This week leaders of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus started their tour of the state encouraging black voters to get to the polls. Black voters are an increasingly important Ohio voting bloc, making up 15% of the state’s turnout in 2012, up from 11% in 2008. However, African Americans and other minority voters were targeted by the Republican-enacted voter ID laws that were upheld earlier this month by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only did the GOP laws eliminate Golden Week, a time when voters could register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day, but they also cut the number of early voting days. President of the Black Caucus, state Rep. Alicia Reece (D), noted, “This election is about connecting the White House to the Statehouse, to the school house, to the courthouse, so we can get justice, jobs, voting rights, and the American dream and resources down to their house.”
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and other state Republicans attempted to divert attention away from the GOP's disastrous mismanagement of the state's economy by shifting the agenda for the upcoming special legislative session to crime and punishment. In a Facebook post discussing items to be addressed during the special session, Martinez neglected to mention the half-billion dollar budget shortfall and instead wrote that she will ask legislators to reinstate the death penalty and reconsider a "three-strikes" law that would mandate a life sentence for those who commit three crimes on a "certain list." Her proposal drew immediate criticism from opponents of the death penalty, including the Catholic Church. Republicans used the same ploy during a regular session earlier this year and failed to pass many of their biggest crime bills. Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D) criticized the political maneuver, stating “We are in the midst of an unconstitutional budget crisis. The governor and House Republicans should be focused on working toward a plan to get us out of this mess.” Critics are accusing Martinez of appropriating recent local tragedies for political gain before the November election. Others rebuked her decision to inevitably extend the special session by adding hot-button items to the agenda, costing taxpayers even more money.
With less than 50 days until Election Day, Democrats are organizing across the country with the goal of retaking state legislative chambers lost to Republicans over the past few cycles. With a presidential race elevating Democratic turnout, Donald Trump’s toxicity damaging the Republican brand, and voters reacting against extreme laws enacted by GOP state legislators, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released a 2016 strategy memo identifying at least 14 state House or Senate chambers that are well within reach. With the 2020 Census redistricting on the minds of many as the U.S. House remains gripped by deadlock, Democrats are working to promote legislative progress on the state-level and claim majorities in targeted chambers. DLCC’s plan for November statehouse victories includes flipping the Colorado Senate, the Iowa House, both Nevada legislative chambers, and more while also making gains in chambers with GOP supermajorities.
In Ohio, the voting status of 1.2 million voters remains unclear despite a recent ruling from a federal court stating Ohio’s practice of purging names from registration rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The court’s decision was praised by voting rights advocates, including Ohio state Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D), who noted, “The decision was tremendous. More than 1.2 million voters will be able to vote again.” However, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has not yet reversed course on the disenfranchising practice of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls, claiming it would overturn 20 years of Ohio law and common practice. Former Democratic state Senator Tom Roberts charged, “We need to follow the court’s order, restore those individuals’ right to vote and quit messing with the right to vote in the state of Ohio.”
Georgia agreed this week to temporarily suspend a requirement that prevented tens of thousands of Georgians from registering to vote. The suspension may allow thousands of voters whose applications have been rejected as far back as October 1, 2014, to vote on November 8 as long as they show proper identification, and the state has agreed to stop automatically rejecting voter registration applications that don’t exactly match information in state and federal databases. This measure will remain in place as the state works toward a possible settlement in a federal lawsuit that accused Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minority voters prior to the 2016 election.