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Tag: early voting

2021 GOP Turnout Proves Better Ballot Access Benefits Both Parties

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Making access to a ballot and voting more accessible does not necessarily help Democrats and hurt Republicans, despite conventional political wisdom to the contrary, as the November 2 election clearly demonstrated.

In Virginia and New Jersey, which both held statewide elections and where state officials had instituted more ways for voters to vote—early and on Election Day—Republicans turned out in record numbers.

In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor by nearly 80,000 votes, defeating the former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who ran a lackluster campaign. In New Jersey, incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was leading by 15,000 votes, with the uncounted ballots in Democratic strongholds.

But, as Jonathan Last noted in The Bulwark, "challenger Jack Ciattarelli found an extra 300,000 Republican votes that weren't there for the GOP candidate in 2017. Murphy is going to hang on to win, but the story is the Republican turnout."

Analysts will offer many reasons for Democrats' showing. But expanding ways to vote should not be among them, election experts said, even though former President Donald Trump has been attacking easier access since mid-2020 when many states expanded voting options in response to the pandemic.

"One myth that both parties completely agree on is that high turnout always benefits Democrats," said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Research and Innovation. "It is an article of faith among both Democrats and Republicans that this is true and yet it is completely false."

"We see repeatedly that it's completely false in places like Florida and Ohio, which had extensive mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting, record turnout in 2020, [and] record margins for Republicans," Becker continued. "In places like Virginia and New Jersey yesterday, [where it was] easy to early vote, easy to mail vote, [there was] record turnout [and] over performance by Republicans."

Becker's point underscores that it is the candidates and their messaging, not making voting harder for perceived blocs, that is and should be the determining factor in voter turnout. That view, however, is at odds with many pro-Trump legislators who have led post-2020 efforts to curtail voting options after their candidate lost the presidential election a year ago.

"You actually don't change the political dynamic significantly," Becker said. "You just make things better for voters to make their voices heard."

A Closer Look at Virginia

Virginia's 2021 election broke turnout records for statewide elections. A closer look suggests that many Republicans and Democrats differed on when they voted. More Democrats than Republicans voted before Election Day, either with mailed-out ballots or at an early in-person site. More Republicans, in contrast, voted on Election Day, when two-thirds of the election's voters cast ballots.

While Virginia's Democratic-majority state legislature passed numerous voting reforms earlier this year that were intended to make voting easier for its base, it is also true that expanding early voting meant that fewer people would be voting on Election Day—which made Tuesday's voting more expeditious.

But tinkering with the rules of voting will not deter a motivated electoral base., said Chris Sautter, an election lawyer specializing in recounts and an American University adjunct professor.

"All these reforms were written by Democrats to increase Democratic turnout," he said. "The Democratic turnout was not bad. It's just that the Republican turnout was through the roof. Youngkin did better than Trump ever did in these areas that Trump opened up. Trump got people to vote who had never voted before and Youngkin surpassed him by quite a bit."

Organizers seeking to turn out young and infrequent voters in the state's largest communities of color said that many voters were not interested in McAuliffe, who defeated two Black women in the primary and sided with fossil fuel interests as governor but more recently sought to portray himself as an environmentalist.

"Only 15 percent of our voters age 18 to 39 showed up in early voting," Andrea Miller, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Common Ground, said. "They were not having it. They were saying, 'We're not voting for the lesser of two evils.' In my mind, that was a progressive and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, people of color] protest. And young people didn't vote at all."

So, even though Virginia's legislature adopted 2021's more expansive set of pro-voter reforms, their ticket didn't compel voters to take advantage of easier ways to vote. On the Republican side of the aisle, voters faced no obstacles.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Why Democrats Should Take Manchin’s Voting Rights Deal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) opposition to Democrats' push to expand voting rights has been a deep point of contention that has left the lawmaker on the outs with his political party. However, Democratic lawmakers may want to take a hard look at his latest counteroffer, according to election law scholar Richard Hasen.

In a piece published by Slate, Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, laid out the details of Manchin's counteroffer to the "For the People" bill, HR-1. The lawmaker's proposal addresses a number of the original bill's highest priorities where voting rights and campaign finance are concerned.

According to Hasen, Manchin's proposal includes "a requirement of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, automatic voter registration, limits on partisan gerrymandering, and improved campaign finance disclosure."

The lawmaker is also in agreement on "extending campaign finance provisions to communications on the internet and to currently non-disclosing 'dark money' groups, prohibiting false information about when, where, and how people vote, and an updated pre-clearance process."

While it is clear that the West Virginia Senator's proposal isn't exactly what Democratic lawmakers are advocating, Hasen suggests Democrats should at least consider the offer. He acknowledged that while many of the line items Democrats initially proposed are not included, most of those items are far less pressing.

Hasen explained why:

"Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect, Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin's list, such as felon re-enfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted."

Hasen also noted that voter identification could actually prove to be beneficial if implemented in a fair manner. Moving forward with Manchin's proposal could also open the door for bipartisan discussions instead of the bill just dying in the Senate.

New Poll: 'Sizable Majorities' Favor Voting Rights And Oppose GOP Suppression

A new poll finds that many of the provisions within a voting rights bill congressional Democrats are looking to pass are widely popular with Americans -- a sign that GOP outcry against the legislation has not worked.

The Pew Research Center survey found that "sizable majorities favor several policies aimed at making it easier for citizens to register and vote," with 61 percent of voters supporting automatically registering eligible citizens to vote, 63 percet saying anyone should be able to vote absentee without an excuse, 70 percent supporting giving people their voting rights back after serving their felony sentences, and 78 percent supporting two weeks of in-person early voting.

All of those provisions are within the "For the People Act," which House Democrats passed in March, and Senate Democrats are now rallying behind.

Republicans have vilified the act, making hyperbolic claims and flat-out lying about what the bill would do in order to justify their opposition to it.

Among the lies Republicans have told about the legislation is that it will allow undocumented immigrants to vote, makes elections more vulnerable to foreign interference, and rig elections in Democrats' favor.

None of those claims have much merit. Rather, the legislation would:

  • Require states to implement automatic voter registration for federal elections. That means anytime an eligible voter has contact with a state agency — most often the Department of Motor Vehicles — they are automatically registered to vote. If they do not want to be registered, they can opt out;
  • Give money for states to use paper ballots to prevent foreign interference in vote totals;
  • Allow anyone who wants to vote by mail to do so without needing an excuse, as well as require states to have early voting for federal elections;
  • And restore voting rights to those who have completed felony sentences.

Privately, Republicans worry that making it easier to vote will hamper GOP chances in future elections.

"H.R. 1's only objective is to ensure that Democrats can never again lose another election, that they will win and maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and of the state legislatures for the next century," Cruz told a conservative group in a private call, according to the Associated Press.

It's a belief held by Donald Trump, who has said publicly that he believes Republicans wouldn't win elections again if people have easier access to the ballot box. It's believed to be part of the reason he railed against the explosion in absentee ballots in the 2020 election, which he blames in part for his loss.

And Trump's belief that more access to voting hurts their chances has led to an explosion of voter suppression legislation from Republicans in state legislatures across the country.

A number of states have already passed laws restricting the right to vote.

For example, Republicans in Iowa shortened the state's early, in-person voting period from 29 days to 20 days. And Texas Republicans are looking to make it even harder to vote by mail by requiring the disabled to show written proof of their disability in order to receive their absentee ballot.

Passing the "For the People Act" would block almost every single GOP voter suppression bill that has passed or is moving toward passage across the country.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Karl Rove Signals GOP Donors To Push Rewrite Of Election Laws

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Hours after President Biden declared that "democracy has prevailed" during his inaugural address, longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove urged Republicans to pressure GOP election officials to create "a model election code" and change the two voting options that led to the 2020 presidential election's record turnout.

"Republicans should...encourage GOP secretaries of state and state lawmakers to develop a model election code," Rove wrote in a January 20 commentary for the Wall Street Journal titled "The Republican Future Starts Now."

"The job of proposing electoral reforms shouldn't be based on the unsupported claims of widespread fraud peddled by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell," Rove continued. "Instead, the goal should be to suggest measures that restore public confidence in our democracy. How do states with extensive mail-in and early voting like Florida and Texas get it right?"

Rove's commentary comes as Republican-majority legislatures in battleground states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona have proposed bills or convened hearings to review the laws that allowed people to vote early in person or with mailed-out ballots in 2020.

"Whenever Karl Rove writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the history of it suggests that Democrats should pay careful attention," said David Daley, author of Unrigged: How Americans are Battling Back to Save Democracy. "Because the Wall Street Journal is where Republicans can signal to their donor class their key projects."

In March 2010, Rove penned a Journal commentary openly discussing the GOP's REDMAP project, which targeted 107 state legislative seats that "would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats." REDMAP succeeded, creating GOP majority legislatures and congressional delegations in the otherwise purple states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Alabama.

The website of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model bills for social conservatives and economic libertarians, has not yet promoted election reforms on its website. However, ALEC linked to the Conservative Action project, which posted a defense of the GOP lawmakers who opposed certifying the Electoral College slates from Arizona and Pennsylvania. The expanded use of voting via mailed-out ballots and early voting must be examined, it said.

"The 2020 election was conducted in an unprecedented manner: largely by mail, and in a way that overwhelmed the capacities of many states. It is not at all unreasonable to review the manner in which votes were counted," said the Conservative Action Project memo, which was signed by more than 100 activists and organizations. "Indeed, if the goal is to restore faith in future elections, then a comprehensive review and analysis to determine what went wrong, what went right, and what is in need of reform should be a critical next step."

Daley, whose prior book, Ratf*cked, profiled REDMAP and its impacts on the past decade's political battles and extreme politics, said Rove's commentary was a warning sign.

"Whenever Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, it not to be a public intellectual but to put ideas in front of the Republican donor class," he said. "It fits perfectly with much of the Republican strategy on voter suppression."

"So much of it sounds reasonable," Daley continued, referring to the suggestion that a model election code be developed and embraced. "How can you be opposed to a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission that is going to step back and ensure that our elections are free, fair, and secure? Except, that's not actually their intention, because we just had an election that was free, fair, and secure. And [Sens.] Hawley and Cruz and 130-plus Republicans in the House voted to decertify [the popular vote results and Electoral College slates from] Pennsylvania and Arizona—even after a Republican governor [in Arizona] signed off on certification."

Already, Republican legislators in 2020 battleground states held hearings where they are badgering statewide election officials —some elected Democrats, some career civil servants — about decisions they took last fall that made it easier to vote with absentee ballots.

For example, on Thursday in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, was pressed by Republican representatives for advising county election officials to count the returned mailed-out ballots of people who forgot to put their ballots in a secrecy sleeve. The state's Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the "naked" ballots should be disqualified.

"You disagree with the decision that was rendered by the Supreme Court?" Rep. Ryan McKenzie, a Republican, asked Boockvar.

"It doesn't matter whether I disagree with a decision rendered by the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court's rule governs," she replied. "But what I would say is, and maybe this is part of your question, do I think that is the right approach for voters for making sure that every eligible voter's vote counts? No, I'd love to see the legislature change that law and say, 'Look, if a voter makes a mistake that does not have anything to do with their eligibility or their qualifications, such as a naked ballot, that vote should still count."

The Thursday legislative hearing was one of 14 that are slated in Pennsylvania to review voting laws and administrative rules that were in effect during the 2020 election. A separate GOP-sponsored proposal would create districts for electing state Supreme Court judges. If put into effect, it could become a judicial gerrymander to recast Pennsylvania's appellate courts—including the Supreme Court.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Georgia’s First Day Of Early Runoff Voting Breaks Record

Georgia voters are already smashing absentee ballot records as early voting begins for a pair of U.S. Senate runoff elections in the state.

Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, at the start of the early voting period, that it appeared the runoffs would be a "high-turnout election."

The outlet cited figures from the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks mail ballots using data from the Georgia secretary of state. The Journal reported 246,531 mail ballots had been accepted so far — a 20.1 percent return rate of requested ballots — and 1,227,285 mail ballots requested, which is a 16.1 percent request rate of registered voters, as of Monday.

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Massive Early Voting Numbers Fuel Prediction Of Historic 2020 Turnout

It's Election Day in the United States, and before a single ballot was cast today, more than 100 million people had already voted, according to early voting data from JMC Analytics and Polling.

That total is roughly 73 percent of 2016 turnout, when 137 million Americans cast ballots, with political experts like FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver predicting 2020 turnout will far outpace that number.

"Our final turnout estimate landed at 158 million, with an 80th percentile range between 147 and 168 million. Compares to 137 million in 2016," Silver tweeted Tuesday morning.

But even more astounding is that four states have already surpassed their total 2016 turnout before Election Day — a sign experts say suggests 2020 turnout may set records.

Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, and Washington state have all seen more ballots in 2020 than in 2016.

Hawaii was the first state to surpass its total vote from four years ago, on Oct. 29, six days before the election, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who runs the U.S. Elections Project early vote tracker.

Texas surpassed its total 2016 turnout four days before Election Day, Bloomberg News reported — a massive turnout surge that's turned the reliably Republican state into a toss-up contest.

Nevada's early vote totals also portend good results for Democrats. Jon Ralston, a longtime Nevada reporter who has correctly predicted the outcome of elections in the state based on the early vote three election cycles in a row, said Joe Biden is on track to defeat Donald Trump in the state.

"The Democrats have banked so many votes in early voting that it is almost impossible for the Republicans to overcome it on Election Day," Ralston reported.

As of Nov. 1, two days before the election, a number of other states were just shy of their total 2016 turnout — suggesting they, too, will surpass the number of votes cast four years ago.

North Carolina, a key battleground this cycle, was at 95 percent of its total 2016 vote.

Georgia, another reliably Republican state that is now a jump ball between Trump and Biden, was at 94 percent of its total 2016 turnout on Nov. 1.

Polls begin to close on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern, with critical states like Florida closing at 7 p.m. After that, it will start to become clear whether massive turnout benefited one candidate or the other.

Whatever the outcome, 2020 is set to be a historic year for turnout.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

‘I Want To Feel America’

They waited in the pouring rain on Wednesday, six feet apart and some of them without umbrellas, to cast their ballots in central Florida.

One masked man caught the attention of another voter, and his video account made it to the ABC News Facebook page.

"You see how important this election is," the man narrates as he zooms in on a solitary voter getting soaked. "You see this? Unfazed. Us? Oh, we've got our umbrella." He zooms in closer on the voter. "Unfazed," he says again. "That's how important it is."

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Early Voting Is Already Shattering Past Election Records

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The American public is showing a heightened interest in early voting practices ahead of the November election.

Over 28 million Americans have already requested ballots and an additional 43 million are automatically scheduled to be mailed to registered voters, according to a survey of election offices conducted by CNN. The states surveyed include a total of 42 states in addition to Washington D.C.

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