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2000s, Improving Elections, National Voter Archive

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Election 2008: Restoring American Civic Participation

by Michael P. McDonald
At 61.6 percent, the 2008 presidential election voter turnout was the highest in 40 years, even though it did not exceed the highest rate in the last century (63.8 percent in 1960). Interestingly, turnout increased considerably in some states and was actually down from 2004 in others. This article looks at certain state voter demographics and battleground shifts as well as election reform developments that might have affected voter turnout in different states.

Election Day Front Line: Poll Workers

by Jeanette Senecal
Well-managed polling places and well-trained poll workers are vital on Election Day and in the early voting process in many states. In 2006, despite millions of dollars spent on improving election administration, polling places continued to struggle with problems, and voters suffered the consequences. What can we do to help improve poll worker recruitment and training?

Protecting the Voter

by Jeanette Senecal
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 established important new federal requirements and authorized funds to help states meet them. Unfortunately, some states are using this opportunity to make changes in election procedures that can result, deliberately or inadvertently, in voter disenfranchisement. Particularly vulnerable are underserved populations such as minorities, people with limited resources and the elderly. The League of Women Voters’ “Public Advocacy for Voter Protection” project supports state-based advocacy by state Leagues to ensure that all eligible voters’ registration records are successfully included in the statewide voter registration database and to oppose the alleged need for photo identification at the polls.

Clean Elections: Antidote to Unhealthy Campaign Financing

by Nick Nyhart
What if House or Senate candidates had a source of disinterested money to run their campaigns? What if they didn’t have to rely on the likes of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to organize fundraisers and funnel cash their way? What if lawmakers could spend their time talking with constituents instead of well-heeled donors? Clean Elections, publicly financed elections, is a reform that people want, and the states are leading the way.

Thinking Outside the Ballot Box

by William H. Woodwell, Jr.
Early voting and the use of “vote centers” are just two innovations that elections officials around the country are experimenting with in their efforts to make the voting process more efficient and more convenient—to put the “service” back into “Voters Services.” This article presents the thoughts of elections officials in various locales across the country. Included are the early voting experiences of Clark County, NV, and Travis County, TX, and the “vote center” innovations in Larimer County, CO, and Boone County, MO.

Redistricting Reform

by Thomas E. Mann
Redistricting, a deeply political process, has long been a prominent and much-criticized feature of American politics. Incumbents actively seek to minimize the risk to themselves via bipartisan gerrymanders or to gain additional seats for their party through partisan gerrymanders. Recent developments, including the sharp decline in competitive seats in the House and in most state legislatures and the growing ideological polarization between the two major parties, have given new urgency to this issue and precipitated the most serious effort to reform redistricting processes in many years.

Campaign Finance Reform: "527s" Emerge to New Prominence

by David B. Magleby, Kristina Gale, Betsey Gimbel Hawkins, and Richard Hawkins
In spite of the BCRA ban on party soft money, soft money managed to find its way back into the political system, mainly through “527” organizations. During the 2004 presidential and congressional campaigns we saw tremendous growth in the number of these groups, their fundraising and their electioneering activities. Shortly after the 2004 elections, bipartisan legislation to bring “527” organizations within campaign finance laws was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.

Emerging Issues in Election Reform

The League’s March 2005 forum highlighted a number of urgent priorities for policymakers, election officials and others. The League has refined the priorities into four key steps to bring our election system back to health: professionalization of the system; a new focus on service for the “customer,” the voter; 21st century research and development; and new federal resources and commitment.

Election 2004 and HAVA: What Next?

by Shirley Tabata Ponomareff
Long lines and long waits were the big news for Election 2004. A number of factors are being examined as likely causes for the long lines. Whatever the causes, the long waits posed an unacceptable barrier to citizen participation. Voter mobilization and voter protection made huge contributions, and voter participation was high. Nevertheless, voters encountered serious problems with voter registration systems, provisional ballots, voting machines and inadequate polling place procedures. This story includes sidebars on the youth vote, election protection efforts, pre-election HAVA implementation survey and Election Day surveys.

Campaign Finance Reform: The Way Forward

by Trevor Potter
This article is the first in a new series of articles on Campaign Finance Reform (CFR) that will be published in this magazine. With Election 2004, the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) completed its first test. There have been positive outcomes, but there are further issues emerging on the way forward in CFR. They include the so-called 527s that saw considerable growth and activity in Election 2004 and, connected to the regulation of these 527s, the Federal Election Commission itself. Another urgent concern is the failing public funding system for presidential candidates.

Safeguarding Your Vote

by Kelly Ceballos
As part of its continuing effort to assist state and local election officials in their implementation concerns related to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the League of Women Voters has produced a second report, Helping America Vote: Safeguarding the Vote. This new report urges election officials to safeguard our votes in 2004 by providing a more secure foundation for two key components of election administration: voting systems and voter registration systems. As Election Day nears, there are real steps that our nation’s election officials can take to protect our votes in November.

Election Day and You: 5 Things You Need to Know

by Kelly Ceballos
Well in advance of November 2, the League of Women Voters has launched a nationwide voter education effort, 5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day, to familiarize voters with new election procedures and empower them to take action to personally ensure their vote is counted. To this end, the League has produced a quarter million 5 Things voter cards that are being distributed across the country. This year many voters will find some things different at their polling place, and these changes will make some of them feel like first-time voters. The League’s 5 Things gives long-time and first-time voters the information they need to look out for themselves and their votes on Election Day.

No Voter Turned Away

by Bob Guldin
Thanks to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), many of the weaknesses in the U.S. electoral system revealed in the 2000 Presidential Election are being addressed. The Provisional Voting section of HAVA is one of the first parts of the law to be implemented and institutes provisional balloting as a nationwide right and practice as of January 1, 2004. If a person shows up at the polls on Election Day anywhere in the U.S. and claims to be eligible to vote, that person will be permitted to vote. With 50 states and thousands of local jurisdictions, it’s difficult to guarantee that this important voting right will be observed properly in all places.