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2000s, National Voter Archive

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Examining "Redistribution of Wealth"

by Jeff Kolnick and Doug Anderson
"Redistribution of wealth" is a concept that is supported by some and opposed by others, while still others aren't quite sure how it should be defined. There are several ways that nations address the distribution of wealth. The most important ways are through labor laws, tax policy and social programs. This article reviews these means in a historical context and in light of the current economic situation in the United States.

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.

An Open Letter to the Next President

by William H. Woodwell, Jr.
The League of Women Voters devotes these pages to a special call for action by the next Administration on four priority issues: climate change, which threatens our environment, our economy and public health; our health care system, which currently leaves 47 million Americans uninsured, while wreaking havoc on the economy because of skyrocketing costs; our immigration system, which has not addressed the status of 12 million unauthorized immigrants living and working in the United States and is incapable of dealing with either legal or illegal immigration; and the growing inequality in wealth and incomes that threatens the very fabric of our society, turning the United States into a land where the rich keep getting richer and everyone else struggles just to get by. The League believes significant progress is possible on each of these four issues. It’s time to stop the partisanship and political wrangling. It’s time for real action to build a better, stronger America.

Election Day Reality: No Registration = No Vote (in most states)

by Shirley Tabata Ponomareff and Jeanette Senecal
In 2004, 2000 and 1996, 27.9 percent, 30.5 percent and 29.1 percent of eligible voters were not registered to vote. If these eligible voters were registered to vote, would they turn out to vote at the 80–90 percent rate at which registered voters did go to the polls in the past three presidential elections? They probably would. This means 44–49 million more people would have voted in 2004. Let’s get them registered in 2008! This article contains tips for organizing League-sponsored voter registration drives.

Unauthorized Immigration: The Case for Earned Legalization

by Patricia Hatch and Katherine Fennelly
As a result of the LWVUS Immigration Study, the League supports a path to earned legalization as part of comprehensive immigration reform. This essay highlights reasons why creating a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants already in the U.S. would be preferable to mass deportations for both the immigrant families and their U.S. citizen neighbors.

Federal Health Coverage Programs: Building Blocks for Coverage of the Uninsured

by Diane Rowland and Adele Shartzer
As the 2008 presidential election year opened, health care reform ranked just below Iraq as a public priority. Filling the gaps in coverage that leave millions uninsured, constraining rising health care costs, and improving the quality of care are the goals of reform efforts. In 2006, 47 million Americans lacked health insurance coverage. This article reviews the role of public programs as building blocks for coverage of the diverse group of people that are uninsured.

A Fair, Impartial and Independent Judiciary

by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
In her essay, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor shares her thoughts on the importance of a fair, impartial and independent judiciary at the national, state and local levels. She notes that close to 98 percent of the litigation in this country takes place in state courts, and most states select or retain their judges through partisan or non-partisan elections. Furthermore, in many states, judicial elections have turned into expensive, partisan political campaigns. The upcoming 2008 elections of state supreme court judges in several states is of grave concern in this regard. Justice O’Connor admits that it will not be easy to change the systems in those states where judges are elected, but she offers some steps that might be taken to improve the systems.


Compliance with the NVRA: Not Optional

by Michael Slater
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at public assistance agencies. Voter registrations at such agencies numbered 2.6 million in l995–96 when the Act was first implemented; the number has dwindled to 528,000 in 2005–06. One simple reason for this drop: A majority of states are failing to comply with the law. Compliance with the NVRA could help up to 2.5 million additional low-income Americans register to vote.


Voter Fraud?

by Michael Slater
Taking a hard look at the politics of voter fraud, this article provides evidence that we are the victims of an organized effort to persuade us that voter fraud is a serious problem. We are advised to ask some tough questions. What’s the evidence? Who’s making the claim? What’s their agenda?

The Heat is On: Climate Change and Emerging Policies

by Robin Tokmakian
This article from the LWVUS Climate Change Taskforce defines climate change, reviews international as well as U.S. federal and state responses to this global issue, and takes a look at what’s ahead.

There is No Free Lunch: But There Are Cost-Effective Solutions

by Pamela W. Person
Following on our cover story on climate change, this article from the LWVUS Climate Change Taskforce focuses on greenhouse gases (GHG) that are affecting the changes in our climate. It presents nine basic energy concepts and key strategies for reduction of GHG emissions, using technology that is commercially available today and projected to be available by 2030.

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?

Celebrating Women in the Americas: Yesterday and Today

by Odetta MacLeish-White and Zaida Arguedas
Recent advances in women’s political participation are heralded and viewed in a historical context. Highlighted is the successful March 2007 LWVUS cosponsored forum, “Women in the Americas: Paths to Political Power.”

The Race for the White House

by Anthony Corrado
Experts are predicting a $1 billion 2008 presidential race; the total cost could end up being almost double the $760 million spent by all 2004 candidates. What’s causing this surge in campaign fundraising? Is there a solution to this money race?

Presidential Signing Statements: Above the Law

by Mickey Edwards
Until April 2006 when a reporter from the Boston Globe revealed that President George W. Bush had quietly issued more than 750 written statements in which he challenged portions of the very laws he had just signed, there was little notice taken of “presidential signing statements.” This article summarizes arguments from both sides on this “new” usage of presidential signing statements, from those who support it and those who oppose it. It further emphasizes the grave ramifications of this use beyond the particular laws it affects.

Traveling to Protect the Voter

by Mary G. Wilson
During the six weeks prior to the November 2006 election, LWVUS President Mary Wilson traveled to six states to visit and work with Leagues carrying out our Public Advocacy for Voter Protection project. She met with elections officials, the media, League members and the general public to champion the importance of voting, voters’ rights and everything related to the voting process. She learned a lot and recounts some of her experiences and lessons learned.

Immigration: A Historical Perspective

by Katherine Fennelly
This introductory article for the League's three-year Immigration Study is the first in a scheduled series of three articles. It provides a historical overview of immigration issues and immigration legislation in the United States, and brings us to the current situation and ongoing debate. The author points out that few subjects are as controversial as immigration and have as contentious a history.

Who's Watching Whom?

by Aziz Huz
In this new era of electronic surveillance and unilateral executive branch action in response to terrorism, tough questions must be answered. Should we make difficult policy decisions involving a balance of liberty and security in the absence of congressional or public oversight and outside the framework of the rule of law? What kind of electronic surveillance appropriately parries the threat posed by contemporary terrorists? What is the role of Congress? Evidence suggests that evasion of the constitutional structures for making national decisions carries heavy costs.

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.

VRA Reauthorization: What You Need to Know

by Wade Henderson
This year Congress is debating reauthorization of the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), widely considered the most effective civil rights law in American history for its ability to protect the right to vote of all Americans. When passed in 1965, the VRA put teeth into the 15th Amendment’s guarantee that no citizen can be denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. Nonetheless, there is no question that barriers to equal minority voter participation continue to exist today, making VRA reauthorization imperative.

New Barriers to Voting: Eroding the Right to Vote

by Mike Slater, Laura Kyser, and Jo-Anne Chasnow
While countless citizens nationwide are working to engage their neighbors in democracy, many states have developed laws, rules or procedures that limit access to the ballot box. In some states, the new developments are restrictions on voter registration activities, while in others, they are voter ID requirements. Many states have chosen to implement the statewide database requirement of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in ways that make it harder for eligible applicants to register. Together, these new requirements disproportionately impact those citizens who have been historically marginalized in the political process.

Transparency, Liberty and Security

In an exclusive interview, Rick Blum, director of, answers questions on open access to government, individual liberties and security. He emphasizes the importance of citizens “asking questions, documenting successes and problems, and really pushing aggressively to defend participation and democracy.”

Local Voices on Liberty and Security

by Kelly McFarland Stratman and Nancy E. Tate
The League of Women Voters Education Fund launched its multi-tier project, Local Voices: Citizen Conversations on Civil Liberties and Secure Communities, in February 2005. The project combined one of the League’s strongest traditions—convening community dialogues—with established methods of public opinion research. A complete report of the project’s findings and the League’s recommendations for action was released on September 7. Citizen desire for a transparent and open government is among the project’s important findings. The League’s recommendations in a nutshell: When it comes to the critically important relationship between our civil liberties and our nation’s security, government openness and public involvement are not just desirable—they are essential.

LWV in Action: Protecting Civil Liberties

by Shirley Tabata Ponomareff
In 1942, national League President Marguerite Wells cautioned that in times of crisis such as war, “the citizen loses sight of government and what government is doing, who is doing it, how it is being done.” She summed up the League’s objective in that wartime period: the support of democracy. Today, as our country wages a war against terrorism, the League continues in this proud tradition. From the time that the USA PATRIOT Act became law in 2001, the League has actively lobbied in support of legislation that would limit some of the law’s extreme provisions. At the same time, it has promoted education through panels and workshops as well as its “Local Voices” project.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Security vs. Liberty: A Balance in Crisis

by Laura W. Murphy
The 2001 counter-terrorism bill known as the Patriot Act contains a series of provisions that are scheduled to “sunset” by the end of 2005. The sunsets were put in place to have some mechanism that would force Congress to give the Patriot Act a second review. In 2001, many members of Congress uneasily voted in favor of the bill with good reason. Now they have an opportunity to review and revise the Act to achieve the proper balance between security and liberty.

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.

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.

BCRA: Making a Difference

by Anthony Corrado
The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) is the most important piece of campaign finance legislation since the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act. BCRA addressed the two biggest problems in the campaign finance system by banning the use of soft money in federal elections and placing new restrictions on candidate-specific issue advocacy advertising. On its passage, it was heralded as a major victory by reform advocates. But would the law fulfill its promise? The early returns indicate that BCRA has passed its first major tests (including the legal challenges) and is making a difference in the financing of national elections.

Presidential Public Funding: Worth Saving?

by Michael J. Malbin
The thirty-year-old system for funding presidential nomination contests that seemed to work well for 20 years is now failing. This year, both major parties’ nominees rejected public matching funds; the legal ceilings for campaign spending are simply too low and inflexible. In addition, the public funding formula has failed to empower average donors, and the Presidential Election Campaign Fund cannot make timely payments because not enough people check the box on their income tax forms to pay for the program. Those who believe the system is worth saving should start thinking about the alternatives, soon.

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.