Texas: Comparing Texas’ Voter ID Law to Other States | Texas Tribune

When Texas voters are asked to show a photo ID at the polls in January, they will join voters in 29 other states that  have adopted voter identification requirements — but only six of which require photo identification.

The Legislature passed the controversial requirement during the regular session that ended in May. Because of Texas’ history of racial discrimination, section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act gives the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts the authority to review laws that would affect voter participation before they are enacted. Before the change in law, Texas voters could show a voter registration certificate or another document, such as a utility bill, that listed their name but didn’t necessarily have a photo on it.

Florida: New election law approved – except for most controversial portions | OrlandoSentinel.com

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning announced Tuesday that the Obama administration had cleared 76 changes to state election law that the GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott approved earlier this year.

But the “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t cover the four most controversial parts of the law. Last month, Browning asked a federal court in Washington D.C. to approve those changes, saying he didn’t think they’d get a “fair hearing” from Justice. The changes include reducing the number of days voters will have for early voting and new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups.

Colorado: Weld County awaits federal decision on providing bilingual voting materials | Greeley Tribune

As the 2011 election season nears, Weld County is among 16 counties in Colorado that are waiting to find out whether they will be required to provide election materials in Spanish in November. The U.S. Department of Justice will hand down the decision in the next month, and county clerks will have to comply with the guidelines under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.

The 1973 Voting Rights Act states that areas with large Latino, Asian, American Indian and Alaskan populations provide voting materials in languages spoken by these minorities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, that requirement affects counties in which more than 5 percent of voting-age residents are members of a single minority language group, provided that group also has depressed literacy rates. This data is determined by the most recent census.

Florida: Debate Rages Over Florida’s Election Law Review | wmfe

Florida’s new election law is stirring up more controversy, as state officials defend their decision to take the most contentious parts of the law to a federal court instead of to the U.S. Justice Department. The law is already in effect in most of Florida, but it needs federal approval before it’s implemented statewide. The Florida Department of State says a court review will remove the possibility of “outside influence,” but opponents say there may be other motives at work.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal government. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

South Carolina: Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law | TheState.com

A coalition of six S.C. groups moved Friday to halt a new state law that requires voters to present a picture ID to cast a ballot at the polls. About 178,000 S.C. voters do not have photo IDs, such as a valid S.C. driver’s license, and would be affected by the change, according to 2010 State Election Commission data. Previously voters could present their voter registration cards, which do not include a photo, at the polls.

The coalition, including the ACLU and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, arguing the new law should be blocked because it is discriminatory. The groups said African-Americans are less likely than whites to have a driver’s license or other state-issued identification, as required by the law.

“We’re rolling back a basic right,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “Voting is not a privilege in a democracy.” Advocates of the new law, approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley this year, tout it as a way to curb voter fraud and safeguard state elections.

Louisiana: NAACP, Justice Dept. Sue State Over Voter Registration Issues | WDSU New Orleans

The state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Department of Justice said Louisiana isn’t doing enough to register minority and low-income citizens. Both groups have sued the state in federal court.

“The allegation is that the Department of Health and Hospitals and Social Service personnel, the Department of Children and Families, did not offer on a routine basis, at least on the secret shopper interviews, the voter registration application,” said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Shedler.

Florida: DSCC asks Justice to halt Florida voting law | Politico.com

With Republicans around the country tightening voting regulations in a way that — arguments over (typically exaggerated) fraud and suppression aside — will likely advantage their party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stepped out of its usual legal lane to file a formal comment to the Department of Justice, urging him to object to Florida’s new law.

The Department of Justice, under the Civil Rights Act, must “preclear” changes to voting laws, and Florida si the first to come its way.

Florida: Secretary of State Defends Election Law Review | WMFE

Florida’s Secretary of State’s office is defending its decision to take the most contentious parts of a new election law to a federal court instead of to the U.S. Department of Justice. The law has to get federal approval, but there are questions about how the process should work.

The U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal government. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

Contrary to analysis heard on Wednesday’s Morning Edition on WMFE, the Voting Rights Act does allow a jurisdiction to choose whether to seek that pre-clearance from the Justice Department or from a federal court.

Florida: Browning Seeks Unprecedented Path to New Election Law’s Approval | Public Media for Central Florida

Florida’s top election official is taking the most contentious parts of the state’s new election law to a federal judge. Secretary of State Kurt Browning says a court review will remove the possibility of “outside influence” and ensure a “neutral evaluation” of the new law, which is already in effect in most of Florida. But opponents are calling the move an end run around a long-established federal law.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal Department of Justice. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

But in an unprecedented move, Secretary of State Kurt Browning has withdrawn the four most controversial parts of Florida’s new election law from the DOJ review. He says he’ll seek pre-clearance for those four parts from a federal judge instead. “He’s attempting to have a federal judge rule that the Voting Rights Act – the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act – don’t apply,” explains Orlando attorney Derek Brett. He’s an expert in election law and he teaches constitutional law at the University of Central Florida.
“How does a federal judge do that? The only way a federal judge could do that is if Mr. Browning is able to, in some way, present some type of constitutional argument,” says Brett. He adds he’s not sure what that argument might be.

Florida: Does new election law make it harder for some to register to vote? | Palm Beach Post

Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked a federal court to approve Florida’s new election law, sidestepping the U.S. Justice Department on the most controversial portions of the voting overhaul approved by the GOP-dominated legislature in May.

Critics of the new law say it is designed to make registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for minorities and low-income voters, who tend to vote Democratic. The ACLU and other groups are challenging the law in federal court in Miami. Jesse Jackson held rallies in Florida this week protesting the law.

On Friday, Browning withdrew four portions of the law – including those being challenged in federal court – from the application the state filed in June with the Department of Justice.

National: The new Jim Crow? – Democrats in Congress urge the Justice Department to look into new, GOP-authored voter ID laws | Salon.com

This week over 100 House Democrats wrote to the Department of Justice urging an investigation into whether new voter identification laws — passed in seven states already this year and under consideration in many more — violate the Voting Rights Act. 16 Democratic senators made the same request of Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month.

The laws, which marginally differ from state to state, require that voters will have to bring photo ID — for the most part government issued — to the polls next year. Stricter voter ID requirements at the polls have been passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures claiming to promote honest elections. Democrats, alongside groups including the NAACP, have called foul on the new laws, arguing they disenfranchise minorities, students, the poor and disabled (for the most part, groups with Democratic voting tendencies).

Florida: Floridians Protest New Voting Law | BET

Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. and leaders in Florida have embarked on a two-day campaign to build awareness among African-American voters and local lawmakers in the state about the impact that the proposed new voting regulations would have on minorities and low-income people.

“The irony is we fight wars for democracy abroad and declare war on democracy at home,” Jackson said during a news conference before a rally at the New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando Monday night. “All we really want is an even playing field.”

Rev. Randolph Bracy, whose church hosted the Monday night rally, said that Jackson will be a key catalyst in getting people to think about this issue and recognize what’s at risk. The rally sought to “wake up the community” and was the first of what Bracy hopes will be several more voter awareness events and activities. Similar rallies took place Monday morning in Eatonville and in Tampa Tuesday afternoon.

Florida: Controversial Voter Registration Law Raises DOJ Investigation | Land O Lakes, FL Patch

Recent changes to Florida law require third party voter registration organizations to register with their local supervisor of elections office. Those that don’t follow the law can be held liable to fines and criminal penalties.

While the new law seeks to minimize voter fraud, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation is under way to determine if the rules violate the Voting Rights Act.

Louisiana: Secretary of State vows to fight federal lawsuit | The News Star

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Louisiana alleging the state has violated its obligations to the National Voter Registration Act by failing to provide voter registration services at various public assistance offices such as the food stamp offices and Medicaid offices.

The Justice Department filed the suit July 12. The complaint alleges that Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change of address for public assistance, disability services or benefits.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said his office will fight the accusations, and he said he doesn’t want to just settle the suit for the sake of settling.

Florida: Voting Groups To Feds: Don’t Let Florida’s Restrictive Voting Law Go Through | TPM

A group of voting rights organizations are asking the Justice Department not to clear a Florida law which places restrictions on third-party voter registration efforts and shortens the early voting period.

Florida’s HB 1355 institutes a “panoply of burdensome and wholly unnecessary restrictions on the opportunity and ability of individual citizens and grassroots organizations to conduct voter registration drives,” the group wrote to the DOJ.

Parts of Florida are covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states to have changes to their voting process approved by the Justice Department. Claiming the restrictive measures are discriminatory, the groups want the feds to step in.

Editorials: Carded at the Polls – Will the Justice Department stop the assault on voting rights for minorities, the elderly, and the poor? | prospect.org

One consequence of Republican victories last November has been an onslaught of state legislation to require voters to show photo identification at polling places. This push builds on GOP efforts over the past decade to tighten ID requirements; at least 18 states have enacted more stringent rules since 2003, including, most recently, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Last week, 16 U.S. senators signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the new ID requirements comply with federal law. Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a Democrat, is gathering signatures on a similar letter from House members and held a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill with civil-rights leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, to draw attention to her effort.

South Carolina: Nearly 180,000 South Carolina voters affected by new voter ID law | WIS News 10

About 93 percent of South Carolina residents are not affected by South Carolina’s new voter ID law. The other seven percent — those who are registered to vote, but do not have a photo id — may have to take an additional step in order to vote. But right now, things are in limbo until the Department of Justice weighs in.

On May 18, new legislation was signed requiring voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. Any change to election laws must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, so some provisions in the law are not yet in effect.

Elections Commission officials say if the law is approved, most South Carolinians will not be affected. However, about 178,000 registered voters do not have a state-issued license or ID and may need one. “Those people will have to take some action before their next election,” said Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

National: Congressional Leaders Speak Out Against Voter ID Laws at Press Conference on the Hill | Campus Progress

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) held a press conference on Capitol Hill today in opposition to the voter ID laws sweeping states across the country. The event featured statements from Reverend Jesse Jackson, the ACLU, the National Action Network, and other civil rights leaders, along with a host of congressional representatives.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Corinne Brown (D-FL), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) were among the leaders who spoke out in strong opposition to photo ID requirements at the polls, emphasizing the laws’ disproportionate effect on the elderly, students, low-income communities, and people of color. This week, Rep. Fudge and twenty congressional representatives signed on to a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that the Department of Justice investigate the constitutionality of voter ID requirements, which could possibly violate the Voter Rights Act of 1965. As Campus Progress previously reported, on June 29 Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) circulated a similar letter to AG Holder which was signed by 15 Senators.

National: Flaws seen in absentee ballot program for military voters | Washington Times

The Justice Department’s program for handling military absentee ballots suffers from major flaws, and a survey revealed low turnout among military voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, according to a report by a private group made public on Tuesday.

Less than 5 percent of 2 million military personnel in states that are home to 80 percent of U.S. troops voted last year, the report by the Military Voter Protection Project (MVP) said. The low numbers were in part the result of complicated and mishandled federal enforcement, said Eric Loveland, MVP founder and author of the report.

“We’re 10 years into conflict now, and we still can’t seem to get the absentee voting things right,” Mr. Eversole said. “This needs to be a priority now. We can’t let our servicemen suffer another election.”

National: Senators concerned by photo ID requirement to vote | ajc.com

Sixteen Democratic senators want the Justice Department to look into whether voting rights are being jeopardized in states that require photo identification in order for people to vote.

The lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday to express concern that millions of voters do not have a government-issued ID — particularly older people, racial minorities, low-income voters and students. The senators say the photo ID requirements have the potential to block millions of eligible people from exercising their right to vote.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department is monitoring, as it routinely does, this type of legislative activity in the states.

Editorials: New Florida Voting Law: Voting Ban On Final Sunday | TheLedger.com

The Legislature’s recent changes to Florida’s elections law were so massive and controversial, it would be ironic if the overhaul came tumbling down because of one slightly obscure overstep. Here’s hoping that’s the case.

The overstep, pointed out June 12 in a front-page article by The Ledger’s Lloyd Dunkelberger, was the Legislature’s decision to disallow early voting on the Sunday before an election that features state or federal races.

That tweak might not seem like much, against the backdrop of the numerous and damaging changes imposed by the new law — such as tougher restrictions on voter registration, a severe reduction of the early voting period, and limitations aimed at young and absentee voters.

Arizona: Arizona Voter ID Law Challenged In Court | Huffington Post

Federal judges engaged in a lively debate with lawyers Tuesday over Arizona’s effort to require people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

Federal voter registration law allows people to submit a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury. But Arizona’s law – approved by voters in 2004 as part of a ballot measure – seeks further documentation, such as a driver’s license.

An 11-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lobbed questions at Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, representatives of minority groups that have challenged the Arizona law and a Department of Justice lawyer from Washington, D.C.

National: Three More Jurisdictions To ‘Bailout’ From Special Voting Rights Act Supervision | The Blog of Legal Times

A Virginia city, a California irrigation district and a Texas drainage district are the latest places to come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on exiting special supervision under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Today, DOJ announced it had reached agreements with the City of Bedford, Va. (PDF) and the Alta Irrigation District in California (PDF) on approving their “bailout” from special supervision; three-judge panels in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia are expected to approve both petitions.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel approved a bailout (PDF) for Jefferson County Drainage District No. 7 in Texas. The Justice Department had agreed to that petition in April.

Arizona: Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne angry at feds’ brief in support of 9th Circuit decision | Arizona Republic

Arizona State Attorney General Tom Horne is blasting President Barack Obama for getting involved in another Arizona lawsuit. The federal government has filed court documents supporting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to strike down Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that residents provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

The court ruled that the National Voter Registration Act pre-empts Arizona’s Proposition 200, which was passed by voters in 2004. The state successfully asked the court to reconsider the decision and an 11-member judge panel of the Appeals Court will rehear it June 21 in Pasadena, Calif. Among its provisions, the National Voter Registration Act creates a standard federal registration form that all states must accept. It requires applicants to sign a statement that they are citizens, but does not require them to show any proof.

Virginia: City of Bedford Virginia, Justice Department reach consent decree on section of Voting Rights Act | The Republic

The Justice Department and the city of Bedford have reached agreement on a vestige of the segregated South — federal oversight of its local elections.

Justice officials announced Thursday they have filed a consent decree in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia that would free the city of 6,222 from government approval of any election changes.

The election oversight is part of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted in 1965 to address widespread election abuses intended to deny African-Americans the vote.

Florida: ACLU, voting rights group sue to stop implementation of new Florida elections law | Palm Beach Post

The Florida ACLU and a Washington-based voting rights group filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal court to halt statewide implementation of a new voting law until federal officials sign off.

The groups filed the lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and his administration in federal court in Miami on behalf of two Democratic state lawmakers and nine voters in five counties that require U.S. Department of Justice approval of changes to elections laws. For federal approval, the state must prove the laws will not result in voter discrimination.

Florida: More details of lawsuit challenging Scott, Browning on election rules overhaul | Florida Independent

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Project Vote, a national voting rights group, filed suit in federal court Friday to challenge the implementation of Florida’s controversial new election law.

The case is being brought on behalf of nine voters in the Florida counties covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, including two state lawmakers, against Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state’s top elections official. It asks a three-judge panel to block implementation of the law until it has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Florida: Without DOJ sign-off, Florida elections chief balks at voting law | MiamiHerald.com

Until the Justice Department gives a green light, the elections officials in five [Florida] counties won’t begin implementing an election law that critics say violates the Voting Rights Act protecting minorities.

The elections supervisor in Rick Scott’s home county refuses to recognize a new law the governor signed out of concerns that the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t decided whether it violates a law protecting minority voters.