Want To Track Voting Rights Laws? There’s A Website For That

With so many attacks on basic voting rights being pushed by Republican lawmakers around the country, it can be tough to keep up with where the state laws — even those in your own state — currently stand.

To confront that, Let America Vote, a nonprofit political organization with the goal of strengthening voting rights, launched a new website this week which lays out election laws in each state and what state legislatures have done about those laws in their most recent sessions.

Chris deLaubenfels, the director of policy and communications at Let America Vote, said the project is supposed to be a resource for voters and activists.

“Let America Vote understands how hard it can be for voters to follow legislation being proposed and enacted at the state level. We want to make it easier for people to track the voting rights activity going on in their home states,” he said.

For example, the website documents how Iowa Republicans and Iowa Democrats stood on opposing sides of the issue and which voting rights bills have passed and failed in recent years. It provides links to a significant amount of news coverage on each piece of legislation for visitors to learn more.

Republican legislators in Iowa pursued a bill this year which would have limited absentee voting, introduced signature matching, closed polls early and removed college students from the rolls if they indicated they wouldn’t stay in the state after graduation.

Voting rights in Iowa have been a hot topic with a lot of recent changes. On Tuesday, a judge in the Polk County District Court issued a ruling that called parts of a 2017 election law unconstitutional.

The conflict over voting rights has played out on the national stage, too.

“The current state of voting rights across the country is a mixed bag,” deLaubenfels said. “So, while Let America Vote has seen some real advancements in voting rights in America over the last several years, Republicans’ attempts to strip away the right to vote have never been more dire.”

And they don’t only follow the harmful legislation. The analysis for Iowa also outlines how Democrats introduced laws which would have gotten rid of Iowa’s voter ID laws and reinstated straight-ticket voting. There was also legislation that would have created ongoing absentee voter status, but it failed because of the Republican-majority legislature.

A similarly detailed analysis is available for each state.

All of the information is meant to give voters the ability to stay on top of changing laws, but it also lets them hold politicians accountable, which is the bulk of what Let America Vote does.

“Moreover, tracking voting legislation as it is introduced — not just when it is enacted — is crucial to fight back against voter suppression tactics. Republicans often introduce similar voter suppression tactics across the country — in recent years, voter ID laws and voter roll purges have been used to suppress the votes of Americans,” deLaubenfels said. “Informing voters of politicians attempt to make voting harder is crucial to holding vote suppressors accountable.”

Let America Vote was very active in Iowa during the 2018 election, sending in volunteers and staff support to key Iowa House races that flipped from red to blue. Once the presidential caucus race is over in Iowa, expect Democrats’ political focus to shift to the Legislature once again, both for the legislative session that starts in January and the general election. Voting rights will likely feature once again in this year’s session and possibly on the campaign trail as legislators seek reelection.

 

by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 10/3/19

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