A growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the past two years to enact laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states. Ten states have passed strict photo ID laws since 2008, though several may not be in effect in November because of legal challenges. A News21 analysis found that more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C., tax-exempt organization. ALEC has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay $100 in dues every two years. Most of ALEC’s money comes from nonprofits and corporations — from AT&T to Bank of America to Chevron to eBay — which pay thousands of dollars in dues each year. “I very rarely see a single issue taken up by as many states in such a short period of time as with voter ID,” said Jennie Bowser, senior election policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that compiles information about state laws. “It’s been a pretty remarkable spread.”
Pennsylvania: Many states’ voter-ID laws, including Pennsylvania’s, appear to have tie to same U.S. group | Philadelphia Inquirer
A growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the last two years to enact laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Lawmakers proposed 62 photo-ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states, including two by Democrats in Rhode Island. Ten states have passed strict photo-ID laws since 2008, though several face legal challenges. A News21 analysis found that more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington-based, tax-exempt organization. Pennsylvania’s law, which is counted among that group, was sponsored by Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, an ALEC member. The law has been challenged in court and a decision is expected this week.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on Aug. 6, 1965, and when President George W. Bush renewed it in 2006, they were trying to prevent barriers to voting. It is tragic that efforts to bar millions of Americans from casting ballots have instead accelerated in recent years. Observers should not underestimate this threat — the very future of our democracy is at stake. Voter suppression efforts have only grown since 2000, when our worries were about the accuracy of voting equipment and Supreme Court bias. Even if the outcome was uncertain, however, most voters were rarely barred from participating in elections. Since then, broad swaths of our population have been targeted for attack. A national legislative campaign coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council has passed laws that could inordinately lock students, senior citizens, African-Americans and Hispanics out of their polling places. ALEC’s list of backers reads like a corporate Who’s Who: Koch Enterprises, Peabody Energy, UPS and Exxon Mobil, to name a few. These companies have millions to gain from legislatures favoring wealthy over low-income Americans.
When we buy a product, we try to make certain we are getting what we want. We like to think of ourselves as smart shoppers. We owe no less diligence when it comes to voting on a constitutional amendment — particularly one that dramatically changes the way we vote. The voting right is the crux of a democracy. Countless Americans gave their lives in order that we may have this remarkable gift. We in Minnesota lead the nation in voter turnout, and our elections are the most honest. We have recently gone through two very close elections and recounts without a single case of fraud. There is a reason why — our insistence that election laws be designed in a bipartisan fashion. That is key. No party should have an election advantage. Unfortunately, the voter ID constitutional amendment was passed by the Legislature on a strict party-line vote. Not one Democrat in either the House or the Senate voted for it. Not one.
This past week, the decision by the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) to shut down its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, the task force that refined and promoted strict photo ID legislation that has been popping up in state legislatures over the past two years, was a significant victory for voting rights advocates. However, the damage is already done. Strict voter photo ID laws will be in place in several states this election, potentially disenfranchising millions if they don’t get the ID they need to vote. While several voting rights groups are fighting to get these laws overturned in the courts, organizers and community groups on the ground are stepping up to make sure that voters will have the IDs they need to be able to vote. Already, in Tennessee and Wisconsin, community groups and statewide organizations have developed programs to identify voters that lack a photo ID and to help them get the ID they need to vote.
Shortly after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) announced it was dropping voter identification laws from its agenda, another conservative group is stepping in to fill the void. The National Center for Public Policy Research announced this week it had formed a “Voter Identification Task Force” to continue ALEC’s “excellent work” in “promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting.” Describing itself as a “conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank,” the group was established in 1982. “The fact that ALEC is no longer going to be offering the services it did got us interested in doing something,” National Center for Public Policy Research executive director David Almasi told TPM. “We obviously can’t do everything ALEC did, but we can do something to make sure the issue doesn’t go away.”