California Democrats are working to improve the state’s electoral processes and make voting easier. State Senator Ben Allen is the author of Senate Bill 450, which would reshape the future of California elections by majorly expanding the use of absentee ballots and replacing neighborhood polling places with temporary "vote centers." The measure was inspired by Colorado's 2013 shift away from traditional polling places and gives California counties the option to use “one-stop-shop” vote centers. The centers would offer electoral services like early voting, same-day voter registration, drop boxes for ballots received in the mail, as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths. The proposal passed the Assembly on a party-line vote but faces an August 31 deadline to make it to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla supports the elections makeover, saying, "From a voter choice standpoint, all of a sudden you have the choice to go [to] any vote center in your county." Many of the bill's supporters are eager to try a new strategy after the recent June primary "exposed the weaknesses" in the current system.
With Donald Trump spewing hateful rhetoric against Latinos, immigrants, and other groups, a coalition of Hispanic and progressive groups are coming together to turn out Latino voters and impact Colorado elections. Latinos Rise is an outreach effort aiming to impact elections in Colorado, Florida and Nevada – three states that have a Latino voting age population of at least 18 percent. An April poll found that 85 percent of Hispanics in Colorado had a “very unfavorable” opinion of Trump, and Latinos Rise will invest in educating these and other Latino voters about the importance of wielding their electoral power to prevent Republican wins up and down the ballot. Juan Gallegos of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Fund emphasized that “a Republican win at the presidential level could be devastating to immigrant families. We aren’t sitting this election out.”
New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie pandered to the NRA and vetoed two gun safety measures passed by the Democratic legislature. Christie has taken a harder stance against the state's existing gun safety laws since he threw his hat into the ring for the Republican presidential nomination last year. It was no secret that the NRA pressured Christie to kill bills A1426 (which would have loosened restrictions on personalized handguns with the aim of preventing accidental shootings) and S2165/A3689 (clarifying the "justifiable need" New Jerseyans must show in order to obtain a handgun permit), and now Christie is even calling for the legislature to make it easier to carry concealed firearms. Democratic lawmakers criticized Christie, with Assemblyman Gordon Johnson saying, “This bill was a start toward making our streets safer, particularly in our urban areas, but sadly, Gov. Christie has once again put his political ambitions above the public safety of New Jersey residents. That’s shameful.” State Senator Loretta Weinberg echoed this critique, saying, "The governor's action on these bills is a pathetic attempt to pander to pro-gun groups outside of New Jersey at a time when he is focused on national politics."
Voting rights took a hit this week when a federal appeals court overturned a previous ruling preventing Ohio Republicans from eliminating the state’s “golden week.” The extra week of early voting allowed for simultaneous voter registration and early voting, which was heavily utilized by black voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature pushed for the elimination of golden week in 2014, alleging the overlap in registration and early voting could lead to an increase in voter fraud. Democrats, voting rights advocates, and the lower court maintained that the GOP law had a disproportionate effect on minority voters, thus violating the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
A federal appeals court panel delivered another blow to Republican voting restrictions this week, refusing to block a lower court’s decision striking down an array of Republican-enacted restrictions in Wisconsin. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature systematically disenfranchised minority voters and other traditionally Democratic constituencies by cutting early voting by as many as 18 days, reducing the number of early polling places, and tightening the state’s voter ID and absentee ballot distribution requirements. While GOP lawmakers claimed it was part of an effort to reduce voter fraud, the lower court’s ruling asserted Republicans’ “preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud” was a front for their ultimate goal of reducing Democratic votes. Portions of the state’s voter ID law have also been appealed to the full appeals court, and a decision is pending. For now, it is likely that the November elections unfold under the state’s earlier rules that allowed for expanded early and weekend voting.