voter rights

Nearly a dozen state proposals involving redistricting or election reforms were presented to voters Tuesday, and while the initiatives were something of a mixed bag, they came with high-profile wins for voter rights.

The most high-profile case was in Florida, where voters repealed a Jim Crow-era policy that purged former felons and restored voting rights to over a million Floridians.

Nevada passed a proposal that would automatically register eligible voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles unless they opt out (similar to a system already in place in Oregon), which flies in the face of use-it-or-lose-it initiatives as well as preventing the practice of purging voters who simply forgot to update their address. Proposals like Nevadas have shown measurable increases in election day turnout.

Additonally, Maryland voters authorized its legislature to allow for Election Day voter registration, which has also been shown to increase turnout.

Some of the most sweeping reforms expanding voter rights were passed in Michigan, which not only enacted same-day registration like Maryland and automatically registers drivers like Nevada, but reverses the state’s recent prohibition on straight-ticket voting and removes the state’s requirement to justify use of absentee voting.

Michigan also joined Missouri, Ohio and Colorado in enacting redistricting reforms, with a redistricting reform in Utah too close to call as of this publication.

But it wasn’t all expansions and leveled playing fields on Tuesday.

Arkansas and North Carolina voters passed initiatives to require future voters to present photo identification at polls, which has a decided partisan advantage and suppresses turnout of minority voters. Voter ID is so beloved as a tool of disenfranchisement that election officials claim photo identification is required even when it isn’t.

And in Louisiana, voters decided that convicts must wait five years after the end of their sentence to seek elected office. This was something of a comprise, as Louisiana used to have that prohibition last for fifteen years. That was struck down by the Louisiana Supreme Court — not on any constitutional ground so much as a technicality of the law’s implementation.

But taken in summary, the overall impact of Tuesday on democracy going forward is one of expanded access to the ballot box, and perhaps more importantly a story of voters taking power back from sometimes brazenly gerrymandered districts.

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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