A Voting Rights Action Plan for the States
At EveryDistrict, our mission has always been to empower you to take part in the political process. Over the past two years, we’ve done that by giving you unique information about where there are competitive state legislative districts across the country and how you can get involved to support candidates running in those districts.
Today, with the launch of EveryDistrict Action Fund, we’re expanding that mission to help you become a better advocate.
We believe that the right to vote is the most fundamental right in our democracy and that our elected leaders should make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to vote.
State government plays a large role in legislating voting rights, which is why EveryDistrict Action Fund is focused on implementing pro-voting policies in the states.
But in recent years, only one political party has shown an interest in this agenda. States that have fallen under Republican control in the past decade have seen one restrictive voting policy after another passed by legislatures and signed into law by governors. In contrast, when Democrats took control of Congress in the 2018 election, the first bill introduced was a sweeping measure to expand voting rights.
With the victories in November, Democrats have trifectas in 14 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington) and legislative supermajorities with a Republican governor in three states (Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont). We firmly believe that state-level Democrats should follow the agenda set by Congressional Democrats to enact a strong voting rights agenda in the states.
Today, we’re launching EveryDistrict Action Fund’s first report: 2019 Blue States Report: A Voting Rights Action Plan. This report outlines the fundamental elements of a healthy American democracy and how Democrats can improve democracy in the states they control now. The Voting Rights Scorecard that is at the heart of this report will help activists chart a path to improve democracy in their communities. In addition to emerging and proven ideas like mail-in voting, automatic voter registration, and felon re-enfranchisement, this report introduces the idea of a “Wait Time Service Standard,” an approach to reducing the long lines that dissuade people from voting and disproportionately affect minority and low-income voters.
Voting Rights Scorecard: Improving Democracy with a Voting Rights Agenda
EveryDistrict’s Voting Rights Scorecard ranks states with a grade of green, yellow, or red on 11 voting rights criteria. You can download the full report or click on a state highlighted below to learn more about our rankings and how you can take action.
Agenda for 2019
In 2019, activists in these 17 states have a clear mandate: Lobby their elected officials to embrace a voting rights agenda that makes it easy for every citizen to engage in the political process.
Legislatures are currently in session in 16 of the 17 states highlighted in our report (Vermont’s legislative session has concluded). From New York to Hawaii, Democrats are taking the charge to open our democracy to all.
We’ll help you join them.
With the release of this report, EveryDistrict Action Fund is launching a resource on our website to help you be a better advocate for voting rights reform. We’re actively tracking legislation in several of the states highlighted in our report. Where there is legislation to advance a pro-voting policy, we’ve made it easy for you to contact your legislator with a message of support for that legislation.
In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be adding more information about additional states where we are not currently tracking legislation. Visit EveryDistrict.us/Voting-Rights and click on a state to see more. Or, read on for more information about states with pending legislation.
Don’t live in a blue state? EveryDistrict Action Fund’s report on voting rights in blue states is the first in our series of state reports. Later this year, we’ll be releasing reports on how activists in purple and red states can take action where they live. Sign up for our email list to be the first to know when those reports go live.
Questions? Are you working on voting rights, too? Let’s collaborate! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d love to hear from you.
Below, we highlight key, pending legislation in several of the states highlighted in our report. Click on a state to learn how you can directly contact your legislator to express your support for these pro-voting policies.
In California, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D) has proposed Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6, the “Free the Vote Act,” which would restore voting rights to every person on parole in California. The proposal is a constitutional amendment requiring passage by both the State Assembly and the State Senate with a two-thirds majority. It would then need to be approved by the governor before becoming a ballot initiative in 2020.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) has proposed a number of measures to ease the voting process in Connecticut. She has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow for an early voting period and no-excuse absentee ballot voting. If both the State House and State Senate pass legislation this year with a three-quarters vote in both chambers, the measures would be placed on the ballot in 2020.
SB 53 would ensure that incarcerated individuals do not lose their right to vote, bringing Connecticut in line with practices in Vermont and Maine.
Governor John Carney (D) has also expressed interest in proposals that would get rid of the required excuses for voting absentee and more easily register voters through the DMV.
Hawaii legislators have introduced a number of pro-voting policies that are currently making their way through the legislature.
EveryDistrict is not specifically tracking pre-registration, but HB 1485 would allow for automatic pre-registration of 16-year-olds in public schools.
Constitutional Amendment S. 12 would bring Massachusetts back in line with practices in Maine and Vermont by ensuring citizens do not lose their right to vote while incarcerated.
Newly-elected Governor of Nevada Steve Sisolak (D) took a strong stand for voting rights in his first State of the State Address by calling for an increased early vote period and implementing same-day registration.
In New Jersey, SB 2100 and its companion bill AB 3456 would allow those on parole, probation, or serving a sentence to retain their right to vote.
Governor Phil Murphy (D) has expressed support for a series of bills that would allow online voter registration and same-day registration.
Legislators in New Mexico have proposed a number of pro-voting policies. HB 84 would implement AVR at the DMV and other state agencies. HB 86 would implement same-day registration. Both bills have passed the House and moved to the Senate for a vote.
New York has already made progress on voting rights in 2019; in January Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law legislation that will allow for early voting.
Other proposals are currently making their way through the legislature. Senate Bill S1278 would implement AVR. AVR NOW has been doing important work in New York to ensure this piece of legislation becomes law.
Same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting both require constitutional amendments. Senate Bill S1048 would amend the constitution to permit same-day registration, while S2150 would implement same-day registration. Senate Bill S1049 and its companion bill in the Assembly A00778 would create the constitutional amendment necessary to implement no-excuse absentee balloting. Constitutional changes must pass the legislature twice before going to the voters, meaning those questions could not appear on a ballot until at least 2021.
A special thanks to Arianne Golub for her research that made this report possible.