Fair Access to Voting News: FairVote in the New York Times, New Wins and Taking Action in Virginia

05/25/2011 03:00 pm ET

Here's an excerpt from the FairVote Reformer for December 2009 focused on voting rights and fair access to participation.

For years FairVote has suggested that it's time to stop outsourcing democracy and running democracy on the cheap. As Hawaii teeters on "electoral bankruptcy" and may have to delay for more than half a year a constitutionally required U.S. House election, and as one private company (Election Systems and Software) may soon have its equipment and proprietary software used in nearly three-quarters of American elections, it's time to ask just how much we value the right to vote. FairVote calls for the United States to join the great majority of the world's democracies in establishing a constitutional right to vote and a full range of statutory changes in its spirit.

Last month, I had a letter prominently paired with one from ES&S CEO's in the New York Times, making the argument that all American jurisdictions should have the option to buy publicly owned equipment with open source software. This year colleague Adam Fogel and I worked with Washington, D.C. leaders as they approved groundbreaking electoral reform legislation that establishes election day registration and voter pre-registration of 16-year-olds, creates a process to study full universal voter registration and enacts other FairVote-backed changes such as requiring all new voting equipment to generate election data that can be counted in independent software.

In Utah, the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy has unanimously recommended automatic voter registration -- the latest sign of growing transpartisan recognition of the value of modernizing voter registration systems to provide better voter rolls and remove barriers to voter participation. Adam Fogel's blog post reviews other important progress in FairVote-backed registration reform proposals, highlighted by a Pew Charitable Trusts report finding that voter pre-registration measurably stimulates voter turnout when properly implemented.

FairVote's board this month backed a very specific way to take action to secure voting rights: call on Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to issue an executive order restoring voting rights for individuals with felony convictions who have completed their sentences. Virginia and Kentucky are the only states in the nation that require people who have lost their rights through felony convictions to apply for reinstatement, and the governor has the power to act. Letting him know where you stand is a few clicks away.

Don't miss Paul Fidalgo's blog post R.I. Gov. Thinks 0.0001% Turnout for U.S. Senate Elections is Just Fine. Rhode Island's governor has single-handedly blocked a series of democracy bills successfully lobbied by FairVote Rhode Island, most recently a requirement for elections for all U.S. Senators rather than gubernatorial appointment - stay tuned for a potential override vote in January. The issue's inherently partisan nature once left to appointment was dramatically evidenced this month, where Chris Christie's victory in the New Jersey governor's race has Democrats scrambling to change the law to abandon elections and require appointees to be of the same party as the outgoing senator; an opportunistic bill rightly dismissed by Christie as "garbage."