National: Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis: Voter ID Laws ‘Are A Poll Tax,’ ‘I Know What I Saw During The 60s’ | ThinkProgress

Republican lawmakers across the country have been waging an successful campaign to restrict the right to vote. States are cracking down on non-profit organizations’ registration drives, reducing early voting periods, and repealing laws allowing citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election day, leaving as many as 5 million voters facing disenfranchisement in the 2012 election. Perhaps the most radical restriction is the GOP’s push for voter ID laws that require citizens to obtain and present state-approved photo identification to vote. These laws disproportionately (and perhaps purposefully) affect minorities, seniors, and low-income people who typically make up the Democratic base.


National: Congressional hearing sought over voter ID laws sweeping states | McClatchy

Does requiring a photo ID to vote return America to the days when poll taxes and literacy tests made it hard for minorities to cast ballots? Are state lawmakers trying to make it harder for people to vote? Two top House Judiciary Committee Democrats want to know, and on Monday they asked Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to hold hearings on those laws, which have been adopted or are pending in 37 states. The chairman is reviewing the request, and he had no immediate comment.

“As voting rights experts have noted, the recent stream of laws passed at the state level are a reversal of policies, both federal and state, that were intended to combat voter disenfranchisement and boost voter participation,” said Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Conyers is the committee’s top Democrat. Nadler is the top Democrat on its Constitution subcommittee.

Mississippi: Voter ID initiative set for Mississippi ballot | The Commercial Appeal

Mississippi voters will wade through many other offices and questions in the Nov. 8 general election before they reach constitutional initiative No. 27, which asks them whether the state should require voters to show a government-issued photo to prove their identity. A bit of irony comes into play here: some voters who say yes to the question will not be allowed to vote in the next election unless they have a photo ID.

Supporters of the voter ID question, which was hotly debated in the House and Senate last spring, say it will cut down on voter fraud in Mississippi. Opponents say the requirement will keep some people from the polls, especially elderly black men and women who recall the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.

Georgia: State seeks to strike down Voting Rights Act  |

The state of Georgia wants three federal judges in Washington to declare a portion of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Georgia filed suit earlier this month asking that the court approve Republican-backed plans to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts. But in that filing, the state asks that if the court rejects its redistricting plans, that it also rule the law that requires that approval to be unconstitutional.

Georgia is one of nine states that must get any change in election law, including district maps, pre-approved by either the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington. That preclearance is required by Section V of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1964 law passed in the wake of Jim Crow and voting laws aimed at limiting the ability of African-Americans to vote.

“The state of Georgia and its voters are being subjected to the continued extraordinary intrusion into its constitutional sovereignty through Section 5 and its outdated preclearance formula based upon discriminatory conditions that existed more than 47 years ago but have long since been remedied,” the state says in its filing.

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.

Wisconsin: Fee waiver pushed for copies of birth certificates | JSOnline

Reacting to a new state law that requires photo identification for voting, some state and local officials are pushing to waive the $20 fee for copies of Milwaukee County birth certificates.

Earlier this year, the Legislature adopted the voter ID law, which says voters must show one of several approved forms of photo identification – such as a driver’s license – at the polls, starting next year. For those who don’t have a driver’s license, lawmakers provided for the state Division of Motor Vehicles to waive fees for state ID cards at a voter’s request.

But applicants still need copies of their birth certificates to obtain either driver’s licenses or state ID cards. And state law sets fees of $20 for the first copy and $3 for subsequent copies. That’s $60 for a family with one voting-age child “to exercise the constitutional right of voting,” state Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) told a Milwaukee Common Council committee Monday. “That just seems like it’s a poll tax.”

Editorials: State voter ID laws: Democracy treads backward | Neal Peirce/

Could Bill Clinton have it right — that we’re seeing the most “determined effort” in half a century to limit Americans’ right to vote? That the new wave of restrictions are the worst, as the former president puts it, “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting”?

Alarmingly, the evidence supports Clinton’s position. Bills to require government-issued photo identification at the polls have passed this year in several states where Republicans control both the governorships and legislatures — Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. And they’re being advanced in several more GOP-held states.

The alleged reason: serious voter fraud. But the facts beg to differ. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that actual prosecutions, arrests or findings of voter malfeasance are exceedingly rare. Kansas reports more sightings of UFOs than voter-fraud charges. Realistically, there’s no significant problem.

Editorials: How Southern Republicans Aim to Make White Democrats Extinct | Stacey Abrams/US News and World Report

State Rep. Stacey Abrams serves as the Georgia House Minority Leader.

Across the state, legislative maps are drawn to split voters along artificial lines to isolate them by race. Legislators see their districts disappear, themselves the target of racial gerrymandering. Citizens rise up in protest and demand the right to elect the candidate of their choice, but the ruling party ignores them. Racial groups are identified and segregated; their leadership eliminated. It is the way of the South. Only this isn’t 1964, the year before the signing of the Voting Rights Act. This is Georgia in 2011.

But this time, the legislators at risk are white men and women who have had the temerity to represent majority African-American districts, and Latino legislators who spoke up for their growing Hispanic population. In crossover districts, where whites and blacks have worked together for decades to build multi-racial voting coalitions, the new district maps devised by the Republicanmajority have slashed through those ties with speed and precision. If the maps proposed by the GOP in Georgia stand, nearly half of the white Democratic state representatives could be removed from office in one election cycle. Call it the “race card”—in reverse.

Editorials: John Nichols: Voter ID rule is a poll tax |

When Wisconsin legislators passed the most restrictive voter ID law in the country earlier this year, they enacted what legal experts and voting rights activists have correctly identified as a poll tax. Proponents of the law argued otherwise. They pointed out that eligible voters who could not afford a state ID could obtain one without charge.

With the decision of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to direct DMV employees to refrain from actively informing the public about the ability to receive a free identification card for the purposes of voting, however, the potential that the voter ID law could serve as a poll tax becomes realistic — and legally significant. Notably, the head of the DOT is a former Republican legislator with close ties to Gov. Scott Walker, and the author of the memo on denying information to prospective voters is a political appointee.

The term “poll tax” has a sordid history. With roots in the anti-democratic practice of allowing only the landed gentry to vote, poll taxes became even more notorious when they were associated with the efforts of Southern segregationists to deny the franchise to African-Americans. A critical turning point came in 1962 with the ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed poll taxes in federal elections.

Wisconsin: Top DOT official tells staff not to mention free voter ID cards to the public — unless they ask |

An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it.

The memo, recently obtained by The Capital Times, was written by Steve Krieser and sent to all state Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles employees on July 1, the same day employees were to begin issuing photo IDs in accordance with a controversial new Voter Photo ID law adopted earlier in the year.

As laid out in the memo, failure to check a box when applying for photo ID with the Division of Motor Vehicles will result in the payment of $28. Interviews conducted about the memo suggest the state is more interested in continuing to charge the fee, which is required for a photo ID used for non-voting purposes, than it is in removing all barriers and providing easy access to a free, photo ID.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID: Is fraud really a concern at the ballot box? |

Forget life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no more fundamental right in the United States than the right to vote. That is because our representative government — of the people, by the people and for the people — is the foundation of every other basic right. And that is why the voter identification proposal about to come before the Pennsylvania Senate is a bad idea in its current form.

The nationwide push for voter identification over the past decade has been led almost entirely by Republicans. Since 2003, 15 states have passed voter ID laws. Five more states have strengthened existing laws to require a photo ID. The goal, of course, is unarguable: that only duly registered U.S. citizens vote in each election.

But while the goal sounds lofty and nonpartisan, the reality is not. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, some 12 percent of Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID. However, that’s not the real story. The percentage is higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities and low-income voters because they are most likely to lack the underlying documentation — the ID you need to get an ID. The voters most likely to lack those IDs tend to vote Democratic.

Maine: GOP chairman says if students want to vote, they should pay taxes | Bangor Daily News

Charlie Webster sounds a lot like LeRoy Symm. Symm, the registrar of voters in Waller County, Texas, had a special questionnaire he used for college students. It included questions such as: Do you own property in the county? Where did you attend church? What are your job plans?

If Symm and his deputies knew a voter by name and face, they were simply registered. College students had to pass Symm’s test. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 said this violated the Constitution, thereby establishing the practice of allowing college students to list their dormitory as their residence for the purposes of voting.

Three decades later, the ruling has not deterred Webster, the Maine Republican Party chairman, who weeks ago brandished a list of more than 200 college students he said likely engaged in voter fraud.

South Carolina: Haley on getting a photo ID: We’ll pick you up | Houston Chronicle

Gov. Nikki Haley’s invitation Wednesday to voters who lack the photo ID necessary to vote under South Carolina’s new law echoed a rental car slogan. “We’re picking you up,” she said.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has set aside Wednesday, Sept. 28, for anyone who needs a ride. Voters who lack transportation can call a toll-free number to arrange a pickup from a DMV employee, Haley said.

… Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian called it a lame attempt to quiet critics. “This is ridiculous. One day to get this done for 178,000 people is dishonest and cruel. This is a useless gesture,” he said. “This is not even a good PR stunt.”

Editorials: A Poll Tax by Another Name | John Lewis/

AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced Jim Crow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone.

We have come a long way since the 1960s. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were only 300 elected African-American officials in the United States; today there are more than 9,000, including 43 members of Congress. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act — also known as the Motor Voter Act — made it easier to register to vote, while the 2002 Help America Vote Act responded to the irregularities of the 2000 presidential race with improved election standards.

Editorials: States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/

States’ rights is code for discrimination. A century and a half ago, some states asserted the right to leave the union. We fought the nation’s bloodiest conflict, then admitted the traitors back into the country on generous terms. Though our Confederate brothers and sisters died defending the enslavement of African-Americans, we did this in the name of peace and forgiveness.

Fast forward, to the 1960’s, all Americans were free from legalized slavery — but blacks were still routinely denied the ballot. Some states blocked access to the ballot with the same ferocity, and on the same grounds, that they stood in schoolhouse doors with ax handles — states’ rights. Denial of the ballot was based on the right of states to control all election procedures.

By eradicating widespread disenfranchisement in Dixie and in urban areas outside the Old South, the Voting Rights Act – enacted Aug. 6, 1965 – proved one of the most powerful pieces of federal legislation. It ranks with the 14th Amendment and the Commerce Clause in changing the lives of Americans everywhere — for the better.

It ushered in what we call “King Democracy” as in Martin Luther King Jr., on the way to forging a more perfect union and putting “Jeffersonian Democracy,” where democracy coexisted with slavery and then legal segregation, behind us.

Wisconsin: Proposal would mean more communication from state about free voter IDs | Superior Telegram

The Department of Transportation (DOT) would be required to be more upfront that ID’s required for voting are free, under a bill being circulated by a Democratic state lawmaker.

Normally, an ID would cost $28 dollars. But for those people who just need an ID for voting purposes, it’s free under the new voter ID law. But Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee says the law is still causing confusion for voters.

“You can do this, but you can’t do that. You’ve got to jump through this hoop and not that hoop,” says Taylor. “I just want to make sure that the DOT is doing the piece that complements so that the concept of whether or not you need to have an ID and whether or not you need to pay for it, that there is no confusion.”

Ohio: Ohio Voter ID rule is dead, at least for now – opposition from Husted, Senate stymies House | The Columbus Dispatch

A plan to require Ohioans to show a photo ID before voting is dead. “I think we’ll probably not see it again,” said House Speaker William G. Batchelder after a brief legislative session today. “There’s a limit to the amount of times you want to run your head into a wall, and it makes your ears ring.”

Although the Medina Republican strongly supports the photo-ID requirement, the bill passed by the House is opposed by Secretary of State Jon Husted, a fellow Republican, and the GOP-controlled Senate.

Editorials: Sen. Finney: Voter ID law needless ploy to disenfranchise voters | The Daily News Journal

It is a little over a year until the 2012 elections, and you’re eligible to vote for the first time. Maybe you’ve moved to another county, or maybe you haven’t voted in a while and need to know your precinct. You call your local election office, where someone tells you that you will need a photo ID to vote. You learn that you’ll need several pieces of documentation to prove your identity in order to receive the ID.

If you live in any of the 54 counties — yes, 54! — where there is no drivers license center, you’ll have to travel to a neighboring county to get the ID. Unfortunately, this will be the new norm.

Since coming to the Senate in 2007, each year my fellow Democrats and I have opposed efforts to place barriers between voters and the polling booth. Earlier this year, the Republican majority passed a law requiring photo identification to vote, despite warnings that it would hurt thousands of voters and potentially cost the state millions in federal lawsuits.

South Carolina: Voter ID at the DMV in Wisconsin (and what it could mean in South Carolina) |

A brave Wisconsin woman videotaped the ordeal of getting her son a Voter ID, which is now a minimum requirement for non-drivers in the state to participate in elections.

She and her son succeeded, but only after a long process that included need to show banking statements (which at first were rejected because they didn’t show enough activity). And after finally completing the endeavor, they were told to pay $28 (a poll tax?) even though the Voter ID’s are supposed to be completely free.

Editorials: States Dispute Criticism of New Voter Laws, Move to Offer Photo ID Free of Charge |

Election officers in states with newly approved voter ID laws are trying to make sure voters can meet the new requirements without much hassle, pushing back on complaints that the laws are tantamount to a “poll tax.”

Seven states this year have approved new laws requiring or urging voters to show photo ID before casting their ballots. Critics have assailed these measures as a partisan Republican scheme to skew elections by disenfranchising voters who might be inclined to vote for Democrats but lack the proper identification.

But officials in those states say the criticism is unfair. All seven states are moving to offer residents at least one version of a photo ID card free of charge. Local agencies are planning various outreach efforts to get the word out about the new requirements, and the new laws generally allow voters without photo ID to fill out a provisional ballot under certain circumstances.

National: House Dems say state voter-ID laws a GOP plan to suppress minority votes | The Hill

Several House Democrats argued on the floor Tuesday morning that the rise of voter-identification laws across many states is a coordinated attempt by Republicans to suppress minority and elderly votes.

“These new policies are a clear attempt to prevent certain pre-determined segments of the population from exercising their right to vote,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). “To be frank, Mr. Speaker, these efforts have an all-too familiar stench of the Jim Crow era.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said the voter-ID laws are a Republican response to President Obama’s election.

South Carolina: Voter ID law prompts concern |

West Ashley resident Everett Garlington is among the estimated 180,000 people who could be disenfranchised if S.C.’s photo ID law holds up.
His trouble: he misplaced his driver’s license.

True, he could get a replacement, but it will cost him more than $160 – money he said the Department of Motor Vehicles wants because years ago he was late turning in a license plate.

The other half of Garlington’s troubles: Because his missing driver’s license is still valid, the DMV won’t issue an alternative photo ID to use at the polls.
“If they had an election today, I couldn’t vote,” said Garlington, 59.

Editorials: Will long lines sink new voter ID law? | Tri-State Defender

‘Not familiar with Voting Rights Act,’ says Tennessee official

Getting a driver’s license in Tennessee is a test of skill and endurance, but I’m not talking about the road test or written exam, I’m talking about the crazy long lines.

On Friday, I joined 40 people in an outdoor line at 6340 Summer Ave about 12:30 p.m. We huddled together outside of the service center for nearly two hours, standing one-behind the other in 90-plus degree temperatures and punishing humidity. There were no chairs, no water and no restroom breaks. As I steamed, my hair gallantly fought off frizz.

The security guard called four to five customers at a time inside, where we then stood in a second line for 45 additional minutes. It was then we received a customer number and the official wait began. (The Tennessee Department of Public Safety does not officially begin tracking its customer wait time until patrons receive this service ticket. Up to that point, we were just there visiting and hanging out.)

New Hampshire: In conservative New England state, voter ID vetoed | peoplesworld

New Hampshire might be the most conservative state in New England, but John Lynch, the Democratic governor, isn’t following the tea-party crowd. He vetoed June 27 a bill that would require all residents to present photo identification before voting.

“There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire,” Lynch said upon vetoing the bill. “We already have strong elections laws that are effective in regulating our elections.”

Stricter voting laws have been pushed in New Hampshire and in states across the country by the Republican Party and its tea-party allies. They argue that civic groups like ACORN have manipulated the voting process. Opponents point out that no significant cases of voter fraud have actually been uncovered.

Editorials: Nathaniel R. Jones: No evidence of voter fraud | Youngstown News

The legislation (House Bill 159) that would require Ohio voters to show various forms of identification in order to cast a ballot is not needed. It reflects a stunted sense of history, or most charitably, a form of electoral amnesia.

Where is the evidence of voter impersonation that might warrant such a requirement? This bill is simply an attempt to make it harder for certain citizens to vote. And many of those citizens are African-Americans.

As I said in my testimony before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on June 22, “throughout history, whenever those engaging in the strategy of voter obstruction were challenged, the answer was always a denial that racial motives were involved, just as those advancing this pernicious voter ID now contend.”

North Carolina: Perdue vows to veto North Carolina voter ID legislation | Statesville Record

Controversial bills that passed both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly will require voters to present very specific forms of photo identification before being permitted to vote.

The House of Representatives bill –– whose 32 sponsors or co-sponsors include Iredell County representatives Mitchell Setzer and Darrell McCormick –– passed in that chamber by a 62-51 vote. The senate’s version of the legislation, which was sponsored by 30 of the 31 Republicans in that chamber (including all three who represent Iredell), was ratified along a party-line vote.

Democrats, including North Carolina Party Chairman David Parker, have lambasted GOP leaders for the move and compared it to the Jim Crow-era poll taxes that disenfranchised southern black voters for most of the 20th century.

Alabama: No need for a voter ID law | Huntsville Times

The Alabama Legislature is notorious for providing solutions to problems that don’t exist. Requiring photo identification at the polls is one such example. There’s just been no compelling evidence of election fraud by voters who aren’t who they claim to be.

Yet in the waning hours of the 2011 legislative session, the Legislature approved a bill that will require voters to show photo identification at the polls before voting, with some exceptions. The bill takes effect with the 2014 elections.

North Carolina: Voter ID requirement passes North Carolina Senate |

Over protests that they would effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters, the state Senate Wednesday night passed a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID. The bill passed along party lines 31-19. It now goes back to the House for agreement on minor changes.

Meanwhile a House committee passed a bill that includes sweeping changes in election law, including eliminating Sunday early voting and same-day registration.

Both bills are expected to get final approval this week and go on to Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat.

Editorials: Big voter turnouts and perceptions of fraud |

Since North Carolina Republicans introduced a Voter ID bill in February that would require all citizens to show a photo ID before voting, one thing has become crystal clear. State efforts are part of a nationwide drive to tighten rules on voting. In the past two months no less than 13 state legislatures, all of them controlled by Republicans, have advanced Voter ID legislation.

Sponsors in North Carolina and elsewhere claim showing driver’s licenses or a similar card will eliminate voter fraud and, as the North Carolina bill is named, “Restore Confidence in Government.” Democrats have countered that there has been no wave of election fraud that needs fixing. Instead, they insist, Republicans are trying to make it harder for the elderly, the poor and the transient – those who often lack driver’s licenses – to vote. They compare the measure to historic poll taxes that once disfranchised thousands of North Carolinians.

Editorials: Voters should be outraged at Florida Legislature | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Over the past few months, the world’s attention has been focused on the struggle among Muslim states in the Middle East and North Africa toward the first, difficult steps of political freedom. Unfortunately for them, the road to democracy will be difficult at best, and we may not like the results. Americans understand this, as our own path to voting rights for all was long and bloody.

When the nation was founded, not everyone was able to vote, as religious clauses and property requirements limited full enfranchisement. The rights and privileges of citizenship were limited to a few land-owning, white males.

But, in the 1850s, provisions requiring citizens to own property and pay taxes in order to vote were eliminated. Not long after the end of the Civil War, black men were extended the right to vote with the 15th Amendment. Women would have to wait another half-century until the 19th Amendment in 1920 assured their right to vote.