Advocacy in Action: Voting Rights

 

On this episode, we’ll be talking about nonprofit advocacy to ensure all eligible people can exercise their right to vote and the fight against new legislation—with a decidedly partisan aroma—that aims to restrict those rights.  

Our attorneys for this episode:

Quyen Tu Tim Mooney Ronnie Pawelko

Record turnout in November 

Americans voted in record numbers in last year’s presidential election, casting over 158 million ballots.  

More than six-in-ten people of voting age and nearly two-thirds of estimated eligible voters,  

Source: Pew Research Center  

False claims of voter fraud 

Brennan CenterPoliticians at all levels of government have repeatedly, and falsely, claimed the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections were marred by large numbers of people voting illegally. However, extensive research reveals that fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent, and many instances of alleged fraud are, in fact, mistakes by voters or administrators. The same is true for mail ballots, which are secure and essential to holding a safe election amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The fallacy of the “election integrity” movement 

False claims of election problems in 2020 

Led directly to the Capitol Insurrection in 2021 

No proof to any of the claims (over 50 lawsuits, all dismissed on the substance) 

New arguments: people think the election was fraudulent, so laws need to change to reflect that 

 

Efforts to oppose the bills across the country  

Georgia 

On March 25, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed in to law a bill that will make it more difficult for voters to make their voices heard at the polls.  The legislation contains several troubling provisions, including those that limit the amount of time available to voters to request absentee ballots, impose strict new ID requirements for some voters, and effectively ban the use of mobile voting centers. The signing of the law prompted swift legal challenges and opposition from corporate interests. (Source: Bolder Advocacy) 

 

Texas 

Senate Bill 7, which would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and make it illegal for local election officials to proactively send applications to vote by mail to voters, even if they qualify. (Source: Texas Tribune) 

 

Federal legislation being considered to combat this?  

 

Litigation challenging the laws. 

 

What we can do 

  • Offer Public Testimony (rules: may be lobbying) 
  • Write an Op-Ed(rules: unlikely to be lobbying unless it has call to action) 
  • Engage in Corporate Advocacy (rules: may be lobbying – it depends) 
  • Team Up (rules: coalitions, may be lobbying)  
  • None of this is prohibited election intervention (all (c)(3)-friendly but take care with how your efforts are characterized) 

 

Resources 

When voting rights are under attack, what should nonprofits do? by Natalie Ossenfort 

The States Where Efforts To Restrict Voting Are Escalating, fivethirtyeight 

How GOP-backed voting measures could create hurdles for tens of millions of voters, Washington Post 

Voting Laws Roundup, Brennan Center 

State Voting Bills Tracker 2021, Brennan Center 

Being a Player – lobbying rules 

The Connection – coalition rules 

Coalition Checklist – coalition rules 

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