The chairwoman of the Election Assistance Commission told the nation's state legislators last week that she's opposed to automatic voter registration.
Adding qualified citizens to the rolls whenever they do business with a state agency, unless they choose to opt out, has quickly become a widely accepted component of most democracy reform agendas. Eighteen states will have so-called AVR in place in time for the 2020 election after a surge of acceptance in state legislatures this decade. And the practice would be nationally mandated under HR 1, the comprehensive campaign finance, election and ethics legislation the House passed in March.
But Christy McCormick argues that registering to vote is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and that "not registering to vote is a choice – we should respect our citizens' choices."
Ohio is moving ahead with its second purge of the voter rolls this year, though not before the state's new Republican top elections official helps in a search for people who haven't voted in a while.
Still, Democrats say the purge will wrongly disenfranchise too many – mainly poor people, minorities and students.
Last year the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law requiring the removal from voter lists of those who have not cast ballots in at least six years or responded to "last chance" notices sent by mail. About 3 percent of the state's 8 million registered voters were dropped in January, and on Monday the elections boards of all 88 counties mailed new last-chance notices to another 3 percent, or almost 236,000 people, setting a Labor Day deadline for updating voter information.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose has promised to turn over the roster of affected voters this week to the League of Women Voters and several religious leaders who say they want to search for voters and encourage them to re-register.
"We want to try to find everyone that we can," he told the Columbus Dispatch, although he predicted most on the lists were duplicate entries, dead or no longer living in the state.
LaRose is also vowing to press the state legislature to make Ohio the 19th state with automatic voter registration, under which all eligible people are added to the voter rolls whenever they get a driver's license or otherwise interact with a state agency. But it seems unlikely that will happen by next year, when Ohio's 18 electoral votes will be a prime target of both presidential candidates.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who was secretary of state in the 1980s, and several state legislators urged a lenient approach to culling the voter rolls in the interim. Brown is pushing legislation, which stands little chance in the GOP Senate, that would make it illegal for a state to use "failure to vote or respond to a state notice as reason to target" voters for removal from the rolls.
This story has been revised after additional reporting.
Steadily if still softly, anxiety about the health of American democracy has become at least a secondary theme in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Proposals for restoring the public's faith in elections, and a sense of fairness in our governing system, have now earned a place on most of the candidates' platforms. And more and more of them have been including calls for democracy reform in their stump speeches.
To be sure, the topic has not come close to the top tier of issues driving the opening stages of the campaign. In the first round of candidate debates last month, for example, the contenders collectively spent less time talking about democracy's ills than eight other issues: health care, President Trump's record, immigration, social policy, economic inequality, gun control, foreign policy and the environment.
Georgia's top elections official is asserting vindication from Washington for the state's conduct of last year's highly contentious election.
Brad Raffensperger said ample evidence from an exhaustive assessment of midterm contests nationwide by the Election Assistance Commission proves the 2018 contest was conducted on the up-and-up. Raffensberger was elected secretary of state in November to succeed fellow Republican Brian Kemp, who supervised the election that narrowly made him governor.
Democrats characterize Georgia's contest as soiled by a multifaceted effort at voter suppression by the GOP that they maintain was decisive in preventing Stacey Abrams from becoming the first black woman ever elected to a governorship.
"Liberal activists have been desperately trying to advance a false narrative of pervasive voter suppression which, as the EAVS report confirms, has no basis in reality," Raffensperger said. "While these activists peddle falsehoods — apparently as a springboard for higher office or to dupe donors into supporting their nonprofit — my office will continue to aggressively pursue initiatives like automated voter registration, which make Georgia a top state in the nation for voter registration and voter turnout."