With any election, what is most important to me is that voters have a level playing field, regardless of the outcome.” – LWV CEO Virginia Kase
Throughout our nearly 100-year history, the League of Women Voters has worked to “level the playing field” of our election system by registering new citizens to vote, fighting unfair district maps in court, and advocating in Congress for fair election processes.
The upcoming 116th Congress could make history with the first comprehensive package of democracy reforms scheduled for 2019, HR1. Since the announcement of HR1, LWVUS has been talking to folks on the Hill and working with partner organizations to help shape the bill’s language and ensure that voting rights are strengthened by this important legislation.
The League of Women Voters is very excited at the prospect of HR1 because it aims to include elements that align with many of the League’s long-held positions, like election modernization and redistricting reform. As we work with legislators to craft HR1, LWV is advocating for the prioritization of the following essential elements of the bill:
1. EXPAND VOTER REGISTRATION
We must modernize the registration process through the expansion of automatic voter registration and online voter registration.
As election observers and partners in Election Protection, the League has seen first-hand the current problems with our election system that prevent participation of eligible voters in our elections: complicated registration and deadlines that vary by state and county, wrongfully purged voters, recounting processes and audits with an increased number of provisional ballots. HR1 should modernize our voter registration processes, which would go a long way in addressing these barriers.
2. IMPLEMENT FAIR REDISTRICTING
It is time to end gerrymandering once and for all so that voters select their elected officials – not the other way around.
Across the country, in legislatures, in court and on the ballot, the League has fought against efforts by politicians of both major parties to draw unfair election maps to keep power in their own hands. Gerrymandering silences the voters and residents of disputed districts, who, instead of electing officials to represent their interests, are selected by the politicians working to serve themselves. HR1 should establish clear rules around state redistricting processes so that maps can be drawn fairly.
3. OUTLAW VOTER PURGING
Prohibiting illegal voter roll purging will ensure that eligible voters will not find themselves wrongfully stripped of the right to vote.
The practice of keeping voting rolls current must not be used to disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters. As LWV has asserted again and again, no eligible voter should find themselves at a polling place on Election Day unable to vote because politicians illegally removed their name from the voter roll. This practice is undemocratic and should be outlawed once and for all in HR1.
4. RESTORE THE VRA
Restoring the Voting Rights Act will strengthen our elections by cutting back the obstructive laws that have kept eligible voters from exercising their right at the ballot box.
Since the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision rolled back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, we have seen the process of voting become more challenging, especially for women and communities of color. In recent elections, voters have faced a variety of obstacles, from reduced polling places to long lines, to strict voter identification requirements, to the removal of registered voters from the rolls. The Voting Rights Act was created to ensure that every American has an equal right to vote. HR1 should include provisions to strengthen voting rights and protect all eligible Americans at the ballot box.
In addition to these four priorities, LWVUS is also open to working on other important election reform measures, such as ensuring election security and addressing public financing systems. It is important that we ensure the security of our elections by improving oversight and upgrading our systems, as well as getting money out of politics and putting power back into the hands of small donors.
LWVUS is proud to be an active coalition partner in ensuring that HR1 comprises bold democracy reforms and voter protections that are necessary to level the playing field for everyone. We call on all legislators, regardless of party, to support any such legislation that is indisputably by and for the people.