Weekly dose of state legislation 8/11/11

There's some interesting state legislation floating around this week that pertains to elections, voting, and political parties. Make sure you know what's going on!

Massachusetts – Voting Rights

A ballot initiative is underway in Massachusetts that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls in order to vote. If enough signatures are gathered, the issue will be placed on the state’s 2012 ballot. Numerous states have been toying with and passing similar voter ID requirement laws in the past several months. Proponents of the laws say they reduce voter fraud. But in reality, the laws really just put one more hurdle between American citizens and the polls.

California – Election Reform

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that has the potential to someday turn the U.S. presidential election into a popular vote. By passing the bill, California has joined a pact, promising that, if enough other states join, all electoral votes will go toward the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. Since California is always assumed to be a blue state, presidential candidates don’t really pay attention to it. Gov. Brown says, "California should not be taken for granted in presidential elections. And it seems logical that the occupant of the White House should be the candidate who wins the most votes." Way to go Jerry!

Ohio – Party Politics

Ohio Secretary of State John Husted is interpreting Ohio HB 194 to mean that all minor political parties are now banned from the ballot. Parties like the Libertarians, Greens, and Socialists will have to start over the process of gaining recognition in order to be on the ballot this November. The parties will be officially stripped of their party status on September 30. Another ridiculous example of conservatives trying to dismantle American democracy.

Colorado – Criminal Justice

This week, a new restorative justice law goes into effect in Colorado. The law expands existing restorative justice programs in the juvenile detention system, and introduces the program into the adult justice system. The idea behind restorative justice is to bring victims and offenders together to discuss crimes and “repair the harm done.” State representative, the primary sponsor of the bill, puts it this way: “When victims and offenders meet face to face, offenders learn about the impact of their crime from the victims, they begin to feel empathy… and empathy is the beginning of transformation.”

Indiana – Education Reform

An Indiana law that creates a “comprehensive” school voucher program is under review by a local court. Gov. Daniels is confident that the court will approve the bill, but local teachers’ unions argue that the law takes money away from public schools, and it allots money to subsidize students’ education at religious private schools. Here’s what I think; the idea of giving parents options for their child’s education is a nice concept. But don’t give up hope on reforming public schools; we need to make them good options, too. That’s where the majority of time, money, and legislation should be going.