These states are expanding (and restricting) ballot access. Here’s what they have in common | Tuesday Morning Coffee

August 6, 2019 7:09 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s no secret that the 2020 election, just like 2016, is going to come down to a handful of key states (Cough, Pennsylvania, Cough). And as such, the battle over ballot access has become as critical as the fight for convention delegates and campaign dollars.

And how that battle is shaking out has a lot to do with partisan control of state capitol buildings. In fact, as our friends at recently reported“Republican-led legislatures restricted voting access in ways that experts say would disproportionately affect Democratic voters. In more states, however, Democratic-led legislatures opened access in ways that could help that same voting bloc and undermine Republicans.”

“There is a continuing push to restrict ballot access. At the same time, there was real momentum and energy to pass sweeping new reforms expanding ballot access,” Max Feldman, of the Brennan Center for Justice, at New York Universitywhich tracked voter access laws this year, recently told Stateline.

Graphic via

Pennsylvania, you’ll notice in the map above, is in gray. That’s because nothing happened in the state this year.

And one of the big reasons nothing happened is because Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that tied funding for those new voting machines to the end of straight-ticket voting in Pennsylvania. The bill also contained language that would have made it easier for people to cast absentee ballots.

Wolf has since said he plans to borrow $90 million against economic development dollars to help counties defray the cost of new voting machines. But electoral reforms remain up in the air, which means the Republican-controlled Legislature will have to take another run at the issue this fall. And that’s even closer to 2020, so who knows what mischief could transpire there?

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has remained adamant in his insistence that he won’t allow House-approved legislation expanding voter access to the floor for a vote, Stateline reported.

So that’s pretty much left it up to the states to handle the issue on their own, as Stateline reported:

“Republican lawmakers in states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas argue that their new laws — including curtailing early voting, cutting back ballot access among formerly incarcerated residents and purging voter registration databases — maintain election security and integrity.

“However, voting rights activists and Democratic lawmakers say those new laws will restrict the rights of an increasingly diverse electorate. It’s no coincidence, they say, that these cuts come as Democrats made substantial gains in Congress and statehouses following the 2018 midterms.

“Meanwhile, in states where Democrats won big last year, lawmakers prioritized expanding ballot access. Legislators in 10 states passed measures that broadened early voting, implemented automatic voter registration and restored voting rights for those formerly in jail or prison.”

If there’s an upside, it’s this: More states have expanded voter access than have restricted it, Stateline reported. But that just reinforces the importance of keeping your eye on the ball.

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Our Stuff.

Our Stuff.
Embattled state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has a bushel basket’s worth of primary challengersElizabeth Hardison runs down the details.

We have a full package of coverage of state and national reaction to this weekend’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton: House Democrats are calling for a special session on gun violence (via Stephen Caruso). Gov. Tom Wolf wants the U.S. Senate to come back to pass expanded background checks. And so does U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., but he doesn’t think the Senate needs to come back early to do it. And we have the full gamut of reaction from Pa’s Congressional delegation to President Donald Trump’s national TV address and to the shootings broadly.

On our Commentary PageShira Goodman of CeaseFirePa explains why Trump missed an opportunity with his televised address. And a Bucknell University scholar explains why so many working-class Pennsylvanians are fed up with politics.

The Philadelphia Skyline from the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Philly Art Museum. Photo by Steve Lange, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

The Inquirer 
looks at how mass shootings in Pa. and N.J. compare to other states.
Gov. Tom Wolf called charter schools ‘private’ schools – charter schools, which are privately managed institutions that receive public money, went predictably bonkers over it. PennLive has the story.
An Ohio lawmaker’s comments on the reasons for mass shootings have led to calls for her resignation, the Post-Gazette reports.
Bethlehem and New York City police, joined by the FBI, are investigating social media posts that mention the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the Morning Call reports.

Amid rumors of a ‘ban,’ Philadelphia city officials are telling people to support refugees, WHYY-FM reports.
Pa’s school tip line is more often used to report bullying and suicidal impulsesthan for violent threats, Keystone Crossroads reports.
The Cook Political Report just moved the PA-10 race from ‘lean Republican’ to ‘toss up,’ PoliticsPA reports.
New gun control laws face the same, predictable ‘headwinds’ on Capitol Hill, Roll Call reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf hops on the phone at 8:07 a.m. with KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh. At 10:30 a.m., he’ll take a walking tour of scenic downtown Hanover, Pa.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition). 
State Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, holds a golf outing at Pleasant Valley Golf Club in lovely Connellsville, Pa. Admission runs from a mere $65, all the way up to a truly preposterous $5,000.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’The Blog, Robyn Katzman Bowman, at the Pa. Dept, of Environmental Protection, Congrats and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a song that just sounds like summer. From The Hold Steady, it’s ‘Constructive Summer.’<br

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
lost to the Yankees 9-6 on Monday night. Blegh.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.