House Panel Advances D.C. Statehood Bill: Even as the measure has no chance of becoming law any time soon, a House Oversight Committee voted to advance a D.C. statehood bill was a symbolic victory for the effort to grant representation for the 700,000 residents of the district. It is expected to be brought up for a vote on the House floor later this year.
Iowa GOP Seeks To Water Down Push For Felon Voting Rights: Taking a page out of Florida Republicans’ playbook, Iowa GOP lawmakers are looking to undermine a proposed constitutional amendment that would end the state’s blanket ban on ex-felons voting. The Iowa Statehouse, at the urging of the state’s GOP governor, has already passed a measure ending the prohibition. The state Senate is now considering its version, and is proposing a mandate that ex-felons fully pay off their restitution requirements before they’re allowed to vote. A similar financial requirement was passed by Florida Republicans, after the state’s voters approved a felon voting rights constitutional amendment, and has been challenged in court in a lawsuit alleging that it’s an illegal poll tax.
Kansas Secretary of State Accused Of Slow-Walking Election Site Change: A dispute has erupted in Kansas over the secretary of state’s delay in implementing a new election system that will give voters more choice in where they cast their ballots. The legislature approved last year the use of so-called “vote centers,” which are large, sophisticated polling places that can service voters from several different precincts. Moving to vote centers has been a success for some states that have implemented the change, and a disaster for others. GOP Secretary of State Scott Schwab is under fire — including from some fellow Republicans — for his announcement that he will need more time to implement the overhaul.
Virginia Lawmakers Charge Forward With Several Voting Rights Measures: The Virginia Statehouse, captured by Democrats in the 2018 election, has kept itself very busy passing various voting rights bills as part of an ambitious progressive legislative agenda. Among the election measures Virginia lawmakers have advanced, as the legislature sprints to the end of its session on March 7:
- An Election Day holiday: Both chambers have approved measures that would make Election Day a holiday, while also removing from the state holiday calendar a day honoring two Confederate generals. The proposal needs to clear one more legislative step before heading to the governor’s desk.
- Expanded absentee voting: The legislature has also advanced measures that allow “no excuse” absentee voting and extend the deadline for submitting ballots.
- Automatic Voter Registration: Virginia lawmakers have also sought to beef up the state’s automatic voter registration system, with measures that make it an opt-out program instead of the an opt in program. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the proposal.
- National Popular Vote contract: A bill that would put Virginia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — which seeks to end the Electoral College by getting states to promise to award their Electoral College votes to the presidential popular vote winner — was passed by the House last week, and now goes to the Senate.
- End the Photo Voter ID: Virginia is also poised to roll back its voter ID requirements, with measures that will end the requirement that it be a photo ID and allow college IDs to be used.
Census Director Grilled By House Committee: Census Director Steven Dillingham got tough questions from the House Oversight Committee about his bureau’s preparations for the 2020 Census, which determines how political power is doled out across the country. The top two topics were a GAO report sounding the alarm about technical and security questions about the count, and how the bureau is addressing fundraising mailers sent by the RNC that are presented to be census forms.