Voter Registration

  • March 18, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Attorneys arguing for marriage equality have stalled on the decision about who will argue before the Supreme Court, reports Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed. Other coverage comes from David Savage at the Los Angeles Times.

    Mark Joseph Stern argues at Slate that Jeffrey L. Fisher should be the lawyer chosen to argue for marriage equality before the Supreme Court.

    Lauren-Brooke Eisen and Oliver Roeder discuss the faulty perception of crime rates in the United States at the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice.

    At NPR, Domenico Montanaro considers whether automatic voter registration would increase voter turnout.

    The Presbyterian Church announced that it has changed its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, reports Rachel Zoll at Salon.

  • March 12, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times argues that the United States must restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

    Lara Bazelon explains in Slate how innocence is often not enough to help the wrongfully convicted get out of prison.

    At The Washington Post, Lindsey Bever reports that Utah has passed a landmark LGBT rights bill.

    Aman Banerji discusses at Salon the troubling lessons on the state of racial discrimination in the United States found in the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report.

    Jonathan Brater writes for the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice about a new Oregon law that could change voter registration.

    Steven Mazie of The Economist argues that the Chief Justice could conceivably “vote in the liberal direction in both King v. Burwell, the Obamacare case, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case.”

  • October 22, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Coverage of the ACS-sponsored “Skewed Justice” study continues with The National Law Journal, News & Record, McClatchy, Think Progress, KPFA-FM, Sentencing Law and Policy, and The Take Away reporting on the findings.

    In The Washington Post, Robert G. Kaiser celebrates the life of The Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee who presided over the paper during the Watergate scandal and helped to print stories based on the Pentagon papers.

    Scott Martelle of the Los Angeles Times questions the use of the death penalty in light of the recent release of a wrongfully convicted man after 38 years in prison.

    At Constitution Daily, Scott Bomboy considers the lack of politicians as Supreme Court Justices in recent years.

    Jeffrey Toobin explores in The New Yorker the judicial legacy of President Obama, including his evolving opinion on same-sex marriage.

    NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports on new concerns over voter registration in Georgia where lawyers say thousands of registration applications for minority voters are missing. 

  • September 23, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Liz Kennedy, Counsel, Demos

    Today is National Voter Registration Day. Almost 2,000 partners around the country - student groups, educational institutions, unions, faith groups, civic leagues, libraries, worker centers, and elections agencies - are promoting opportunities for individuals to register to vote. Volunteers will spend hundreds of hours doing face-to-face outreach, technology will help voters find registration drives or, if available, register online, and tens of thousands of voters are expected to register to vote in a single day. This is a wonderful testament to civic organization in America.

    But even with these laudable efforts, too many unnecessary bureaucratic barriers block the ability of eligible persons to register to vote. Our voter registration systems are outdated and poorly functioning. Many today will ask their fellow citizens “would you like to register to vote?” but we should also ask why we don’t yet have a system of universal voter registration in 2014, when we have an urgent need and the technical capabilities to make it a reality.

    Universal or automatic voter registration shifts the burden of voter registration from the individual to the state. A democratic government has a duty to facilitate and promote civic participation, since it receives its legitimacy through the consent of the governed. A universal voter registration program ensures that eligible persons can exercise their freedom to vote unless they opt-out, rather than putting the burden on the majority of citizens who want to and do participate in the political life of the country to opt-in. That is the correct balance to strike in a democracy.

    Our electoral process serves crucial functions, including choosing elected representatives, setting the course for public policy, and allowing individuals to express their views on the public issues that impact their lives, families, and communities. But elections don’t serve these purposes well if we don’t all participate, and we have a voter participation problem in this country. In 2012, almost 61 million Americans voted for Mitt Romney, and almost 66 million Americans voted for President Obama, but over 90 million eligible American citizens did not vote at all.

  • March 21, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Gabriel J. Chin, Professor of Law, University of California Davis School of Law

    This week, the Supreme Court heard argument in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a case at the intersection of two lines of cases which have been prominent on the Court’s docket in recent years. The case is an example of a challenge to Arizona’s apparently endless cornucopia of anti-immigrant legislation. It also tests measures which, according to some conservatives, are designed to preserve the integrity of the ballot box, but according to others are calculated to suppress the minority vote.

    The case involves Arizona’s Proposition 200, passed in 2004, which requires prospective Arizona voters to provide proof of United States citizenship before registration. But the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 directed the federal Election Assistance Commission to create a federal form for voter registration (current version here). That form requires applicants to provide a date of birth and other identifying information, and an oath that the applicant is a citizen, but does not require independent documentary proof of citizenship.  Federal law requires states to “accept and use” the federal form. The critical question is whether “accept and use” means that a properly completed form is sufficient for voter registration unless the state independently proves that it is fraudulent, or, rather, that the form is the beginning of an application process during which the state may freely add supplemental requirements and inquiries.

    A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which included retired Justice O’Connor, invalidated Prop. 200’s proof-of-citizenship requirement, over a dissent by Chief Judge Kozinski. En banc, the Ninth Circuit held 9-2 that the requirement was invalid, this time with Chief Judge Kozinski in the majority. Both the panel and the court en banc Circuit upheld a separate provision of Prop. 200, requiring registered voters to show identification at the polls.

    It is common ground that the federal government has broad power over federal elections.  As the Brennan Center and the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote in a brief for me and other constitutional law scholars, under the Elections Clause (Article I, Section 4), Congress may regulate federal elections and supersede state electoral laws. The Framers recognized the national implications of state electoral improprieties, and granted the national government the power to protect itself.  Neither Arizona nor any of the justices questioned the century of precedents to this effect. Instead, the case seemed to turn on the intent of Congress.