The League was pleased to join dozens of voting rights advocates, state and local elections officials, congressional staff and academics at last week’s 2015 Voting and Elections Summit in Washington D.C. The annual event brings together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the latest innovations and ongoing challenges in election administration and voting systems.
Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) kicked off the summit with an impassioned call for reforms that can help making voting easier for Americans of all backgrounds. We were particularly encouraged to hear Rep. Ellison urge the state election leaders in the room to pursue several of the League’s priority election reforms, including better resourced polling places and online voter registration. Ellison also called attention to Minnesotans’ 2012 defeat of restrictive voter photo ID at the ballot box, a groundbreaking victory for the League and other voting rights advocates in the state.
Later in the day, a lively panel of experts traded ideas for engaging and protecting voters in the years ahead. Tom Hicks, recently confirmed as Commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) following a four year congressional delay, outlined steps the revived EAC will take to assist states in improving their election practices—starting with encouraging modernized voting standards including streamlined and portable online voter registration systems. We couldn’t agree more.
Andrew Aydin, policy advisor to U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis (GA-05), challenged the voting rights advocates in the crowd to channel the heroes of yesterday when working to empower a new generation of voters. “We always ask ourselves, ‘What would Dr. King Tweet?’” Aydin said. “We know that a group of young people can inspire and lead change.” The League is committed to empowering young people to participate in our political process and Leagues across the country have helped tens of thousands of high school students register and vote.
Chiming in about empowering underrepresented groups of voters was Analyst Institute expert Daniel Gonzalez, who reminded the crowd that voter registration is the proven single best thing we can all do to boost voter turnout. Gonzalez also cited Analyst Institute research confirming what League leaders already know: voters are served best when advocates leave the partisan sound bites at home and focus on providing accurate, understandable information about the voting process. His evidence was a compelling and timely reminder that the League’s work to provide such information to millions of voters, especially through the League’s online election resource, VOTE411.org, as well as through personal interactions at the local levels, remains as critical as ever.
The Voting and Elections Summit may have taken place in the early, frigid days of 2015 but we know these trends will continue to play out and demand the League’s attention through Election Day 2016 and beyond. If you want to get involved in Making Democracy Work® by improving elections and empowering voters, sign up to receive more information from the national League of Women Voters or find out how you can help the local League in your community!