Jonathan Miller, Chief of the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Attorney General, Massachusetts, will speak to us about several important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has participated in significant amicus briefs. Efforts to use “disparate impact” claims under the Fair Housing Act. Mt. Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. (Settled, but issue still of importance). Support of mandated reproductive health coverage in the Hobby Lobby case where employer asserted corporate religious objections to the mandate. Support of 35 ft Buffer Zone outside of reproductive clinic where persons may not do involuntary “counseling” to those who seek health care – McCullen v. Coakley; Marriage equality – Beverly Sevcik, et al v. Brian Sandoval, et al (Nevada)/ Nathasha N. Jackson, et al v. Neil S. Abercrombie, Gov, State of Hawai’I, et al and Hawaii Family Forum – 9th Circuit; and Kitchen v. Herbert, 10th Circuit, challenging Utah’s constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
Election Modernization Coalition Applauds Passage of Comprehensive Election Modernization in Senate. Conference Committee now working with two versions.
The Election Modernization Coalition today applauded the Massachusetts Senate for overwhelmingly passing comprehensive election modernization legislation. The final vote was 37 in favor to 1 opposed. The bill includes online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for 16 year-olds, post-election audits of voting machines, Election Day registration, permanent voter registration and inactive voting reform. House version modernized some features, but was not as comprehensive.
If online registration is part of the final bill, passed by both houses, and signed by the Governor, Massachusetts would join 19 other states in passing online voter registration. Early voting is currently allowed in 32 states. Thirteen states including our neighbors in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine have passed Election Day registration and 14 have adopted pre-registration of teens (age varies in states).
Online voter registration. Online voter registration will reduce processing time, cut costs, decrease errors, and encourage more people to register. After Arizona implemented online voter registration, registration rates rose by 9.5% and costs decreased from 83¢ for processing a paper registration to 3¢ for online applications. The online system would search the Registry of Motor Vehicles database for the applicant’s driver’s license and other identifying information and match it to the electronic form. Newly registered voters would be required to show proof of residence the first time they vote. Online voter registration has been passed in 20 states.
Early voting. Early voting would allow Massachusetts residents to vote in person up ten business days before Election Day, at city or town hall or at a satellite site. Early voting relieves congestion on Election Day, especially during typical peak times before and after normal work hours, and allows voters the flexibility to fit voting into busy schedules, particularly voters with lengthy commutes or non-traditional work schedules. Early voting is available in 32 states.
Post-election audits. Post-election audits ensure that vote counts are accurate and that voting machines are working properly. Twenty-six other states perform post-election audits and California has conducted audits for more than 30 years. In 2012, a post-election audit discovered a programming error which caused the results in several municipal elections in Florida to flip. This reform is a common-sense business practice that will instill greater voter confidence in the integrity of our elections and can uncover important information about voting machine malfunctions and other voting inaccuracies. Audits can be funded with federal dollars that have already been allocated to Massachusetts through the Help America Vote Act.
Pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. Pre-registration will increase voter participation among young voters, a demographic bloc with historically low voter participation. Based on the experience of other states, pre-registration would result in approximately 21,000 additional voter registrations per year, and increase voter turnout of 18 and 19-year-olds by 5 to 10%. Studies also show this increase in participation continues into adulthood. The program is easy to administer and has almost no cost. Pre-registration has been enacted in Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virgina.
Election Day registration. No other reform is as effective in fixing administrative problems or increasing voter participation. On average, states with Election Day registration have turnout rates that are 10-12% higher than the national average. States that have passed Election Day registration include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington DC.
Reform of inactive voting procedures. Massachusetts is the only state that makes a voter “inactive” after a one-time failure to return a city or town census form, regardless of how often the voter goes to the polls. Inactive voting procedures are confusing, slow down voting on Election Day, and can wrongly disenfranchise voters.
Members of JALSA and Moishe Kavod gathering in a previous legislative session to deliver hour glasses to legislators reminding them it was time to pass the modernization voting bill.
In North Carolina, a new policy is to go into effect this week. Driver’s licenses for immigrant students will be marked with a special separate different pink design. What shades of memory does that evoke?
Flash!!! News!!! Your calls and letters have made a difference. North Carolina will not require “special Pink drivers’ licenses.”
However, the licenses will still have “No Legal Status” printed on these licenses. Continue your letters urging that these students be treated the same way other drivers are treated.
A letter signed by leaders of major Jewish organizations was prepared by the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. It went to the Governor last week. Feel free to use the arguments of this letter in your continued correspondence with the Governor of North Carolina. See the letter here.
Thanks so much for joining with us in this effort.