Engaging the Future of America: Preregistration Measures Gain Traction in Three States

Cross-posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog.

By Erin Ferns

Between 2004 and 2008, voter turnout among young people increased by two percent--or over 2.3 million voters--a triumph for this historically underrepresented group. However, with voter registration rates only increasing by one percent in spite of heightened political interest, it is clear that more that needs to be done to engage young voters beyond holding voter registration drives on high school or college campuses. While measures to provide voter registration or voter education opportunities for voting eligible Americans are important, three states have taken a step beyond by moving legislation to not only address the issue of standardizing the voter registration system, but to engage the future of America before they reach the age of 18.

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Hanging In the Balance: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

This blog entry is cross posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog

By Erin Ferns and Donald Wine II

In 1965 the course of American democracy changed when the Voting Rights Act was enacted to ensure proper enforcement of the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants equal voting rights to people of color.  While many strides have been made since the VRA's enactment, including rising voter participation among the nation's historically underrepresented citizens, voting rights advocates argue that it is still a long road to truly non-discriminatory voting practices and a balanced electorate.  Now, the course of American democracy may change again as the U.S. Supreme court is considering a high profile case that challenges the constitutionality of a key provision of the VRA.

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Voter Fraud Myth Used to Push Voting Policies that Harken Back to the Jim Crow Era

Cross posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog

By Erin Ferns

Recent studies show that a more diverse electorate turned out last November, including historically underrepresented young and minority voters. Since the election, Republican operatives have continued to use the specter of voter fraud to loosen regulations on voter suppression activities while pushing policies to make voting more difficult for the crop of new voters.

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RNC Wants Out of Consent Decree Prohibiting Them from Voter Caging

Cross posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog

On the eve of the Presidential election, facing an historic defeat, the Republican National Committee quietly filed a motion to dissolve an existing consent decree in which they'd agreed not to engage in voter caging or other types of voter intimidation. Since 1982, the RNC has been restricted from conducting so-called "ballot-security" measures that have historically been used to deter thousands of Americans--largely low-income and minority citizens--from voting. Now, the RNC wants to be free of these restrictions. A hearing on the RNC motion is scheduled for next Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey.

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Bad Election Bill Riles Up Advocates, Concerns Fla. Governor

For most states this year, the economic crisis has taken precedent over other serious policy issues, including election reform. In fact, the few key states that are dedicating this year's session to election reform instead of major budget issues are stirring up voters as they put their rights on the line. Like the highly publicized battles to pass voter ID in Texas and proof-of-citizenship registration requirements in Georgia, Florida's notorious 80-plus page omnibus election bill takes the cake in breaking the spirit of democracy.

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Revamping Voter Registration to Reduce Disparities in the Electorate

Although the 2008 presidential election showcased a more diverse electorate with an increase in voter registration and turnout by historically underrepresented Americans - including youth and minorities - the movement toward a more balanced electorate that represents all citizens is still a work in progress.  Advocates have long maintained--and recently Congress has heard testimony to the fact--that disparities in turnout rates are less an issue of voter apathy, and more related to a severe lack of democratic access for many groups. The growing awareness of this problem has inspired an increased interest among citizens, advocates, legislators, and officials to improve the administration of elections, particularly regarding voter registration.

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States Move to Create Culture of Voter Engagement through Preregistration

By Erin Ferns

The rising levels of voter participation among the nation's youth continue to be challenged by the current voter registration system, perpetuating the difficulty of fostering lifelong voters. Some states are proposing to take this challenge into their own hands by making voter registration accessible to citizens as young as 16. Already widely accessible at schools and departments of motor vehicles, the move would allow future voters in some states to automatically be enrolled on the voter rolls on their 18th birthdays, a change that advocates say could "close the registry gap between young voters and the rest of the population."

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Project Vote Analysis Documents a More Diverse Electorate in 2008

The November 2008 election saw dramatic increases in participation by traditionally underrepresented groups, including Americans of color and young voters, according to a new research memorandum released by Project Vote yesterday.

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Around the Country, Calls for Lawmakers to Address "Real Problems, Not Imaginary Ones"

As several states enter critical phases in their legislative sessions, the debate for one of the most controversial election reforms continues to dominate headlines and legislative hearings. This year, more than 26 states introduced legislation to go above and beyond federal election law relating to voter ID, despite near consensus among voting rights advocates that it hurts the process far more than it helps. Last week, the hysteria around voter ID reached an all time high in six states, evoking public concern from advocates and citizens alike.

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Advocates Identify Voter Registration System as Nation's Biggest Election Problem

Despite reports of voter registration barriers, voter intimidation, and non-compliance with voting rights law in recent elections, it appears that state legislatures and Congress are not actively focusing on the real issues in election administration. Considering the current economic state, almost the only attention that election reform is getting is through messy, partisan fueled debates to require photo voter ID on the state level--a fight that, just last week, quietly brought Utah to the list of eight other states that go beyond the Help America Vote Act in voter ID requirements. In recent Congressional hearings regarding voter registration and other election issues experienced in 2008, a number of groups have expressed their concerns with the current voting system and its impact on voters.

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