This Week in 200 Words
In state updates, North Carolina has approved a new redistricting plan following a ruling in October that its congressional election map was gerrymandered. North Dakota lawmakers are working to implement the state’s new constitutional amendment on government ethics. Virginia lawmakers have filed a new voting rights bill ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session. A Michigan lawsuit takes aim at restrictions on younger voters. Illinois passed a modest government ethics package. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo named new officials to his Cyber Security Advisory Board; a body tasked in part with fortifying election systems.
In other news, House Democrats will introduce the “Ban Corporate PACs Act” today. Another election security bill, the Election Technology Research Act, will move to the House floor after being approved out of Committee. States are preparing for record-breaking voter turnout in 2020 after record turnouts in local elections this year and Stacey Abrams spoke out against voter suppression in Georgia ahead of the Democratic debate.
Two moderate House Democrats are introducing a bill aiming to root out corporate influence where it currently thrives: Washington, DC. On Friday, Reps. Max Rose (NY) and Josh Harder (CA) will introduce the “Ban Corporate PACs Act,” which would ban for-profit corporations from being allowed to sponsor, operate, or fund PACs. The bill’s co-authors see it as a necessary addition to the HR 1 — also known as the “For the People Act” — the vast anti-corruption bill that was House Democrats’ first priority after taking back the majority in 2018.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Thursday unanimously approved legislation intended to secure voting technology against cyberattacks. The Election Technology Research Act would authorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation to conduct research on ways to secure voting technology. The legislation would also establish a Center of Excellence in Election Systems that would test the security and accessibility of voting machines and research methods to certify voting system technology.
Washington Post – Democrat Stacey Abrams warns about voter suppression
Stacey Abrams addressed a panel discussion Tuesday in one in a series of Democrat-hosted events ahead of the debate. She said voter suppression can involve whether people can register and remain on the voter rolls, and whether their ballots can be counted.
In interviews, secretaries of state said they paid close attention to elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia this year, all states where more voters than ever showed up for what are usually sleepy off-year contests. Several said they had seen a sharp increase in turnout in their own backyards, even in nonpartisan school board elections.
Those results, coupled with higher-than-expected turnout in the 2018 midterms and polls that show voters are extremely enthusiastic about next year’s presidential election, are stark warnings to elections administrators who are already making preparations for what could be record-breaking turnout.
North Dakota – Grand Forks Herald — North Dakota ethics study broaches ‘dark money’ in elections
The Judiciary Committee is undertaking a two-year study of provisions in a new constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2018 mandating state government ethics, including the disclosure of “the ultimate and true source of funds spent” to influence state elections or actions, effective in 2021. The 2019 Legislature passed Republican majority leaders’ framework to implement provisions of the constitutional amendment.
Ahead of the session, Virginia Democrats are filing several bills that establish their legislative agenda for their first session as a majority in more than two decades. HB1 will permit any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he is qualified to vote. Currently, Virginians who wish to vote absentee can only do so for specific reasons outlined in a statutory list.
Michigan – Detroit News – Dem group files third voting rights lawsuit, this one targeting Benson
A Democratic group has filed a third voting rights lawsuit against the state of Michigan, targeting Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson about an automatic registration law.
The lawsuit argues that the treatment by Michigan’s automatic registration law of people under the age of 17 ½ and the Legislature’s limits on proof of residency at the time of registration constitute undue burdens on voters’ constitutional rights.
New York – City and State NY – New York focuses on election security amid challenges nationwide
On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo underscored his intent to keep New York on the cutting edge of election cybersecurity by naming several new officials to his Cyber Security Advisory Board – a body first created in 2013 not for the express purpose of fortifying election systems, but for protecting against cyber threats at large. “We must face our new reality: election tampering is now one of the biggest threats to our democracy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the absence of federal leadership, it is more vital now than ever that New York leads in election security.”
Illinois – Chicago Business – State lawmakers pass ‘tiny step’ ethics bills
Members of the Illinois House and Senate approved a modest ethics package Thursday, despite criticism from some Republican members. It requires state lobbyists to disclose other units of local government they also lobby and any elected or appointed offices they hold. Lobbying firms would have to disclose when they contract out to other lobbyists for each business or client. The Secretary of State will also be required to update its website to make it easier to use.
North Carolina – NPR – Democrats Could Gain At Least 2 House Seats Under New N.C. Redistricting Plan
North Carolina lawmakers approved a new redistricting plan on Friday. The plan follows a ruling by a state court last month that said North Carolina Republicans, who control the legislature, had violated the state constitution by unfairly disadvantaging Democrats. Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 U.S. House districts under the existing congressional maps even though the state is closely politically divided.