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2018 is shaping up to be the year for scrutinizing the ways Americans vote. All around the country states are passing new laws, launching investigations, conducting petition drives, and deciding court cases which will affect the way Americans vote in future elections. Here are some of the highlights.
Earlier this Month Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting. Instead of voting for a single candidate, voters ranked their choices from the most desirable candidate to the least desirable candidate on their ballots. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the votes are re-tabulated. This process continues on through additional rounds of counting until someone finally wins with a majority vote. The process sometimes takes weeks to resolve who the winner is. Several cities have been using ranked-choice voting, including Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Santa Fe, and several states are now considering switching to ranked-choice voting, mostly because it makes it harder for third party candidates to play a spoiler role by splitting the vote with another candidate.
Ranked-choice voting also effects the way candidates run for office. For instance, Maine’s Democratic primary race for governor featured seven candidates. So, Betsy Sweet formed an alliance with Mark Eves when making their campaign videos. Sweet’s video asked voters to rank her first and Eves second. Similarly, Eves’s video asked voters to rank him first and Sweet second. So much for mudslinging!
Californians have successfully completed a petition drive to put a measure on their November ballot which would split California into three separate states, namely California, Northern California, and Southern California. If the measure passes, the United States Senate would have to add four extra seats to the upper chamber of Congress, and we would all have to add two more stars to the American flag. Moreover, the new states of California and Southern California would have to write their own state constitutions, form new state governments, and build new capitol buildings or legislative houses.
The United States Supreme Court recently decided that the state of Ohio could clean-up its voter rolls. A lawsuit was filed against Ohio’s Secretary of State because some did not like the way he was cleaning up the voter rolls. Upon missing a general election, voters in the state would get a notice in the mail asking them to confirm their eligibility to vote. If they failed to respond and did not vote in the next two general elections, they would be removed from the rolls. The lawsuit went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where it was decided on a 5-4 vote. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito affirmed the High Court’s ruling, saying that Ohio was in compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
Finally, Pennsylvania is auditing its voter registration system out of fear that the Russians may have tampered with their voter registration rolls in their SURE system. State auditors are also evaluating the state’s voting machines to see if they meet federal and state standards. They will mostly be looking to see if Russian hackers altered their voter registration rolls. Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale, who is leading the investigation has stated publicly that: “To the best of our knowledge, they [i.e. the Russians] were not successful.”
Voting is essential to maintaining our republic as well as our state. I believe every American citizen has at the very least a minimum obligation to be well-informed and to vote. May we always cherish our God-given right for self-governance, may we perfect the voting process, and may we ensure the integrity and security of our voter registration rolls for all future generations of Americans.