Showing posts with label Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Overseas Military Voting and September Primaries: Epilogue/Prologue

Earlier this week President Obama signed into law the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. FHQ has commented on this piece of legislation a few times already (see here, here and here), but it never hurts to reiterate the highlights. The main product of this bill (now law) is that states with primaries set too close to the general election (less than 45 days before) are now faced with having to accommodate military personnel and others overseas. That has the effect of either forcing states to shift their primaries to earlier dates in order to comply or to submit a waiver request.

Now that MOVE has been signed into law, the real work will begin. There are over a dozen states that that are affected. And it is more than just September primary states (see first link above for September primary states affected) that are affected. Obviously primary election certification takes time (see Florida 2000 in the presidential election for an extraordinary example) and that makes some August primary states like Colorado and Washington vulnerable to this new law as well. Of course, with more states affected comes a variety of responses to what is required.

They range from the conciliatory...
"You can’t print a ballot until you know who won,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who is urging his state’s lawmakers to shift the Sept. 14 primary by at least a month. “And you can’t print ballots in five seconds. It takes several days to print a ballot. Then you have to put them in the mail."

"Old habits die hard and a September primary certainly is our tradition,” [Vermont Secretary of State, Deb] Markowitz said. “I strongly believe that if we made a change to August, politicians would adapt, voters would adapt." the resistant:
“Our system of allowing people to delay voting until closer to Election Day is better in terms of making an informed choice,” [Washington state election official Katie] Blinn said.

“Things just don’t get going here until September,” said [Wisconsin Board of Elections spokesman, Reid] Magney.
Washington and other states may have a good argument for a waiver based on the fact that they accept and count overseas ballots a few weeks after the actual election date. The Evergreen state may have to expand that some. But the guidelines behind which states are granted waivers is still undecided. The folks running the Federal Voting Assistance Program will work in consultation with the US Attorney General's office to decide which states, if any, will be allowed an exemption. The vacation argument from Wisconsin is a valid one, but is a bit thin consider many of these same states have presidential primaries in the dead of winter when weather may be preventing voters from getting to the polls.

Most states, however, will likely do what Nevada did (independent of this law change) earlier this year: move their late summer and fall primaries to earlier dates.

Hat tip to Ballot Access News for the link to the reactions story.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

September (State and Local) Primaries Are Now a Step Closer to Disappearing

Senate Bill 1390 is now out of conference and has been passed by the House according to Ballot Access News. As FHQ discussed yesterday, this is the bill that requires all absentee ballots be printed and mailed off to military personnel overseas at least 45 days prior to the general election. This has the unintended effect of forcing states that hold midterm primaries in September to shift those elections to earlier dates. [Here is the complete list of states affected and a broader discussion of the implications.]

Below is a timeline of action taken yesterday in the House on the bill from the clerk of the House. They were treating the differences in the Senate bill coming out of conference as changes to the original House bill (HR 2647).
11:15 A.M. -
Amendment offered by Ms. Slaughter.
Upon the adoption of the conference report the House shall be considered to have adopted the concurrent resolution ( H. Con. Res. 196) making corrections in the enrollment of the bill H.R. 2647.
11:46 A.M. -
On agreeing to the Slaughter amendment Agreed to by voice vote.

On ordering the previous question on the amendment Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 237 - 187 (Roll no. 764).

11:53 A.M. -
UNFINISHED BUSINESS - The Chair announced that the unfinished business was the question of adoption of motions to suspend the rules which had been debated earlier and on which further proceedings had been postponed.

H. Res. 808:
providing for consideration of the conference report to accompany the bill ( H.R. 2647) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, to provide special pays and allowances to certain members of the Armed Forces, expand concurrent receipt of military retirement and VA disability benefits to disabled military retirees, and for other purposes

On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to by recorded vote: 234 - 188 (Roll no. 765).

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

12:19 P.M. -
DEBATE - The House proceeded with one hour of debate on the conference report to accompany H.R. 2647.
1:30 P.M. -
POSTPONED PROCEEDING - Pursuant to the rule, the House postponed further proceedings on the conference report to accompany H.R. 2647 until later in the legislative day.

H.R. 2647:
to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2010, and for other purposes

The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.
3:23 P.M. -
On agreeing to the conference report Agreed to by recorded vote: 281 - 146 (Roll no. 770).

Motions to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

3:24 P.M. -
Considered as unfinished business.

H. Con. Res. 196:
making corrections in the enrollment of the bill H.R. 2647

Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 808, H. Con. Res. 196 is considered passed House.

H.R. 2647:
to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2010, and for other purposes
Yeah, that's a lot of legislative process to take in. The key is the enrollment part. That tells us that the bill has passed and the "unfinished business" is basically that the enrollment of the bill has to take place first before the bill is presented to the president.

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Remember that Defense Authorization Bill That Could Affect the Timing of Primaries?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remember that Defense Authorization Bill That Could Affect the Timing of Primaries?

Yeah, this bill.* Well, it looks as if S1390 will be voted on in conference today. The Senate version contains the provision that would require states to mail out absentee ballots at least 45 days prior to the general election (... a move that would cause September primary states -- not presidential primaries -- to be shifted to earlier dates to comply). The House bill for defense authorization did not contain this provision, so the conference vote will determine whether it is included.


Hat tip to Ballot Access News for the link.

*The original bill discussed was S1415, but the 45 day rules outlined in that bill seem to have been added into S1390.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Defense Authorization Bill Amendment Could Affect Primary Timing

No, not presidential primaries ( least not directly).

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about the trouble an amendment buried in this year's defense authorization bill is causing on the state level in New York. Now, this isn't unusual. National legislation, due to our federalist system, often has ramifications on the state and local level. However, this is a defense bill. Yes, that can affect funding for bases and through other means in the states, but this is about elections, specifically primary elections. Where's the connection?

Actually, New York senator, Chuck Schumer, added the amendment that could affect his home state and any other state with a primary election within 45 days of the general election.* The whole point of the amendment is to give military personnel outside of the country ample opportunity to vote, but it could end up causing some headaches for state legislatures and secretaries of state/boards of election in many September primary states.

In 2010, that list is comprised of:
New Hampshire
New York
Rhode Island
[Hmmm, all blue states and enough electoral votes to get you a third of the way to 270.]

Well, what's the big deal? Move the primaries to earlier dates, get the ballots printed and mailed out and be done with it, right? Ideally yes, but this is politics. It's never that easy.

A small move back into, say, August would mean that the elections would fall at a time when people are trying to fit vacations in before the schools start or just because the summer is coming to a close. That is the argument the Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections is making anyway. Honestly though, that is pretty weak. If August is so bad, then why are fourteen states holding their primaries or runoffs during the month (see above list link)? I understand the normative issues behind making it appear as if you are doing things that are supporting higher voter turnout, but even this Times article started off with the line, "It is hard enough to get New York voters to the polls for any September primary." As such, the Board of Elections just appears as if it is stalling.

But let's continue with that charade for a moment. Let's assume that vacationing and the "pressure put on the county boards of election" together are a big enough deal to eliminate August as an option in New York (and maybe even some other September states). What then? What are the options? The Times suggested a return to the June date the state's primary was held on until 1974. What are the pros and cons around a move to June?

The issue then is that such a large move potentially affects the calculus in the state legislature, where this change would have to be initiated and pushed through. Why? Well, the folks in the New York legislature all face primary elections every two years as well. The move could affect their fortunes. Antsy elections officials and antsy legislators. That isn't a recipe for change. Of course, neither is the fact that New York's state assembly has been a touch dysfunctional this session.

Another issue with a move to June is that the economy now comes into the picture. Matt from DemConWatch and I were discussing this in an email exchange earlier, and he speculated that this [a move to June] could put pressure on some of the September primary states to hold their presidential primaries and state and local primaries on the same date.

And it could from an economic standpoint. The whole reason some of the May and June presidential primary states have not frontloaded is because they hold all their primary contests at one time. That gives states with late primaries for state and local offices a huge advantage. Their primaries for those offices were after the end of the presidential primary window earlier on in the post-reform era, so they had to have separate contests. They were forced to fund that extra election (presidential primary) or move the other election up (and we see what a potential issue that can be). In the period between 1976 and 1996, in fact, I've found that those September primary (for state and local offices) states are seven times more likely to frontload their presidential primaries than those states where all the primaries are held concurrently. Once the election cycles through 2008 are included the effect decreases; those split primary states are only twice as likely to frontload once the hyper-frontloaded elections since 1996 are accounted for.

What does that have to do with the economy? Well, if the economy is still in poor shape heading into next year, then there may be some in these late primary states who call for the presidential primary and primaries for state and local offices to be held together as a cost-saving measure. "We're already talking about moving the other primaries, why not discuss the presidential one too?" But I just don't see that happening.

Let's look at that list of September primary states, but this time with their 2008 presidential primary dates and I'll show you why:
Delaware (2/5)
Hawaii (2/19)
Maryland (2/12)
Massachusetts (2/5)
Minnesota (2/5 - caucus)
New Hampshire (1/8)
New York (2/5)
Rhode Island (3/4)
Vermont (3/4)
Wisconsin (2/19)
With the exception of maybe Rhode Island and Vermont, I just don't see any motivation for those states to move their presidential primaries back to June. Rhode Island couldn't make February 5 work prior to 2008 and used to have a late presidential primary (prior to 1984) and Vermont held beauty contests and caucuses until 1992. Those two may be motivated to move, but few others are going to give up their early status unless forced to do so. And if both parties institute a "nothing before March except Iowa and New Hampshire (and maybe Nevada and South Carolina)" policy ahead of 2012, some of these states may be forced to reconsider their positions in the presidential primary calendar. But with decisions on the rules for 2012 coming after the point at which a state legislative decision to come into compliance with this bill (should it become law), I just don't see it happening.

As always, though, it will be fun to track.

*Well, that isn't entirely true. That's the way it reads in the Times article, though. The truth of the matter is that New York's September 14, 2010 primary election is outside that 45 day barrier in the provision. However, the issue isn't necessarily the timing as much as it is holding the primary so that the general election ballots can be printed and mailed off to those in the Armed Services prior to the 45 day barrier. The New York primary is seven weeks before the November 2 election and four days likely wouldn't be enough time to get those tasks done.

Hat tip to Matt at DemConWatch for the link to the New York Times piece.

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