Blogs: Elections

Signing the Equal Suffrage Amendment in 1912Each election, Oregon’s “initiative” system of government produces a number of hot-button issues requiring the decision of our ever-patient voters. (My theory about vote-by-mail is that we didn’t want to spend all the time required to vote on our myriad measures hunched over our ballots in those rickety cardboard “booths” when we could do it in the comfort of our own homes.) Others have addressed driving "cards" for undocumented residents, labeling of genetically modified foods, legalization of marijuana.  I want to talk about a less glamorous amendment to the Oregon Constitution proposed under Ballot Measure 89:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.

Most of the muted discussion on this issue has been about whether or not it is necessary.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU) says not. “[T]he Oregon Constitution already has the strongest possible protection against sex discrimination and the Oregon Supreme Court has enforced that protection.”  The ACLU identifies Article 1, section 20 as this protection: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Supporters of the measure caution that Supreme Courts can change; best to be on the safe side. They also point to the symbolic value of those words in the state’s Constitution, and express the hope that this vote will somehow compel our federal legislators to vote to begin the process to amend the U.S. Constitution. (According to equalrightsamendment.org, such bills have been introduced to every Congress since 1982 [when the ERA failed to meet its deadline for ratification by 2/3 of the states].)

Vote however you please this year, but for goodness sake, vote!  And take a look at these books and websites about the fight for equal rights for women in the past 100 years.

I love the fall. The weather stops being ridiculously hot, the rain comes back, and the school year is still full of potential (granted, I like school better now that I’m not the one in class). There’s also the possibility of something new worth watching on TV and then of course all those fantastic campaign ads:

  Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy LewinBad Kitty by Nick Bruel

 

Ok, even I don’t believe that last one. But hooray for democracy!

So where do you go when you want to know more about that candidate or that ballot measure? I suppose you could just trust the ads, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, take a look at Ballotpedia and Govtrack.us.

Ballotpedia is one of those websites that you think you’ve found everything- and then you find more. Their goal is to provide “accurate and objective information about politics at the local, state, and federal level.”  They have information on everything from presidential elections to school board elections and from major national issues to a profile of Louisville City Councilor Madonna Flood.  

Red and blue U.S. Mail letter drop box.

If you need to know about the Federal government, Govtrack has it covered!  Want to meet the Congressman from Arkansas? They can do that. The site is excellent for seeing what elected officials have done in their time in office; i.e. what bills they voted for and which ones they wrote as well as who is on the Ethics Committee.

Both Govtrack and Ballotpedia are great at providing context. Say you want to know how well different senators work together- you can check their report cards. Or you can see what happens to a bill. I especially appreciate Ballotpedia for their detailed look at different ballot measures- I used it when I was trying to find out more about Oregon’s measure 92 and found more than I had even thought to wonder about.

Whether you are casting your vote, writing a school report or just curious (maybe all three!) I hope that these sites can help you see things in a new way. And of course, if you want to know more you can also ask a librarian!

*Bad Kitty is by Nick Bruel and Duck is by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Are you curious about the history of presidential elections in the United States? Do you need to know how the electoral college works, what qualifications a person needs to be eligible to run for president, or how the candidates are paying for their campaigns? Turn to these sites for answers!

Campaign Finance Institute

This think tank website offers nonpartisan discussion of many issues related to campaign finance in congressional and presidential election campaigns. You'll find reports on developments in federal campaign finance lawpolitical parties and interest groups and "soft money" and how they affect the funding of political campaigns, and information about current issues in the news.

CQ Roll Call Politics

Find political news, information on current campaigns, analysis, data about campaign funding. Use the state map find information about house, senate, and gubernatorial elections around the country.

Election '14

Are you curious about what Americans think about election issues? The Pew Research Center's survey people across the U.S. about their attitudes, habits, and opinions — read their reports on elections and the media, religion in politics, the internet's role in politics, and more!

FactCheck.org

Sometimes when campaign ads make a claim, or when a politician says something important in a speech, it is difficult to find out the background on the issue. This site brings together information that can help you check the factual claims that candidates, political campaigns, and elected officials make.

Fairvote.org

Find the latest news about election reform and the move to increase voter participation, and read reports on a wide array of election issues, from the Center for Voting and Democracy.

Politifact.com

PolitiFact vets statements made by the campaigns in ads, speeches and debates, and provides articles and facts supporting or refuting the statements. Use the truth-o-meter to view the latest statements reviewed.

In Oregon and many other states, laws can be made directly by the popular vote of citizens. There are two kinds of ballot measures: referendums which are referred from the state legislature to the voters; and initiatives, which are put on the ballot as a result of signature petitions signed by registered voters. These websites can help you learn about the history and future of ballot measures and other methods of direct democracy.

Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

This organization advocates for ballot initiative reform from a progressive perspective, and provides information about ballot measure campaigns nationwide. Find information about current measures on the ballot across the nation, read overviews of election results, find out which states allow voter initiatives (PDF, 10KB), and learn about the rules for how to get an initiative on the ballot in each state.

Ballot Measures Database

Find information about statewide ballot measures from across the U.S., back to Oregon's first referendum authorizing the initiative process in 1902. This database, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, is part of a larger site rich with information about initiatives, referendums, and campaign finance, as well as other information about state elections in the U.S.

Direct Democracy: Initiatives and Referendums

Find answers to your questions about how ballot measures work, and their history in Oregon.

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Are you curious about ballot measures across the US? Find reports about ballot measure results and trends, quick facts about initiatives and referendums, and information about how ballot measures work in the different states.

Do you need information for the current or upcoming elections? Are you looking for your elected officials, campaign headquarters, or county elections divisions? Are you interested in historical information from past elections? The following resources help you find information at the state, city and county levels in Oregon.

League of Women Voters of Oregon

The Oregon chapter of the League of Women Voters publishes non-partisan voters' guides for each election. The League never takes stands on candidates or parties, but they do take stands on issues supported by member agreement and in-depth research. The League also reports on many electoral and political issues of interest to Oregonians.

Multnomah County Elections Division

Oregon Elections Division

Find voter resources and check to see if you're already registered to vote. Track the status of initiatives, find detailed information about candidates and committees, learn about the history of Oregon elections and locate county election offices around the state.

Oregon Follow the Money

Find out who gave money to various political candidates and ballot measure campaigns in Oregon, and see how much money each donor contributed.

Oregonian: Voter Guide

Are you wondering how the candidates in a city, county, or statewide race compare? OregonLive asked candidates from around the state to provide information about themselves and their positions on the issues, and you can compare their answers here.

Portland Elections Division

Find current and historical city election results back to 1905, a list of elected officials from 1913 to the present, and mayors from 1851 to the present. Find out how to become a city candidate, how to file an initiative or referendum petition, or test your knowledge of Portland elections on the trivia page!

Washington Elections Division

Find information about elections, voting, caucuses, candidates and political parties in the state of Washington.

On July 19, 1984, about 65 years after women were granted the right to vote, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Vice President of the United States.  It was just my second opportunity to vote for president, and what I remember most about her speech was the faces of the women listening to her. This was historic, we (women) had arrived and we were not looking back! She lost, of course, in a landslide. It took another 24 years for it to happen again: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ran for Vice President, and – while she garnered over 20-million more votes than Ferraro – she lost too.  In 2008, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won more presidential primaries than any woman before her, but ended up on the losing side as well. Many political observers and pundits believe she will run for president again in 2016. Or maybe there’s someone else. Fourth time’s the charm?

Ferraro, Palin and Clinton are not the only women who have sought the office of president or vice president. Oregon’s own suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway, was nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1884, but she declined to run. In an earlier version of the Equal Rights Party, suffragist, journalist, and “free love” advocate Victoria Woodhull was the first woman ever to run for president in 1872. There was also the 1940 candidacy of the comedienne Gracie Allen, who ran for the Surprise Party. She earned about 42,000 votes; of the 32 women who ran for the office in the next 72 years, her vote total comes in sixth.

Let’s remember a few other women, whose candidacies we can take a little more seriously. There’s Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who ran in 1972; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the House and Senate, who ran in 1964; Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, who was Ralph Nader’s Green Party running mate in 1996 and 2000 (in the latter election, she earned nearly 3,000,000 votes); and Cindy Sheehan, who protested the Iraq War following the death of her son, and ran as Roseanne Barr’s vice president for the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012. Then there’s the most recent woman to seek the nomination from a major party, Representative Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

Dig deep into the lives of women who have sought the presidency in these books.

Imagine being granted the right to vote for the very first time, only to be turned away at the polls because you had no money to pay to vote! Until 1964 this was a common occurrence in many states. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 24th amendment. This amendment to the United States Constitution banned the use of "poll taxes" in federal elections, finally  clearing the way for broader voter participation.  These Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax back in 1950 in Richmond, VA.

Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax, Richmond, VA. Date: ca. 1950 Collection: L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.Back in 1917, the state of Louisiana charged a $1 poll tax  – that’s an equivalent of $20.09 by 2014 standards.

In addition to poll taxes, some states required literacy tests before voters were allowed to cast their votes. Such tests were often confusing and had nothing to do with the issues or candidates on the ballot. Here is a sample literacy test...

 

2014 also marks the 90th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act granting Native Americans all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

To learn more about the Voting Rights Act, and the history of voting rights in the United States, take a look at this timeline created by the ACLU documenting major voting rights milestones from 1867 to the present.

And, for some basics about voting and elections, try this pbs kids site and make your own future voter card!

Whether you're a first-time voter or an old hand, these sites can help you with the practical side of voting.

Our Time

Are you eager to learn about voting, register to vote, and get yourself ready for the election? This nonpartisan site is designed just for you! Find state by state voting and eligibility requirements, a voting FAQ as well as information about primaries, caucuses, conventions and the electoral process.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Find information about the voting rights of people with previous felony convictions, including which states bar ex-felons from voting altogether, and the steps ex-felons have to take to restore their voting rights in states that do allow them to vote.

New Voters Project

This project is dedicated to encouraging newly eligible voters to get involved in the election process and to vote. Locate research on how many young people have turned out for the caucuses and primaries, register to vote, find your polling place, and learn how to become involved.

Vote411

If you are looking for basic information about how voting works, who is eligible to vote, what kind of identification is required to vote or to register to vote, and what kind of voting machines the different states use, this nonpartisan site from the League of Women Voters can help.

Voting Rights

Learn about current controversies related to voting rights from this website sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union. You'll find information about voters' rights in the states and information about the voting rights of military personnel, prisoners and ex-convicts, and rural residents. If you're looking for local information, you can also check out the Oregon ACLU website.

It's nearing election season again and it's time to think about voting, if you're eligible. I remember being so excited about my right to vote that I registered on my 18th birthday. And then I moved two months later and had to update my registration! 

If you're registering for the first time, you can register online through the Secretary of State's office Elections Division at oregonvotes.org; print the form (PDF) and mail it; or register in person at the Multnomah County Elections office or any DMV office. If you've moved, changed your name or just want to change your party affiliation, you can use those same links to update your voter registration. 

Can I register to vote if I have a criminal record but am recently out of prison? Can I register to vote if I'm homeless? In Oregon, the answer is usually yes, and these questions and more are highlighted in the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Secretary of State's website. Multnomah County also has an FAQ for voter registration

Remember, the deadline to register for any Oregon election is 21 days before election day. November 6th is the date for this year's big election, so the deadline to register this year is October 16, 2012.

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