An estimated 1.4 million freed Florida felons may start registering to vote, a federal judge has ruled.
Tuesday's decision by District Judge Robert Hinkle is a potential watershed in the two-year fight over the future political rights of those who have been released from prison in the nation's biggest battleground state.
If it survives an appeal, which seems likely given several previous rulings in the dispute, then felons could vote in the Aug. 18 primaries and in the presidential election — capping the biggest single voting rights expansion in American history.
Bernie Sanders ending his campaign, obviating the need for more Democratic presidential primaries, is the biggest news of the week about keeping democracy safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Vermont senator dropped out Wednesday, hours after the end of a chaotic day of primary voting in Wisconsin that went ahead on schedule even though a federal court is keeping the results sealed until next week.
Florida's local election officials and Democrats in Texas, meanwhile, launched efforts to prevent such a shambolic situation in their states during summertime primaries. New Jersey prepared to become the 16th state postponing partisan contests, while the inability to gather ballot petition signatures put a veteran senator in a bind.
How low does a seed have to be to officially be a "Cinderella" team? Banning straight-ticket voting and promoting so-called STAR voting have scored big upsets, but otherwise the top seeds in the Voting division of our Democracy Madness bracket are through to the Elite Eight.
The next round starts Wednesday and continues Thursday.
Automatic voter registration and ranked-choice voting blew away their opponents in the first round, while felon voting rights and early voting both snuck through. AVR and felon voting rights are going head-to-head now. Will felon voting rights be able to pull off the upset? Or will AVR continue to crush its opponents?
"Studies show mail-in ballots submitted by voters of color are rejected at higher rates than ballots from white voters. And all vote-by-mail systems may unintentionally leave vulnerable communities behind," writes Brettt Edkins of Stand Up America.
Join VoteRiders on April 10 for a conversation about how to meet the COVID-19 threat to the right to vote.
Just a dozen days ago, making it safer and easier to vote during the coronavirus outbreak was a totally bipartisan cause. But once that sentiment faced its first practical test, in Wisconsin, polarized partisanship snapped back with extraordinary intensity — posing yet another threat to a fair 2020 election and Americans' confidence in the democratic process.
With long lines of socially distanced voters at a shrunken roster of short-staffed polling places on Wednesday, from sprawling Milwaukee to tiny Moquah, the parties delivered opposite messages to those confused and angry about why the primary was even happening and anxious about the medical risks of doing their civic duty.
Republicans — having kept the primary on track thanks to last-minute victories in a state Legislature, state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court all with friendly conservative majorities — pressed their supporters to go to the polls in force.
Democrats — rebuffed in their efforts to postpone the in-person voting and extend the time for returning absentee ballots — told their supporters to stay safely at home and canceled all their get-out-the-vote plans, which were aimed at mobilizing turnout in urban areas.
Within just a few days, Wisconsin has become the center of the coronavirus-election debate universe with a blur of back and forth by state officials and the courts.
The governor said Monday afternoon that in-person primary voting was off. House later, the state Supreme Court said it was on, and in fact polls opened Tuesday morning.
Last Thursday a federal judge said that, with or without polling stations to visit, voters could complete absentee ballots and they'd be counted so long as they arrived at election offices by April 13. Late Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said, no, absentee ballots would be valid only if postmarked by primary day.
For those who care about good governance and fair democratic play — but who may have gotten lost — click for answers to some questions you may have...
"After the public health emergency subsides, the need for political reform philanthropy will be even greater — but the job of raising the money will be harder," writes Perry Waag, a Florida democracy reform advocate.
One more day to vote in round one of our Democracy Madness voting "region." Cast your votes now!
Democracy reform is a really broad topic — with many more ideas for fixing the system than the long list of reasons why Americans say the government's not working for them.
So which is the most transformative proposal for ending the dysfunction and putting voters back at the center of things? Since you may have more time to think during this season of social distancing, it seems a good time to ask: If you had to pick a single reform, what would it be?
We're calling this Democracy Madness.
With just hours to go, there's still no certainty whether Wisconsinites will have to venture outside Tuesday for one of the most chaotic and potentially dangerous elections in memory.
Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Monday suspending the scheduled in-person voting, saying it would be irresponsible during what's projected to be the deadliest week yet in the coronavirus pandemic, which includes more than 2,300 cases across Wisconsin. Already, dozens of polling places had been abandoned and others were to be staffed by the National Guard because poll workers are staying home.
Whether the Democratic governor has the power to unilaterally postpone the election is unclear, and a Republican court challenge seemed certain.
Partisan operatives and voting rights advocates say what happens as Wisconsin conducts its voting and tabulates the results will shape elections for the rest of the year. It's been at least a century, they say, since a public health emergency has threatened to cripple the public's ability to participate in democracy and have confidence in the result.
Presidential election years are usually the prime time for getting small-d democracy initiatives on the ballot, but the coronavirus pandemic is posing a crippling threat to many campaigns.
Social distancing pressures by stay-at-home orders in all but a handful of states are making it nearly impossible to secure the tens of thousands of signatures needed to get initiatives on the November ballot. And because no state allows an alternate way of showing broad grassroots support — such as electronic signatures — many campaigns have halted operations.
Others are clinging to hope. Groups promoting six different ballot measures in Arizona filed lawsuits in federal and state court last week asking for permission to gather e-signatures at least during the public emergency, which has resulted in a statewide stay-at-home order through at least the end of the month.
Florida has eight weeks to come up with ballots for November abandoning a central feature of the past seven decades: the candidates from the governor's political party getting listed first in every contest.
That system was held unconstitutional five months ago, a federal judge ruling it "imposes a discriminatory burden on plaintiffs' voting rights." On Friday that judge, Mark Walker of Tallahassee, said he was tired of watching the state slow-walk plans for an alternative while waiting for its appeal to play out.
Since Republicans have held the governorship since 1999, they've had the top ballot line for 10 elections in a row in the nation's most populous political battleground. Democrats think their shot at the state's 29 electoral votes will go up if the ballot design is changed by November.
"In order for us to keep improving, the federal government must provide the money for election administrators to do their jobs well," argues Adrian Fontes, Maricopa County recorder, the chief elections official for Arizona's most populous county.
On April 17, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project's Sam Wang will virtually host bestselling author Dave Daley to discuss gerrymandering. Daley will speak about the fight for fair districts, and about where activists can go from here.