I. In Focus This Week
What to watch in 2018
In a busy year, here are 10 things we’ll definitely be watching
By M. Mindy Moretti
We here at a electionline love a good list, maybe not as much as the folks at BuzzFeed, but we do enjoy them and so while we keep our eyes on everything happening in the elections world, as we kick off this very busy mid-term election year, we thought we’d list the big 10.
As we move closer to Election Day 2018, it will be interesting to see how many of these items remain an issue and what new items have been added to the list.
So here, no particular order, here are the 10 things we’ll be watching closely in 2018.
1. New voting machines — voters in several states and many counties will face new voting equipment when they hit the polls this year. Will poll workers be ready? Will voters be able to handle the changes?
2. Voter ID — this year will mark the first major roll out of voter ID in several states including Iowa, Missouri, Texas and West Virginia. The secretaries of state in Iowa, Missouri and West Virginia have spent a lot of time (and continue to do so) on education campaigns about the law and Texas’ law remains embroiled in litigation.
3. Automatic voter registration — currently nine states and the District of Columbia have approved legislation allowing for automatic voter registration although only four — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont — have implemented it yet. The approach in the states and DC varies. Some are opt-out, others are opt-in, some retroactively add voters to the rolls while others start from a certain date. What impact, if any, will AVR have on turnout in those states and will any of the remaining states and DC get theirs up and running before November 2018? Also, how many other states will introduce legislation to move in this direction and what type of AVR will they seek to implement?
4. Turnout — mid-term elections turnout always falls off from a presidential year, but given the current political climate, will that be the case in 2018 and if there is a drop off, how big will it be?
5. Cybersecurity — the 800-lb Russian in the room this year is cybersecurity. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it is prepared to help every state that wants help securing their systems for 2018 and beyond.
6. New California voting system — in 2016 the General Assembly approved the Voters’ Choice Act that allows counties to run elections by mail with Election Day vote centers. Although many Californians already vote-by-mail, no counties have strictly run on a by mail/vote center system. A handful of counties will introduce the new way of voting this year.
7. Secretary of state races — the top election position in 24 states is up for grabs this year. While many of the sitting secretaries of state are seeking re-election, some like Ohio’s Jon Husted and Kansas’ Kris Kobach, cannot/will not be running again. We’ll have more on these races in the coming weeks.
8. Legislation — although election years don’t tend to be as busy legislatively as non-election years (we know, we know, EVERY year is an election year) legislators across the country have already been busy introducing bills. Everything from early voting to automatic voter registration to vote-by-mail to no excuse absentee voting.
9. Fake news/ voter suppression — Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have vowed to get the fake news in check, but perpetrators of fake news often quickly find new ways to spread their misinformation campaigns. With many Americans wary of the main stream media and fake news on the rise, what impacts, if any, could that have on elections?
10. Special elections — every year is filled with special elections, but with the prevalence of the #metoo campaign and other situations pushing legislators at all levels to resign, will 2018 prove to be a big year for special elections. Some state legislators are already working on changing the rules about how vacated seats are filled in order to avoid costly and usually low-turnout special elections.
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