Voting Blogs: Voting Rights Debate Promises Burgeoning Partisan Battle | Legally Easy

This year-end, new battles over the Voting Rights Act are emerging, but they are new battles inextricably embedded in the history of discrimination and civil rights. Signed by President Johnson in 1965, Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, requires 16 southern states with a history of discrimination to pre-clear any voting procedure changes with the Justice Department, or a panel of federal judges.

While the provision was reauthorized in 2006 with strong bipartisan support, it is being challenged today in five lawsuits claiming that the United States has reached a level of electoral equality that precludes the need for Section Five. But, as it stands, Section Five still places the sixteen states under the watchful eye of the federal government, and ensures that the burden of proof remains on each jurisdiction to establish that any proposed changes do not have the purpose or effect of discriminating based on race or color.

The situation currently threatening mayhem during the budding 2012 election season is the redistricting of  Texas. After the 2010 census, the significant population increase in Texas meant the bestowal of 4 new congressional seats — and an almighty battle for control of these new seats. And consider this: democrats are currently outnumbered 23 to nine in the state’s 32-member U.S. House delegation, and Republicans control both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, the state Legislature and most statewide offices.

California: Supporters seek ‘tweaks’ in ranked-choice voting |

For all those San Franciscans outraged that they could only mark their three top choices in last month’s election for mayor, help is on the way. A proposed charter amendment by Supervisor David Campos clears the way for voters to rank five, 10, 20 or more candidates in upcoming ranked-choice elections.

Campos’ measure, which is designed to counter a proposed June ballot measure by supervisors Mark Farrell and Sean Elsbernd that would end ranked-choice voting in the city, calls for any new voting equipment to allow ranking of more than the current three choices, up to the total number of candidates.

If that happens, the city might want to add chairs to the voting booths, since the mayor’s race featured 16 candidates and ranking them all might take awhile. Then there was last year’s District 10 race out in the Bayview, where 21 hopefuls appeared on the ballot. Try ranking that crew in order of preference.

Florida: Election law changes draw scrutiny by U.S. Attorney General Holder | Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has injected himself into a partisan controversy over Florida’s new election laws that include changes in early voting and registering of new voters. The changes, passed by the Republican Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, antagonized voter advocacy groups and Democrats. They accuse the GOP of seeking to suppress voter turnout in 2012, especially among African-Americans and college students. Republicans say their goal is to bolster faith in the voting process and limit voter fraud.

Holder expressed concern about new voting laws passed in state capitals this year, including in Florida, during a speech Tuesday at the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential library in Texas. “The answers are clear,” Holder said. “We need election systems that are free from fraud, discrimination and partisan influence, and that are more — not less — accessible to the citizens of this country.” In Florida’s case, a pending court review will force the state to hold a presidential primary next month under two separate sets of election laws.

Oklahoma: Officials upgrade machines for February votes |

The next big change in Oklahoma elections since the state stopped counting ballots by hand in 1992 is rolling out in February, promising faster election results and more data. Each of the state’s 1,958 voting locations is getting new ballot scanning machines that cost $2,800 each. The new machines and data system will be used for the first time in the Feb. 14 election.

Elections were canceled by lawmakers for December and January to allow the new system to be installed. “We’re very thankful to have that,” said Paul Ziriax, state Election Board secretary. “If we could have an extra month, we’d take it, but we’ll be ready.”

The new scanners will still take paper ballots, only now more of the data from those ballots will be available to the public online and faster than ever before. County election boards will be able to report local results online, something they weren’t equipped to do before. “We’re going to have far more detail than we’ve ever been able to show before,” Ziriax said. “We’ll be able to drill down and see which precincts haven’t reported.”

South Carolina: Atlantic Beach, Horry County officials will return to court over voting machine dispute |

Town of Atlantic Beach and Horry County officials will return to a Conway magistrate courtroom next week to settle a dispute about town leaders refusing to return the voting machines used in the November election. Magistrate Bradley Mayers took a motion to return the machines to town officials from the town attorney, Kenneth Davis, under advisement, and continued the hearing until 10 a.m. Wednesday so Davis would have time to prepare.

Horry County sheriff’s deputies took the voting machines Tuesday after town officials refused to return them after the voting. Magistrate Bradley Mayers issued a court order for deputies to seize the machines and Atlantic Beach officials plan to dispute that seizure and want the machines returned to them during Wednesday’s hearing.

Davis, who is representing Atlantic Beach, declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing because it is an ongoing issue. But during the hearing, Davis said the seizure of the machines interferes with an “ongoing election protest in Atlantic Beach.” “By seizing these machines the ongoing judicial process . . . has been interrupted,” Davis said and noted there was no evidence town officials planned to tamper with the machines.

Texas: Confusion reigns as political deadline is delayed |

For Hidalgo County political candidates, there may be a deadline, but there still is no clarity. A panel of three federal judges extended a filing deadline for political office set to expire Thursday until Monday, giving candidates four extra days to sweat out whether they’ll draw additional competition. But the court hasn’t yet ruled on whether it will delay any elections, and candidates for state and congressional seats embroiled in the redistricting lawsuit still don’t have a clear picture of how their districts will eventually look.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairwoman Dolly Elizondo-Garcia summed up the state’s electoral process with one word: confusion. “It’s been very chaotic, and we’re trying to handle it as best we can,” said Elizondo-Garcia, who is accepting applications for places on the ballot from state candidates who still don’t know for sure in which district they’ll run. “There are more twists and turns here than the Texas Cyclone (theme park ride). We’re going to be in for a lot of surprises.”

Texas: Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting go ‘against the arc of history,’ AG Holder says | Houston Chronicle

The nation’s top law enforcement official drew attention to two of the state’s hot-button political issues — redistricting and voter ID — telling a Texas audience Tuesday night that making it harder to vote “goes against the arc of history.” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized recent efforts in Texas and other states that have passed restrictive election laws, saying voting rights instead should be expanded.

Holder was speaking at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, which houses the late president’s official records and memorabilia, including the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that he signed. Making frequent references to Johnson’s legacy on voting rights, Holder encouraged the audience to “speak out. Raise awareness of what’s at stake.”

He said strict voter ID laws can cut voter turnout. And he was critical of using the redistricting process to choose politicians instead of creating districts that allow voters to choose their voice in government. “All citizens should be automatically registered to vote,” Holder said, suggesting states should modernize out-of-date paper registration systems. “The single biggest barrier to vote in this country is our antiquated voting system,” he said.

Canada: City jumps into cyberspace with E-voting pilot initiative |

Edmonton could see a pilot pro-gram to test Internet voting in the next civic election, officials say. E-voting, which can include using phones, electronic ballots or the Internet, has occurred in more than 30 Ontario municipalities and four Nova Scotia jurisdictions.

Several Alberta centres, including Edmonton, Calgary, St. Albert and Strathcona County, are interested in trying the new technology, Laura Kennedy, Edmonton’s director of elections and corporate records, said Wednesday.

The group might work with Municipal Affairs on a small trial during the 2013 election, possibly focused on the special ballots sent to people who will be away or can’t get to the polling booth, she said. “We could all explore a different aspect of it,” said Kennedy, who estimated about 700 special ballots were mailed out in Edmonton for the 2010 election. “We could have different iterations and compare the results at the end.”

Congo: Supreme Court Hears Election Challenge |

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Supreme Court has begun hearing a lawsuit seeking to annul the presidential election that returned incumbent Joseph Kabila to power.

Opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in the vote, filed the lawsuit, in which he claims the poll was rigged in favor of Kabila. Kamerhe, who was present for Thursday’s hearing, said some ballots were pre-marked for the president, and said the electoral commission reported false results.

The official tally from last month’s poll showed Kabila winning 49 percent of vote, well ahead of second-place finisher Etienne Tshisekedi, who had 32 percent. Tshisekedi has rejected the results and proclaimed himself president.

International election observers reported numerous irregularities during both the vote and the counting process. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said the election was “seriously flawed.” However, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it was not clear whether the problems were enough to change the outcome of the election.

Indonesia: Election watchdogs call to revoke election bodies’ selection team | The Jakarta Post

A group of election watchdogs has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revoke the newly established election team designated to select general election bodies’ members for not representing the public. “The president should revise his decree No. 33/2011 on the establishment of the election bodies’ selection team and remove two ministers from the selection team,” Indonesian Civilized Circle director (LIMA) Ray Rangkuti said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The president inaugurates the selection team designated to select the General Elections Commission (KPU) and General Elections Monitoring body (Bawaslu) members earlier this month. Girindra Sandino, a research coordinator from the Independent Elections Monitoring Committee (KIPP) said that the two ministers who act as the team’s chairman and deputy would only represent the ruling party and current presidential regime.

Russia: Putin Hits Back at Opposition Protest in Vote-Fraud Standoff | Businessweek

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hit back at protests over alleged electoral fraud even as Russia’s biggest street demonstrations in a decade threaten to complicate his bid to return to the Kremlin next year.

While Putin pledged to bolster transparency during March’s presidential vote, he rejected accusations of fraud at Dec. 4 parliamentary elections and said foreign funding was helping fuel protests organized by his foes to “destabilize” Russia. He spoke in a 4 1/2-hour phone-in show on television yesterday.

Putin, 59, is facing the biggest unrest since he came to power. Opposition groups got permission this week to stage a demonstration in Moscow on Dec. 24 for as many as 50,000 people, twice the size of the crowd estimated by police at a similar rally Dec. 10. The protests may force Putin into a run-off for the Kremlin if he can’t win more than 50 percent support.

The Voting News Daily: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks, Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Voting Rights

National: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks | The Washington Post Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation. Cardin said he would…

National: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks | The Washington Post

Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.

Cardin said he would file a bill Wednesday to make it a federal offense to produce or use fraudulent election material to try to mislead or discourage voting within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow prosecutors nationwide to guard against the kind of robocalls that a Maryland jury this month decided were intended to suppress black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s (R) campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of election law violations stemming from ordering the calls, which told voters in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The automated call said Democratic candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama had already been successful. Schurick is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16, and faces potential jail time.

Editorials: Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Voting Rights |

There has been a coordinated attack this year on voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted laws that are intended to make it more burdensome for Americans to cast a ballot, which President Lyndon Johnson called “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” New requirements – for special IDs, for example–will reduce turnout among minorities, the uneducated, the poor, the elderly, the newly arrived, students and other groups that traditionally vote for Democratic candidates. (For an explanation of why voter ID laws have a discriminatory effect, see my previous post on the subject.)

Now Attorney General Eric Holder is fighting back. I was delighted to hear Mr. Holder deliver a powerful speech  in Texas yesterday, during which he said his department is facing five separate lawsuits aimed at killing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the Justice Department the power to review any changes to voting rules in 16 places that have a history of discrimination.

Ohio: Dems, GOP agree on single March primary in 2012 | The Columbus Dispatch

Democratic and Republican House leaders have apparently worked out a deal today on a new congressional map and a single 2012 primary on March 6, instead of the current split primary that moves presidential and congressional races to June.

Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said the new map would contain at least two changes to an updated congressional map that Republicans offered about two months ago. He said the changes are “not major.”

“We have to make sure we get the maps circulated. Obviously I want to take all the time necessary to get that done,” he said, as House Republicans moved into a closed-door caucus to discuss the deal. “I want to make sure everyone understands what this one is. Then we’ll do a head count.” Batchelder said he does not know what the tally will be. The bill needs 66 votes in order to take effect immediately and join the primaries into a single date, and also needs a two-thirds vote in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill Put Off Until 2012 | PhillyNow

After several amendments were passed through committee, the state Senate did not consider the Voter ID bill yesterday. This means the Legislature will not be able to consider the bill until January, since they’re set to go on their long vacations this week.

The bill, as we detailed yesterday, was originally written to require a government-issued ID at the polls. It was amended to allow nursing home, college and some expired IDs. However, critics say these changes are moot and, once enacted, this legislation will still disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters, who often do not have ID.

The bill is opposed by several local and state groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Committee of Seventy.  In an email blast yesterday, Seventy wrote, “The non-partisan Committee of Seventy opposes this voter ID bill. It especially hurts minority, low-income and senior voters who are more likely to lack an acceptable ID. There has been no evidence of rampant voter fraud that mandating a voter ID would prevent. Why insist on only photo IDs issued by the government?

Congo: UN Mission Urges Review of Issues Raised By Election Observers |

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today called on the country’s electoral authorities to review the issues raised by independent observers about the recent DRC presidential and parliamentary polls, saying there were “significant irregularities” in the results process.

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) said in a press release that it strongly urged the DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission (known by its French acronym, CENI) to undertake “a timely and rigorous review” of the issues raised, particularly regarding the counting and tabulation of votes.

It said the review should have “the full participation of witnesses and observers, including foreign observer groups, who may offer to provide technical advice.” MONUSCO’s statement noted that the Carter Center International Election Observation Mission in the DRC and other observer missions had issued statements voicing concern about the management process.

Egypt: Second round of parliamentary election in Egypt | BBC News

Egyptians are going to the polls in the second round of elections to a new parliament – the first since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. Voting has been relatively peaceful, with no major irregularities reported. The first round earlier this month was dominated by Islamist parties, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party winning a third of vote.

They are set to consolidate their gains this week, with polling taking place in more rural and conservative areas. The long and complex election process will not be completed until next month. The aim is to elect a lower house of parliament, which will then appoint a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution.

Under Egypt’s complex electoral system, two-thirds of the 498 elected seats in the People’s Assembly will be picked through proportional representation, using lists drawn up by parties and alliances. The remaining seats are decided by a first-past-the-post-system, with individual candidates required to win more than 50% of the votes to avoid a run-off contest.

Jamaica: 150 candidates nominated for December 29 election |

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will today indicate whether the final count of candidates for the upcoming General Election who were appointed during yesterday’s Nomination Day exercise remains at the 150 announced initially. Shortly after the close of Nomination Day activities yesterday, the EOJ signalled that a total 150 candidates were nominated to contest the General Election scheduled for December 29. But speaking with the Observer yesterday, Director of Elections Orette Fisher said a final count would be done today.

“I want to point out, however, and it is very important, that the count we have given is very preliminary because I cannot give a final count until the nomination forms come in from all the constituencies and we are able to go through them,” the director of elections said.

Russia: Demonstrations denouncing electoral irregularities repressed, election monitoring NGO slandered |

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), strongly condemns the pressure exercised on the NGOs, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters who denounced electoral irregularities and called for fair, free and independent electoral processes following the elections results on December 4, 2011, as well as the defamation campaign targeting the Golos, an NGO working on election monitoring, ahead of the election.

Golos (“the Voice”), a major Russian NGO specialising in election monitoring has been the target of a State-organised harassment and a defamation campaign since November 26, 2011. The harassment started a week before the holding of the elections when a State-controlled media, the pro-Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published an article dated November 26, criticising Golos and accusing them of “reducing the process of observing the electoral campaign and voting on election day into a way of making money”.

Later, on December 2, 2011, the State-controlled TV channel NTV entered Golos headquarters to question the staff with cameras in order to broadcast in the evening a half-hour documentary containing sharp criticism of the NGO. In line with the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement of November 27, the broadcast alluded that Golos had been a “recipient of grants” following “instructions of foreign governments”, and that the NGO’s executives were handling millions of dollars in cash, in an attempt to discredit them. Vladimir Putin had accused the “representatives of some foreign countries” to pay money to influence the elections and accused western-granted associations to make a “wasted effort” as “Juda [was] not considered the most respected biblical character” in Russia.

Russia: Journalists Fired After Tough Election Coverage | Post Gazette

A high-ranking editor and a top executive from one of Russia’s most respected news publications were dismissed on Tuesday after an apparent conflict over coverage that appeared to highlight widespread anger with the results of parliamentary elections this month. The dismissals followed the publication this week of an election issue of the newsmagazine Kommersant Vlast, which detailed accusations of large-scale electoral fraud by the ruling party, United Russia, and included a photograph of a ballot scrawled with profanity directed against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

The firings came as tensions built between the Kremlin and a new constituency of reform-minded activists who held a protest against the election results here last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people. President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced on Tuesday that the first session of the new parliament would be held on Dec. 21, an indication that the Kremlin would not concede to increasingly vocal calls for new elections.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest movement met to plan what they said would be an even bigger demonstration on Dec. 24, and vowed not to relent in their demands. The tremors from this standoff have been particularly acute in the city’s print and online newsrooms. Under Mr. Putin, the authorities have generally tolerated a community of liberal-minded journalists whose criticism of the Kremlin has often been withering, but not widely broadcast.

Russia: Kremlin-Connected Oligarch Fires Publishing Execs Over Vote Coverage |

Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov has fired two senior managers of the respected Kommersant publishing group over one of its publications’ coverage of alleged violations during the recent Duma elections. Usmanov says he was particularly upset about the publication of a photograph showing an obscene slogan addressed toward Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, which he described as “bordering on petty hooliganism.”

Usmanov fired the general director of the Kommersant-Holding group, Andrei Galiyev, and the editor in chief of the newsweekly “Kommersant-Vlast,” Maksim Kovalsky. In response, the general director of the Kommersant publishing group, Demyan Kudryavtsev, submitted his resignation in protest.

The Voting News Daily: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights, Federal Election Commission dysfunction not just politics, it’s personal

National: Federal Election Commission dysfunction not just politics, it’s personal | Behind closed doors they snipe at each other. In public they question each other’s motives. And in front of Congress, they hang each other out to dry. That’s life on the Federal Election Commission, a panel that is supposed to answer the most important questions…

National: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights | The Washington Post

The Obama administration on Tuesday will wade into the increasingly divisive national debate over new voting laws in several states that could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect the president in 2008.

A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an “assault on democracy” and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.

With the presidential campaign heating up, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver a speech Tuesday expressing concerns about the voter-identification laws, along with a Texas redistricting plan before the Supreme Court that fails to take into account the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, he said in an interview Monday.

National: Federal Election Commission dysfunction not just politics, it’s personal |

Behind closed doors they snipe at each other. In public they question each other’s motives. And in front of Congress, they hang each other out to dry.

That’s life on the Federal Election Commission, a panel that is supposed to answer the most important questions in campaign finance law, but whose commissioners can’t always manage civility, never mind reach agreements on the biggest fundraising and spending questions it’s tasked to answer.

Matters are expected to get worse for the commission next year, thanks to numerous federal court decisions that will likely prompt a flood of questions the panel must consider. At the helm, there will be a new chairman, who will be elected on Thursday — likely Republican Caroline Hunter, the current vice chairman.

National: Senator Cardin to introduce voter fraud bill |

Sen. Ben Cardin said he will unveil legislation Wednesday to impose criminal and civil penalties for those who distribute false voting information before an election. The effort, which Cardin is making along with New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, comes days after Paul Schurick, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager, was found guilty of election fraud for attempting to suppress turnout with a last-minute robo-call.

The call, directed at black neighborhoods in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, told voters to “relax,” and stated before polls had closed that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reelection was assured. Schurick’s attorney, arguing that the call was protected under the First Amendment, has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Editorials: Don’t push panic button on E-vote | Edmonton Journal

In an age of electronic communication, it seems archaic that voters in civic elections must physically show up at a polling station to cast their ballots. Some day, people surely will be able to vote using their computers, phones or iPods. However, that day need not arrive in 2013, when Edmontonians will again elect a city council. A new report to council shows that E-voting is something the city needs to enter very carefully.

The usual thinking about letting people vote remotely – by phone, computer or text message – is that it will encourage more people, especially young people, to fill out a ballot. However, the administration report going to city council points out that panellists at an Elections Canada workshop on e-voting said “it is not clear that E-voting actually increases overall turnout rates or the youth vote.”

What does seem clear is that E-voting has been problematic in a couple of countries that tried it. In the Netherlands, most spectacularly, a group hacked into computers on live television to show how easily the 2006 election results could be manipulated. The Dutch government has banned electronic remote voting because it thinks it can’t be made secure without a huge expenditure of money. Britain has also halted its trials of E-voting, because of problems with viruses and breaches of ballot security.

Editorials: Voter ID: a solution looking for a problem |

With all of the pressing business confronting the Legislature in Harrisburg, Republican lawmakers are somehow finding the time to advance legislation to require Pennsylvanians to show photo identification every time they vote.
Were there some demonstrated critical need to safeguard the voting process from fraud, we would applaud the Senate State Government Committee’s approval of an ID bill on Monday and a House version that passed in June.

But from all we can gather, voter ID “reform” is the classic solution in search of a problem and looks and smells suspiciously like a Republican effort to disenfranchise large numbers of voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Bucks County state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, chairman of the government committee, says he’s seen no proof that voter ID would deny the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities and young people the right to vote. In fact, on Monday, his committee lengthened the restrictive list of acceptable photo IDs that was part of the House bill. McIlhinney called the requirement a “security check.”

Editorials: Vote suppression tactics all too familiar |

Paul Schurick’s recent conviction for voter fraud is a sad coda to the 2010 Martin O’Malley-Bob Ehrlich gubernatorial rematch: Sad because Mr. Schurick tainted his reputation as one of the state’s best political strategists, and sadder because Governor O’Malley almost certainly would have been re-elected no matter what late-campaign shenanigans Mr. Schurick pulled.

But the saddest thing about Schurick’s conviction is that his actions are merely one small part of a larger and more systematic attempt by conservative strategists to find ways to suppress voter turnout in service to Republican partisan advantage. Unlike in the Schurick case, most such efforts are perfectly legal (though certainly unsavory).

Let’s take a quick tour of the voter-suppression activities under way across the nation. In the past year, 19 new laws and two executive orders were issued in 14 states to create stricter voter identification requirements. These measures were supported and passed largely by Republicans after gaining control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in 2010. Their aim is to constrict the electorate for 2012 and beyond.

Pennsylvania: Senate panel OKs voter ID measure | Post Gazette

A state Senate panel Monday tweaked a measure to require all voters to show photo identification at the polls. The amended legislation now would allow for university ID cards and those issued by nursing home-type facilities to be accepted, and would require more information from those seeking an absentee ballot. It passed the Senate State Governmental Committee on a 6-5 vote.

The controversial measure, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, passed the House in June and has strong support from the Corbett administration. Opponents argue that requiring a photo identification card would disenfranchise those without such cards, pointing to statistics showing senior citizens, minorities and low-income residents disproportionately lack ID cards.

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, who chairs the State Government Committee, said the changes are an attempt to make identification cards as easy to obtain as possible, noting that the legislation would provide a free ID to those without one. Four Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, voted against the proposal, with several saying they are disinclined to change voting rules without first finding evidence of issues with the current system.