voters' rights


New study: Voting barriers suppressed non-white and young voters in the 2016 election

  • In key states, including Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, millennials had to fill out provisional ballots in outsized numbers.
  • That’s according to research funded by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s foundation.
  • The survey found that efforts to erect obstacles to voting had a “disproportionate impact on non-white and younger voters.”
  • Nearly one in four millennials polled had to vote with provisional ballots — usually as a result of a question about eligibility
  • That’s compared to just 6% of Baby Boomers and 2% of the older Greatest Generation.
  • “The poll suggests ways that the voices of people of color and younger voters have been effectively suppressed.”
  • Issues arose for millennial voters and people of color both in places with new voting restrictions — a result of the Supreme Court gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act — as well as those without. 
  • Technological obstacles often played a role, as in Michigan, where there were reports of widespread voting machine failures. Read more

Black, Latino voter suppression in the US led to lower turnouts in 2016, report says

  • Voter turnout in the 2016 election was lower in states with racially targeted, suppressive voting laws such as strict photo ID requirements and advance registration cutoffs, according to a new national report.
  • The report, titled “America Goes to the Polls,” includes a ranking of all 50 states by turnout and shows Texas and Mississippi saw the largest drops in turnout or were ranked near the bottom.
  • Texas and Mississippi are notorious for adopting voter regulations that have been blocked in federal courts due to their discriminatory impact on blacks and Latinos
  • “We know that the Obama voters didn’t all turn out and that’s understandable — but I think that kind of drop [in turnout] is really due to the change in the law, the confusion around registration and the fact that a lot of voters don’t have the required ID,” George Pillsbury, senior consultant for Nonprofit VOTE and a primary author of the report, said in a phone interview. Read more (3/16/17 4:05 PM)

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Indiana deactivates more than 480,000 voter registrations, watchdog group wants answers

  • A voting rights group is demanding details about Indiana’s decision to strike more than 480,000 people from its voter rolls since the 2016 presidential election.
  • Let America Vote filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson on Wednesday after news of the massive update broke.
  • According to the Associated Press, Lawson this week reported “481,235 voter registration records have been removed from voter rolls since November in accordance with federal law." 
  • Voters were cleared from the Indiana books if they didn’t update their records after receiving warnings by mail or if they failed to vote in any election in 2014, 2015 or 2016. Read more (4/19/17)
Just got back from Voter Protection Training!

It went really well! We do it in odd election years before the primaries because there are historically a lot of shenanigans regarding people crossfiling to get in primaries for parties not their own and we tend to have election observers for the different candidates in place, but there was a lot of general purpose information I want to generally make sure everyone knows.

Polling Place Dos and Don’ts: Campaigning

  • Candidate Behavior in Polling Places: Candidates can enter, vote and leave. They cannot hang around inside to say “hi” to voters, even if it’s stuff that’s not technically partisan like “I just want to thank you for voting today!” Vote and get out.
  • Not a candidate? You still literally shouldn’t even speak a candidate’s name while inside the polling place. This extends to the poll workers - if you forget a candidate’s name and ask the poll worker what it is, they actually should not even tell you that much. If you ever see a poll worker suggesting a specific candidate or seeming to promote a candidate, it is a violation and should be reported.
  • Along similar lines: do not wear candidate paraphernalia inside. No buttons, no shirts, no hats, no weird fun themed socks. This is a bit of a gray area but generally speaking, err on the side of caution and don’t.
  • Pamphlets should be handed out outside the polls, not inside. Rules vary by state, but generally you can’t hand out literature for a candidate inside the polls or within a certain perimeter of the entrance. I’ve seen some argument back and forth as to what counts as the “entrance” if you have two sets of doors, with an outer one to the building and an inner one, but I’ve absolutely reported people for being inside the polling building and seen them dutifully standing outside afterwards, so generally assume they should not be in the building.
  • I want to really emphasize that last point - if you are in a voter ID state, your ID will be checked INSIDE. If you are asked for your ID outside the poll, that is a violation and those people do not have legitimate authority.
  • If someone is intimidating or harassing voters, including demanding to see ID,  report them. Additionally AS LONG AS YOU ARE OUTSIDE THE POLLING PLACE - get them on video on your phone if possible. Post the video to social media, but also post it to your local news station’s Facebook page. That having been said, be veeeery cautious about doing this inside a polling place - there are definitely rules in some states about recording inside a polling place. I’m afraid I can’t give general advice for this situation.
  • If you are unable to get into your polling place due to accessibility issues, that is also a violation. Report it, same as above.

Reporting Violations: See Something? Say Something!

  • Spot violations? Report them ASAP so they can be stopped before the day is out. They might get one or two voters, unfortunately, but don’t let them scare people away all day! They can be blatant about this type of thing, too - we had a story in tonight’s training about a district where, for years, Latinx voters were turned away at the door and told that “Latinos don’t vote here.” It was finally uncovered three years later when a phone banker calling for a local candidate spoke with a Latina woman who asked “Will I be able to vote this year?” and “I haven’t been able to vote these past few years, do Latinos vote somewhere else?” This was uncovered in 2012. Keep a sharp eye out. 
  • Generally speaking, each polling place should have a Judge of Elections - if anything is wrong, go to them first. Ask a poll worker until you get to speak to them.
  • Is the Judge of Elections complicit or not cooperating? Then go over to their head to the County Board of Elections. This information, obviously, varies by County, but I suggest googling it for your County and putting it into your phone’s address book.
  • 866-OUR-VOTE also does voter protection services, but their reactions may be slower, so go to them only after the above steps.
  • Phone issues/phone anxiety/etc.? There may also be places to report online! As I was informed, state sites are often more reliable for that then county, but please try to file a report on both. 
  • But the most important thing of all? Report A.S.A.P. The day after the election might stop them from pulling a repeat act next year, but who knows how many voters they’ll be able to stop before then? Don’t let these clowns operate all day! 
  • Finally, just as a note if you do see someone actively intimidating voters: record and report, but do not engage. However, you can offer to escort voters inside if they’re being intimidated! 
  • If you see someone being intimidated, encourage them to come forward - if you’re being intimidated, PLEASE come forward. Reporting when it happens the only way to nip this kind of thing in the bud. Without people coming forward and reporting, we get Latinx people being turned away from a polling place for three entire years before someone actually alerts the authorities because apparently no one posted a competent election watcher in that entire frigging time.
  • (I’m still so mad about that story - just oh my god.)

Trouble With Voting? Name Not on the Roll? No Voter ID?

  • Again, can’t emphasize this enough: If you have any trouble voting, flag down the judge of elections if you need help, then call your county board of elections if that fails or the judge is complicit in the problem.
  • Is your name not on the rolls? If all they’ve done is flip the book open to your alphabetical spot, they have not done their due diligence. Voter registration can be slow: sometimes, voter registrations will be sent in as “supplementals” to the book, depending on when they arrive. Have them check back of book for the supplementals first.
  • Still can’t find your name? Are you reasonably sure you’re in the right place and have registered? Better yet, is the online voter registration checker telling you you’re registered? Have the Judge of Elections call the county board of elections to see if you’ve been registered but not yet entered in the book yet!
  • Also, live in a Voter ID state? Check to make sure of the requirements! Some states only require voter ID if it’s your first time voting in that polling place. The exact form of acceptable ID may vary but your driver’s license should always be enough. If they’re telling you it isn’t, they are lying. Report it.
  • And if all else fails? ENTER A PROVISIONAL BALLOT. If you can prove after the fact that you’re eligible to vote at that polling place -  say, if you forgot your voter ID - you can still have your vote counted! 
  • You may never be denied a provisional ballot, ever. If someone tells you they’ve run out of provisional ballots they are ALMOST CERTAINLY LYING - they have a truly absurd amount of those on hand and can call for more. If someone tells you this, call the board of elections and tell them “Hey, [x voting place] is out of provisional ballots.” That’ll be resolved real quick then.
  • In fact, was there a mixup about your polling place? Whenever possible, you should always get to your actual voting place, but if you can’t make it in time to vote there, try filing a provisional ballot at the polling place where you currently are! It may be counted for your proper polling place later! Basically only do this if you physically cannot get to your polling place before the polls close, though. 
  • If you or someone else needs translation services, they are legally entitled to them; however, the translator does need to be certified, generally; you can’t just bring a friend or family member in to translate in the booth.

Poll Watcher and Worker Responsibilities

  • Poll watchers are usually registered for a certain candidate. I’m not sure if this is true for all states but in at least some there is a limit to number of poll watchers per candidate. Sometimes they’ll let a generic political party have a poll watcher (E.G., ‘Poll watcher for the Democratic Party’, etc.), but it’s rare and may be thrown out, so don’t count on it if you have another option.
  • Poll watchers need to be registered and approved. You can’t just show up and ‘poll watch’. If someone is claiming to be a poll watcher without official papers, report them. If someone is trying to ‘poll watch’ inside the polls without official papers, definitely report them.
  • What can poll watchers do? Well, for starters, they can check before polls open that numbers are at zero! After that, their job is to sit at table and watch. 
  • Do NOT tell any voters what candidate you are pollwatching for. That is a violation. See that thing about “literally do not speak a candidate’s name inside of a polling place” above.
  • Poll watchers can also watch the votes being counted and can even watch as the write-ins and absentee ballots are counted.
  • Aside from the Judge of Elections, poll workers, and poll watchers, polling places may also have an inspector for each party. Poll staff can be elected or appointed, depending on the position - if your polling place doesn’t have anyone from your party, you can tell the judge of elections you’re interested in volunteering. HOWEVER, you’re there from before it opens to after the last vote is counted, so make sure you’re up for that because that is a loooong day.
  • Finally, just as a general note: Exit pollers can ask you how you voted, but you can refuse to answer - no one can force you to answer how you voted.

And that’s my absurdly long voter protection spiel! There’s a lot of other voting rights stuff to know in terms of registration, felon registration rights (varies by state!), homeless registration rights (I know in at least some states you can register even if you’re homeless and just need to circle the area you’re usually in on a map in order to register, but that may not be universal), but we just covered stuff at the polls themselves here.

Now, get out there and vote! Every year has at least a primary and a general election, plus sometimes special elections - please don’t just turn out for Presidential elections!

SCOTUS declines to review discriminatory North Carolina voter ID law

  • The United States Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not review a North Carolina voter ID law that a lower court ruled discriminated against black voters.
  • The law, passed in 2013 by state Republicans, was among the most restrictive of its kind. Among other things, it required voters to present government-issued ID in order to vote, eliminated same-day registration and shortened the early voting period from 17 days to 10.
  • In its 2016 opinion, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision.”
  • The court’s decision not to review the law came as a surprise, Bloomberg reports. Read more (5/15/17)

Trump blows the dogwhistle to his base on voter fraud: “Look at what’s registering”

  • Speaking to GOP congresspeople Thursday, Trump leaned into his vow to investigate what he claims are widespread irregularities in voter registration.
  • “We need to keep the ballot box safe from illegal voting. And believe me, take a look at what’s registering, folks."He added, "We’re going to protect the integrity of the ballot box, and we’re going to defend the votes of the American citizens. So important.”
  • Trump’s insistence on ordering a probe of voter registration comes amidst a flood of bipartisan objections that there is no evidence of widespread tampering or rigging of the 2016 presidential election.
  • The “what’s registering” statement wasn’t received warmly by Republicans in the room. But Twitter knows exactly what he was saying. Read more

The Trump administration is now targeting political opponents. They are specifically targeting American citizens living in “urban areas” (that’s code for black and brown people) who used their constitutional right and legally voted against him. (source)

If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with The 14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism.

If Donald Trump would like to investigate what he considers “voter fraud,” perhaps he should start with his daughter, who is registered in New York and Pennsylvania; or his son-in-law who is registered in New York and New Jersey; or his press secretary who is registered in Virginia and Rhode Island; or his nominee to be Secretary of the Treasury who is registered in New York and California; or his senior advisor who is registered in New York and Florida; or the person he claimed was an “expert” on voter fraud who is registered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.

The truth is, of course, that none of this is “voter fraud.” People are not voting more than once and they are citizens entitled to vote. But stopping real voter fraud, which rarely occurs in the United States, is not Mr. Trump’s goal. Voter suppression is. His goal is to confuse the American people, lie about the issue and make it harder for poor people, people of color, young people and senior citizens to vote. Sadly this has been a long term goal of the Republican Party and in states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan it undoubtedly had an effect in 2016.

As Ari Berman, who has done invaluable reporting on voting rights at The Nation noted, “on Election Day, there were 868 fewer polling places in states with a long history of voting discrimination, like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina. These changes impacted hundreds of thousands of voters, yet received almost no coverage.”

Additionally we cannot talk about this issue without discussing the fact that 1 out of 13 African-Americans (and more than 1 in 5 African-Americans in Florida) are disenfranchised due to the criminal justice system according to the Sentencing Project. Despite having served their time in prison, they continue to lose their right to vote in elections.

We don’t need an investigation into “voter fraud.” We need an investigation into voter suppression.
—  Bernie Sanders
Are Liberals Helping Trump?

Oh boy.

The central premise of this article seems to be that the center-right Trump voter, the “hold your nose” Trump Voter, might feel alienated by people who vehemently opposed his candidacy and more vehemently oppose his presidency.

A couple things.

1. The “Our Country Is So Divided!” refrain stinks. You can take this back as far as you’d like, but for now we’ll just keep it located on Trump: when one side of a debate says broadly that Mexicans are criminals and rapists, hires anti-semites and neo-Nazis to run the executive branch, brags about sexually assaulting women, and talks about junking the ACA without any idea how to replace it, and then the other side gets angry, you cannot blame “both sides” for creating a divide. If a man gets drunk at a bar and instigates a fistfight, the bar patrons are not “divided.” One of them was “attacked” and “fought back.”

2. You own your vote. There are no perfect candidates, in any election, but you own your vote, whatever it was, and if you can’t defend your vote to people who are upset about it, you should not have voted for that candidate. Sorry your guy is making people upset, afraid, angry, and unwilling to date you if you voted for him. But you voted for him, and he is doing those things. Own it.

3. Whatever anger or vitriol you, Mr./Ms. “Hold Your Nose” Trump voter, are feeling from people who fear Trump, it pales in comparison to being a Muslim or Jew or run of the mill democrat or reporter who speaks out online. Their lives are routinely threatened. The Holocaust becomes a meme generator. A potential Tinder match didn’t want to talk to you? I’m very sorry. The man you voted for sexually assaulted women and bragged about it to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus and you voted for him anyway. Forgive those ladies, won’t you, their lack of interest in you as a life-mate.

4. Side-note: Everyone stop saying Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. It’s utterly irrelevant. The parties swapped ideologies in the mid-20th century. Republicans became Democrats and vice-versa. Read about the Southern Strategy and then stop posting those dumb memes about the KKK being formed by Democrats and Lincoln being a Republican.

5. If you feel angry reverberations surrounding your vote for Trump, a nightmare person who is causing America to have a daily nervous breakdown, please do not take it out on the people who are frightened and upset at his utter inability to lead, govern, stay focused, tell the truth, or do one single thing that does not involve either corruption or borderline treason or both. Take it out on him, the next time you have the chance to vote.