[EM] Democracy Dispatches, Number 6 (FWD)

DEMOREP1 at aol.com DEMOREP1 at aol.com
Tue Aug 14 19:12:44 PDT 2001

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From:                   DemocracyDispatches at demos-usa.org
To:                     clift at publicus.net
Subject:                Democracy Dispatches, Number 6
Date sent:              Tue, 14 Aug 2001 21:59:53 GMT

Democracy Dispatches, Number 6
August 15, 2001

Democracy Dispatches is a regular Demos publication
that tracks and analyzes legislative and political
developments on democracy issues across the states.
Our goal is to facilitate the creation of a diverse,
inclusive, and national pro-democracy movement by supporting
state reform efforts and networking pro-democracy advocates,
policy institutions, and policymakers with each other.

We welcome any news items that you think should be
part of future publications.

Please contact us via email: DemocracyDispatches at demos-usa.org,
or call Joe Lowndes at (212) 633-1405, ext. 215.

Please Note: We are working on a new format for Democracy
Dispatches. PDF, HTML, and text-only versions will
be available in the coming month.

Recent Commission and Task Force Reports:

Over the summer, a number of major commissions and
task forces that were created after the 2000 election
debacle produced their final reports. Many of the reports
cover similar ground, recommending that the federal
government provide substantial funding to the states
for the improvement of voting technology and process;
while calling on the states to provide provisional
ballots, post notices of voter rights and responsibilities,
centralize voting lists, and standardize ballots. Significantly,
some of the reports have called for the restoration
of rights to ex-offenders. Also notable is that none
of the reports call for federal mandates to oversee
election reform, which many reformers see as a major
obstacle in achieving substantive reforms.

Constitution Project's Forum on Election Reform:

The Constitution Project's Forum on Election Reform
released its final report on election reform on August
2, as well as its recommendations for Congressional
action. The report, Building Consensus for Election
Reform sets out recommendations for local, state and
federal action. The Forum is made up of a very ideologically
diverse group of over sixty participating organizations
and individuals, including civil rights groups, voter
advocacy groups, elections officials and experts on
law and technology. The report offers a broad set of
recommendations for government action at the federal,
state and local levels, which endorsing organizations
hope will have bipartisan appeal. The report asserts
that essential elements of reform include:

* voter education and personnel training;

* voting technology research, standards, testing and
clearinghouses of information about voting systems;

* improved registration systems;

* adequate accessibility and staffing of polling stations;

* posted notices of voter rights and responsibilities;

* provisional balloting;

* technologies for accurate vote casting;

* clear criteria for what defines a vote; and

* standardized recount procedures.

The recommendations for Congressional action, compiled
in a separate document, have been endorsed by a broad
range of groups and individuals, including the American
Council of the Blind; Common Cause; AARP; Demos; the
Secretaries of State of Kansas, Vermont, and Washington;
and the National Association of Counties. It urges
Congress to provide authority and funding for technology
assistance and standards development, capital investment
in voting technology, and a permanent program to defray
the expense of federal elections. To view the report
and the recommendations for Congressional action, go
to http://ga1.org/ct/e7qP1x511pzY/constitutionproject .

National Commission on Election Reform
The National Commission on Federal Election Reform
has released its report, To Assure Pride and Confidence
in the Electoral Process. Also known as the Carter/Ford
Commission because of the leading role played by those
two former U.S. Presidents, the Commission has on it
a number of other national political leaders from both
major parties. It was funded by the Knight, Hewlett
and Packard Foundations, and managed by the Century
Foundation and the Miller Center for Public Policy
at the University of Virginia. Briefly, it recommends
the following reforms:

* States should adopt computerized voter registration

* States should permit provisional voting;

* States should adopt uniform standards for recounts
and error rates;

* Congress should provide 1-2 billion for modernization
of election administration on a matching basis to the

* Congress and states should intensify enforcement
of civil and voter rights; and

* News organizations should not predict winners in
any state while polls are open anywhere in the 48 contiguous

Notably, the report also called for the restoration
of voting rights to ex-felons, and to make election
day a national holiday. To view the report, go to
http://ga1.org/ct/d7qP1x511pzF/reformelections .

Election Center Commission National Task Force on Elections

The Election Center, a non-profit organization whose
membership is comprised of local and state election
officials, announced the findings of its Election Reform
Task Force in July. The report generally addresses
technical and administrative questions concerning:

* standardization of votes and vote counting and re-counting;

* uniform ballot instructions;

* easing restrictions on overseas, military voting
and absentee balloting; and

* improving pay for poll workers and requiring federal
employees to serve as poll workers.

It also calls for the restoration of voting rights
to all ex-offenders. To view the report, go to
http://ga1.org/ct/epqP1x511pzT/electionreformreport .

National Association of Secretaries of State Election
Standards Task Force:

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS)
presented its Resolution on Election Reform at its
Summer Conference in Little Rock, AR on July 17. Among
its recommendations, NASS proposes that the federal
government: provide major funding assistance to state
and local election officials in block grants for training,
education and technology; and create an "Elections
Class" of postage rated at 50% of normal rate for election
materials. To view the whole Resolution, go to
http://ga1.org/ct/d1qP1x511pzH/NASS . NASS has also produced a
state-by-state Election Reform Best Practices Report. It can be
at http://ga1.org/ct/ddqP1x511pzG/NASSReformReport .

Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project:

Two of the premier technical universities in the country
produced a study that looked at the technological processes
and voting systems in place during the 2000 election,
and how these affected the counting and tabulation
of the vote. Their report, What It Is, What It Could
Be, was released on July 16, 2001. Its main conclusions
were that between four and six million votes were lost
in the 2000 election, by far the highest estimate thus
far. To remedy this major problem, the report recommends
that the states:

* update voting technologies and the eliminate punch
cards and lever machines;

* expand the use of statewide computerized voting lists;

* use provisional ballots.

The report calls on the federal government to:

* invest in research and development of new voting
equipment technologies, and

* establish an independent federal agency to speed
up and oversee testing and to collect and distribute
information on the performance and cost of existing
and new equipment.

A full report can be found at
http://ga1.org/ct/dpqP1x511pz-/votecaltech .

Election Reform News

The Senate Rules Committee approved an election reform
bill (S. 565) sponsored by Committee Chair Christopher
Dodd (D-CT). Rep. John Conyers (D- MI) introduced a
companion bill in the House of Representatives. While
all ten Democrats on the Committee approved the bill;
nine Republicans on the panel boycotted the meeting
at the behest of ranking Republican member Mitch McConnell
(R-KY). McConnell was angered that the Committee did
not consider his bill, which is co-sponsored by Senators
Schumer (D-NY), Brownback (R-KS) and Torricelli (D-NJ).
The Dodd bill, called the "Equal Protection of Voting
Rights Act," differs significantly from McConnell's
bill by imposing certain federal mandates on the states
irrespective of whether they accept federal funds.
These include allowing voters the opportunity to study
sample ballots before Election Day, providing provisional
ballots on the day of elections, and assuring that
there are no barriers to the full exercise of voting
rights at polling sites. The Dodd bill also calls for
mandatory requirements for voter protections and administrative
improvements. The bill will not be debated by the full
Senate until the fall, so compromises are possible.
AP Online, 8/2/2001; Washington Post, 8/3/2001

The Democratic Caucus Special Committee on Election
Reform held its sixth and final hearing on August 11
in Los Angeles, CA. The Special Committee, chaired
by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), was formed after the
2000 elections. A number of common themes discussed
during the hearing included the need for an Election
Day holiday, increased funding to update voting machines,
national standards for counting votes, and the need
for provisional ballots. Some of the panelists included
Bob Hertzburg, Speaker of the California Assembly;
Dan Tokaji, American Civil Liberties Union Legal Counsel;
Steve Reyes, from the Mexican American Legal and Education
Defense Fund; and Michael Alvarez from the CalTech-MIT
Voting Technology Project, among others. The committee
plans to release a report based on its findings in
late August or early September. AP State & Local Wire,
8/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 8/12/2001

The report issued by the National Commission on Federal
Election Reform has been met with criticism by several
groups, such as the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), the Paralyzed
Veterans of America (PVA), and a number of veterans
groups. The CBC and CHC believe that the Commission's
recommendations are a good beginning but are ultimately
meaningless unless Congress mandates them. The report
does not take a stand on whether Congress should set
requirements for states to follow. The CBC has election
reform as their top priority, calling it the civil
rights issue of the 21st century.

The PVA took exception with the Commission's conclusion
that current laws are "sufficient to encourage continued
progress" in creating accessible voting sites for the
disabled. A Federal Election Commission (FEC) report
found that 14% of precincts or nearly 20,000 were not
accessible to voters with disabilities. In 1996, there
was a 30% voter turnout rate among registered voters
with disabilities, as compared to 50% for the general
public. Many with disabilities have used absentee ballots,
curbside voting, or the assistance of another person
as a substitute for voting privately within polling
booths. As PVA National President Joseph L. Fox declared,
"We believe this requires legislation that goes beyond
current law."

The Commission report also proposed to move Election
Day to Veteran's Day to give people a day off to vote.
Veterans groups oppose this suggestion, citing strong
grass-roots opposition to the recommendation. National
and state veterans groups opposed a similar measure
earlier this year, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee
(D-TX). St. Petersburg Times, 8/1/2001; US Newswire,
8/1/2001; Dallas Morning News, 8/3/2001

Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger announced
August 3 that the organization would start a nationwide,
citizen advocacy campaign to pass and implement election
reform at the national and state levels, based on the
recommendations of the National Commission on Federal
Election Reform. An advisory group of Common Cause
board members and staff will act as a guiding force
to help in mobilizing local and national grassroots
efforts, as well as with lobbying tactics for reform.
Common Cause, 8/3/2001

In the states:

The Mexican American Legal and Defense and Educational
Fund and the William C. Velasquez Institute have produced
a redistricting plan for California that aims to encompass
more of the Latino population and boost their representation
in federal, state and local elected offices. According
to the latest census numbers, the Latino population
increased by 43% over the past ten years, making them
31% of California's total population in 2000. The plan
would create three new congressional districts in which
Latinos account for 47-69% of the population. AP State
and Local Wire, 7/17/2001

The Florida Equal Voting Rights Project, composed of
the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Florida
Justice Institute, and Florida Legal Services, has
charged that the new election laws passed during the
2001 session would "return minority voters to Jim Crow
days." The group has three objections:

* The law requires that officials post a list of 10
voter responsibilities, one of which states that voters
"study and know candidates and issues.
" The Project sees this as a modern day version of
a literacy test.

* They claim that the purging process puts unfair burdens
on county supervisors to determine voter eligibility,
given the a lack of statewide standards. Voters also
have to prove that they are not felons in order to
vote, which they hold will unfairly burden voters.

* The new provisional ballot system does not apply
to instances where a person casts a vote in the wrong
precinct, which they claim would adversely affect minority
voters who are statistically more likely to move than

The Justice Department is currently reviewing all of
the new election provisions under the Voting Rights
Act, and is expected to issue a decision by mid-August.
Miami Herald, 7/22/2001

The Massachusetts House passed a bill that would further
disenfranchise the state's prison population. Voters
approved a ban last year that stripped incarcerated
felons of statevoting rights in elections for the state
Senate, House of Representatives and statewide offices,
such as governor. This bill, if approved, would expand
the prohibition to presidential and congressional races,
as well local elections. The bill is now before the
state Senate. AP State and Local Wire, 7/18/2001

North Carolina
The Governor signed a series of election reform-related
bills into law on July 28. One law will ban butterfly
and punch card ballot use. Another will require Spanish
language ballot instructions in any county or municipality
where Latinos account for at least 6% of the population.
Two other statutes will allow voters to be able to
register to vote and to make address changes for polling
place designation via fax. A fifth law makes changes
to state election administration, such as the creation
of permanent voter registration numbers and lengthening
the certification period for election officials to
include training in election laws and procedures, as
well as passing a proficiency examination. On August
3, the governor signed a law that removes an excuse
requirement for voting by absentee ballot.

The legislature sent the governor a bill that would
direct the Secretary of State, along with the county
clerks and officials to study the necessity of providing
voting ballots in Spanish and languages other than
English. If the study finds that bi- or multi-lingual
ballots are needed, the Secretary must also submit
recommendations for making such ballots available.
Statenet, 7/5/2001

With the 2001 legislature failing to agree on a bipartisan
plan for legislative district boundaries, the task
was passed to Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Bradbury
produced a first draft plan that takes into account
the growing Latino population, now the largest minority
group within the state at 8%. The proposal would create
a new district with about a 40% Latino population,
drawing acclaim from Latino activists. Bradbury has
held a series of 21 public hearings from July 21 to
August 3, with a final plan to be announced August
15. AP Press State & Local, 7/16/2001

The Governor signed into law a bill that directs the
Secretary of State to create and implement a centralized
voter registration system for the state, with oversight
by the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management
and Technology. Statenet, 7/20/2001

Oregon's legislature failed to pass a measure that
would end punch card balloting still used in seven
Oregon counties during the 2001 session. Forty percent
of the state's residents reside in these counties.
The state Democratic Party has vowed to present the
punch card ban as a ballot initiative. The measure
will not be presented in time to effect the 2000 elections.
National Journal Hotline, 7/24/2001; Oregonian, 7/27/2001

Rhode Island
Two bills became law without the Governor's signature.
The first law directs the Secretary of State to update
the Central Voter Register in every odd-numbered year.
The second bill would require cities and towns where
5% of the population speaks a language other than English
to provide ballots in that language, in addition to
providing at least one poll worker who is fluent in
those languages. Statenet, 7/13/2001

Both houses passed "The 2000 Presidential Election
Debacle Reform Bill of 2001," sending it to the Governor
on August 8. The measure does several things related
to election procedures and administration. It directs
the state coordinator of elections and the state election
commission to approve all voting machine purchases
made by a county, and to re-examine all presently used
machines before the 2002 elections and at least every
eight years thereafter. The bill also sets guidelines
for validating punch card, paper and optical scan ballots,
and directs county election officials to post instructions
in their use. The bill sets recounting procedures as
well. It now awaits the Governor's signature. Statenet,

Upcoming Events
September 12: Election Reform and Vote Fraud Prevention
Seminar, Jefferson City, MO. The Opposition Parties
Election Reform Alliance will hold a Real Election
Reform and Vote Fraud Prevention Seminar at the Missouri
State Capitol Rotunda. Go to the website at for more
information. You may also contact Marvalene Pankey,
National Coordinator at voterswakeupcall at yahoo.com
or call 417-876-4626 (prior to 9 a.m. central time).

September 14-15: Progressive Policy Solutions for the
Northeast. Braintree, MA. This forum, sponsored by
the Center for Policy Alternatives, Northeast Action,
Demos, and Democracy Works, will bring together state
legislators, policy experts and advocates from ten
Northeastern states to examine the 2001 legislative
session, develop progressive policy solutions and strategies
for 2002, and share innovative information, programs
and policy models that are working across the Northeast.
The forum will have a broad focus, including election
reform, economic policy, education, health care, and
family and work issues. For more information contact:
Diallo Brooks at (202) 956-5150 or dbrooks at cfpa.org.

September 20-22: Southern Regional Council Conference,
Atlanta, GA. Workshops will include Achieving Voter
Equity and Building Multiracial Partnerships. For more
information, contact Ellen Spears at (404) 522-8791,
ext. 5.

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