Press Advisory: New Report Examines Game-Changing Election Laws in Key Swing States

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  • Dale Eisman

WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of the mid-term elections, Common Cause and Demos will release a new report that finds election policies in 10 swing states could disenfranchise voters and impact election results. The report, called “Voting in 2010: Ten Swing States,” looks at Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio, summarizing each state’s practices, and providing a set of recommendations for improvement.

Press Conference Details

Who: Tova Wang, Senior Democracy Fellow, Demos

Bob Edgar, president, Common Cause

Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s election reform program

What: Telephone press conference

When: Thursday, Sept. 16, at noon ET. Separate calls for state press will be held for North Carolina at 1 pm ET, Michigan at 2 pm ET, Colorado at 3 pm ET and Arizona at 4 pm ET.

Dial-in number: (888) 491-8283

Password: “Swing State Report” (same call-in number and password for all five telephone press conferences)

Common Cause and Demos uncovered dozens of impediments to voting and voter registration – and some bright spots as well — in a new examination of election laws and practices. Titled Voting in 2010: Ten Swing States, the report focuses on 10 states that are expected to be pivotal in fall’s battle for control of Congress; the states were chosen because, historically, closely-contested elections often feature attempts to suppress voter registration and turnout, some of them abetted by archaic state laws and election practices.

Among the major findings:

  • Every state in the study, save North Carolina and Illinois, cuts off voter registration weeks before Election Day, so that potential voters whose attention is not captured until the closing days of a campaign are blocked from exercising their voting rights.
  • Several of the swing states have failed to fully implement the National Voting Rights Act, thwarting its attempt to foster political participation among lower-income Americans.
  • Some states have potentially burdensome voter identification laws, and workers at the polls often are unaware of, or confused about, state laws governing voter identification.
  • Many states make it much too easy for any voter to challenge the right to vote of another voter at the polls, and lack clarity about how poll workers are to address such situations.
  • Most states do not have adequate laws to prevent the intentional dissemination of misinformation to voters about the voting process, even though several acts of such dirty tricks have occurred in recent elections.
  • Most states do not take sufficient steps to reach out to new citizens and language minority voters to ensure they have the information and tools they need to cast a ballot.
  • Some states appear may be unable to meet all of the new federal requirements in the MOVE Act, including that absentee ballots be mailed at least 45 days prior to the election to military and overseas voters who request them.
  • Several states allow overseas absentee voting over the internet, leaving ballots subject to tampering and denying voters their right to a secret ballot.
  • Six states allow voters to cast “provisional ballots” in the wrong precinct but then don’t count them.

Several states have taken encouraging steps to extend voting rights and open their electoral processes. For example, North Carolina has implemented Same Day Registration with great success; Michigan’s secretary of state routinely signs up new voters at naturalization ceremonies; some states have improved their compliance with the NVRA; and Kentucky permits only designated elections officials to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot.