Legislation that would create an online voter registration system for Iowa residents passed the Senate Thursday, but it’s unclear whether it will advance in the House. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 26-20 Thursday along party lines for the bill. That tends to show what kind of support it might get in the Republican-led House. The legislation would allow people to register to vote online through the secretary of state’s website if they have an Iowa driver’s license number, a state-issued identification card number or a Social Security number. When a registration is completed online, officials at a county auditor’s office are expected to verify the information before mailing a voter card.
Iowans soon will have the opportunity to register to vote online, provided they have a driver’s or state-issued operator’s license, thanks to a rule approved Tuesday by a state commission. The five-member voter registration commission unanimously approved a new rule that uses the transportation department’s database to allow state residents with government-issued identification to register to vote online. The Secretary of State’s Office said it hopes to have the program in place in time for the 2016 elections, which will include an open-seat race for the White House. “This is obviously another major step toward the goal we all share … to encourage as much (voter) participation as we can. This is one more step toward that,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said. “We’re going to be very aggressive and work with the DOT. That’s what this really is about, so we can keep the timetable moving.
Online voter registration could be available to Iowans in early 2016 following the approval of new state rules Tuesday. The Iowa Voter Registration Commission voted unanimously to adopt rules establishing an online registration system that we be maintained by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The move allows the DOT to begin developing the system, with plans to make it available to would-be voters by the first quarter of 2016. That might be after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, but well before next year’s primary and general elections. … Because the system will rely on electronic signatures on file with the DOT, online registration will be available only to Iowans with a driver license or non-operator ID. More than 90 percent of eligible voters have a state-issued ID card, Secretary of State’s Office officials said Tuesday. All other means of voter registration will remain available with the introduction of the online form.
Iowa: Voter rights groups seek changes to proposed online voting registration rule | Associated Press
A proposed rule allowing Iowa residents to register to vote online would exclude anyone without a driver’s license or photo ID and must be fixed, voting rights advocates said Wednesday. The Iowa Voter Registration Commission began drafting a new rule in August that would allow prospective voters to register on the internet in addition to the paper registration process. “This is a great step that benefits 94 percent of the population of Iowa with minimal cost or any strains on the current system,” Charlie Smithson, a commission member, said Wednesday. The deadline for public comment was set for the day before Election Day in early November, prompting voting rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa to say the change was being pushed through too fast. They asked for a public hearing, which will be Dec. 30.
No eligible, valid voter in the state of North Dakota should be turned away from the polls. Unfortunately, that happened to a small percentage of people on Election Day. In some cases, individuals had not taken the steps necessary to be able to prove residency with a valid ID. Some had recently updated their driver’s licenses, but failed to change their address with the North Dakota Department of Transportation soon enough to show they had been a resident for at least 30 days. In some parts of the state, students were turned away from the polls because they lacked an ID with the current address or an official student certificate. In these instances, it appears the individuals lacked knowledge of the deadlines and proper procedures to be able to prove their residency and vote on Election Day. However, in other instances, voters who say they took all of the proper steps were still turned away from the polls.
A man spent his election day in a failed attempt to cast his ballot by first learning his new address wasn’t on file at a polling location in Bismarck then crisscrossing the state to his old voting location in Dickinson at the suggestion of poll workers. Kyle Thiel, of Bismarck, is one of a handful of voters who reported being turned away from the polls Tuesday when his updated address information wasn’t found in the state’s central voter file. Thiel, 32, explained Thursday via email that he moved to Bismarck in August from Dickinson. On Aug. 25, he updated his address online through the North Dakota Department of Transportation website as directed on the back of his driver’s license. Although he’d updated his information online, Thiel said his license still had his Dickinson address on it. He said he hadn’t found the time to go get a new license, something he acknowledged would have helped. When Thiel went to vote in Bismarck, local election workers couldn’t find his updated address information in the system. After being directed to the DOT office for verification, he was told that information couldn’t be accessed.
On August 16, 2013, Pennsylvania Judge Bernard McGinley issued a preliminary injunction to block Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law from affecting Pennsylvania elections in November. This preliminary injunction was the result of a lawsuit, Applewhite v. Commonwealth. Though the trial concluded on July 31, 2013, the judge is still deliberating on whether a permanent injunction is appropriate. However, the preliminary injunction made it clear that Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show poll workers photo identification in order to vote in the 2013 November general election. The injunction also restricted the voter ID law’s “soft rollout” features. These features would have required poll workers to inform voters that they would need photo ID to vote in the next election. The judge’s recent preliminary injunction does away with this requirement. Poll workers may still ask to see photo ID, but the voters still do not have to produce it in order to vote.
Two weeks into the trial on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law, both sides profess confidence that they will prevail. That’s probably a good indication that neither is really sure. After nine days of testimony by state government bureaucrats, nationally known experts on statistics and communications and individual voters frustrated by the new photo ID requirement, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley put the trial on hold for a four-day weekend as lawyers prepare to sum up their cases in closing arguments anticipated next week. The issue is where the line should be drawn between Pennsylvanians’ right to vote and the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of elections. So far, the debate has been largely hypothetical _ the court has blocked enforcement of the March 2012 law since before the presidential election _ but the trial verdict will be a major step toward deciding whether it is allowed to take effect. The law would require all voters to show a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another acceptable photo ID with a current expiration date before they may cast ballots in an election. Voters who go to the polls without proper ID could only cast provisional ballots, which would be counted only if they provide local officials with an acceptable ID within six days after the election.
The eighth day of a trial on Pennsylvania’s voter-identification law ended in disarray Wednesday as plaintiffs’ attorneys contesting the law’s constitutionality refused to rest their case until they learn more about potential problems in issuing mandatory photo ID cards. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley expressed impatience at the slow pace of the trial and cleared the courtroom briefly to huddle with lawyers from both sides, but court recessed for the day with little sign of a compromise. The state did, however, present some testimony in defense of the law. At issue are about 500 registered voters who were rejected for a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation identification card last year and were referred to the Department of State for a free, voting-only ID card developed in August.
Plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law presented their final witnesses Tuesday in an effort to convince a state judge that it cannot be implemented without disenfranchising large numbers of voters. Three witnesses — all older women who no longer have driver’s licenses and rely mainly on relatives and friends for transportation — testified in video recordings played before Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the yet-to-be-enforced mandatory photo ID requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, would discourage many such people from exercising their right to vote. State officials say any registered voter who lacks an acceptable ID can get a special Pennsylvania Department of State voting-only ID for free through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
While the Pennsylvania voter ID law was being developed, officials within the Corbett administration noted concerns similar to those now raised in court by parties claiming the requirement is unconstitutional. An internal bill analysis presented in Commonwealth Court on Monday by challengers of the law shows the Department of State had learned that college students and residents of care facilities might not be reached by provisions of the law intended to ensure they would have access to acceptable identification. Most university identification lacked expiration dates, while most care facilities did not issue IDs, the December 2011 analysis said. Of particular concern was a scenario that could be encountered by residents of care facilities that house polling places. A resident too unwell to travel to a Department of Transportation licensing center to obtain an ID might still be able to get to the polls and thus be ineligible to vote absentee. “The individual may then claim that he or she has been deprived the right to vote,” the document says.
The judge hearing a challenge to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law has ordered the state to turn over information from its databases of voters and drivers. The number of Pennsylvania voters without acceptable identification was a central question last year in a hearing on whether the law would remain in effect for the November 2012 elections. That proceeding resulted in the extension — now through the May primary elections — of a phase-in period in which voters were asked, but not required, to show photo identification.
State transportation and election officials were ordered Monday to provide data on licensed drivers and registered voters to plaintiffs in the ongoing voter-ID dispute, hoping to answer a question that has baffled state officials for the last year: how many Pennsylvania voters do not already have photo identification cards from PennDot? Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. agreed to a motion from opponents of the state’s new voter ID law, saying their data request was relevant.
North Dakota voters may have to present identification before they can cast a ballot at the next election. Senate lawmakers Wednesday passed House Bill 1332 by a 30-16 vote, which will eliminate the voter affidavit process that allows a voter to cast a ballot without proof of eligibility. Currently, people who can’t prove residency at the polls can vote by signing an affidavit that says they are a North Dakota resident. The bill will be sent to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for his signature. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, and other lawmakers have been concerned about the current system, arguing it leads to voter fraud. Opponents of the proposal raised concerns that requiring identification will make it difficult for elderly people and college students to obtain an ID because they are physically unable to or do not have a permanent residence to obtain one.
Pennsylvania: Court blocks Voter ID Law opponent from getting Pennsylvanians’ driver’s license info | PennLive.com
Commonwealth Court has blocked a bid by a group that is challenging the state’s controversial Voter ID Law to get the driver’s license information of every Pennsylvanian. The Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project has no legal right to that data, which includes birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers, the court ruled. Marian K. Schneider, a consulting attorney with the Advancement Project, said the group, which calls itself a “multi-racial civil rights organization,” is considering whether to ask the state Supreme Court to hear the case. Schneider said she sought the information so the Advancement Project could determine how many registered voters don’t have photo identification they would need to cast ballots under the Voter ID Law.
Based on the chatter on gun blogs and Internet forums, it looks like a groundswell is underway in Virginia to borrow a page from Napoléon’s playbook and vote ‘to the sound of the guns.’ Thanks to a new law passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed by Governor Bob McDonnell (R), all that it will take to vote in Virginia this year is a concealed handgun permit. This means no photo is required to vote, a far different story that the recent Pennsylvania photo-voter statute struck down by a Pennsylvania judge. A key objection to the Pennsylvania photo-voter scheme was the difficulty in obtaining photo ID by people without driver’s licenses.
Just because opponents of Pennsylvania’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification won a preliminary injunction in court doesn’t mean the issue or the court case is going away. The law itself has not cleared the constitutional challenges before it, and indications from the state Supreme Court are that the law still faces significant legal problems. Meanwhile, the hubbub over the divisive law has awakened new Democratic Party volunteers and prompted the formation of the 175-group Voter ID Coalition. The Democratic Party and the coalition both said Wednesday they will shift their education campaigns to reflect a judge’s day-old decision that voters will not, after all, be required to show photo ID at their polling place. ‘‘The issue remains, the law remains,’’ said Joe Grace, a Philadelphia-based spokesman for the Voter ID Coalition. ‘‘It will have to be dealt with after Election Day, but it is simply not a factor when people go to the polls on Nov. 6 unless there’s confusion.’’
The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting the decision by Matt Schultz, Iowa secretary of state, to make two new administrative rules that would challenge voter eligibility. The first rule set forth by Schultz would make it easier to file a voter fraud complaint in Iowa. As the law stands now, there is a lengthy process to make the complaint. According Schultz’s new administrative rule, a person only needs to submit a form online, which according to the union, requires no accountability for truth and implies nothing about a consequence for intentionally filing a false claim. The second rule added grants the secretary of state, whomever it happens to be, power to review registered voters in Iowa. The secretary would take a list of people with noncitizen licenses from the Department of Transportation and compare it to a list of registered voters from the federal government. The point of this process, said Chad Olson, Schultz’s chief of staff, would be to find people who registered to vote with their noncitizen license, to try and weed out voter fraud through removing those noncitizen voters.
A judge who will decide whether Pennsylvania’s new voter-identification law should be blocked heard testimony on Tuesday from one witness who said fears that the measure placed an unfair burden on residents were overblown. The witness, Kurt Myers, a deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said about 11,000 voters have gotten the mandated ID cards at the center of the controversial law and thousands more were set to get theirs before the November 6 election. “We’re in the business of issuing IDs, not denying IDs,” Myers told Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.
The state of Pennsylvania’s ability to get every would-be voter a government-issued photo ID by Election Day will literally be on trial Tuesday. The hearing before Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson comes after the state Supreme Court last week instructed him to block a new law requiring ID at the polls unless he determines “that there will be no voter disenfranchisement” arising from its implementation. Opponents of the law have said the state can’t possibly prove that case, as the law’s entire reason for existence is precisely to make it harder for the poor, members of minority groups, students, and the elderly to cast their ballots, and in that way suppress the Democratic vote. Republican backers of the law have said it was intended to fight voter fraud. But in-person voter fraud — the only kind voter ID would reduce — is almost nonexistent.
Iowa: Secretary of State’s voter eligibility investigation on hold after judge issues injunction | Des Moines Register
Rules governing an effort to verify the eligibility of thousands of Iowa voters cannot be enforced while a lawsuit challenging their validity goes forward, a Polk County judge has ruled. Judge Mary Pat Gunderson issued a temporary injunction to stay the implementation of the rules late Friday afternoon. The ruling casts no judgment on the merits of the case, but means Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s effort to check the citizenship status of more than 3,500 voters is on hold for the time being. Schultz has identified the potentially ineligible voters by comparing the state’s voter rolls to a Department of Transportation list of legal aliens who have obtained driver’s licenses. He’s now seeking to verify those voters’ citizenship status by cross referencing the list against a federal immigration database. The rules enjoined on Friday were passed earlier this summer through an emergency rulemaking process as part of Schultz’s effort to gain access to the federal database.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday kicking a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law back to a lower court that already approved it may force a close look at state efforts to issue identification for voters. When that lower court upheld the strict voter ID law on Aug. 15, Judge Robert Simpson said state initiatives to educate voters and create a form of identification that can be used to vote made it unlikely that the law would disenfranchise voters. When Simpson takes up the case again, he likely will look closely at Pennsylvania’s efforts. He will find what state officials say are sincere attempts to reach registered voters. And he will find signs of serious trouble. Few of the 2 percent of Pennsylvania voters who did not have state-issued ID when the law was passed have been able to obtain it, despite programs that state officials say are free and easy.
Cheryl Ann Moore stepped into the state’s busiest driver’s licensing center, got a ticket with the number C809 on it and a clipboard with a pen attached by rubber band, and began her long wait Thursday to become a properly documented voter. Six blocks away, inside an ornate and crowded City Hall courtroom, a lawyer was arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the state’s controversial new voter ID law would strip citizens of their rights and should be enjoined. Just outside, on Thomas Paine Plaza, the NAACP president was inveighing against a modern-day poll tax at a boisterous rally of a few hundred opponents. Moore bent over a folding table and carefully filled out the form a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worker had given her, in the first line she would stand in that day. Her ticket was time-stamped 11:38 a.m. and gave an estimated wait time of 63 minutes, which, said Moore, didn’t seem so bad. She had been registered to vote since she was 19, and now she was 54.
Iowa: Immigrant advocates again voice concerns over new voter-registration rules | Des Moines Register
New state rules meant to identify noncitizens on Iowa’s voter rolls could have the unintended effect of intimidating eligible voters, several Iowans and immigrant advocates told a state panel on Tuesday. The rules at issue – passed this summer through an emergency process without public input – outline procedures for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to use a federal database to verify the citizenship status of registered voters in Iowa. Secretary of State Matt Schultz has been seeking access to the database for several months, after determining using state Department of Transportation records that more than 3,500 people who are in the country legally but are not citizens are registered to vote in Iowa. Tapping the federal data would allow Schultz’s office to determine more accurately which of those voters are not citizens and thus ineligible to vote. The new rules are meant to satisfy the federal government’s demands for how the database will be used.
Pennsylvania: At voter-ID hearing, justices have tough questions and a surprise | Philadelphia Inquirer
The state Supreme Court’s long-awaited hearing on Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law was going pretty much as expected when Justice Thomas G. Saylor, a white-haired veteran jurist from Somerset County, brought a new issue into the long-running controversy. He’d been reading the law himself, Saylor told chief deputy attorney general John G. Knorr 3d, and he questioned whether the commonwealth was actually following the precise requirements of the voter-ID law passed last March – specifically, a provision that requires the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to provide a nondriver photo ID card to any registered voter who swears that he needs it for voting purposes. To the surprise of many in the standing-room-only courtroom in City Hall, Knorr agreed with the justice.
A wave of new voting restrictions have been struck down by the courts in recent weeks. A major exception is Pennsylvania, where Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, declined to issue a preliminary injunction against the state’s controversial voter ID law on August 15. Today in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court convened in a packed, standing-room-only courtroom to revisit the law. A decision is expected in the next few weeks to determine whether Pennsylvania will be the largest swing state with a new, restrictive voter ID law on the books for the 2012 election. David Gersch, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs (which include voting rights groups such as the ACLU and the Advancement Project), argued that Judge Simpson erred in failing to conclude that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law “impermissibly violates the right to vote.” Gersch noted the significance of holding the hearing in Philadelphia, “the birthplace of American democracy,” in a state whose constitution explicitly protects the right to vote. Gersch asked, once again, for an injunction against the law based on three major points: (a) “the right to vote is a fundamental right” harmed by the law; (b) the voter ID law was not a mere election regulation but something far more significant and burdensome; and (c) the law was not narrowly tailored toward its legislative goal of stopping voter fraud.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz told a legislative rules committee on Tuesday that he’s not trying to give an advantage to any candidates in November but only doing his job by passing emergency voter rules to ensure only U.S. citizens vote. Schultz defended the rules before the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee when confronted by some of the group’s Democrats who said the rules will intimidate Hispanic voters, and perhaps others, and scare them away from voting. Sen. Tom Courtney, of Burlington, said many Latinos he’s talked to in his district are afraid election officials are going to try to keep them from voting. “These are good people who happen to be naturalized American citizens and they want to vote. They want to do their part. They’re scared, Mr. Secretary,” Courtney said. “This scares them and I don’t like that. We’ve never had that in this state. We’ve always been above board and everybody voted.”
New state rules meant to identify noncitizens on Iowa’s voter rolls could have the unintended effect of intimidating eligible voters, several Iowans and immigrant advocates told a state panel on Tuesday. The rules at issue — passed this summer through an emergency process without public input — outline procedures for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to use a federal database to verify the citizenship status of registered voters in Iowa. Secretary of State Matt Schultz has been seeking access to the database for several months. By using state Department of Transportation records, Schultz believes he has identified more than 3,500 people who are in the country legally and are registered to vote in Iowa, but are not citizens. Tapping the federal data would allow Schultz’s office to determine more accurately which of those voters are not citizens and thus ineligible to vote. The new rules are meant to satisfy the federal government’s demands for how the database will be used.
New voter rules that Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz created in July face a hurdle at the courthouse and a hurdle at the Capitol. Polk County Judge Mary Pat Gunderson is considering legal arguments over whether to allow Schultz to move forward with what he is calling emergency rules, and the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee is scheduled to meet today to consider taking action on those same rules. If the voting rules are upheld, Schultz would be allowed to purge certain voters from Iowa’s voter registration list, and it would be easier to report voter fraud. Schultz, a Republican, approved the rules in July without public input, saying he had to act before the November election to ensure that noncitizens don’t vote. Schultz has asked the legislative committee to approve the rules permanently. The group has little authority to stop the rules from taking effect if Gunderson finds that Schultz had the legal authority to create them.
Two government offices, three hour-long lines, two 78-mile trips, two week-long waiting periods, four forms of identity and two signed affidavits later, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to vote. Under the state’s new voter ID laws,, which require every voter to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, that is the epic process thousands of native Pennsylvanians have to go through to get the ID required to cast their ballots in November. And they now have just 56 days to complete it before the election. “It was hell all told,” said Jan Klincewicz, who helped his 87-year-old mother, Jisele, through the process. “To have to go through that kind of rigmarole to exercise her right to vote I think is excessive.”