The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Tuesday to block a bill that would require Maine voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The House voted 82-66 to reject L.D. 197, sponsored by Sen. Ronald Collins, R-Wells, and backed by Republican leadership. Tuesday’s vote broke along party lines with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it. Last week the Republican-controlled Senate approved the proposal, 18-17. Two Republicans, Sens. Roger Katz, of Augusta, and Brian Langley, of Ellsworth, voted against the measure. Republicans have argued that a voter ID law will protect against voter fraud. Democrats countered that there has been little to no evidence of election fraud in Maine and that voter ID laws are political tools designed to suppress certain voters from participating in elections.
Genevieve Winslow of Milwaukee belongs is a member of the Greatest Generation. In 1948, at age 20, she married Alex Winslow, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Beginning a year later, at 21, she’s voted in nearly every election since. Now, she worries she might get turned away at the polls in the future. It is a common concern among older Americans living in states that have enacted photo ID requirements for voting. Passed by Republican state legislatures as a hedge against voter fraud, the laws have been assailed by critics who say they discriminate against the elderly and minorities. As Wisconsin implements its law, it is opening a window into why a photo ID can be so difficult for the elderly to obtain. But it is also highlighting what some activists are calling a “war against the Greatest Generation” as federal and state budget cuts fall disproportionately on the elderly. Whether it is the government shutdown making it harder to obtain veteran’s benefits or cuts to food stamps or state welfare programs, many in the Greatest Generation feel that they are now being left in the cold. During the latest partial government shutdown, “I don’t know that people didn’t get their benefits, but does that mean that things did not get processed while the government was shut down? Yes,” says David Hobson, executive director of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates. ” That does mean that claims did not get processed, so that was being held up.” Yet voter ID laws, which have been adopted in at least 34 states, feel to many seniors like the most direct attack.
In its relentless effort to justify the boondoggle that is Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law, the Corbett administration is wasting $1 million in taxpayer funds on a media blitz that at best will annoy voters and at worst will disenfranchise them. This is happening even though Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley, who is considering a challenge to the voter-ID law, ruled in August that it would not apply to the Nov. 5 election. Nonetheless, the voter-ID ideologues have produced a 30-second television commercial that’s confusing enough to create the mistaken impression that official photo identification will be required to vote next week. At one point in the ad, an announcer says voters won’t need an ID but then abruptly goes on to explain how to get one. Proponents of the law, enacted in March 2012, say they want to wipe out voter fraud. But the voter impersonation the law would prevent is so uncommon that the state was unable to produce a single verified case of it. That doesn’t mean it never happens, but it does mean that this approach to preventing it is like using a wrecking ball to kill a gnat. Democrats have criticized the law as an unnecessary obstacle designed to hamper their likely supporters, including the elderly, minorities, students, and people with disabilities. About 500,000 Pennsylvanians could be denied the right to vote if the law goes into effect.
North Carolina officials on Monday publicly defended controversial voting changes the Republican-controlled legislature pushed this past summer, a legally mandated response to lawsuits brought by the ACLU, NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Justice. The U.S. Department of Justice is also filing suit. The state reiterated its stand that the changes were made to fight voter fraud and ensure voting integrity – and are not voter suppression, as litigants suggest. That’s hogwash, of course. And it was refreshing to finally hear recently two prominent jurists whose landmark rulings enabled voter ID laws nationwide to essentially admit that. Both Appeals Court Judge Richard A. Posner, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, expressed misgivings about the impact of rulings they made affirming voter ID laws. They both had seminal roles in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County Election Board case that upheld Indiana voter identification laws that, like North Carolina’s today, were viewed as the most stringent in the nation in 2007.
In the final hours of the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2013 session, the Republican-controlled legislature passed House Bill 589 [PDF] (HB 589), an omnibus package of election law “reforms” aimed at further “securing the vote.” A few weeks later HB 589 was signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, despite the Governor’s initial admission that he “doesn’t know enough” about certain provisions of the legislation and in the face of growing opposition from the public. The legislation’s expected effect of diminishing the ability of North Carolina voters from casting their ballots seems incongruous with the legislation’s preamble stating in part: “[a]n act to restore confidence in government.” In effect, this legislative effort appears to be a not-so-veiled attack on voting which will make the registration process and actual act of casting a vote more onerous, particularly for the poor, minority, college-age youth and elderly voters. Until recently, 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Prior to the US Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder in June, election law changes impacting any of these counties (and many others nationally) required preclearance review by the US Department of Justice. The Shelby County holding invalidated Section 4 (which set forth the formula for determining those jurisdictions subject to preclearance) and effectively voided Section 5 (the preclearance provision) of the VRA. It now appears that the Court’s June decision prompted Republican members of the General Assembly to revisit previously filed legislation [PDF] intent on further restricting ballot access and scaling back current election laws knowing that the sometimes long and arduous road of preclearance would likely not need to be traveled.
North Carolina’s omnibus bill to change election law has drawn a fair share of criticism from voting rights supporters, but Republicans in Wisconsin appear eager to give their North Carolina colleagues a run for their money when it comes to new restrictions on voting. The latest legislation comes from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who’s pushing two bills to restrict early voting and a third that would reduce requirements on donor disclosures. One proposal would create new limits to the amount of early voting that can be offered by local elections officials, shrinking the number of hours, ending all weekend voting and allowing ballots to be cast only during regular business hours. Wisconsin enjoys some of the highest rates of voter participation in the country year after year, which has been attributed to its ample early voting period; the new proposal could significantly reduce that. The state’s chapter of the League of Women Voters is concerned that the legislation would “reduce the opportunities for voters across the state who have daytime jobs or family commitments.”
The legislature on Thursday passed a package of strict voting measures that may invite a federal lawsuit. The bill’s supporters said the measure will restore the integrity of elections and can withstand any challenge under federal law or the state constitution. But critics say the legislation is ripe for a legal challenge. The Senate gave the bill final approval with a 33-14 vote. The House followed, sending the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature with a 73-41 vote. As the House tally was read, Democrats stood, held hands and bowed their heads. The bill was much more expansive than the relatively straight-forward voter ID legislation the House approved in April that allowed students at state universities to use their school identification cards. The Senate changed the House ID provisions and added many more rules that Democrats said would discourage minority, student and elderly voters. “This is about a fear to lose power,” said Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley, a Raleigh Democrat. “The Senate is afraid.”
On the eve of a state Senate hearing on a proposed law requiring voters to present photo ID, hundreds of people gathered to protest the bill, saying it would make it harder for students, minorities and elderly voters to cast a ballot. And proposals to further limit voting, such as restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting, are still possible as the legislative session gets set to wrap up. “We are in a battle for the ballot,” North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. William Barber II told the crowd gathered behind the General Assembly building for the 12th “Moral Monday” protest. “If we ever needed the right to vote, we need it now.”
One of the most frustrating discussions of 2012 was about voter identification laws. Voter ID laws seemed like they would disproportionately impact non-white, student, and elderly voters, who were widely assumed to tilt Democratic. There were big, flashy numbers about the number of registered voters without photo identification. Pennsylvania, for instance, famously announced that 759,000 registered voters didn’t have photo identification, causing a hyperventilating Dave Weigel to depict the law as “an apocalypse waiting to happen.” But voter ID laws had been implemented across the country over the last decade, and there just wasn’t solid evidence that voter ID laws meaningfully reduced turnout, let alone hurt the performance of Democratic candidates. Even the best studies were very weak, and there were states like Georgia and Indiana, where Obama excelled after voter ID laws were enacted. The consequences of voter ID laws were imperceptible. But finally, there are better numbers on how voter ID laws might influence one critical battleground state. North Carolina is considering a strict new voter ID law, so North Carolina’s Secretary of State has conducted an analysis estimating how many voters have a state-issued photo ID.
Several groups on Monday criticized language in an elections bill that they say would make it more difficult for some minority, disabled and elderly voters to cast ballots. A provision in the wide-ranging bill wouldn’t allow voters to use assistants to cast ballots if they didn’t previously know them. Also, nobody could assist more than 10 voters per election. That means that people who can’t read English, are blind, have a disability or have trouble voting for any other reason wouldn’t be able to ask for help from trained volunteers at the polls unless they already know them. “This is again not about what’s best for Florida’s elections, but it’s politicians getting in the way of solutions for democracy,” said Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority, a group that advocates for minorities.
Let the perfunctory public hearings begin. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Raleigh listened to more than 100 speakers debate the pros and cons of a law that would require North Carolinians to produce a photo ID on Election Day. Detractors say that requiring an ID to vote will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of low-income, minority and elderly voters. But supporters of the measure say that producing an identification card is commonplace in today’s society and should be required at the polls. Some have even suggested that voter fraud is a widespread problem, but little evidence has directly backed up that claim.
To Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the state law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration is “common sense,” not a burden. To opponents, Arizona’s Proposition 200 is just another obstacle that would restrict access to the polls for the young, elderly and minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in this month in a hearing that will be watched closely by voting-rights advocates and by several other states with similar laws. At issue in the March 18 hearing is a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said federal law trumps state law on voter-registration requirements. The appeals court said in April that voters could use a federal mail-in registration form, established by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires that they attest to their citizenship only through a signature.
Josie Johnson gathered petitions against the Texas poll tax as a teenager in 1945 and worked for the right to vote in Mississippi in the violent “Freedom Summer” two decades later. Now, nearly a half-century after the Voting Rights Act was enacted to open the polls to all, the 82-year-old civil rights warrior is bringing those sad tales home to fight Minnesotas proposed photo ID requirement for voting.”Our ancestors died, young children were punished, homes were bombed, churches were bombed,” Johnson, the first black regent at the University of Minnesota, told a group of elderly voters, mostly black, at Sabathani Community Center last week. “People were denied the right that we take for granted. And well lose it, on Nov. 6, if we dont get out and vote no.
Earlier this year, voting rights advocates foresaw a cloud over this year’s election because new voting laws in Republican-led states tightened the rules for casting ballots and reduced the time for early voting. But with the election less than a month away, it’s now clear those laws will have little impact. A series of rulings has blocked or weakened the laws as judges — both Republicans and Democrats — stopped measures that threatened to bar legally registered voters from polling places in the November election. “Courts see their role as the protectors of the core right to vote,” said Ned Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University. The laws were the product of a Republican sweep in the 2010 election. The GOP took full control in such states as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, and soon adopted changes in their election laws. Some states told registered voters they must show a current photo identification, such as a driver’s license, even if they did not drive. Others, including Florida and Ohio, reduced the time for early voting or made it harder for college students to switch their registrations.
Six weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a wrongheaded ruling upholding that state’s new voter ID law. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent the case back for further review. This time, the Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr., has arrived at a slightly more rational rationale. The decision he issued last Tuesday should greatly reduce the risk of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of registered Pennsylvania voters—those who happen not to drive, for example, or have not otherwise needed a state-issued photo identification card before this election cycle. Let’s be clear precisely which voters we are talking about: Poor voters. Elderly voters. Black and brown voters. Students. Voters who are ill or infirm. With Judge Simpson’s new ruling, these folks will not be forced to travel to state bureaucratic offices, simply to wait in line for hours, all for a card they will use only for one purpose – to exercise their right to vote.
Voter ID laws create an unnecessary barrier to voting that disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters. If you’re going to have them, you should at least tell people that they’re going into effect. But given the impetus of these laws—to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters—it’s no surprise that few of the states that have passed them have made any effort to educate voters. Since 2010, 12 states have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote. One such law is Pennsylvania’s, where studies estimate anywhere from 780,000 to 1.2 million could be turned away at the polls on Election Day because of new ID requirements. A state court is expected to rule this week on whether the law can go forward, but in the meantime, many have blasted Pennsylvania’s anemic efforts to inform voters. Because the state originally estimated that far fewer voters would be affected, the plan was simply to remind those who turned out for the April primaries that they would need an ID next time around. The state also conducted a much-criticized PR campaign by a Republican-owned firm—during the court proceedings, a political scientist testified that one-third of Pennsylvania voters were unaware of the law.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia voters over 80 would be most inconvenienced by new ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law appears to impact Philadelphia’s elderly citizens more severely than other age groups – especially those over 80, who will likely find it harder than younger voters to obtain the photo identification they will need at the polls in November. Out of 44,861 active Philadelphia voters 80 or older, more than one in four, a total of 12,313, do not have photo ID from the state Department of Transportation – either a driver’s license or a nondriver ID. Those figures are based on an Inquirer analysis using computer data developed by PennDot and the Pennsylvania Department of State, which is responsible for state elections. Among active Philadelphia voters – those who have voted at least once in the last four years – the state counted about 136,000 whose names and birth dates did not match those with PennDot IDs. Overall, that number is 15.6 percent of the city’s active registered voters, about 874,000. But among older voters, the percentage without PennDot ID increases – to 19.5 percent among voters aged 65 to 79, and 27.4 percent among voters 80 and older.
Hundreds of senior citizens at a Southwest Atlanta high rise are concerned they may lose their right to vote. Betty Walton has lived at the Atrium at Collegetown for nearly a decade, but according to Fulton County, her address isn’t real. “That doesn’t make any sense. You can see the building, so it does exist,” said Walton. Walton is one of hundreds of seniors who may soon be removed from the voter rolls because of a mistake by the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections. About a week ago, the department sent out a letter telling Walton and others like her that they had to provide proof that their address was valid. The letter said if they didn’t, they would be purged from the voter rolls.
Democrats on Allegheny County’s elections board have announced that they plan to challenge Pennsylvania’s GOP-backed voter identification law. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Friday that the legal action to be taken next week will argue that the law is too expensive and difficult to implement in time for the November election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and others have already challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing that it makes it harder for some citizens to vote, especially the elderly and minorities. Backers say the law, similar to measures recently passed in other states, will reduce existing and potential voter fraud.
Janice Brady votes every chance she gets, and thinks a new Rhode Island law asking voters to show identification at the polls will protect the integrity of the state’s elections. That law will have its first statewide test on Tuesday, when Rhode Island holds its presidential primary. So Brady, 69, lined up last week with 25 other residents at the Charlesgate apartments in Providence to get a new voter ID. “It sounds like a good idea to me,” said Brady, who said she has no current driver’s license or other acceptable ID. “I don’t mind showing it.” Voters will be asked to present identification such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, military ID, Social Security card, birth certificate or even a utility bill or health club ID. Voters who fail to present the necessary identification will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which must be approved by election officials before being counted. Starting in 2014, only identification with a photo will be accepted.
Editorials: Reject voter ID – Seniors, minorities, young people and the poor could lose their right to vote | Pittsburgh Post Gazette
State senators in Harrisburg will soon consider House Bill 934, which would require citizens to provide one of a very short list of government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. It sounds simple, but it is not. If it became law, this bill would create one of the most extreme restrictions on voting in the country — and would threaten to needlessly disenfranchise a massive number of Pennsylvania citizens. Many Americans don’t have driver’s licenses or the other photo IDs that would meet H.B. 934’s narrow standards. Survey research indicates that 11 percent of voting-age citizens don’t have the limited forms of government-issued photo ID that would be accepted under H.B. 934 — even though these taxpayers and voters could prove their identity with other types of documents.
A southwestern Kansas town’s election next month on the financing of a new municipal swimming pool will be the first test of a much-debated state law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.
The law takes effect Sunday. On Jan. 10, the 2,200 residents of Cimarron, about 175 miles west of Wichita, will decide whether to impose a 1.25 percent sales tax to help finance the new pool and cover its operating costs.
Gray County Clerk Bonnie Swartz said Tuesday that she’s not anticipating significant problems, though she expects some voters will be frustrated if they forget to bring ID. She said if turnout is strong, 40 percent of registered voters, or about 480 people, may cast ballots.
“There are going to be some who say, `You know who I am,“’ she said. “It’s harder to enforce this type of a law in a small community because everybody knows everybody.”
The Douglas County Board has unanimously voted to oppose a state lawmaker’s attempt to require stringent photo identification to vote in Nebraska elections. If passed, Legislative Bill 239 would require people to have valid state-issued photo identification to vote. At this week’s meeting, County Board member Mike Boyle cited the unknown costs of the bill, plus the adverse effect it would have on elderly voters and particularly Hispanics if it became law.
A valid state ID, under the proposed legislation, is one that is unexpired and provides a current address. State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced the bill. Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said the County Board’s bipartisan opposition should signal that Janssen’s bill is a costly attempt to solve a problem that does not exist.
Lee and Phyllis Campbell never thought a trip to the Murfreesboro driver’s license testing center would take them all the way to Washington. But that’s what happened Monday, when the couple testified before a panel of House Democrats on their experience with Tennessee’s new voter identification law.
A staffer on the House Judiciary Committee invited the Campbells to testify at the forum on new state voter laws after hearing about the ordeal Phyllis Campbell experienced while trying to get a photo ID at the Murfreesboro testing center in September.