By Rob Booth, Senior Organizer
As we inch closer to the 2022 midterm elections, time is running short for states to put in place changes that make our elections safer and more accessible. Unfortunately, politicians in 40 states are using this opportunity to propose more than 570 bills that restrict voter access.
But while these anti-voter laws are getting a lot of deserved attention and pushback, there is a strong pro-democracy movement happening as well. In several other states across the country, lawmakers are hard at work passing legislation to expand ballot access and protect the nonpartisan election workers who are the backbone of election administration.
RepresentUs fought for some of these victories – let’s take a closer look at them!
Maine quietly works to save democracy
In 2018, Mainers made history by approving a ballot measure that made it the first in the nation to approve ranked choice voting (RCV) at the state level. As we’ve laid out before, RCV is a popular electoral reform that requires candidates to receive a majority of votes in order to win. By letting voters rank the candidates on the ballot, RCV ends the concept of “voting for the lesser of two evils” and helps break the stranglehold the two parties have on our political system.
Other popular features of RCV are that it:
- Ensures consensus candidates win
- Ends wasteful, multi-day runoff elections
- Promotes positive campaigning
- Improves opportunities for Independent and third-party candidates
Now, Maine has taken another positive step. Lawmakers have passed legislation that would allow the state’s 488 cities and towns to use RCV, in addition to statewide races. This is the latest in a string of victories for RCV in red and blue places across the country. Right now, over 9.3 million potential voters live in jurisdictions with RCV, and that number continues to grow. While a worrisome bipartisan effort opposing RCV has popped up in a few places, the pro-RCV movement is winning out because voters love it.
Furthermore, Maine also recently passed crucial legislation to protect election workers from harassment and intimidation. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows recently discussed this legislation and the despicable hostility shown to election workers that required action from the legislature. In one particularly disturbing story she shared, “One election worker who wishes to remain anonymous had a voter come in with a weapon threatening that person.”
Unfortunately, stories like these are becoming more frequent. According to a survey of 596 local election officials nationwide, one in six has experienced threats on the job, with 77 percent responding that they believe the threats have increased in recent years. Poll workers and election administrators volunteer to do this vital work for our democracy, but too often they face vitriol and harassment.
The movement to protect election workers
Maine is not the only state working to protect election workers. Since we last discussed these efforts in the states, Washington and Oregon, and California, Colorado, and Vermont are all considering similar bills.
As some bad actors continue to spread unfounded claims of voter fraud, laws like these are essential. Continued disinformation surrounding the 2020 election has put these workers in danger. These bills will help to counteract these attacks and will strengthen our democracy. As Secretary Bellows said, “Voting is fundamental to everything else that we care about…so what we should be doing is doing everything in our power to make voting accessible and ensuring the integrity of our elections.”