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Voters Pass Up Voting Changes

Three states rejected ballot measures that either would have made voting easier or harder.

Attempts to make voting easier and harder through state ballot measures all failed Nov. 4.

In Connecticut, voters were on track -- with 87 percent of precincts reporting -- to keep constitutional restrictions that currently prevent early and absentee voting without a reason, such as being out of town on Election Day. In Missouri, voters rejected a constitutional amendment creating a six-day early voting period by mail or in person.

A Montana measure would have had the opposite intended effect: stopping last-minute voter registration by pushing back the deadline to register from Election Day to 5 p.m. the previous Friday. A similar ballot measure failed in Maine in 2011, when the state legislature tried to repeal Election-Day registration and voters rejected the change by a 21-point margin. Montana voters decided to keep same-day voter registration.

The following chart shows the results for the three failed measures.

  Yes No
Connecticut 47 53
Missouri 30 70
Montana 43 57
In Illinois, voters approved a constitutional amendment asserting that “no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election.” The immediate effect of the amendment isn’t clear, though supporters say it should block any future attempt by state lawmakers to pass a voter ID law.

Most states have made voting harder in the past decade by enacting voter ID laws, ostensibly to guard against voter impersonation, a problem that the public believes to be more widespread than the evidence suggests. But partially because many of these voter ID laws have already passed, the majority of the legislative activity in 2014 actually focused on making voting more convenient.

One other ballot measure passed that will affect citizens’ ability to influence government through elections, but not because of new voting policies. Instead, an Arkansas measure asked voters to approve a more stringent standard for placing citizen-led petitions on the ballot. It required that 75 percent of signatures submitted to place an initiative on the ballot be valid on the first try, or else the effort would fail. Currently, the state allows campaigns 30 days to collect more valid signatures if the initial submission has too many invalid signatures. The measure passed 53-47.

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.
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