League of Women Voters asks Georgia to stop new voter purge
Georgia's plans to remove at least 300,000 names from the voting rolls before the primary in March are badly flawed and should be delayed or dropped altogether, one of the country's most renowned nonpartisan civic activist groups says.
The national League of Women Voters and its Georgia chapter have made that request to the Republican secretary of state, maintaining the biggest problems are with the state's policy of cancelling registrations of people simply because they haven't voted in five years.
The state's plan, announced two weeks ago, is getting heightened scrutiny because the primary could be a turning point in the Demoratic presidential contest and there will be three important races next fall: The parties will be competitive in a tight contest for Georgia's 16 electoral votes and both Senate seats. Republicans have won every statewide contest since 2004 but the record could be threatened if there's a big turnout from Democrats who have not been regular ballot-casters.
"Georgia's policy should be to encourage infrequent voters to participate in our democracy, not further alienate infrequent voters by purging them from the rolls and putting up another obstacle to further participation," the groups wrote in a letter last week drafted by the Campaign Legal Center, a democracy reform advocacy group.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had not replied as of Friday morning.
Purging voter lists has historically been used to deny minorities the opportunity to vote. Often the people removed from the rolls don't realize it until they arrive to vote.
Danielle Lang, the CLC's co-director of voting rights and redistricting, said the biggest concern is for the estimated 100,000 who could lose their ability to vote in Georgia in 2020 only because they have not voted in the previous two federal elections.
This "use it or lose it" method for managing the rolls, the letter states, does not focus on those who legitimately should be removed — people who have moved, died, gone to prison or are otherwise no longer eligible to vote.
Two years ago Georgia culled 534,000 names from the rolls — 20 percent of them only for failure to vote in recent elections. A subsequent study found that most of those 107,000 ended up re-registering in the same county where they were listed before the purge. This helps illustrate "that the 'use it or lose it' program is not only bad policy but also violates the constitutional rights of Georgia citizens," the letter argues.
Stacey Abrams, whose narrow loss for governor of Georgia a year ago was accompanied by many allegations of voter suppression, has sued in federal court challenging several aspects of the state's voting laws including the one the League of Women Voters is fighting.
The Georgia law was changed this year to allow the process of removing a voter from the registration rolls to begin after five years of not voting instead of three. The law also created a new system under which the state tells inactive voters they'll be purged unless they speak up within 30 days. At a minimum, the League of Women Voters says, the time for replying to the notice should be doubled.
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In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.