of these behaviors is the best form of regulating money in politics and is working fine, and this new report reflects that. Those who say campaign finance needs more assertive federal regulation will argue such corporate transparency is inconsistent and inadequate to the task, and the new report underscores that.
A year from the presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies have adopted a new framework for how they will inform candidates, groups and the public about attempts to disrupt our country's elections by foreign operatives.
But the one-page summary of the plan, released late last week, is so general that it remains unclear what the intelligence community plans to do if and when it discovers something suspicious.
The summary by the director of national intelligence states that the federal government will "follow a process and principles designed to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that notification decisions are consistent, well-informed and unbiased."
The new framework is designed to prevent a repeat of some of what happened after the 2016 election.