Of all the domestic policy differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, just about the sharpest and most telling may be their opposite responses to the drive by Republican-dominated states to require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Bush administration thought photo ID was a dandy idea. The Obama administration recognizes it for what it is: a cynical effort to insure that fewer young people and members of minority groups (read, likely Democratic voters) are able to cast a ballot.
Let’s start here: If I’m Charlie White, I’m fighting like crazy for my job. If I’m Charlie White, one controversial year into my first term as Indiana’s secretary of state, I’m fighting like mad for my political career. If I’m Charlie White, I don’t want it to end like this.
But I’m not Charlie White. The real Charlie White is fighting like crazy, but he doesn’t seem to know that it’s all crashing down in ways that a political career can barely survive and in ways that expose Hoosier voters at a time when they need strong character leading the elections division at the Statehouse.
If I’m the Indiana voter — hey, that is me — I’m asking: Why is Charlie White still running this particular show?
Earlier today I dared the Internet to send me examples of voter fraud — particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters through photo ID requirements and other such pernicious nonsense.
The Internet obliged, weakly.
A few readers reminded me that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter wasaccused of voter fraud in 2009, for voting by absentee ballot in Connecticut in 2002 and 2004 despite the fact that she was living in New York. The Connecticut Election Commission investigated, but decided to take no further action since Ms. Coulter was a registered voter in the state and did not vote elsewhere. I never imagined defending Ms. Coulter, but this does not seem like a threat to our democratic way of life.
Voters in several states head to the polls on November 8 to elect a variety of offices and decide on a number of ballot initiatives. While off-year elections don’t typically draw the same attention as their even-year counterparts, this election season will provide several election administration storylines worth watching.Voters in Mississippi will decide next week whether or not they want to show photo ID on future election days.
Initiative 27, sponsored by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Sen. Joey Fillingane is appearing on the November ballot after the state senate failed to take up the matter in its last session. If approved by the voters, the state’s Constitution would be amended to require voters to show a government issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Editorials: Voter ID proponents should have to answer for the ugly history of Jim Crow | Slate Magazine
An elderly black woman in Tennessee can’t vote because she can’t produce her marriage certificate. Threatening letters blanket black neighborhoods warning that creditors and police officers will check would-be voters at the polls, or that elections are taking place on the wrong day. Thirty-eight states have instituted new rules prohibiting same-day registration and early voting on Sundays. All of this is happening as part of an effort to eradicate a problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers: vote fraud.
Many commentators have remarked on the unavoidable historical memories these images provoke: They are so clearly reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. So why shouldn’t the proponents of draconian new voting laws have to answer for their ugly history?
Proponents of reforming the voting process seem blind to the fact that all of these seemingly neutral reforms hit poor and minority voters out of all proportion. (The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that while about 12 percent of Americans don’t have a government-issued photo ID, the figure for African-Americans is closer to 25 percent, and in some Southern states perhaps higher.) The reason minorities are so much harder hit by these seemingly benign laws has its roots in the tragic legacy of race in this country. They still work because that old black man, born into Jim Crow in 1940, may have had no birth certificate because he was not born in a hospital because of poverty or discrimination. Names may have been misspelled on African-American birth certificates because illiterate midwives sometimes gave erroneous names.
A healthy civic society requires protecting citizens’ fundamental right to vote while ensuring the integrity of our electoral system. Sadly, this goal is being jeopardized by a coordinated, nationwide effort to enact voter ID laws that will not solve the challenges facing our electoral systems and will instead disenfranchise voters and infringe upon the fundamental American right to free and fair elections.
Proponents of voter ID laws claim that they will reduce fraud. We agree that preventing voter fraud is extremely important. That is why dozens of states and the federal government have created safeguards to ensure voter integrity and passed laws imposing stiff penalties on individuals who commit voter fraud. We should vigorously enforce those laws.
However, it is a grave mistake and a waste of precious resources to enact voter ID laws that target only one extremely rare type of voter fraud — Election Day polling place impersonations — and leave in their wake millions of disenfranchised voters.
Several states adopted new laws last year requiring that people show a photo ID when they come to vote even though the kind of election fraud that the laws are intended to stamp out is rare. Even supporters of the new laws are hard pressed to come up with large numbers of cases in which someone tried to vote under a false identify.
“I’ve compared this to the snake oil salesman. You got a cold? I got snake oil. Your foot aches? I got snake oil,” said election law expert Justin Levitt, who wrote “The Truth About Voter Fraud” for The Brennan Center for Justice. “It doesn’t seem to matter what the problem is, (voter) ID is being sold as the solution to a whole bunch of things it can’t possibly solve.”
Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws this year that allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count.
Voting Blogs: It’s Not Just Who You Are, It’s Where You Live: Domicile and the Elections Stained Glass Window | Doug Chapin/PEEA
The past week’s headlines have a number of stories about the importance of political geography:
+ In Indiana, the state Supreme Court refused (for the time being) to take a case challenging the eligibility of Secretary of State Charlie White to serve, given allegations that he had registered to vote at an address where he did not live;
+ In New Jersey, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated former Olympian and current state Senate candidate Carl Lewis to the ballot after a trial court removed him because of the state’s “durational residency” requirement for candidates; and
+ Maine’s GOP chair cited evidence that 19 medical students registered to vote in 2004 from a South Portland Holiday Inn Express in arguing that the repeal of the state’s same-day registration law should stand.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is concerned voter turnout is at risk of being suppressed across the country — and thinks a spate of new state laws are to blame. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, called a hearing Thursday to examine laws that limit early voting, require photo identification and regulate who can volunteer for voter registration.
The senator pointed to Texas and Florida as states that have moved to restrict voter registration drives in the name of curbing fraud, but said such fraud is almost nonexistent and is used as an excuse to disenfranchise voters.
“Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring elections are fair and transparent are … American values,” said Durbin, who will send a letter to governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Tennessee about voter-related concerns in those states.
Hoosier voters could always count on receiving a complete ballot when they stepped inside the voting booth. Not any more.
In a misguided example of trying to streamline the voting process and save a few dollars, a new state law that went into effect on July 1 prohibits listing the names of unopposed candidates on the ballot. This bill will do nothing except create confusion, while any monetary savings would be negligible.
Voting Blogs: Indiana Reaches Settlement to Offer Voter Registration to Low-Income Citizens | Project Vote Blog
Thousands of low-income Indiana residents will finally have the opportunity to register to vote at state public assistance offices, as mandated by federal law.
Today, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt approved a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against Indiana officials to bring the state into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. The suit was brought by the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP on behalf of state public assistance clients injured by the state’s violation of federal law. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Project Vote, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demos, the NAACP, the Chicago law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, and the ACLU of Indiana.