Voter Education Issues to Watch
"Because Equity is Still an Issue."
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Updated: November 10, 2013
- In the News: Local elections leave eight open legislative seats in Albany - There are eight new vacancies in the Legislature—seven in the Assembly and one in the Senate—after sitting lawmakers were elected to other offices Tuesday.
- In the News: People Power Expressed in Election Results - From increased minimum wage wins to local fracking bans, the people made their voices heard this election.
- In the News: Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at Polls - The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, which opposed the new law, said that it was concerned more about voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from the polls altogether as a result.
- In the News: William Rivers Pitt: Decisions Are Made by Those Who Show Up - The only people [voting] in America right now are the ones who think women's rights don't count, who think warfare is a sustainable economic engine because they're the ones making the money from it, who think Wall Street and industry should be untouchable, who think taxes are evil even as they feast like vampires upon the open vein of government largesse...and a substantial majority of the 35 percent that will vote next year have been irretrievably convinced of this, and will vote to sustain it even as it guts their future.
- In the News: Norm Ornstein: The US Needs a Constitutional Right to Vote - It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era - this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have introduced in Congress a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to vote. It has garnered little attention and no momentum. Now is the time to change that dynamic before more states decide to be Putinesque with our democracy.
- In the News: Voter ID laws threaten women's rights - A wave of new voter identification laws in states across the country have drawn plenty of criticism, and rightly so. But the news coverage has missed another class of victims: women. Specifically those who’ve changed their names because of marriage or divorce.
- In the News: Just 35 of 435 Elections Competitive after 201 Years of Gerrymandering - Next November, Americans will elect representatives to the 114th Congress. Before the Congress-led shutdown, 2014 election projections showed that of the 435 seats up for election, only 35 seats will have a competitive election. On average, there is one House member for every 700,000 citizens, a ratio that is second only to India when comparing it to the world’s representative democracies. These numbers point to a grave problem: the House of Representatives is utterly unrepresentative.
Study: 30% of Americans Get Their News on Facebook - A new study reveals that 30% of Americans get their news on Facebook, and suggests that the social network drives people to media sites who may not have otherwise done so. Of that 30%, more than half — 78% — said they click on news links to media sites after initially logging on for unrelated reasons, such as checking out friends' pictures or updating their statuses. In fact, only 16% of Facebook users say that getting news is the primary reason they log on.
- Guest Blog: The perils of two-tier voter registration systems - What Arizona, Kansas, and the Court have overlooked, however, is that having a dual system does not free the state from other statutory and constitutional constraints that both protect the right to vote and allow Congress to legislate with respect to voter qualifications.
- In the News: Texas' New Voter ID Laws May Roll Back Women's Voting Rights - The anticipated impact of these new laws on suppressing minority votes has been well documented, but the effect of new laws on women has received markedly less attention.
- In the News: 2 States Plan 2-Tier System for Balloting - Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof. The state this week joined Kansas in planning for such a two-tiered voting system, which could keep thousands of people from participating in state and local elections, including next year’s critical cycle, when top posts in both states will be on the ballot.
- In the News: States joining forces to scrub voter rolls - More than half of states are now working in broad alliances to scrub voter rolls of millions of problematic registrations, identifying people registered in multiple states and tens of thousands of dead voters who linger on election lists.
- In the News: Kansas Secretary of State Has Plan to Keep More Than 17,500 Legal Voters From Voting - The new proof-of-citizenship law took affect at the beginning of this year and has resulted in thousands of previously legal voters becoming "suspended" until such time as they present documentation to prove they are citizens. The burden is now on them to prove they are innocent, rather than on the state to prove they have broken any laws.
- In the News: Report: Colleges Can Help Improve Youth Voter Turnout - Youth voter turnout, especially among low-income students, is significantly impeded by voter identification laws and restrictions on same-day registration, and educators and policymakers should collaborate to improve civic education and engagement, according to a new report commissioned by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Most of the report’s recommendations – including lowering the legal voting age to 17 – are directed at politicians and K-12 schools as opposed to colleges (though it does encourage collaboration with colleges on the issues). But there is some takeaway for higher education as well, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said here at the report’s release Wednesday.
- In the News: OpEd: The Dishonesty of Voter ID Laws
- In the News: NYT Editorial: Plan B for Voting Rights
- AAUW in the News: Women’s Equality Day is Aug. 26 (OpEd - Aug. 23, 2013)
- Department of Justice to Sue Texas Over Election Law - On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will sue Texas over its voter identification law. This suit will be the department’s second attempt to halt Texas' election law changes since the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in June.
- Pennsylvania’s controversial voter identification law will not be in effect during this November’s election while it is being challenged in court. Judge Bernard McGinley stated that allowing enforcement of the law before a final court decision has been reached would only confuse voters, as appeared to be the case in the 2012 election.
- In the News: St. Lawrence County shifts several poll locations
- Obama Administration Challenges Texas Voting Law - Following the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will support a lawsuit challenging Texas’s redistricting plans. Holder will ask the federal court to require that the state submit its voting law changes to the department for “preclearance.” The Voting Rights Act had required Texas and several other states to obtain approval due to a history of discrimination. AAUW plans to work with Congress to develop a bipartisan response to the Supreme Court decision that will ensure equitable political participation and nondiscriminatory voting laws for all Americans.
- In the News: St. Lawrence County shifts several poll locations
- In the News: Dutchess college students win voting rights settlement in federal court - The May 13 agreement permanently prohibits the Dutchess County Board of Elections from rejecting any student application solely because dorm name and room number information is lacking.
- In the News: Students Preserved Voting Rights in Last Presidential-Election Cycle, Report Says - Among the accomplishments listed in the report, "College Students and Voting: a Campus Vote Project Perspective," is the registration of more than a million new voters with online tools and social networks. Twelve states offered online registration (Washington State even put registration on Facebook), which tended to draw younger voters, the report says. Turnout among eligible voters age 18 to 29, expected to be lower than it was four years before, was 50 percent, the report says, slightly higher than in 2008.
- In the News: The Politics of Power and the Precious Right to Vote
- In the News: How Voter Suppression in 2012 Will Erode Reproductive Rights
- In the News: Many voters may be deterred by tough ID laws
- Peace and Economic Justice Issues
- Florida Judge Gives Go-Ahead for Voter Purge
- Voters Rank Education as Extremely Important Election Issue
- In the News: Voters Concerned With Privacy in U.S. Elections, Study Finds
- Clash over Student Voting Rights
- NYS's Sunlight Site
- Take Our Daughters to the Polls
- The Sunlight Foundation
- The Power of One Vote
Peace and Economic Justice Issues
Peace Action’s Voting Record will show you how Members of Congress voted on key peace and economic justice issues in the last session. This is the first year we designed our annual voting record as an interactive tool. I hope you find it useful.
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Florida Judge Gives Go-Ahead for Voter Purge
A federal judge in Florida has rejected a request by the Department of Justice to stop the state’s purge of noncitizens from voter registration rolls, which was set in motion earlier this spring. Judge Robert Hinkle previously ruled against parts of the Florida law that regulate voter registration by outside groups, and in his decision Thursday said that federal voter registration laws could not prohibit the state from identifying and removing ineligible voters even though its primary is fewer than 90 days away.
- from AAUW's Washington Update for June 29, 2012.
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Voters Rank Education as Extremely Important Election Issue
A new report concludes that education is a top-tier issue for voters in 2012. Using a survey of registered voters in nine key swing states, the report found that 67 percent of swing state voters say education will be extremely important to them in this year’s elections for president and Congress. Education ranks behind jobs and the economy (82 percent) and government spending (69 percent) but ties with health care (67 percent) and comes in before the federal budget deficit (64 percent). The report also found that the gender gap on education as a priority holds across party lines, with women placing a greater priority on education regardless of party affiliation.
AAUW believes a strong, free public education system is the foundation of a democratic society. We advocate increased access to higher education, especially for women in poverty, and promote efforts to close the persistent achievement gap that disproportionately affects low-income children and students from minority communities.
- from AAUW's Washington Update for April 6, 2012.
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Clash over Student Voting Rights
Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire recently introduced a handful of bills that would limit college students’ ability to vote in the state. The proposed legislation would end Election Day registration and only allow college students to vote in their college towns if their parents had previously established permanent residency in the town. However, in light of vehement opposition from Democrats and students, the bills failed to pass the state House Election Law Committee. Their demise may have been related to a controversial YouTube video in which New Hampshire State House Speaker William O’Brien called students “foolish” and said they “just vote with their feelings”.
Republicans in Wisconsin and North Carolina have also introduced bills to restrict voter registration, including requiring state-issued ID cards. Democrats believe the Republican effort to change voter registration laws is an attempt to restrict democratic voters in potential 2012 battleground states.
AAUW members have a long tradition of voter education and registration. AAUW branches can increase the numbers of regular voters by bringing nonvoters into their network. This can be done woman to woman.
- from AAUW's Washington Update for March 11, 2011.
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NYS's Sunlight Site
SunLightNY.com is a site which Attorney General Cuomo's office has developed to let us see the internal results of campaign financing. You can learn the source of a candidate's funds, the legislation representatives have sponsored and the laws governing special interests. It is a wonderful source of information, useful to all of us.
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Take Our Daughters to the Polls
A new campaign has been launched to call on all parents to take their daughters to the polls when they vote on Election Day. The “Take Our Daughters to the Polls” campaign encourages adults to speak with their daughters about the importance of voting and to show them how to participate in the electoral process. The campaign was created by the White House Project, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in the United States, and supported by numerous national organizations, including AAUW. You can participate by signing the pledge to take a young girl to the polls on Nov. 4 and by spreading the word.
- from AAUW's Washington Update for October 3, 2008.
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The Sunlight Foundation
A great organization to empower watchdogs! The foundation is using the power of the Internet to "shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible." They have compiled a great list of helpful sites for those of us wanting the insider's scoop on all things government and politics.
Just a few of the sites that the Sunlight Foundation features - and in some cases, funds - include:
- Congresspedia.org - The "online wiki-based citizens' encyclopedia on Congress" from the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media & Democracy.
- Contractor Misconduct Database - The government awards contracts to companies with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is providing such data about the top 50 contractors.
- EarmarkWatch.org - Ever wanted to be an investigative reporter? Want to follow the money? This site is a user-friendly, online investigative tool that lets citizens determine "if earmarks address pressing needs, favor political contributors or are simply pure pork." The unique site guides users step by step through the process that an investigative reporter would follow - associating different kinds of political information with each earmark, and also guides users about how to use online resources on campaign finance, lobbying and federal spending for their research - tying the pork to the source. Users can also comment on and fact-check one each other's work, or send messages - including tips and suggestions - to others.
- Fedspending.org - OMB Watch's combination of data from the Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Assistance Award Data System has created a free, searchable database of federal government contracting and spending. The database allows you to search contracts and grants by state, congressional district, contracting agency or type of award, and shows where the money is being spent and - very important - whether it was competitively bid or just given to Haliburton.
- GovTrack.us - This site uses THOMAS data and others to provide Congressional profiles and searchable legislative data. Users can sign up for email alerts to track Members, legislation and votes.
- LOUIS - Sunlight Foundation's Library of Unified Information Sources - "a search engine that combs through seven different sets of government documents. The seven sets of documents are Congressional Reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, the Federal Register, Presidential Documents, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills and Resolutions."
- OpenSecrets.org - This site is the premiere source of data on money in national politics. The user is able to search by member of Congress, by donor, or by industry sector. The site also contains four separate databases: lobbying, personal financial disclosures, congressional travel and revolving door.
- VoterWatch - "...combines C-SPAN video of Congress with the accompanying text from the Congressional Record to allow viewers to search the video for comments made by a member of Congress."
- WashingtonWatch - This site determines the average cost, or savings, per individual of each bill introduced in Congress by performing calculations on government estimates compared to the US population. The Web site provides users with pro and con arguments for each bill, allows comments on each bill, allows users to vote "yes" or "no" on the bills and provides a "write your rep" function.
- Watchdog.net - "...is a hub for data about politics. The site brings together census data, voting records, lobbying forms, campaign finance reports, and much more in one easy-to-understand place. And then it gives you the tools to actually do something about it."
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The Power of One Vote
Your one vote can make a difference.
- In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England.
- In 1649, one vote caused Charles I of England to be executed.
- In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German.
- In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the Union.
- In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
- In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Haves the presidency of the United States.
- In 1923, one vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.
- In 1960, a one-vole change in each precinct of Illinois would have denied John F. Kennedy the presidency.
- In 1968, Hubert Humphrey lost and Richard Nixon won the presidential election by a margin of fewer than three votes per precinct.
- In 2000, one vote in the U.S. Supreme Court lost the presidential election for Al Gore and won it for George W. Bush.
- from AAUW's Action Alert, Sept. 2004.
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