• BAD DECISION ON PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP WILL HURT VOTERS

    “U.S. District Judge ruling does not follow Supreme Court roadmap in ITCA,” says League

    Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. District Court for Kansas issued a ruling in Kobach v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) that approves the documentary proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration by the states of Arizona and Kansas, saying it is not preempted by the federal National Voter Registration Act. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) that such a requirement is preempted by the federal law, but left room for further consideration of additional issues. The Leagues of Women Voters of the United States, Arizona and Kansas submitted a merits brief to the court as defendant-interveners in this case.

    “This decision is profoundly disappointing,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “The judge didn't follow the roadmap laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Arizona v. ITCA decision, which allowed for consideration of new factual and constitutional issues. Instead, the court chose to reopen the issue of federal preemption by questioning the actions of the EAC in rejecting the Arizona and Kansas requests to modify the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

    “The decision is so broad that it would allow a state to implement almost any restriction on voter registration,” said MacNamara.

    “It is a harsh decision that will hurt voters for no real reason,” MacNamara said. “The court made an incorrect legal decision, and we are confident it will be overturned.”

    League leaders in Arizona and Kansas also reacted with disapproval at the court’s decision. Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, vowed to “continue working to protect the rights of all Arizona voters.”

    Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said “we have experienced first-hand the harmful effects that documentary proof of citizenship requirements have had on new voter applicants and voter service organizations, like ours, in Kansas.”

    Earlier this year, the League of Women Voters of the United States joined with the League of Women Voters of Arizona and the League of Women Voters of Kansas to file comments with the EAC regarding the requests made by the Secretaries of State of Arizona and Kansas. Previously the League filed a motion and was allowed to intervene in the Kobach case.

    The League is represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, as well as pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP and David G. Seely of the law firm Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch, LLC.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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  • LEAGUE CALLS ON IRS TO STOP “DARK MONEY”

    Protection for Truly Nonpartisan Voter Service Essential

    Washington, DC – Today, the League of Women Voters of the United States submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for 501(c)(4) organizations. League President Elisabeth MacNamara urged the IRS to “keep pushing to stop the secret ‘dark money’ that has been polluting our elections since Citizens United, while at the same time protecting truly nonpartisan work to provide the public with unbiased voter information.”

    “The League is commenting on the proposed new IRS rule for two critical reasons,” said MacNamara. “The health of our democracy demands that we rein in the secret ‘dark money’ election spending unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. The IRS proposal is a step in the right direction,” she said. “At the same time, any new regulations must continue to allow truly nonpartisan voter service activities by groups like the League,” according to MacNamara.

    “Since Citizens United, our nation has seen a huge explosion in the sums of money being raised and spent by 501(c)(4) organizations – social welfare organizations – to elect or defeat candidates for public office,” said MacNamara. “This practice is not only contrary to the law regulating how much political activity is allowed by these organizations, but it is done in the dark. The money is not disclosed to the public, which leaves voters unable to judge the credibility and motivation of the advertising and campaigning by these groups.”

    “Reforming IRS regulations is our best opportunity to stem the tide of secret cash,” MacNamara said. “The IRS can halt the abuse in its tracks by stopping 501(c)(4) organizations from spending on ‘candidate-related political activity.’ The League urges the IRS to move as soon as possible with a rigorous and clear definition of ‘candidate-related political activity’ which would be barred for (c)(4) organizations,” she said.

    “However, the new IRS proposal is too broad, because it would undermine truly nonpartisan voter service activities like those carried out by the League,” MacNamara said. “We urge the IRS to use the standards currently applied to (c)(3) organizations governing nonpartisan election activities and apply them to (c)(4) organizations as well,” she said.

    “With nearly 800 local and 50 state Leagues, we conduct truly nonpartisan debates, publish unbiased voter guides, register voters of all political persuasions, and work actively in communities across the nation to encourage all citizens to vote,” MacNamara said. “In fact, in many communities, the Leagues’ voter information is the only truly nonpartisan information available to the public. Unbiased and nonpartisan voter service activities deliver tremendous value to voters, potential voters and our democracy. Thus we believe that truly nonpartisan voter service and voter education activities by a 501(c)(4) organization must be clearly and explicitly allowed,” she said.

    “The League commends the IRS for addressing the dark money issue. They must fix that problem while protecting truly nonpartisan voter service and voter education activities. Though the IRS has been attacked from both sides of the political spectrum, we urge the IRS to do what is right,” MacNamara concluded.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

  •  COMMISSION RECOMMENDS ELECTION CHANGES AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING

    "Lots of work to do,” Says League

    Washington, D.C. – This morning, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) will present their report to a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing entitled, “Bipartisan Support for Improving U.S. Elections: An Overview from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.” In September 2013, the League submitted testimony to PCEA that urged the Commission to consider a five-point reform agenda as part of its recommendations.

    “This is a solid and comprehensive report with many recommendations for action that will improve how elections are run in America,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “League members around the country can use key parts of the PCEA report in their ongoing efforts to improve the voting process and protect voters.”

    “The Commission’s benchmark that no voter waits longer than 30 minutes to vote sets an important goal for every polling place in the country,” MacNamara added. “The PCEA toolkit on polling place management should help elections officials allocate and distribute resources within communities to fix the very long wait times many voters faced in 2012.”

    “The Commission’s call for online voter registration is also a positive step, but the accessibility of these systems continues to be a major concern,” noted MacNamara. “A shortcoming of PCEA’s report is the failure to recognize that most of the systems adopted in the states leave out a significant and important part of the population – citizens who don’t have a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID. This limitation is unnecessary and will substantially reduce the effectiveness of online registration. For example, young people are much less likely than the general population to have a driver’s license – and young people are also much less likely to be registered to vote. We are concerned about the discriminatory effect,” added MacNamara.

    “The Commission’s recommendation urging Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to transmit voter information electronically to elections officials is a good one but the League believes this should be extended to all social service agencies that register voters as well,” MacNamara said. “Such expansion would enable officials to eliminate costly and time consuming steps in election administration, reduce errors, and increase the ease and convenience of the elections process for both their workers and for voters.”

    “Additionally, the report’s discussion of the need to professionalize the election workforce is long overdue,” said MacNamara. “Both this recommendation and PCEA’s call to take politics out of the administration of America’s elections should be given serious consideration and attention.”

    “There’s lots of work to do to fix our election systems, and the Commission report is an important boost to those efforts,” concluded MacNamara.

    CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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  • COURT HEARS APPEAL ON ARIZONA, KANSAS PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR VOTER REGISTRATION

    “EAC ruling was well-reasoned and correct – protects voters,” says League

    Washington, DC – Today, there was a hearing in the U.S. District Court for Kansas to determine if the actions of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), denying requests from Arizona and Kansas to modify the National Mail Voter Registration Form by requiring voters to present documentary proof of citizenship, were legally correct. The Leagues of Women Voters of the U.S., Arizona and Kansas submitted a merit brief to the court as defendant-interveners in this case.

    “The EAC was correct in rejecting requests from Arizona and Kansas to modify the Federal voter registration form by requiring applicants produce documentary proof of citizenship,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S.

    “The EAC based its well-reasoned, 46-page decision on the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the rules and regulations implementing the Federal Form, and established precedent, including the earlier denial of Arizona’s identical request nearly a decade ago,” she said.

    “The sole issue on appeal before this court is whether the EAC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying those requests. And the answer is plainly, No,” said MacNamara.

    “We have experienced first-hand the harmful effects that documentary proof of citizenship requirements have had on voters and voter service organizations like ours in Kansas,” said Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVKS). The EAC decision is the right one and one that protects Kansas voters.”

    “We stand firm behind the EAC's decision because the claims by our Secretary of State regarding registration and voting by ineligible persons in Arizona do not stand up to scrutiny and do not support the changes they are trying to make to the form,” said Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona (LWVAZ).

    “This is the correct decision by the EAC, plain and simple. This ruling is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and reinforces critical protections for voters and voting rights,” concluded MacNamara.

    Earlier this year, the League of Women Voters of the United States joined with the League of Women Voters of Arizona and the League of Women Voters of Kansas to file comments with the EAC regarding these requests made by the Secretaries of State of Arizona and Kansas. Previously the League filed a motion and was allowed to intervene in Kobach, et al v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The League is represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, as well as pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP and David G. Seely of the law firm Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch, LLC.

    “Kansas and Arizona are trying to undermine basic federal protections of the right to vote that have helped Americans register for more than 20 years,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We urge the federal court to ensure all eligible voters can make their voices heard at the ballot box.”

    Last year, the Supreme Court held in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., that Arizona’s requirement that voter registrants provide documentary proof-of-citizenship was preempted by the NVRA with respect to applicants using the Federal Form. Kansas and Arizona seek to overturn that court decision.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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  • KEYSTONE XL REPORT DEEPLY DISAPPOINTING, MISGUIDED

    Statement from Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters

    Washington, DC – “We are deeply disappointed by the Environmental Impact Statement report released today by the U.S. State Department on the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline project. We strongly believe that if this project is approved it will have a negative impact on the delicate ecosystem of America’s breadbasket, contribute harmful greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change, and increase America’s dependence on foreign oil.

    “By assuming that Canada will exploit its dirty tar sands no matter what, the report reaches the misguided conclusion that the pipeline will not have a terrible effect on the climate. 

    “We need international action on climate change, not irresponsible action by Canada, spurred on by the U.S.

    “The League urges Secretary Kerry and President Obama to put the health and safety of Americans, and of the world, ahead of blind reliance on fossil fuels and support for development of Canada’s tar sands. 

    “Granting a permit for the pipeline would be inconsistent with meaningful action on climate change, one of the most serious threats to the environment of our nation and our world. The life-cycle of greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline produced by Canadian tar sands are significantly greater than those of gasoline produced by conventional sources.

    “We also hope that the State Department and President Obama will consider the safety of our drinking water and groundwater resources. These resources could affect thousands of Americans in the heartland and threaten the safety of our food supply.

    “We urge President Obama to protect people, not polluters, as he makes the final decision on this dangerous pipeline project.”

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

  • Presidential Commission on Election Administration Issues Solid Recommendations

    Professionalization of Election Workforce, Benchmark for Voter Wait Times Good for American Elections

    Washington, D.C.  – Today, the Presidenial Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) released their report to President Obama outlining how to improve the administration of America’s elections. The League submitted testimony to PCEA in September 2013 that urged the Commission to consider a five-point reform agenda as part of its recommendations.

    “Our initial reaction is that there are many good recommendations in the PCEA report and others that we will need to look at more closely to examine the real impact on American voters,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “For example, the recommendation for all states to provide for in-person early voting is an important and very positive step,” she said. 

    “We are pleased to see that the bipartisan Commission was able to roll up their sleeves and get to work on some of the endemic troubles plaguing our nation’s polling places,” added MacNamara. “PCEA’s prescription for what to do about lack of resources, inadequate compliance with federal laws, the need for professionalization of the election workforce, and creating a benchmark of no one waiting to vote longer than 30 minutes, are badly needed fixes for election administrators and voters.”

    “The Commission’s report was right to recommend that our nation’s elections professionals should regularly partner with experts in the field of emerging technology,” said MacNamara. “A great example of this is the Commission’s recommendation endorsing Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) transmissions of voter information to elections officials. The League believes electronic transmission should be extended to social service agencies that register voters as well,” MacNamara said. “By adopting such electronic practices, officials can eliminate costly and time consuming steps in election administration, reduce errors and increase the ease and convenience of the elections process for both their workers and for voters.”

    “While the League is enthusiastic about online voter registration, the accessibility of these systems continues to be a major concern” noted MacNamara. “The League’s testimony urged the Commission to recommend online voter registration systems designed for all eligible citizens,” said MacNamara. “But a weakness of the report is the endorsement of online registration systems that many eligible voters can't use,” MacNamara said. “Of the systems in the Commission’s report, voters must have a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID in order to register to vote online. This limitation is unnecessary, will substantially reduce the effectiveness of online registration and also raises concerns about the discriminatory effect,”added MacNamara.

    “We look forward to working with Commission to implement the best of these recommendations and improve how elections are run across this nation,” concluded MacNamara.

     

    CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

     

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  •  ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION (EAC) REJECTS KANSAS, ARIZONA REQUEST TO CHANGE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FORM

    League Applauds EAC Decision: “This Ruling Protects Voters and Voting Rights”

     Washington, DC – The League of Women Voters of the U.S., Arizona and Kansas applauded yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to reject requests from the states of Arizona and Kansas to modify the national mail-in voter registration form to require voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship with that form.

    “This is the correct decision by the EAC, plain and simple,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “This ruling is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and one that reinforces critical protections for voters and voting rights.”

    “The Arizona and Kansas requests are at odds with the very purpose and goals of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA),” added MacNamara. “The NVRA was enacted in order to provide for a simple voter registration form, promote national uniformity in the voter registration process, increase voter registration and participation, and facilitate large-scale voter registration drives by groups like the League.”

    Earlier this month, the League of Women Voters of the United States joined with the League of Women Voters of Arizona and the League of Women Voters of Kansas to file comments with the EAC regarding these requests made by the Secretaries of State of Arizona and Kansas. Previously the League filed a motion and was allowed to intervene in Kobach, et al v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The League is represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, as well as pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP and David G. Seely of the law firm Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch, LLC.

    Last year, the Supreme Court held in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., that Arizona’s requirement that voter registrants provide documentary proof-of-citizenship was preempted by the NVRA with respect to applicants using the Federal Form. Kansas and Arizona seek to overturn that court decision.

    “We are very pleased with the EAC's decision because the assertions by our Secretary of State regarding registration and voting by ineligible persons in Arizona do not stand up to scrutiny and do not support the changes they are trying to make to the form,” said Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, President of the League of Women Voters of Arizona (LWVAZ).

    “The Kansas League is delighted with this ruling,” said Dolores Furtado, President of the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVKS). “We have experienced first-hand the harmful effects that documentary proof of citizenship requirements have had on voters and voter service organizations like ours in Kansas. This decision protects Kansas voters.”

    “The League has worked tirelessly to remove barriers from voting and advocate on behalf of the voting rights of all Americans,” MacNamara concluded. “This decision is another important win for voters and voting rights.”

    CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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  •  Introduction of Voting Rights Amendment Act in House Meaningful Step

    League: “Balanced Bill Embodies Common Sense Approach to Protecting Voting Rights”

    Washington, D.C.  – Today, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA) was introduced by Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and John Lewis (D-GA) in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation was carefully crafted to protect the rights of all voters from discrimination and repair the damage to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 inflicted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder.

    “The League is pleased that Congress has taken action and introduced strong legislation on behalf of all voters’ rights,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters. “We are encouraged that lawmakers have come together – across the aisle – to forge workable and common sense solutions to protect voting rights against discrimination.”

    “The Sensenbrenner bill is a balanced and reasonable approach to tackling the very real problem of discrimination that continues to plague our nation in so many forms, including at the ballot box,” MacNamara said. “Already, in the few months since the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, dozens of cities and towns made changes to their election laws and voting processes, many of which may very well keep eligible voters from being able to vote.”

    “Each and every eligible American voter deserves to be treated fairly at the ballot box,” said MacNamara. “When you make the work of governing about fairness and not about politics and winning elections, all voters win. That is what has happened with the VRRA: elected leaders coming together to ensure that everyone has an equal right and equal access to vote,” MacNamara stated.

    “The Supreme Court’s Shelby decision was a profound disappointment,” concluded MacNamara, “but at the time we also believed it would be a great call to action by those who believe in free and fair access by every eligible voter. Today, Congress has begun to act with this important first step and voters must also act and vote at every opportunity.”

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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  • LEAGUE COMMENDS ADMINISTRATION’S LATEST STEP AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

    Washington, DC - Today the Obama Administration published a new proposal limiting the amount of carbon pollution for new power plants in the Federal Register. This is an important step in the fight against climate change.

    “We are quite pleased that today the President has kept his commitment to confront the greatest challenge of our lifetime: climate change,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. 

    “Power plants are the largest emitter of life-threatening carbon pollution in our country. Reducing the amount of carbon pollution, which is the leading cause of climate change, is a life-saving measure that will protect our children, our nation and the world from the devastating effects of climate change,” MacNamara said.

    “The League has been proud to be a part of the push to garner support and collect comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of regulations to cut carbon pollution from power plants,” added MacNamara. “Thousands of League members from around the country have already vocally expressed their support for this life saving proposal. These same League members will continue to lead the way by expressing their support for the finalization of this historic regulation that will reduce the deadly effects that carbon pollution has on the health of our children and our environment,” MacNamara stated.

    “Carbon pollution comes at a high cost to all of us, contributing to more frequent and deadly weather that results in billions of dollars of recovery for communities and the federal government each year,” said MacNamara. “Today’s announcement is another important step in the fight to beat back climate change.”

    “The League is proud to continue to stand in support of the President’s plan to cut carbon pollution from new power plants and fulfill his commitment to people, not polluters,” concluded MacNamara. “We look forward to continuing to work with him to implement this proposal, as well as a future proposal on existing coal fired power plants. Together, these regulations will create life-saving measures to protect our children, our nation and our world from the damaging effects of climate change.”

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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  • NEW IRS PROPOSAL FOR TAX EXEMPT GROUPS

    “IMPORTANT FIRST STEP AGAINST ABUSE” SAYS LEAGUE

    Washington, DC – The League of Women Voters of the U.S. today spoke out in support of the new notice of proposed rulemaking for non-profit, 501(c)(4) organizations announced last week by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    “We could not be more thrilled that the IRS is taking this first important step in curbing the abuse of non-profit, 501(c)(4) organizations for partisan political activity,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League.

    “Since the Citizens United case, we have seen (c)(4) non-profits used to funnel millions of dollars of secret money into candidate elections, and this threatens the integrity of our elections and government decision-making,” she said.

    “New IRS regulations covering non-profit organizations are one of the most important reforms that can be taken under current law to overcome the effects of Citizens United,” MacNamara continued.

    Some have suggested that the new proposal goes too far by including voter registration and voter guides under the definition of candidate-related political activity which would be controlled under the proposal governing 501(c)(4) organizations. “This IRS action is about dark, secret money in America’s elections plain and simple,” MacNamara said. “Unlike some opponents of such reforms, the League thinks the concern about truly nonpartisan activity is overblown,” she continued.

    “It is important to remember this is just a proposal – a good one, but still just a proposal, and an incomplete one as well,” MacNamara said. The League will be reviewing it closely and submitting comments to ensure that true nonpartisan election information activities for the appropriate 501(c) organizations are protected.

    The IRS notice of proposed rulemaking is a request for comments on key issues as the IRS considers a new set of rules governing 501(c)(4) organizations and is not a complete new set of proposed rules. In addition to asking for comments on its proposed new definition of “candidate-related political activity,” the IRS is seeking comment on whether similar rules should be extended to business and labor associations under sections 501(c)(6) and (5), how much “candidate-related political activity” should be allowed for a (c)(4) organization, and how best to deal with truly nonpartisan and unbiased voter information activities by such organizations.

    “We are very pleased that the Administration has finally stepped up to the plate on this,” MacNamara said. “The critical question is whether the IRS will continue and will ultimately adopt strong reform regulations. There will be an outcry, but the IRS must persevere and stop the abuses we are seeing with secret campaign money,” MacNamara concluded.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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