Voting Access Proposals Are Sweeping the Nation
There has been a surge in legislation to ease access to the polls during the early days of state legislative sessions across the country.
The New York University School of Law's Brennan Center counts at least 230 bills that have been filed or pre-filed at state capitals since the midterm election – with bipartisan efforts to place automatic voter registration, vote-by-mail, same-day registration or the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons on the legislative agendas in 31 states.
These bills stand a chance of enactment not only in Democratic strongholds but also a handful of generally Republican states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.
Bills to increase voter access have far outpaced those written in the name of boosting election integrity. The Brennan Center counts just 24 measures, such as those to require voter ID, proof of citizenship at the polls or limiting early voting.
Stateline, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts focused on trends in state policymaking, quotes the Brennan Center's Max Feldman as saying that even if the Republican Senate never takes up HR 1 (the House Democrats' sweeping "good government" legislation) that ambitious bill has nonetheless succeeded in setting a tone for state lawmakers to push big voting changes. "State lawmakers were paying attention," he said.
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House Democrats are continuing their push for stronger voting rights protections, releasing findings Thursday from a series of 2019 field hearings across the country on impediments to voting.
The 144-page report concludes that "the fundamental right to vote is under attack" and calls for congressional action.
But the report, prepared by the Democrats on a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over elections policy, does not include any of the views of minority Republicans, who said in a separate statement that they disagree with the Democrats' conclusions.
The usual practice in Congress is to include dissenting views in all committee reports, so the breakdown of that process is further evidence of Capitol Hill's ever more harshly partisan tone in general and its recent approach to voting rights in particular.
Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
I grew up watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the late 1970s. It always felt to me a little nostalgic for its lessons that simple living was best. I enjoyed the show and still appreciate the values the show exemplifies.
A few years ago, as I was watching our societal divisions widen, I explored the idea of having Sheriff Andy meet Captain Picard of "Star Trek: the Next Generation." I researched and talked with people about how to help these two fictional characters meet and converse. Eventually I abandoned the idea as a fun thought experiment without a conclusion.
Maybe I was pursuing the wrong goal — and seeking something else could help improve our civil discourse.