The Delaware House approved a constitutional amendment to eliminate limitations regarding when a person can vote by absentee ballot. The measure failed to win the required supermajority in the Senate. It is likely to be reintroduced this year.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would make Florida primaries for state-elected offices non-partisan beginning in 2024 is likely to make the 2020 ballot.
Wyoming lawmakers, on the other hand, are expected to see a 2020 bill disallowing unaffiliated voters from casting “crossover ballots” in the state’s primary elections.
Pre-registration of 16/17-year-olds
A New York bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register for their first eligible election faltered in 2019 but is likely to be reintroduced in 2020.
California lawmakers are expected to consider referring proposed constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in state elections, and to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they turn 18 before the general election.
Maine adopted a “ranked voting” system in 2016 for all state and federal primary elections, and, in 2019, Maine lawmakers passed ranked-choice voting for presidential candidates. In a ranked-choice voting system, constituents simply vote for all candidates, regardless of party, by ranking them one, two, three and so on.
Ranked-choice voting measures were introduced in 2019 in California, Hawaii and Connecticut. Similar bills are likely to be introduced in those states and elsewhere in 2020.
Four states – Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Missouri – could have “ranked-choice voting” measures on their 2020 ballots.
Eight states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin – require a photo ID to vote. A further 10 states – Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas – “request” voters present a photo ID at voting sites.
Among states where lawmakers are expected to introduce voter ID bills in 2020 is Wyoming, where a 2019 bill did not advance.
#3 The 2020 Census
The federal Fiscal Year 2020 budget earmarked $6.3 billion to conduct the once-every-decade census, beginning on April 1 – about $700,000 less than was allocated for the 2010 Census, incidentally.
As a result, states and local governments will have to boost their efforts in outreach to ensure an accurate count of people within their jurisdictions, as up to $675 billion in annual federal allocations are tied to census counts.
The census also determines if states with growing populations can add congressional seats, while those with declining populations will have to consolidate districts. The 2020 Census numbers will be used, in some states, to redraw state legislative and congressional districts. Lawmakers in many states will be preparing the ground for redistricting during their 2020 sessions. (See #2 Election Reform/Redistricting)
States will also have to contend with the politicization of the 2020 Census with the Trump administration’s stalled efforts to include a citizenship question in the tally, potentially spooking immigrants from participating.
A 2018 U.S. Census Bureau survey found 68 percent of people say they’re extremely or very likely to respond to their census form, down from 86 percent who said they were likely to respond in 2010.
Therefore, the mission of state agencies and lawmakers – many of whom will be in session when the census kicks off – is getting the word out to hard-to-count (HTC) populations that it is safe to participate.
Traditional HTC populations include people in rural areas because the Census Bureau only mails forms to physical addresses, not post office boxes, and because some isolated areas do not have access to the internet. African Americans, by an average of 2.07 percent, and Hispanics, by an average of 1.54 percent, are among the HTC populations routinely undercounted.
A George Washington University study claims a single uncounted resident can cost a state an average of $19,000 in federal funds over a decade.
As of June 2019, 30 states had set up complete count committees tasked with outreach to county, municipal, and community organizations. In addition, six state legislatures have created their own census commissions and 11 governors have created census outreach organizations through executive actions.
California is investing heavily in its census count, about $187 million over the last few years. Illinois has allocated $29 million and could boost that in early 2020. New York is spending $20 million statewide and New York City has allocated an additional $40 million for local efforts.
Colorado has invested $6 million, Arizona $7.5 million, New Mexico $3.5 million, Georgia, and Massachusetts, $2.5 million each.
Unless lawmakers approve last-ditch funding, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania will spend no state money on the census.
Below are some state-specific census outreach programs:
A largely rural state with relatively high poverty rates, where as many as 600,000 residents do not have access to broadband Internet. This has state officials concerned about a Census undercount.
Arkansas receives $6-to 7 billion in annual federal assistance on a per capita basis based on the 2010 Census.
The state estimates each Arkansan not counted will result in a loss of approximately $2,542 annually in federal funds for state programs – or $25,000 per uncounted individual through 2030.
California has invested about $187.2 million over several years – more than $100 million in its fiscal year 2020 budget – on outreach to ensure its count is as accurate as possible. The FY20 expenditure alone is four times as much as it spent before the 2000 Census, and 50 times as much it spent in 2010.
Among initiatives is the Public Policy Institute of California’s Census Map for “Hard-to-Count Communities.” About 75 percent of state residents are considered hard to count, the institute maintains.
According to the state’s legislative services office, Colorado gets about one-third of its budget from federal funding. That money is used on everything from transportation to education, to healthcare and more.
The state has grown by roughly 600,000 people since 2010, meaning Census-driven federal allocations will be significantly higher to match the significantly higher demand for services.
Colorado could also gain at least one congressional seat due to the population growth documented by the census.
The Colorado Health Institute predicts an undercount of about four percent, about 225,000 people, which is twice the population of Boulder, and which could cost the state $245 million in federal funds over the next 10 years.
The state legislature has appropriated $12.5 million and will appoint a seven-member committee to coordinate its census count
The state has allocated $3.8 million for census count outreach.
A 2016 study by George Washington University found that 2010 census numbers delivered $34 billion in federal funding for Illinois. But the state’s population has declined over the last decade, and the legislature fears an undercount could not only slash federal funding but could see the state could lose up to two congressional seats.
Illinois legislators set aside $29 million to encourage participation in the census in the state’s 2019 budget – and lawmakers could earmark as much as $50 million more in early 2020. Groups like the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, a Springfield-based nonprofit have received census outreach grants to get the message out to immigrant communities that it is safe to be counted.
Kentucky was one of the first states to organize its census outreach with the March 2018 establishment of the Kentucky Complete Count Task Force, an executive order from Governor Matt Bevin, and an allocation from lawmakers of $500,000.
The effort is designed to increase the state’s response rate of 77 percent in the 2010 census and capture an estimated population growth of about 3 percent over the last decade to boost the $9 billion in annual federal spending Kentucky receives.
Nearly 10 percent of Kentuckians live in HTC areas, with the undercount of the state’s Hispanic population estimated to be more than 19 percent and for African-Americans, about 22 percent.
The state estimates it loses $2,021 in annual federal funding per year for each person not counted.
The state’s fiscal year 2020 budget earmarks $2.5 million for its Complete Count Grant Program. The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund (MCEF) 2020 awarded more than $500,000 to 45 organizations to conduct direct outreach and raise public awareness about the 2020 Census.
Massachusetts receives about $16 billion a year in federal funding tied to the census. The state estimates it loses $2,372 a year for each “uncounted head.”
Boston – with its large population of college students, renters, and immigrants – is rated by the U.S. Census Bureau as the ninth “hardest to count” among the largest 100 U.S. cities.
The state will spend $9 million in census outreach – $7 million more than Governor Phil Murphy initially proposed for the state’s Complete Count Commission.
The Census 2020 NJ Coalition, which will conduct the campaign, estimates nearly two million New Jersey residents live in HTC areas.
State lawmakers have not allocated any money to the census count, even though the Oklahoma Department of Commerce reports the state receives about $6.55 billion annually in federal allocations tied to it.
Oklahoma’s population is expected to top 4 million in this next count, fostering efforts by nonprofits to ensure that population increase gets documented.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports only 75 percent of households in Oklahoma responded by mail to the 2010 census, a figure boosted by follow-up in-person visits but many Oklahomans remained uncounted, costing the state an estimated $1,600 annually per “uncounted head.”
State lawmakers did not include any state funds for census outreach in its budget despite studies that estimated an under-count could reduce the approximately $39 billion the state receives annually in federal funds tied to the 2010 census.
Much of the state’s census outreach will be financed by nonprofits, including the William Penn Foundation, which awarded $1 million to help the Keystone Counts coalition for 2020 Census outreach efforts. Smaller grants are also filling in the blanks, such as the Jefferson Regional Foundation’s $25,000 grant.
Cities are also mobilizing. The Pittsburgh City Council has authorized up to $15,000 over one year to hire someone to work on Census 2020 projects and outreach.