Less than 10 weeks from the opening Democratic presidential primary, would-be voters in New Hampshire are fighting two separate battles in federal court alleging their franchise is being suppressed by new state laws.
This week, a lawsuit brought by the state Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters went to trial. The groups allege that a 2017 law creates an unconstitutional burden on people who want to register less than a month before an election.
Last week, a federal judge declined to stop — at least in time for the Feb. 11 primary — a law requiring college students and others to establish full-fledged residency in order to register.
Both the two-tier system with added paperwork for late-in-the-campaign registrations and the added residency requirements for voters were created when the Legislature was in Republican hands. The GOP lawmakers acted after President Trump alleged without evidence that there had been widespread voter fraud in the state, which Hillary Clinton carried by less than 3,000 votes in 2016.
Add Indiana to the states with nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations trying to improve the functioning of democracy.
Indiana Citizen, which debuted last month, is the brainchild of longtime Democratic activists Bill and Ann Moreau.
Earlier in his career, Bill Moreau worked for Birch Bayh, a prominent senator from Indiana in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he served in various capacities, including chief of staff, when Bayh's son Evan was Indiana's secretary of state and then governor.
He is retiring at the end of the year as a partner in the law firm Barnes & Thornburg to focus full time on promoting the work of Indiana Citizen, which is operated by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Indiana Citizen Education Foundation Inc.
The initial goal of the group is to improve Indiana's low standing among the states when comparing voter turnout. The state ranked 43rd in voter participation in last year's election, the Census Bureau estimates, a tiny uptick after coming in 47th in the previous midterm, in 2014. In the 2016 presidential election the state ranked 41st, a drop of three places from the previous presidential year.
The ambitious goal of Indiana Citizen is to move the state into the top 10 for turnout next November.
Another day, another legal challenge in yet another part of the country alleging the rules make it too hard for people to vote.
This time the place is South Carolina and the issue is an unusual requirement that people registering to vote provide their complete Social Security numbers on their applications.
The state Democratic Party and two national party groups that promote congressional candidates filed the federal lawsuit Monday. If they succeed, the ruling could also upend registration procedures in the run-up to the presidential election in the four other states where a Social Security number is mandated: Tennessee, Virginia, New Mexico and Kentucky.
After college at Longwood University and before law school at Catholic University, Mike Burns spent four years getting a first-hand look at what it takes to get people to vote. He managed Gerry Connelly's 2007 campaign for re-election to lead the biggest county in the Northern Virginia suburbs, a year before the Democrat won his seat in Congress. Then he became executive director of the Fairfax County Democratic Party. Now, rather than running campaigns, he's working to help more students vote as national director of the Fair Elections Center's Campus Vote Project. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
We work with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. Our goal is to help campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.