It's made for a great narrative: Tuesday night, female candidates prevailed in nearly all the tightest, most-watched Senate races around the country. A historic number of women will now serve in the upper chamber, once the boysiest of boys' clubs. If that wasn't enough to prompt some girl-power cheering, there was the news out of New Hampshire that, with the election of Maggie Hassan to the state's top executive spot, the governor, senators, and congressional representatives now all carry XX chromosomes.
Sean Barry showed up at the same polling place in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, where he cast his ballot for Barack Obama in 2008. But when he got there, the poll workers informed him that his name was nowhere to be found on the voter rolls. They also told him he wasn’t alone; other regular voters had arrived only to find their names missing. All of them had to submit provisional ballots. Allegations of an illegal voter purge were already swirling, and Barry felt uneasy. “I feel unsteady about my vote being counted,” he said. But in the end, with or without Barry’s vote, Obama won Pennsylvania easily.
The trouble with democracy is you gotta represent the crazies too. And nowhere does that better than state legislatures. In these so-called "laboratories of democracy," the range of experience and IQ are about about as wide as, well, those of the general population. This year, with just about everyone's eyes on the presidential race, state legislative coverage is particularly scanty. The "D" or "R" (or "G" or "L" or "I") beside a candidate's name goes a long way in determining whether they win, and can matter a lot more than some op-ed they might have written a few years back. Even so, you'd think there might be some limits (besides being a convicted felon, I mean) to what candidates can say or do and still get support.
Earlier this year, the outlook for voting rights was downright terrifying. Across the country, Republican legislatures had passed strict voter-ID laws, which reports showed could disenfranchise millions of voters. The political motives were clear: The people most likely to be without ID are poor and of color—groups that tend to vote for Democrats. By the summer, there was another threat to voter participation: purges of voter rolls.
It's no secret that the presidential race could come down to Ohio. The Buckeye State has loomed large for months, and word is, both Romney and Obama will be in Columbus on Election Night. According to Nate Silver, there’s a nearly 50-percent chance that the state will determine the election outcome. All eyes seem to be there—when WaPo’s The Fix shifted it from “leans Democratic” to “toss up” yesterday on the electoral map, half the internet seemed to respond with either cheers or jeers.
This is the eighth in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year.
It’s been a bad year for California unions. Republicans have never been fans of the labor movement, and now state Democratic support is waning. In September, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a pension reform plan that will force union members to work longer for fewer benefits, and vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, an AFL-CIO-backed bill that would have given labor rights to domestic workers. And earlier this month, Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed child care workers to unionize. In cities like San Jose and Los Angeles—both Democrat-leaning cities with Democratic mayors—unions are fighting more losing battles against pension reform.
In this election, state unions were forced to open a new front—at the ballot box. California ballot Proposition 32 puts labor in even deeper trouble, and could leave the movement effectively silenced. And even if labor kills the measure, it will still come with huge costs to other campaigns in the state.
Quick—who's your state legislator? If you're like most people, you have no idea. (If you do know, well la-dee-da!)
State legislative races don't usually get much attention, and in a big presidential year, they're lucky to get any. But who runs the legislature is crucial in setting policy. Two years ago, when Tea Party fervor swept across the nation, Republicans knocked Democrats out of power in 21 state House and Senate chambers. Twenty states had Republicans in charge of the Senate, House, and governor's mansion concurrently. The impact was swift. These new majorities slashed social programs and weakened reproductive rights. They passed new voter-ID laws and anti-union measures.
This is the seventh in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, Republicans have been desperate for ways to gut it. They hoped the Supreme Court might do the dirty work, but the Court ruled this summer that the law was constitutional. They hoped to pass new legislation, but as long as Democrats have the White House and the Senate, that's a non-starter. So instead, for the time being, they are turning to purely symbolic acts of defiance.
Between checking The Weather Channel and dashing out to buy new batteries for flashlights, most folks along the Eastern Seaboard are already hunkered down in preparation for the Storm, a.k.a. Frankenstorm, a.k.a. Hurricane Sandy. Making their way to the polls is probably not at the top of anyone's list.
But thousands of elections officials and campaign workers—not to mention the Romney and Obama campaigns—have had their well-laid plans turned upside down, at least for the next couple of days. Four battleground states will feel some of the storm's brunt—Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.
Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours.
(AP Photo/The The Hutchinson News, Travis Morisse, File)
The fifth in a Prospect series on the 174 ballot measures up for a vote this November.
Across the country, most voter-ID wars have unfolded in legislative chambers and courtrooms. But in Minnesota, a whole new battleground has opened as voters decide whether to put a photo ID-requirement into the state constitution.
The constitutional amendment passed through the Republican-controlled legislature, but was foiled by a veto from Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. Now, it's up to voters to decide whether they want to put new burdens on themselves and fellow voters.
The fourth in a Prospect series on the 174 initiatives and referendums up for a vote this November.
In March, the Georgia Department of Education released an in-depth report showing that students in the state's charter schools perform worse than those in traditional schools. You might have thought such a conclusion would prompt lawmakers to at least pause on a constitutional amendment creating a new state agency specifically to create new charters. Instead, a week later, the Georgia Senate passed it with the required two-thirds majority. Voters will determine the amendment's fate this November, deciding whether charter schools should be drastically expanded at the expense of the traditional districts.
In the halls of state legislatures, few folks laugh at the exploits of Cheech and Chong or Harold and Kumar. There is a bipartisan consensus that marijuana laws are political kryptonite, as if touching the topic of drug legalization, even medicinally, might prompt immediate backlash. The lack of mainstream support is surprising, given that sizeable groups in both parties have long clamored for an end to the “War on Drugs.” Some drug war critics point to the costs, both societal and budgetary, associated with imprisoning millions of people for a crime that doesn’t seem to hurt anyone.