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Elections Briefing, March 5, 2021: Election Reform Across America, Germany, Canada

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Elections Briefing 3-5-21 Election Reform Canada Germany

Election reform, election reform, and even more election reform is the theme of the Friday Briefing. What’s happening with it in the United States, and where?

US Election News

Elections Reform Bill Passes The US House

We told you about it in Wednesday’s briefing, and showed you how former Vice President Mike Pence spoke out against it yesterday, but now, the House has passed it. This is the “For the People Act of 2021,” a massive piece of elections reform legislation, that cleared the full House and is on to the Senate for consideration.1 It was Roll Call Vote number 62 in the House, and it passed by a margin of 220 to 210. All but one Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, voted in favor. Every Republican but two who skipped out voted no. That should signal that this is likely to come down along party lines, but if Democrats want this to become law, they had better get Joe Manchin on board. Kamala Harris can break a 50-50 tie to get it to Biden’s desk, but that takes all 50 Democrats getting behind it.

Arkansas Also Considering Elections Reform Measures

The proposed legislation in Arkansas is not nearly as sweeping, but it’s election reform nevertheless. State Sen. Alan Clark (R) is sponsoring a bill that mandates private polling locations, such as churches, to permit electioneering.2 This means signs, literature, campaign workers, and more. This would not apply to public property polling locations, which is to say government facilities. Per the source cited in today’s further reading, not everyone in election commission world is crazy about the bill and it appears to need some fine-tuning.

And Montana Is Considering Them As Well

Hello, Big Sky Country! Your state has legislation on the table as well to take a more assertive approach than Arkansas is, with State Rep. Sharon Greef (R) proposing an end to same-day voter registration.3 The bill is called HB176 and it sailed through the Montana House last month by a 64-34 margin, a chamber where the GOP has a two-to-one supermajority. Republican majorities in the Senate are almost as big, and Montana now has a GOP governor in Greg Gianforte. Once the Senate gets this out of committee, it’s likely to pass, and Montana could soon be ending same-day registration.


International Election News

Germany to Surveil Far-Right Party

The Alternative for Germany (Afd) is being put under a watch by the German federal government unprecedented in the post-war era. Word came down from the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), also known as Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, that AfD is being treated as an extremist organization. This means that they will in essence be spied upon, including wire taps, to keep them and their ideology in check.4

This brings about a number of questions. Germany, if any country in the world, is sensitive to the rise of extremism and not wanting to go down certain roads ever again. There will also be questions raised about freedom of speech and how far is too far for German intelligence to go. They may have felt they had to step in because of the increase in the party’s popularity, but not everyone will be pleased by the move. AfD has footholds in both the federal parliament (Bundestag) as well as all state parliaments to varying degrees, but no major party will work with them because of their views. This announcement comes as a setback to them with a federal election coming in September.

Trudeau Asked Not to Call Early Canadian Election

It’s the will-he-or-won’t-he political game of 2021: Will Justin Trudeau call a Canadian election? His Liberals lost their majority in 2019 and have rebounded somewhat in 2021. Canadian minority governments do not tend to last long, less than two years on average, so Trudeau may be thinking this is the time to go for it. However, if he listens to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, then no. They issued a recent report calling on Trudeau to shelf an election call under after the pandemic is over.5

His party has not gained a great deal of separation from the Conservatives, and Trudeau personally has taken some knocks for his handling of COVID-19. Yet, an early election seems very likely, if not now, then late in 2021. There has been chatter of a spring election, but it’s just that: chatter. With Newfoundland and Labrador having to postpone their vote just days before the election, something similar happening on the national stage would be a bad look.


Election Countdown

7 days until the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election.
8 days until the Western Australia state election.
12 days until the 2021 Dutch election.
15 days until the LA-02 and LA-05 jungle primaries.
18 days until the 2021 Israeli election.

Today’s Further Reading

  1. Mara Liasson, “Major Election Reform And Voting Rights Bill Passed By The House,” NPR, 4 March 2021.
  2. Tom Sissom, “Election officials say campaign sign bill flawed,” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 4 March 2021.
  3. Perrin Stein, “State lawmakers debate changes to Montana’s elections,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 4 March 2021.
  4. Katrin Bennhold, “Germany Places Far-Right AfD Party Under Surveillance for Extremism,” New York Times, 3 March 2021.
  5. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, “House of Commons committee urges Trudeau not to call election amid COVID-19,” Global News, 2 March 2021.

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