Every Voter Counts
The ability to vote – to have a part in choosing the elected officials whose decisions impact our lives, families, communities, and country – is at the core of our democracy and what it means to be an American. Every American should have a voice in issues that affect them. Every voter counts. But under the guise of preventing so-called “voter fraud” and working in conjunction with advocacy groups, some governors and state legislators have passed laws making it harder for millions of Americans – especially students, seniors, and people of color – to register and to vote.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund, working with allies at the local, state, and national levels, is implementing a campaign to elevate and sustain a focus on voter protection and turnout; to strengthen the ability of individuals and organizations to overcome barriers to the right to vote; and to increase voter turnout among underrepresented populations that are the targets of voter suppression efforts.
FACT SHEET: A Campaign to Protect Access to the Polls and Encourage Voter Participation in 2012 (PDF)
September 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The Committee to Modernize Voter Registration, a bipartisan group of election and campaign experts and former Republican and Democratic congressmen, aims to fix the nation's broken voter registration system. In 2008, four to five million voters faced registration issues that ultimately prevented them from casting a ballot.
The committee says that the two biggest problems with the current system are paper registration forms and the time constraints of the registration process. Paper registration forms are handwritten, often making it difficult for information to be accurately read or universally accessible. The system isn't properly set up to handle the sudden flood of incoming registration forms that arrive in the final days before the registration deadline. Both of these problems also make it difficult for someone to verify or correct their own registration information in time to cast a vote.
Jonah Goldman, who serves as strategic advisor to the committee, notes that "the system is problematic for all, but impacts young voters, military members, lower income voters, those who move, and voters of color more often than most." Goldman doesn't blame these problems on the election officials, but instead on the design of the system. "Election officials are not the problem; they are doing all that they can do, but they are unnecessarily strained."
The committee says that using existing government databases to automatically register voters could eliminate many of these problems. Databases would also remove artificial registration deadlines, save states money, and eliminate the need for third party groups to spend precious time and funds on registration efforts.
Congress is currently considering legislation to modernize voter registration. The committee will provide input and expertise to Congress, as well as individual states that may be considering similar legislation.
August 26, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ratified in 1920, the amendment gave women the right to vote. Women had been gaining suffrage, or the right to vote, on a state-by-state basis throughout the early 20th century, but the amendment granted all U.S. women full voting rights.
The amendment's ratification was the culmination of the Women's Suffrage Movement. Women's suffrage was first proposed in 1848 by participants of the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, which included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
The movement picked up steam when Alice Paul, president of the National Women's Party, lead eight thousand women in picketing the White House the day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913. Women's active participation in the war effort during World War I also helped the movement gain support.
August 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
In the early 1960s, television images of police attacking civil rights marchers shocked the nation and spurred the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation. On March 7, 1965, police in Alabama used tear gas and billy clubs to attack over 500 civil rights activists who marched from Selma to Montgomery to dramatize the call for voting rights for African Americans. The images of police brutality were broadcast worldwide.
One week later, President Johnson responded by calling on Congress to pass a voting rights bill. When he signed the VRA five months later, he remarked that it was to be "one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom."
The VRA is considered the most successful civil rights law Congress has ever passed and remains as important now as it was four decades ago. Since 1965, Congress has voted four times to renew all three of its temporary provisions, most recently in 2006, when both the House and the Senate approved the measure overwhelmingly in a bipartisan manner. Congress conducted over 20 hearings, heard from over 50 expert witnesses, and collected over 17,000 pages of testimony documenting the continued need for and constitutionality of the VRA.
August 4, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Last week, both the Senate and the House introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, legislation that would restore the right to vote in federal elections to millions of Americans with felony convictions who have completed their prison sentences.
July 28, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Elections are run differently in every state, sometimes differently from county to county, making it hard to ensure that every eligible vote is properly counted.
In recent elections, inconsistencies in the use of emergency paper ballots and provisional ballots have prevented the votes of many Americans from being counted.
During the 2008 presidential primary, for example, some polling officials in Pennsylvania failed to issue emergency paper ballots after voting machines broke down, and instead gave out provisional ballots or turned people away. Emergency paper ballots are issued when voting machines do not work and are to be counted as a regular vote, while provisional ballots are issued when a person's voter registration is in doubt and are only counted once registration is verified.
July 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Voter registrations have increased substantially between the 2006 congressional mid-term election and the 2008 presidential election, according to a report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
The report, released last week, is the eighth in a series of regular reports the commission has submitted to Congress since passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993. The EAC is required to report every two years on the impact of the NVRA on voter registration. This year's report revealed that the number of registered voters rose by 17.5 million from 2006 to 2008, reaching a total of 189 million.
The report also found a increase in same-day registration, in which voters are permitted to register when they arrive at the polls on election day, with 17 states adding 3.6 million new registrants on Election Day. Thirteen million inactive voters were removed from voter rolls from 2006 to 2008, for reasons including death, felony conviction, failure to vote in two consecutive federal elections, moving, or at the voter’s request.
The commission's recommendations for future improvements include creating a "coordinated data collection effort" between local and state election offices to better manage voter registration and removal of inactive voters, and the increasing the use of new technology to "ease the workload" on election officials.
July 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
"Yes 18" button from the late 1960s/early 1970s worn by many young people who protested U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Today marks the 38th anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in federal, state, and local elections.
Congress introduced the amendment in response to a 1970 Supreme Court decision, Oregon v. Mitchell, which held that Congress could not alter state or local voting arrangements through legislation. Congress had passed a law lowering the voting age earlier that year, in response to growing support for lowering the voting age among student and youth activists who opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Many American soldiers drafted to serve in Vietnam were between the ages of 18 and 21, a fact that helped to popularize the slogan, "old enough to fight, old enough to vote."
More than 50 percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the 1972 election, the first election after the amendment's ratification, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The turnout for this demographic has been steadily increasing since the 1996 election, with turnout in 2008 – 48.5 percent – nearly reaching 1972 levels.
Amendments to the Constitution are passed in both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority vote and approved by at least three-quarters of the states.
June 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
In an 8-1 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court left a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act intact.
"In today's near unanimous decision, the Supreme Court recognized the continuing relevance of the Voting Rights Act in its entirety and Congress' role in protecting the right to vote for all Americans," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
June 10, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Residents of the nation's capital will have to wait for a vote in Congress. Yesterday, a vote on the DC House Voting Rights Act was delayed in the House of Representatives after a failed attempt to remove an amendment to repeal the District's gun control laws.
The bill will increase the permanent House membership from 435 to 437 by giving one seat to the District of Columbia, and adding a fourth seat for Utah. The gun amendment was added in February when the Senate passed the bill. Many supporters of the bill in House would not vote for it with the gun amendment, which delayed the vote.
"We will do everything in our power to pass the DC Voting Rights Act in this Congress. But, it's obvious that we'll also need to take our battle on guns to the next level," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote
May 7, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
U.S. PIRG, a national nonprofit that lobbies on consumer and public interest issues, released a report yesterday that shows that local voter registration systems are inefficient and expensive to maintain and that modernizing and streamlining antiquated systems would reduce costs for local governments.
U.S. PIRG surveyed 100 counties and found that more than $33 million of public money was spent on voter registration in 2008. Small counties spent an average of around $87,000, medium counties spent around $250,000, and large counties spent more than $1 million. Some of the largest counties spent as much as $3 million on voter registration.
The report also found that these costs do not include overtime pay or outreach election official conduct to encourage voter registration.
The report states: "Election officials must spend taxpayer dollars to deal with the errors and challenges of our paper-driven, inefficient registration system. If we modernized our system, election officials could instead use their budget for activities that promote our democracy, such as training poll-workers and election education, as well as on more effectively administering Election Day."
U.S. PIRG recommends that the federal government require states to provide automatic voter registration and same-day voting for people who may have missed registration deadlines. It also recommends that the federal government provide funding support to states.
States with laws on the books requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote are: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania (blocked for 2012 election), and Tennessee. Other states – Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire – also require a photo ID. Learn more.
And check out the Voter ID "Map of Shame" to see where laws have been passed, been stopped, or still face legal challenges.
Voices for Voting Rights (Minnesota)
Research & Reports
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