North Carolina: Counties try to go it alone to require photo ID | electionlineWeekly

Earlier this year, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue vetoed voter photo ID legislation bucking a nationwide trend that has seen voter photo ID laws grow this year. The General Assembly failed to override the veto and is again currently in special session with that on the agenda, but according to media reports the prospects of overturning the veto appear slim.

While debate continues at the state level, some counties in North Carolina are taking matters into their own hands. Recently several counties approved resolutions asking their state representatives to introduce legislation that would allow them to require voter photo ID at the county level.

Local election administrators are taking a wait and see approach about how the legislation — if enacted — would impact them, although many admitted that the first time they heard about the resolutions was through the local media. “My office was not consulted or made aware of any pending voter ID resolution before it was approved by the Gaston County Commission,” explained Adam Ragan, director of elections for Gaston County. “I first heard about the resolution after it was passed by reading about it in our local newspaper.”

North Carolina: Attorney General: Local Voter ID laws unconstitutional | NC Policy Watch

Attempts by the state legislature to pass local bills requiring voters in some, but not all, counties to produce photo identification at the polls would fail to meet the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, according to a recent analysis by the N.C. Attorney General’s Office.

The state Department of Justice, in a Nov. 23 advisory letter sent to Gov. Bev Perdue’s office, indicated that a strategy by GOP leaders to circumvent Perdue’s June veto of a voter ID bill would run into constitutional issues. Having individual counties ask for more stringent identification rules would create an unconstitutional scenario where voters in some counties face more hurdles to vote than in other areas.

“It is therefore our views that significant equal protection concerns would arise if voter identification requirements were established for some voters and not others based merely on their county of residence,” wrote Grayson Kelley, the chief deputy Attorney General, in the letter. He later added, “The enactment of local acts applying photo voter identification requirements in only certain counties would raise serious equal protection issues under both the United States Constitution and North Carolina Constitution.”

Voting Blogs: The Saga Continues: New York’s MOVE Act Waiver Denied | Doug Chapin/PEEA

In a trip through the archives yesterday, I mentioned the ongoing drama in New York State about whether or not the state’s September 2012 primary would be moved up to give military and overseas voters enough time to vote in compliance with the MOVE Act.

New York has always had its own timetable with regard to implementation of federal election laws; the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the state to court numerous times to enforce the Help America Vote Act’s requirements for a statewide voter registration database and accessible voting technology.

Texas: Department of Justice blocks Texas Voter ID law | Your Houston News

In Texas, one has to have a picture identification to buy beer, lottery tickets, cigarettes and spray paint, but efforts to require voters to meet those same requirements have been halted by the federal government.

Despite the efforts of Texas lawmakers to require voters to present picture identification in order to vote, on Nov. 16, the U.S. Department of Justice told state election officials that they have not provided enough information about racial statistics on Hispanics in each county for the law to receive preclearance.

Texas: Dems challenge Texas GOP lawmaker to back up Voter ID claim | Chron.com

With the new Texas voter ID bill now under scrutiny at the Department of Justice, Democrats are pressing Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, to present information proving the legislation will not infringe on minority voter’s rights. In an interview with YNN on Oct. 14, Gonzales responded to a report released by the Secretary of State that found 605,576 registered voters lack a state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

“What the Democrats aren’t taking into consideration is the numbers they saw do not include all 7 forms of identification (allowed under the new law),” Gonzales said. “We feel confident once all the forms are included, no one will be disenfranchised and people will have access to the polls.”

National: NAACP plans nationwide protests on voter ID laws | WSJ.com

The NAACP is joining with minority and labor groups for a series of protests around the country meant to move discussion of voter identification laws out of policy circles and onto street corners, the organization’s president said Tuesday.

Benjamin Todd Jealous appeared on the steps of New York City Hall with the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and community and labor leaders to announce plans for nationwide protests on Dec. 10 and across the South in the following weeks, decrying what they described as a nationwide voter suppression effort.

National: What is the Justice Department doing about Southern voting rights? | The Institute for Southern Studies

It’s no secret: Over the last year, state legislatures — largely those run by Republicans — have taken up and in many cases passed a series of laws that create new obstacles for voters, especially historically disenfranchised voters and Democrats. The “war on voting” includes measures requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, restrictions on voter registration, shortening of the early voting period and in Florida, a rule making it more difficult for ex-felons to vote. And as Facing South has shown, in a tight battleground state like Florida, the GOP laws could make all the difference in 2012.

In the face of the voting-restriction juggernaut, voting rights advocates in the South have one tool for fighting back that most other states don’t: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires covered states to gain approval from the Department of Justice before carrying out major changes to voting laws. With the 2012 elections just a year away, what has the Justice Department done so far? While DOJ’s response to state redistricting plans has been largely muted, so far justice officials have taken an active interest in scrutinizing and challenging Southern state laws that affect voting rights.

Voting Blogs: “We do not have a constitutional right to buy Sudafed or be a frequent flier; we do have a constitutional right to vote.” | State of Elections

On May 11, 2011, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act R54.  The new law would require individuals to present photo identification to vote. Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill a week later.The Department of Justice has yet to pre-clear the new law, stating that it needs proof from South Carolina that Act R54 would not disenfranchise voters. Valid forms of identification include a South Carolina driver’s license, a passport, military identification, a voter registration card with a photograph, or another form of photographic identification from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Chris Whitmire, Director of Public Relations and Training at the South Carolina State Election Commission (SCSEC), spoke to me about the preparations taking place if the law is pre-cleared. These preparations include training county election officials, notifying registered voters without proper identification through direct mail, and a social media campaign about the new law. The General Assembly allocated $535,000 to the SCSEC for the voter education campaign and the creation of new voter registration cards that contain a photograph of the voter.

Florida: Senator Bill Nelson wants congressional investigation of election law changes | OrlandoSentinel.com

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking that Congress investigate whether restrictive new voting laws in more than a dozen states — including Florida — are part of an “orchestrated effort to disenfranchise voters,” according to a letter released Tuesday.

The request by the Florida Democrat — who’s running for re-election in 2012 — follows a report last month by the Brennan Center for Justice, a watchdog group based in New York City, that found new regulations passed in 14 states, most them Republican-controlled, could make it harder for 5 million voters to cast ballots nationwide.

Nelson has requested that a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hold field hearings in the 14 states to see whether the efforts were coordinated and “to what extent such might be illegal,” according to a letter he sent to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

Florida: Court rejects state’s request to expedite voting law challenge | Naked Politics

A panel of federal judges today rejected a request by Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning to expedite a ruling on the lawsuit challenging the state’s changes to its voting laws. Download Fla v USA 55 Order on motion to expedite “We’re disappointed that the court could not accommodate our schedule,” said Browning’s spokesman, Chris Cate. “We look forward to the opportunity for making the case than none of Florida’s election laws are discriminatory.”

The reason the state is pressing the federal government for a quick resolution is the accelerated political calendar. A panel of legislative appointees has set Florida’s presidential preference primary for Jan. 31, 2012, but the last day that people can register to vote to be able to cast ballots in that election will be Jan. 3, 2012. If the legal issues surrounding the election law rewrite aren’t settled by then, the state will be in the awkward position of not having major changes to the laws pre-cleared as they affect five counties: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe.

 

California: Mayoral candidates contact Department of Justice over reports of election fraud | KTVU San Francisco

Seven San Francisco mayoral candidates sent a letter to federal and state officials Sunday requesting an investigation into media reports that supporters of Mayor Ed Lee were filling in ballots for voters Friday. The letter points to reported witness testimony and video allegedly showing staff members from the group SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 “completing ballots for voters” and “preventing voters from marking their ballots for other mayoral candidates”.

In the letter, the mayoral contenders ask Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to investigate these claims. The letter was signed by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, County Supervisor John Avalos, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, state Senator Leland Yee, Michela Alioto-Pier and Joanna Rees.

Maine: ACLU Asks Justice Department to Investigate Potential Voting Rights Act Violations by Maine’s Secretary of State | The Free Press

This week the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU) and the ACLU Voting Rights Project asked the US Department of Justice to commence an investigation into potential Voting Rights Act violations by Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

In a five-page letter to Summers they documented their concerns “about your recent actions targeting legally registered student voters in Maine for investigatory action and sending them threatening correspondence likely to deter them from exercising their voting rights. Such actions provide strong evidence that you are violating federal statutory protections against intimidation and coercion of individuals in the exercise of their right to vote, as well as constitutional protections of the right to vote.”

New York: State counted only 74% of military, overseas ballots | The Journal News

New York had the poorest showing in the country when it came to counting overseas and military ballots last November, a new report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found. The national average for ballots counted was 93.2 percent. But in New York, 73.9 percent of the 22,303 ballots cast were counted.

State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said New York’s numbers may have been skewed because boards of election counted every ballot, including those that were returned as undeliverable, toward the total number returned. It appears other states may not have included undeliverable ballots in their overall total, he explained. Returned ballots can be rejected for a variety of reasons, such as they are mailed too late or there is a problem with the voter’s signature.

Florida: U.S. judge dismisses ACLU challenge of Florida election law | Palm Beach Post

A federal judge in Miami has thrown out a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and his administration over the state’s new elections laws. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled that the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit, lacked standing to sue and that it’s too early to rule on whether the new law is unconstitutional. Scott applauded the decision.

“I have always been confident that our elections have been conducted fairly and meet every legal requirement. Today’s decision only confirms that opinion. As we draw nearer to nationally significant elections in 2012, I will continue to ensure the integrity and fairness of Florida elections,” Scott said in a statement.

Indiana: Indiana Republicans Call For Federal Election Fraud Investigation | WRTV Indianapolis

Indiana Republicans are calling for a federal investigation into whether President Barack Obama got on the ballot illegally here in 2008.
The GOP wants to know who was responsible for alleged forged signatures on Obama’s petitions and those for Hillary Clinton. State Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb sent a letter Friday to U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana David Capp asking to open an investigation and to punish anyone responsible for submitting fraudulent petitions, 6News’ Norman Cox reported.

The request is based on newspaper articles in South Bend reporting that hundreds of names were forged on petitions to put Obama and Clinton on the primary ballot in 2008. Holcomb said it wasn’t his intent to try to remove Obama from office, but he wants to know who was responsible and send them to jail. “What I want to know going forward is, what happened, who was involved, and what’s the appropriate punishment for that crime,” Holcomb said.

Alabama: Federal appeals court will hear Shelby County voting rights case in January | al.com

A panel of three federal appellate judges will hear oral arguments Jan. 19 in an Alabama-based case about the constitutionality of key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Shelby County case is a likely contender for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit whether certain parts of the country should continue to have their elections supervised by the U.S. Justice Department for signs of racial discrimination. All or part of 16 states, including Alabama, have to submit their election-related changes for approval.

U.S. District Judge John Bates last month sided with the Justice Department and upheld the landmark voting rights law that Congress in 2006 agreed to extend for another 25 years. It is Shelby County’s appeal of that decision that is going before the three-judge panel, which is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas: Data show voters could be barred under new ID law | Post Bulletin

As many as a quarter of voters in some small Texas counties might not be able to cast ballots if the federal government allows the new state voter ID law to go into effect. And in some places, the potential for that decrease in the number of voters could affect the outcome of elections.

The impact of the law was gleaned from several pages of data that the Texas secretary of state’s office provided to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the law to determine whether it illegally hurts minority voters. The data show that in 27 of Texas’ 254 counties, at least 10 percent of the registered voters might be unable to cast ballots, if Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, takes effect.

Texas: Secretary of State Responds to Feds on Voter ID | The Texas Tribune

The Texas secretary of state submitted additional information to the Department of Justice on Tuesday in an effort to ensure the state’s controversial voter ID law is implemented on time. It’s unclear, though, whether the data Texas provided will allow federal voting officials to determine whether the law would disenfranchise minority voters.

The bill, SB 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. But the timeline appeared in jeopardy last month after the DOJ said it needed additional information to ensure the law would not infringe on the voting rights of certain minority groups. The law, which Gov. Rick Perry deemed an emergency item during the legislative session this year, would require voters to furnish a state-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.

Mississippi: County seeking DOJ approval to remove voting machine printers | Leader Call

Jones County Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin is waiting for a decision from the U.S. Department of Justice about the legality of removing printers from the county’s voting machines. Gavin gained the approval of the Jones County Board of Supervisors in August, but at the suggestion of District 5 Supervisor Jerome Wyatt, Gavin has to provide information stating that no laws will be violated if the printers are removed.

“Our voting machines were not designed to have these printers,” said Gavin. “The Mississippi Legislature decided we should add the printers after we switched to electronic voting machines.” The printers are extra attachments that were added to the voting machines at the request of then-Secretary of State Eric Clark. Gavin said he understands the desire to have a back-up record of votes cast, but the printers are not needed for back-up.

Texas: U.S. Supreme Court Rules Dallas County’s Appeal in Fight Over Voting Machines is “Moot” | Dallas News

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a very confusing ruling in the case involving Dallas County’s voting machines — a case, you’ll recall, that stemmed from Linda Harper-Brown’s 19-vote victory over Democrat Bob Romano in 1998. Long story short: The Texas Democratic Party (represented in part by attorney Clay Jenkins, now the county judge) sued Dallas County in federal court, claiming, as Ballot Access News neatly summed it up back in June, that “some voters are tricked into thinking they voted a straight-ticket vote, when actually they hadn’t.”

There was also an issue with whether the county pre-cleared the so-called direct-recording electronic voting machines with the Department of Justice before putting them into place. The county insisted they had — twicemost recently in March 2010, when the DOJ said Dallas was good to go.

Voting Blogs: What The Justice Department Can Actually Do About Voter ID Laws | TPM

President Barack Obama last week told a radio audience that he’s made sure the Justice Department is reviewing restrictive voting laws passed across the country. But as a practical matter, DOJ’s reach is limited.

Sure, federal officials with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are reviewing voter ID laws passed in South Carolina and Texas because both states have a history of discrimination and are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. DOJ told South Carolina last month that they need more info before making a decision and in September told Texas they have more questions.

Texas: Justice Department seeks more details on Texas voter ID law | statesman.com

Texas’ new voter identification law remains in limbo as the U.S. Department of Justice asked on Friday for more details on how the state will implement the stricter voting requirements.

Read the Department of Justice’s letter

“The information sent is insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group,” wrote T. Christian Herren Jr. , chief of the Justice Department’s voting section.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Texas and some other states with a history of past discrimination are required to get federal government approval, called pre-clearance, before changes to election law can go into effect.

 

Texas: Will Federal Request Delay Texas Voter ID Law? — Voter ID | The Texas Tribune

Doubts are being raised as to whether the state’s controversial voter identification bill will be implemented on schedule because Texas does not ask its citizens their race when they register to vote. As passed during the regular session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, would require that voters present a valid state-issued ID before casting a ballot. Gov. Rick Perry deemed the legislation an emergency item. It is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts have authority to review laws that would affect voter turnout before they are enacted. Last week the department asked for more information before it could render a decision on whether to grant Texas’ request for preclearance, which the Texas Secretary of State submitted in July.

South Carolina: More voters than first thought don’t have photo ID | MidlandsConnect.com

New numbers from the state Election Commission out late Tuesday show approximately 217,000 South Carolina voters don’t have a photo identification, which could be required if the U.S. Justice Department approves the state law.

That’s up from 178,000 voters without the ID in January 2010. The commission initially compared its voter lists with DMV records at legislators’ request. It re-compared the lists to comply with the law signed in May, which requires each of those voters to be notified. The update also answers a question from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the law.

The Department of Motor Vehicles says nearly 700 people have called about getting a free ride to get a photo identification card to comply with South Carolina’s new voter ID law. According to the DMV, only 25 rides are scheduled for the one-day only free ride program, happening Wednesday, and most of the people who called the DMV were not interested in getting a ride.

Colorado: Elections Subcommittee Democrats Seek Investigation of Colorado Secretary of State | Committee on House Administration

In a letter to Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil rights Division of the Department of Justice, Congressmen Bob Brady and Charles A. Gonzalez, the Ranking Members of the Committee on House Administration and its Subcommittee on Elections, respectively, have requested an investigation into actions taken by Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler. Last week, Sec. Gessler petitioned the Denver District Court for an injunction to prevent the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office from mailing ballots to eligible voters ahead of the November 01, 2011, election simply because they hadn’t voted in the last general election.

“No right is mentioned more times in the Constitution than the right to vote,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “It is the responsibility of every public official to ensure that eligible citizens are not denied that right. Secretary Gessler, instead, has taken steps that could prevent Coloradans’ civic participation. The Voting Section of the Department of Justice exists to protect this foundation of our democracy.”

Denver City and County Clerk and Record Debra Johnson has called this “a fundamental issue of fairness and of keeping voting accessible to as many eligible voters as possible” and the maps her office released suggest that districts with large minority populations would be particularly hard hit by Gessler’s rule. The congressmen were also concerned that eligible and registered voters who had missed the last election because of a disability or because they were deployed abroad at the time might miss their chance to vote this year.

Colorado: Congressmen ask U.S. to look into Gessler lawsuit against Denver clerk | The Denver Post

Two Democratic congressmen asked the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday to investigate whether Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler violated federal law when he asked a judge to stop the Denver clerk and recorder from mailing ballots to inactive voters. The letter from Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania and Charles Gonzalez of Texas says Gessler’s actions may violate the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures.

“Given the diversity of the state of Colorado, and particularly that of Denver County, there is a high likelihood that the barrier to voting Secretary Gessler seeks to impose . . . will have such a discriminatory result,” the letter states.

It says that not mailing ballots to eligible voters listed as “inactive” because they didn’t vote last year “might make participation particularly hard” for disabled voters who may not have been able to get to the polls and Americans who may have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in 2010 but who want to vote Nov. 1.

Editorials: Democracy Under Attack | Judith Browne Dianis/Huffington Post

Today, we are witnessing the greatest assault on democracy in over a century.

Through a spate of state laws that restrict the type of identification a voter may use, limit early voting, place strict requirements on voter registration, and deny voting rights to Americans with criminal records, many voters will be cast out of the democratic process before they even make it to the polls. Those who do make it will face additional challenges. To complement legislative efforts to suppress the vote, the Tea Party and its allies have vowed to place millions of challengers at polls in 2012 to dispute voters’ eligibility in ways that may intimidate eligible voters and disrupt polling place operations. This two-prong strategy will impede American voters at every step of the voting process.

Not since the days of poll taxes and literacy tests has our country seen such blatant attempts to suppress the vote. Model legislative proposals crafted and strategically disseminated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative legislative advocacy group that receives funding from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation prompted some 34 states to introduce repressive photo identification legislation this year. While the bills vary slightly from state to state, they share one common thread. All of them require that voters must show non-expired, photo ID issued by that particular state or the federal government in order to cast a ballot. And all of them do so under the guise of preventing rampant voter fraud.

Voting Blogs: Irresistible Force Meets ImMOVEable Object: DOJ vs. New York on Military and Overseas Voting | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a federal judge to order New York State to change the date of its 2012 primary election. The government argues that current September date gives military and overseas voters too little time to return their ballots and thus fails to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act enacted by Congress in 2009.

DOJ and New York are well-acquainted with the courtroom and one another; DOJ sued in 2006 for failure to implement the Help America Vote Act and the state has been operating under a consent decree virtually ever since. Indeed, it is fair to say that no state has been as reliably consistent in the last decade as the Empire State in the implementation of new federal election laws.

Editorials: Will the South Rise Again?: Voting Rights Edition | Mother Jones

Last Wednesday, the district court of the District of Columbia threw out a challenge to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs, a coalition of conservative legal groups from Shelby County, Alabama, argued that Section Five, which requires a number of southern states to pre-clear changes to their electoral procedures with the Department of Justice, was illegal because it seeks to correct a problem—the mass disenfranchisement of minorities—that is supposedly nowhere near as pervasive as it was back in the glory days of Jim Crow.

In its opinion, the court convincingly argued that Section Five provides a still-necessary bulwark against discrimination. But that hasn’t stopped the Project on Fair Representation—a Washington-based group that helped fund the Shelby County suit and similar efforts around the country—from pushing back.