Fighting Voter Suppression Initiatives
Our partner Progress Ohio Education and other voting rights organizations, labor unions and community leaders opposed the comprehensive anti-voting rights bill H.B. 194. POE was one of three organizations leading the effort to quickly collect over 231,000 signatures to delay implementation and trigger a Citizens’ Veto 2012 referendum. The General Assembly has since repealed H.B. 194 and passed compromise legislation. However, litigation is pending on whether the Citizens’ Veto will go forward. If it does, POE plans to help coordinate coalition communication efforts.
In response to restrictions passed against third-party voter registration, Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation and their allies have held successful events highlighting the need for voting access and to restore voting rights. FCANF and Project Vote have challenged these restrictions in the courts and the legislature. FCANF is one of the only organizations in the state conducting a voter registration drive under these limitations.
Maine People’s Resource Center led the successful 2011 People’s Veto Referendum to restore Election Day registration (EDR), a 38-year tradition that has consistently accounted for Maine leading the nation in voter turnout. In 3 weeks, MPRC and 23 other organizations were able to recruit over 1,000 volunteers and gather a historic 70,000 signatures to obtain ballot placement. Running a sophisticated field and media campaign, MPRC and their allies won the ballot referendum with 60% of the vote. Now, they are fighting efforts to dismantle their clean elections system and pass photo ID.
Voter ID Education
Following the passage of photo voter identification in Wisconsin, our partner Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Foundation (CAWEF) has organizers traveling to various cities–including Milwaukee, Appleton and Green Bay –and educating the public about the changes in the law in order to ensure that every Wisconsinite who is eligible to vote can do so in 2012. After a court stopped implementation of the law, CAWEF is continuing to prepare people for having to use photo ID in November.
During the June gubernatorial recall, CAWEF is targeting 94 City of Milwaukee wards, predominantly in African American neighborhoods. Their volunteers will engage 36,677 drop-off voters through 8 to 10 contacts with goal of turning out 40% (14,670 voters). This plan is developed jointly by CAWEF and Wisconsin Voices. They staff a new civic engagement table of Milwaukee African American civic and service organizations. All their work includes photo ID education and voter registration.
After Tennessee passed photo ID in 2011, our partner Tennessee Citizen Action Alliance launched a public education campaign including the creation of the new coalition, No Barriers to the Ballot Box. TNCAA and their allies have hosted public meetings about the details of this new restrictive law, and have launched ProtectTheVoteTN.org. Since October, TNCAA has presented at 11 public meetings in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Tullahoma reaching over 700 people. MSNBC and CBS Evening News have covered this issue.
They have gathered over 6,500 signatures on their repeal petition. TNCAA helped recruit and film a former Marine who refused to show his ID at the polls during the presidential primary. TNCAA’s efforts helped the repeal bill pass in the House committee, although it died in the Senate.
Ocean State Action Fund helped lead efforts to defeat voter ID in the 2011 Rhode Island legislative session. After the law passed, OSAF and their allies began a campaign to ensure it is implemented in the least restrictive way possible and to educate the public on the impact. OSAF joined nine organizations in urging the Secretary of State to significantly revise the proposed rules dealing with procedures for the issuance of voter ID cards. They highlighted that the proposed rules do not adequately address the specific needs of groups that will be most in need, including the elderly, people with disabilities, the poor and the transient.
With photo ID passed, our project PennAction Education Fund is educating low-income and of-color voters in Bucks County. Working with groups in Bristol’s African American community, PAEF petitioned the County Commission to set up a committee to educate voters on the new law. When the committee refused, PAEF went to work, collecting 1,800 signatures on a petition to the commissioners. In the face of public pressure, the Commission reversed their position on the committee and provided an important victory for the community in Bristol.
Expanding Access to the Ballot
New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund has joined with 4 other organizations and six disenfranchised New Jersey residents in a lawsuit this year that challenges current voter registration laws in New Jersey and seeks to implement Election Day registration after over 16,000, or 22%, of provisional ballots were rejected in 2008. EDR helps traditionally under-represented communities get access to the ballot, and increases voter turnout rates.
Our partner West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund is leading the effort to pass EDR legislation. WVCAEF staff organized testimony by outside experts before a key state House subcommittee and with 12 county clerks, the Secretary of State and her elections manager. WVCAEF opposes a bill that would make third-party voter registration more difficult.
Our partners Public Policy and Education Fund of New York and FCANF have long-standing campaigns around fairness in redistricting and felon voting rights.
Getting Big Money Out of Politics: Democracy for the 99%
PPEF helped launch Fair Elections for New York, a coalition of over 100 community, faith and labor organizations that are supporting public financing of elections in New York State. With polls showing overwhelming public support, PPEF and their coalition partners are running public education campaigns to build the political will for passage in Albany.
NJCAEF has also been a long-time member of the New Jersey Coalition for Clean Elections, which has lobbied and waged public education campaigns on the Fair Elections Now Act to establish regulations around small-dollar contributions and limited public financing for campaigns. Similarly, FCANF has a long-running project, Florida Clean Elections Campaign, to win clean money campaign reforms for all state and federal offices in Florida.
For more information or to contribute, contact Jeff Blum or Craig Auster at (202) 263-4553 / causter [AT] usaction.org.