Wisconsin Republicans are pushing state legislation that would block local governments from issuing voter ID cards — which are required at the ballot box under a 2011 law — even though the locals IDs currently being considered in a Milwaukee program aren’t meant to be used for voting. Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo are floating a proposal that would bar cities and villages from issuing any photo ID card, according to the Journal Sentinel. It also would require that any ID issued by local governments to state clearly that it does not meet the state’s voter ID requirements. Nor can local government IDs be used for any public benefits program, under the proposal.
Wisconsin: Judge’s ruling a mixed bag for those challenging voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A federal judge has thrown out portions of a challenge to Wisconsin’s voting laws but is allowing a key part of the lawsuit to proceed that could allow more types of identification to be used under the voter ID law. In his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge James Peterson in Madison also found the liberal One Wisconsin Institute could pursue its argument that recent restrictions on early voting violate the U.S. Constitution. The group brought its lawsuit in May, contending the voter ID law, limits on early voting and other policies were designed to make it harder for minorities, the poor and those backing Democrats to vote.
Republican Missouri legislative leaders, backed by veto-proof majorities, will try again in 2016 to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, despite numerous failed attempts over the past decade. Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican running for secretary of state, pre-filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for photo identification and a bill that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID. GOP House members pre-filed similar measures. A change to the state’s constitution would be necessary before implementing a photo ID law because the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar measure in 2006 as unconstitutional.
North Carolina: Elections officials notifying voters who have no valid IDs | Greensboro News & Record
State election leaders sent letters last week to 825 registered voters in North Carolina, warning that they “may not possess an acceptable form of photo ID” for voting next year. State law will require all North Carolina voters to show a picture ID to vote. Ted Fitzgerald, the state’s lead voter outreach specialist, said Monday the letter went to a narrow slice of voters: those who signed a form at the polls this year saying they don’t have the acceptable ID required to vote in 2016. The letter asks people to fill out a form about whether they plan to get an acceptable ID, or if they need help getting one. The ID requirement is part of legislation state Republican legislators passed in 2013. The Voter Information Verification Act also reduced the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, eliminated same-day voter registration and abandoned out-of-precinct provisional voting.
Wisconsin’s requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls has survived another legal challenge after a federal judge Thursday dismissed portions of a wide-ranging lawsuit alleging the mandate burdens the right to vote. One Wisconsin Institute Inc., a liberal group; Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, a voting rights organization; and a half-dozen individual voters filed the lawsuit in June. They argued a number of provisions Republicans have added to state election law since they took over the Legislature in 2011, most prominently the photo ID requirement, violate the federal Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment and the equal protection clause. U.S. District Judge James Peterson issued an order saying he has granted the state’s motion to dismiss the portion of the lawsuit challenging the voter ID requirements. He said the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already upheld the mandate in a separate case in October 2014. But he added he’s not convinced that the requirement promotes any confidence in the electoral process. He also rejected another section of the lawsuit alleging that statutory changes impermissibly favor voters who move to Wisconsin from out of state.
North Carolina: State attorneys oppose call for preliminary injunction against photo ID law | Winston-Salem Journal
Attorneys for the state filed court papers Friday opposing the request for a preliminary injunction against the state’s photo ID requirement before the March primaries. The N.C. NAACP filed a motion for a preliminary injunction last month, arguing that allowing the photo ID requirement during the March primaries would cause “irreparable harm” to minority voters. They argue that state officials haven’t done enough to educate voters about the photo ID requirement or about changes that state Republican legislators made to the requirement in June.
Editorials: The public doesn’t support restrictive voter ID laws, but many new ones will be in force in 2016 | Herman Schwartz/Reuters
Defenders of photo ID laws regularly cite public opinion polls that show widespread support for their arguments. Yet these polls reveal no such support, and they prove nothing about this new restrictive legislation because the polls’ questions cover a far broader range of IDs than the actual laws accept as proof of identity. Many of the new laws do not accept a college student ID, for example, or an out-of-state driver’s license; but the polls drawing favorable responses encompass such IDs. As always, the devil is in the details. When Republicans won full control of 21 states in 2010, they promptly adopted measures to restrict and deter voting by minorities, the poor and the young, all key components of the Democratic base. One of the most effective measures requires voters to show one of a restricted set of photo IDs issued by either a state or federal government. Government studies have shown that these laws can prevent or deter significant numbers of poor and minority voters from voting. By 2015, 13 states had adopted what the National Conference of State Legislatures considers a “strict” voter photo ID law, including seven Southern states formerly subject to federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act.
Federal transportation officials will investigate whether Alabama violated civil rights laws by cutting back on motor vehicle services in predominantly black counties. The cutbacks already are under fire by civil rights activists who say they make it harder to get a photo ID, a requirement to vote under a new state law. Transportation officials wrote Wednesday to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, citing concerns over the reduction in services.
A federal lawsuit challenging Alabama’s law that requires voters to present identification before they can cast a ballot was filed Wednesday by Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama NAACP. The lawsuit alleges Alabama violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when the state enacted a photo ID law in 2011. Alabama’s secretary of state had estimated that at least 280,000 registered voters would be immediately blocked from voting, the lawsuit states “If the Photo ID Law remains in place, hundreds of thousands more eligible and registered voters will be barred from voting in the years to come,” according to the lawsuit.
The top federal prosecutor in North Alabama says she is reviewing a lawsuit filed Wednesday by groups challenging Alabama’s law requiring people to present photo identification before they can vote. “We received a copy of the lawsuit … We are certainly reading the lawsuit with great interest,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance. But Vance said it was “too speculative” at this point on whether the U.S. Department of Justice would get involved in the issue. But, she added, “we are acutely concerned with protecting the right to vote.”
We’ve long wondered what the legislature’s wrong-headed laws are costing North Carolina, both in reputation and in taxpayer dollars to defend them in court. It may be impossible to put a precise dollar figure on the state’s reputation, but we now know the legal cost: More than $8 million. The Associated Press reported last week that the Republican-led General Assembly has budgeted $4 million a year for the next two years to pay outside lawyers to defend controversial N.C. laws.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked a federal judge on Tuesday to halt the implementation of a photo identification requirement for North Carolina voters, saying the measure discriminates against black and Latino residents. The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and other plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to stop the requirement, which will take effect next year, ahead of primary elections in March. “North Carolina’s voter ID requirement remains an undue and unlawful burden on voters of color,” Reverend William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, said in a statement. “A preliminary injunction would ensure democracy is not disrupted for eligible voters of color,” he said.
The point was to protest what the 30 people assembled said was the state’s misplaced priorities in recent attempts to shut down rural driver’s license offices – major sources of photo IDs required for voting – while keeping some money-losing Alabama Beverage Control (ABC) stores open. “They would leave state-owned liquor stores open that were losing up to $75,000 a year,” said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma. “What it did was told us over how many a year it was easier to get alcohol than it was to get the ballot. They work hard to make sure you get alcohol. They work hard to make sure you don’t get the ballot.” The crowd chanted “Give us the ballot, not just the bottle” at the end of the performance. The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy organized the event.
Editorials: Despite the Voting Rights Act, right to vote under siege | Ari Berman/Philadelphia Inquirer
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which turned 50 in August, is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement and the most important civil rights law of the 20th century. When he signed the legislation at the U.S. Capitol, President Lyndon Johnson described the act as the final victory against America’s original sin of slavery. “Today we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds,” Johnson said. The act had an immediate transformative impact. Literacy tests were suspended across the South, the attorney general filed lawsuits successfully challenging the poll tax, and government observers were sent to monitor elections in the South’s most segregated areas. Within days of the act’s signing, federal examiners were registering black voters at a rapid clip in places like Selma, Ala. The law has enfranchised millions of Americans over the last five decades and enabled the election of the country’s first black president. But the act didn’t end the debate over voting rights, as Johnson predicted. In recent years there has been a proliferation of new measures to tighten access to the ballot, such as requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, shutting down voter-registration drives, curtailing early voting, disenfranchising ex-felons, purging the voter rolls, and mandating government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot.
State Senate Republicans have caucused and the filing of bills will begin December 1. The man who can decide what does and doesn’t reach the Senate floor in the 2016 session said he can’t rank legislative priorities, but Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) told Missourinet there are some issues that stand out. Voter photo ID will be proposed again. “I believe Senator [Will Kraus] … will be working through voter ID. He’s been a champion of it before. He’s very passionate about it, and many people are,” said Kehoe. “We feel like if you’re going to vote for the most powerful man in the world, having proper identification is only reasonable.”
North Carolina: Voting law opponents plan to file preliminary injunction against photo ID | Winston-Salem Journal
The North Carolina NAACP wants a federal judge to stop the photo-ID requirement from taking effect during the March 2016 primary elections. Attorneys for the civil-rights organization filed court papers on Friday indicating that they planned to seek a preliminary injunction. The photo-ID requirement was passed along with a number of other provisions in a sweeping elections law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed in August 2013. The law is known as the Voter Information Verification Act.This will be the second time the state NAACP has sought a preliminary injunction over the controversial elections law. The group sought one last year.
Today is Veterans Day, and Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin will no doubt be thanking us for our service and telling us how important we are and how much they honor us. But their words ring hollow because they won’t even let us use our Veterans Administration ID card as a valid proof of identity when we try to go vote in the next election. This is part and parcel of their overall scheme to make it much more difficult for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites to vote under the new Voter ID law they passed. I served in the U.S. Navy. I have a DD 214 card issued by the Navy on my discharge to prove I served and was discharged honorably. I also have a photo ID issued by the U.S. Veterans Administration. I had to show the DD 214 to get the ID. It is good enough to prove to a U.S. government agency that I am a veteran and entitled to use VA services. But it’s not good enough for those Republican legislators to prove I am who I am so I can vote. Why isn’t a VA ID card a valid proof of existence?
In new court filings, the N.C. NAACP and others said North Carolina’s photo ID requirement is still discriminatory, despite an amendment passed this summer that eased the restrictions. The filings come about two weeks after U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against North Carolina’s voter-identificiation requirement. Schroeder had ordered plaintiffs to file an amended claim in the case by Nov. 6. State Republican legislators passed a sweeping elections law, known as the Voter Information Verification Act, in 2013. The law did a number of things, including reducing early voting days from 17 to 10 days, eliminating same-day voter registration and getting rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting. The law also required voters to show photo ID in 2016. Just three weeks before a trial in federal court this summer, state Republican legislators passed an amendment that allows voters without a photo ID to sign an affidavit outlining “reasonable impediments” to them getting a photo ID. If the affidavit is accepted, voters would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
Voting Blogs: Lee v. Virginia Board of Elections: Wait, Virginians have to present a photo ID to vote? | State of Elections
In 2013, Republican majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly enacted a “voter ID law” that significantly restricts accepted forms of identification that voters must present before casting a ballot on Election Day. Now, officers at the election booths will require voters to present one of the following forms of photo identification: (1) a valid Virginia driver’s license; (2) a valid United States passport; (3) any photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States; (4) a valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth; or (5) a valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business. Any voter that is unable to present an acceptable form of photo identification at the polls will be offered a provisional ballot, but the voter must deliver a copy of a proper form of identification to the electoral board by noon of the third day after the election. Provisional voters may submit copies by fax, e-mail, in-person submission, timely United States Postal Service, or commercial mail delivery.
A federal judge on Friday refused a request from state lawmakers to dismiss a challenge to the N.C. voter ID law. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder set the issue for a trial, tentatively in January. Attorneys for state lawmakers argued that a 2015 change to the ID provision of an election law overhaul made the 2013 legal challenge moot. Though the law initially restricted voting to people who had one of six specified photo identification cards, the General Assembly added a provision on the eve of the federal trial this summer that made it possible to cast a provisional ballot without an ID. The law is set to go into effect next year. Advocates of the ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But few cases have been prosecuted.
A federal judge on Friday refused a request from state lawmakers to dismiss a challenge to the North Carolina voter ID law. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder set the issue for a trial, tentatively in January. Attorneys for state lawmakers argued that a change made this year to the ID provision of election law made the 2013 legal challenge moot. Though the law initially restricted voting to people who had one of six specified photo identification cards, the General Assembly added a provision on the eve of the federal trial this summer that made it possible to cast a provisional ballot without an ID. The law is set to go into effect next year.
Attorneys will update a federal judge Friday about their latest arguments over North Carolina’s voter ID provision that is set to go into effect in 2016. Lawyers representing state lawmakers contend the legal challenge should be dismissed. They say the issue is moot now, because legislators changed the law earlier this year to make it possible for some people to vote without a photo identification card. The NAACP and others have contended that requiring IDs to vote has a disproportionate negative impact on minority voters, who don’t always have access to birth certificates and other documents needed for the identification cards. Though the 2015 amendment to the elections law overhaul now makes it possible to vote without one of the six specified IDs, the challengers have asked for more time to study the practical effect. They also have questioned whether elections officials have had adequate time to educate the public about the most recent version of voting laws.
Of the 239 million American people who are of voting age, a little more than half—only about 142 million—were registered to vote in 2014. For people in the state of Kansas, their voter registration process is a bit more difficult in the lead up to this election season, thanks in part to the Secure and Fair Elections Act, also known as the SAFE Act. The law, sponsored by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requires potential voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering. In all states, voting in federal elections is limited to U.S. citizens, but requirements for voting vary state by state. In the least restrictive states, like New Jersey, for instance, a signature verification is the only requirement for registration. Other states are stricter—Texas requires a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license.
Editorials: When it comes to election law, red America and blue America are not at all alike | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times
We already know that Americans’ access to abortion services, healthcare and firearms varies according to where they live. In California, it’s relatively simple for women to obtain an abortion, and in Texas, it’s quite hard; the reverse is true for guns. Some states accepted Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act, helping the poor obtain health coverage, and others did not. Increasingly, location also affects how difficult it is to cast a vote. When it comes to election law, red America and blue America are not at all alike. Since 2000, and especially in the last few years, states dominated by Democrats have tended to pass laws that make it easier to register and vote, while states dominated by Republicans have done the opposite. This month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making voter registration automatic for eligible Californians who request a driver’s license or state ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles. California joins liberal Oregon in this endeavor. A number of other blue states are also looking to remove barriers to registration. Where you live should not affect your ability to register and vote in a federal election.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s plan to reopen rural driver’s license offices won’t take effect until November, state officials said Tuesday. The schedule for those reopened offices — which would offer driver’s license tests one day per month in the state’s most sparsely-populated counties — still hasn’t been set. “We are still working out a schedule and we do not have a cost yet,” wrote Anna Morris, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Law Enforcement agency, in an email Tuesday. The agency, also known as ALEA, landed in the middle of a nationwide voting rights controversy this month when it announced the closure of 31 driver’s license offices in rural counties, a response to the state’s pared-down 2016 budget.
Kansas is unique among U.S. states in recently granting its top elections official the power to prosecute alleged voting irregularities himself, and Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is looking to move a contentious national debate past tough voter identification laws. Kobach’s office earlier this month filed three election fraud cases in two counties, accusing the defendants of illegally voting in Kansas while casting ballots in the same elections in other states. The law allowing his office to do so — instead of forwarding evidence to prosecutors — took effect in July, and Kobach has promised to pursue more cases in the next two months. It’s not yet clear whether other states will follow Kansas’ example, though Alabama’s secretary of state broached the subject with top lawmakers in his state earlier this year. The Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature, which heeded Kobach’s call to give the state some of the nation’s toughest voter identification laws, took four years to expand the power of his office.
A federal judge on Monday denied a civil rights group’s request that voters be allowed to use more forms of photo identification at Wisconsin’s polls, marking another chapter in a string of legal decisions surrounding the politically-charged voter ID requirement. The American Civil Liberties Union asked U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in March to declare that people can use technical college IDs, out-of-state driver licenses and veteran photo IDs to vote. The ACLU argued that the voter ID law allows four-year college IDs at the polls but it is unclear whether technical college IDs are acceptable. The group also argued that Wisconsin voters with out-of-state driver licenses must surrender the licenses, forfeiting the ability to drive, so they can get Wisconsin IDs, amounting to an unconstitutional poll tax. Finally, the group contended the law arbitrarily excludes the use of Veterans Administration IDs even though U.S. military IDs are acceptable. Adelman rejected all three arguments.
The voter ID provision of North Carolina’s controversial Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) will be the subject of a hearing in federal court next week. Lawyers for both sides will return to court on October 23 to update U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder on negotiations meant to settle legal challenges to VIVA’s voter ID provision out of court, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The photo ID requirement is one of the most controversial provisions of VIVA, a comprehensive overhaul of North Carolina voting law signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on August 12, 2013. In its original form, the ID provision required voters to present one of eight state-approved photo IDs before casting a ballot, starting in 2016. Critics of the law have argued the photo ID requirement unfairly burdens poor, elderly, minority and student voters who are more likely to lack one of the eight approved IDs.
A state with Alabama’s ugly racial history and vote suppression legacy should try hard to act like it’s better than that now. But our state government has made Alabama appear to the world as if we aren’t even trying. Looking at the implications of closing driver’s license offices in the Black Belt, we don’t buy the promises to mitigate the ill effects with other governmental remedy. We don’t buy the claims that race and poverty have nothing to do with this. But even if they were valid, the damage to Alabama’s image and reputation is as undeniable as it was foreseeable and avoidable. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and this is wrong on the facts. It’s also wrong because the economic damage done to Alabama — tourists who will bypass us, investors and job creators who will go elsewhere to avoid the taint — more than offsets the claimed benefit, the dubious economic argument that lies behind these decisions.
Alabama: For Alabama’s Poor, the Budget Cuts Trickle Down, Limiting Access to Driver’s Licenses | The New York Times
It is about an hour and 10 minutes to Tuscaloosa, the nearest big city to this little knot of houses and churches in the Alabama pines. For the hundreds in this poor county who do not have a car or a friend with the spare time, someone can usually be found who is willing to give a ride. For a fee, of course. “You want to get to T-town, it’s at least $50,” said William Bankhead, 56, sitting in front of a boarded-up building that was once Panola’s general store. “We’re a long ways from a place.” As of last week, Tuscaloosa is the nearest location where a person here can get a driver’s license, after the state decided to stop providing services at 31 satellite locations around the state. The fallout from this decision has been widespread: national politicians and civil rights advocates have condemned Alabama for shuttering the locations, many of them in the state’s majority black counties, just a year after requiring that people show photo identification at the polling locations.