Minnesota: A recap of the Supreme Court argument over the voter ID amendment, and why it matters | MinnPost

I grew up with an eye on Minnesota politics and spent summers interning at the state capitol watching the floor debates on TV; but on July 17th in Saint Paul I had a front row seat.  The Minnesota Supreme court heard a challenge to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require valid, state-issued photo identification for voting in Minnesota, and I was courtside. The room was abuzz and the Justices were beyond well-prepared. The lawyers on both sides had barely introduced their arguments when the storm of questions rained down from the bench and struck to the core of the issue.  It was intimidating. At trial was whether the amendment question, as it is being put to the voters, is misleading. The lawsuit, brought by the League of Women voters and a coalition including Jewish Community Action (where I am on staff as an organizer), was argued by Bill Pentalovich and a team from Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand. The last case that I heard Bill Pentalovich argue was a mock trial of Abraham held at Adath Jeshurun’s Shabbat Morning Program when I was a bar mitzvah student. Abe didn’t stand a chance. To bring down photo ID, the team from Maslon argued that the discrepancy between the ballot question and the actual amendment is deceptive and should be struck from the ballot.  The short ballot question does not accurately reflect the drastic impact that the amendment will have on our voting system.

California: Same-day voter registration bill moves forward in California Legislature | Ventura County Star

Election seasons come and go, and with them public attention to the political process waxes and wanes. “The really heartbreaking fact of the matter is that a lot of the excitement kicks in about two weeks before Election Day. But by then it’s too late, and a lot of people are left sitting on the sidelines,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “If we can engage people when they’re excited, we have an opportunity to create a lifelong voter.” The Legislature on Tuesday moved closer toward embracing one way to help Californians seize that moment by allowing voter registration to take place through Election Day — an approach that has sparked sharp partisan divisions in the past. On a party-line vote, with majority Democrats in support, the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee approved a bill to allow same-day voter registration as soon as a new statewide computerized database is operational. The system will let elections officials check the status of all voters statewide.

Wisconsin: Vos claims that Lehman victory was achieved with “voter fraud” | The Recall Elections Blog

Republican House Rep. Robin Vos is now claiming that John Lehman’s close victory in the Wisconsin Senate recall was due to voter fraud and “illegitimate” because it was under the old district lines. Vos claimed that “Unfortunately a portion of it was fraud.” However, his factual back-up seems embarrassingly iffy for such a significant claim:

“There was no double checking to make sure that people even resided for 28 days,” he added.” I think people came in with same-day registrations and to their credit, I mean that’s just part of the get out the vote effort. But you have to have some sort of ID, in my mind; I think that was another thing that led to the potential for fraud.”

Voting Blogs: Ballot language latest arena for state voter ID disputes | electionlineWeekly

The fight over photo ID requirements for voters is once again finding its way into courts – but this time the issue isn’t about the merits of ID but rather about ballot language putting the question to voters. In Minnesota, voter ID is supposed to be on the November 2012 ballot. After DFL Governor Mark Dayton vetoed ID legislation in 2011, GOP majorities in the Legislature agreed earlier this year to put the question to voters – action that does not require the Governor’s approval. Given that public opinion polls suggest that voters favor ID, supporters are hopeful that voters can provide the energy to push ID past the opposition of the Governor and DFL legislators. As it has in virtually every state, the dispute has sharply – and fiercely – divided the state’s political establishment. Groups across the spectrum have lined up to support and oppose the amendment. There is a chance, however, that voters may not get the chance to have their say. The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments about whether or not the ballot language describing the amendment is sufficient. As the language currently stands, voters will be asked if the state constitution should be amended “to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters”.

National: Congressional Democrats Push Voter Empowerment Act | Roll Call News

House Democrats on Thursday unveiled new voting rights legislation designed to modernize voter registration while cracking down on practices that could discourage certain populations from voting. The Voter Empowerment Act appears to be a direct counter to a growing movement within the GOP at the state and national level to require voters to present a photo ID when voting. “The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple. Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago. … We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the bill’s sponsors and a 1960s civil rights icon.

Connecticut: House Debates Controversial Same-Day Voter Registration | Hartford Courant

After more than five hours of debate, the state House of Representatives voted Monday night for the controversial Election Day voter registration bill that has a long history in the state legislature. By a vote of 83-59, the House voted allow the same-day registration, despite complaints by opponents about potential fraud. Nine conservative Democrats broke with their party and voted against the bill. Only one Republican, Livvy Floren of Greenwich, voted in favor. Lawmakers have been clashing for more than a decade as the issue has been blocked by a veto by then-Gov. John G. Rowland in 2003 and a federal court ruling in 2005 in Connecticut that rejected same-day registration.

Connecticut: Connecticut House Debates Controversial Same-Day Voter Registration | Courant.com

After more than five hours of debate, the state House of Representatives voted Monday night for the controversial Election Day voter registration bill that has a long history in the state legislature. By a vote of 83-59, the House voted allow the same-day registration, despite complaints by opponents about potential fraud. Nine conservative Democrats broke with their party and voted against the bill. Only one Republican, Livvy Floren of Greenwich, voted in favor. Lawmakers have been clashing for more than a decade as the issue has been blocked by a veto by then-Gov.John G. Rowlandin 2003 and a federal court ruling in 2005 in Connecticut that rejected same-day registration.

Editorials: Between Voting Rights and Voting Wrongs | NYTimes.com

Since the beginning of 2011, lawmakers around the country abruptly enacted laws to curb voting rights and tighten registration rules. These measures are fiercely controversial. But lately the debate has taken a surprising turn. Suppressive voting laws have met resistance at the polls and in the courts. This surprisingly emphatic twist is good for our democracy. If the restriction of voting rights can be blocked or blunted, it will give us an opportunity to move forward with bipartisan reforms to our ramshackle registration system. Consider the recent backlash.

In Maine, voters reversed a new law, passed in June 2011, that ended same-day registration. Now voters will be able to register on Election Day in 2012. In Ohio, more than 300,000 citizens signed petitions, enough to temporarily suspend the state’s new law that curbed early voting and force a statewide referendum in November. Now nervous Republicans are close to a deal with Democrats that would repeal the law and restore early voting for the three days before the election. Florida, meanwhile, imposed onerous penalties and paperwork burdens on volunteers who sign up voters. Helping your neighbors participate in our democracy is not something we should restrict, which is why the Brennan Center is leading the fight to challenge this law. We represent the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, and other civic groups that have shut down registration drives. The league has won similar lawsuits twice before and now awaits a judge’s ruling, which is expected soon. Even on the contentious issue of requiring government-issued photo identification to vote, the strictest new laws have slammed into legal barriers.

Editorials: Voter ID – what lurks in Minnesota’s proposed amendment | Mike Dean/TwinCities.com

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” Unfortunately, Kent Kaiser’s piece (“Photo ID: An end to ‘same-day’ registration in Minnesota? Not true,” April 17) attempts to distort what is actually lurking in the voter ID constitutional amendment. Under current Minnesota law, this proposed constitutional amendment to change Minnesota’s election system would force every person who registers in the polling place on Election Day to submit a provisional ballot; that is, they would not be allowed to cast a real ballot. This fundamental change is required because the amendment says that “All voters must be subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.” While most people understandably won’t grasp the implications of this statement when they read the ballot question, an election official understands that immediate eligibility verification is not possible. Practically speaking, for voters who need to update their voting address on Election Day and others doing same-day registration, election judges would have to check multiple databases to verify their name, address, date of birth with the state’s department of public safety, department of health, national death registry and the federal social security office.

Minnesota: Debate ramps up over potential effects of voter ID measure on students | The Minnesota Daily

With the state Legislature’s recent passage of the voter ID constitutional amendment, the future voting process for college students rests on many factors. And while both sides agree it’s too early to tell what the implications of the law would be if it passes on the November ballot, some worry about its affect on students. If the majority of Minnesota voters vote to mandate valid photo identification at the polls, details of how the amendment will work will be left up to the next Legislature. How it will work will also be dependent upon the makeup of the new Legislature — all 201 state legislators are up for re-election in November. On Wednesday, the Senate re-passed the bill to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. All DFLers voted against the amendment, and all but one Republican voted in favor. Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents the University of Minnesota’s district, said she worries about the potential impact on students and same-day registration. Although proponents of the amendment say that same-day registration will remain, Dziedzic said it’s unclear how it will work for students and may make voting more of a hassle.

Minnesota: Voter ID: The devil may be in the details | Mankato Free Press

A party-line debate and party-line vote in the Legislature is likely to result in a major change in Minnesota voting rules, but the actual consequences remain in dispute. Democrats predict dire consequences — high costs, new restrictions that will discourage voting by certain groups, an end to Minnesota’s tradition of same-day registration — if voters approve the amendment as expected on Nov. 6. Republicans, who control the Legislature and put the issue on the general election ballot, say Democratic warnings are wildly overblown. The new requirement that voters show a government-issued ID before casting a ballot will boost confidence in elections while not substantially curtailing the right to vote, supporters of the law say. For the people who run local elections, though, the issue goes much beyond the standard partisan debate.

Minnesota: Photo ID battle turns into a war over the wording | StarTribune.com

Minnesota’s intense struggle over voting rights and election security is moving into close quarters. The battleground has shifted to the precise wording of a proposed photo ID constitutional amendment to be written by a legislative committee. The two sides read the same language in different ways but agree that the stakes are high for this final revision. What words are chosen, and how they are interpreted, could change the way Minnesotans vote. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reads the language and sees a bombshell for Minnesota’s elections — an end to the popular system of same-day registration and creation of a parallel bureaucracy of provisional ballots that could delay reporting of election results. Photo ID sponsor Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, sees the text of the Republican-backed bills as flexible enough to allow Minnesota’s current voting system to continue but with improved security.

Editorials: Swift action needed to save same-day registration | Mark Ritchie/MinnPost

The Minnesota Legislature is poised to vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment that would replace same-day voter registration with a new election system called provisional voting. Not only would this new system cost local governments tens of millions in new tax dollars, it would delay the reporting of election results while we all waited for 500,000-600,000 provisional ballots to be processed. Since one-third of all provisional ballots nationwide are never counted, this could reduce our overall vote count by up to 200,000, knocking us out of our position as the state with the highest voter turnout in the nation. Given that over half-million Minnesotans normally use same-day registration in big election years, this kind of radical change should not be taken lightly.

Editorials: Crazy Idea: Laws To Encourage Voting | American Prospect

Voter ID laws have been all the rage around the country, with conservative lawmakers pushing to make it harder to vote, often by requiring some form of government-issued photo identification. The goal, at least according to rhetoric, is to keep the process safe from fraud—despite there being no real evidence of in-person voter fraud, the only kind such laws would actually prevent. In the meantime, states struggle with low-turnout rates and sometimes low registration rates. In Texas, which recently passed one of the more stringent ID requirements, residents vote at among the lowest rates in the country.  All of which makes Connecticut’s current voting debate somewhat shocking by comparison. The secretary of state has taken the lead in proposing measures to increase voter turnout by—get this—making it easier to vote. Two proposals make it easier to register by offering same-day registration for those who show up on Election Day and creating an online voter registration system so people can do it from home. Another measure would increasing penalties for voter intimidation. According to officials, the efforts are much-needed to increase turnout.

Minnesota: Minnesota voter ID plan raises many practical questions | MinnPost

Despite the assurances of Voter ID supporters, the secretary of state’s office remains worried about the many unintended consequences that could result from the proposed constitutional amendment. Minnesota’s chief election officials are concerned about two key points in the amendment legislation’s updated language: The legal provisions establishing guidelines for absentee and mail-in voting and the impact on Election Day registration. The provisions are unclear enough to effectively end the practices or require expensive workarounds, election officials say.

Editorials: The Strange Career of Voter Suppression | NYTimes.com

The 2012 general election campaign is likely to be a fight for every last vote, which means that it will also be a fight over who gets to cast one. Partisan skirmishing over election procedures has been going on in state legislatures across the country for several years. Republicans have called for cutbacks in early voting, an end to same-day registration, higher hurdles for ex-felons, the presentation of proof-of-citizenship documents and regulations discouraging registration drives. The centerpiece of this effort has been a national campaign to require voters to present particular photo ID documents at the polls. Characterized as innocuous reforms to preserve election integrity, beefed-up ID requirements have passed in more than a dozen states since 2005 and are still being considered in more than 20 others. Opponents of the laws, mostly Democrats, claim that they are intended to reduce the participation of the young, of the poor and of minorities, who are most likely to lack government-issued IDs — and also most likely to vote Democratic.

West Virginia: Election Officials: Same-Day Voter Registration Increases Participation | State Journal

Same-day voter registration could become a reality in the Mountain State. Representatives from North Carolina joined Steven Carbo of Demos, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on national issues, in testifying before the West Virginia Legislature’s Judiciary Subcommittee C Jan. 9 to talk about same-day voter registration. Nine states, including North Carolina, currently have a same-day voter registration system in place, and Carbo said those states have seen a dramatic increase in voter participation. “We have historically seen voter participation in same-day states 10 to 12 points higher than in non-same-day states,” Carbo said.

Iowa: State GOP Says Voter Fraud Won’t be a Problem | Fox News

Despite the presence of Occupy protestors in Iowa, the Iowa Republican Party is confident voter fraud won’t be a concern Tuesday night at the presidential caucuses. The Iowa GOP sets the rules for voting, and has decided to allow Iowans to register on the day of the election. However, Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn insists reports are incorrect that voters don’t need a photo ID to register on Tuesday.

“You need to make sure you are a registered Iowa voter in the precinct within which you live. And if you are registered Republican, your name will already be on the pre-provided list at your individual precinct. If you’re not a registered Republican, you can register tonight but you have to show a photo ID proving residence in that precinct in order to participant,” Strawn said.

Same-day registration has raised flags for some that unqualified candidates, like protestors, will disrupt the voting process. Strawn said visitors “are welcome to observe if you are from out of town, but we’re not going to give you a ballot.”

Editorials: Keeping College Students From the Polls | NYTimes.com

Next fall, thousands of students on college campuses will attempt to register to vote and be turned away. Sorry, they will hear, you have an out-of-state driver’s license. Sorry, your college ID is not valid here. Sorry, we found out that you paid out-of-state tuition, so even though you do have a state driver’s license, you still can’t vote. Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.

Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote, which many students don’t have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting.

It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.

Editorials: Vote suppression tactics all too familiar | baltimoresun.com

Paul Schurick’s recent conviction for voter fraud is a sad coda to the 2010 Martin O’Malley-Bob Ehrlich gubernatorial rematch: Sad because Mr. Schurick tainted his reputation as one of the state’s best political strategists, and sadder because Governor O’Malley almost certainly would have been re-elected no matter what late-campaign shenanigans Mr. Schurick pulled.

But the saddest thing about Schurick’s conviction is that his actions are merely one small part of a larger and more systematic attempt by conservative strategists to find ways to suppress voter turnout in service to Republican partisan advantage. Unlike in the Schurick case, most such efforts are perfectly legal (though certainly unsavory).

Let’s take a quick tour of the voter-suppression activities under way across the nation. In the past year, 19 new laws and two executive orders were issued in 14 states to create stricter voter identification requirements. These measures were supported and passed largely by Republicans after gaining control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in 2010. Their aim is to constrict the electorate for 2012 and beyond.

National: Thousands Stage Manhattan Voting Rights Demonstration | The Afro-American

The assault on voting rights and voting practices drew loud and targeted protest in New York City Dec. 11 as a coalition made up of civil rights, organized labor and community advocacy organizations staged a march and rally they called the Stand for Freedom in midtown Manhattan. The rally, attended by approximately 25,000 demonstrators, according to one estimate, marked the vanguard of a counter-assault on the drive to erode voting rights, according to its organizers who say voting rights for minorities are under siege.

The coalition initiating the march and rally included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, and the American Civil Liberties Union, the demonstraters rallied against efforts by lawmakers in 34 states to undermine voter rights and zeroed in on 14 states where such laws have been passed. They also are trying to block attacks on early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration.

Editorials: Public financing of presidential campaigns becomes divisive | Las Vegas Sun

You know that little box at the top of your tax form, the one that invites you to “check here” to donate $3 toward a presidential campaign fund? The one no one ever checks anyway? That too is turning into a partisan wedge issue in Washington, D.C.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to do away with the box and shutter the Election Assistance Commission that handles the funds. Republican backers (no Democrats voted for the legislation) called it an effort to save money by eliminating a “bloated federal agency” that “has long outlived its purpose.” Sen. Harry Reid pre-emptively declared the bill dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate: Getting rid of the little $3 box, he explained, is really an act of voter suppression.

“Instead of making it so it’s easier for people to vote, they want to do everything they can to make it harder for people to vote,” Reid said of the Republican Party, complaining of efforts in certain states, including Nevada, to eliminate same-day registration at the polls. “They want as few people to vote as possible.”

Editorials: Students hit by voter ID restrictions | Emily Schultheis/Politico.com

Tough new voter identification laws have shaken up college campuses around the country, where students — one of the groups most affected by the measures — are scrambling to comply.

The new laws could also put Republicans in a bind: Even as the party has ramped up its youth outreach efforts — hoping to siphon some of the youth vote from President Barack Obama — it has also backed state-level laws that make it harder for college students to vote. The College Democrats have spoken out against the laws, but so far the College Republicans seem unconcerned. The groups’ opposing views of the laws mirror their parties’ positions: Democrats believe the laws suppress legitimate votes; Republicans insist they’re necessary to combat voter fraud. “It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican; it’s about wanting to be able to vote,” said Alejandra Salinas, president of the College Democrats of America.

National: Advocates Urge Congress to Fight State Voting Changes | governing.com

Five million. That’s the number of eligible voters that could find it harder to cast their ballot in the 2012 elections. It’s also the figure that advocates against state voting law changes repeatedly echoed during a Capitol Hill forum on new state voting laws that several House Democrats, including Representatives John Conyers, Steny Hoyer, Robert Brady, Jerrold Nadler, and Keith Ellison called Monday.

The NAACP, ACLU and League of Women Voters, among other research and advocacy organizations asked lawmakers to pass legislation to protect voters’ rights. They also wanted Congress to pressure the Department of Justice to deny approval to the states that need it for their new laws to take effect. So far, this includes Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, which are among the nine states that need federal approval for any changes to voting laws under the Voting Rights Act.

National: Lawmakers and Activists Pledge to Fight Stricter Voting Rights Laws | BET

It’s not a state secret that Democrats want desperately to regain control of the House in 2012, or that both they and President Obama will need every single vote they can get. But Republicans controlling several state legislatures are doing all they can to make the Democrats’ mission as difficult as possible by implementing strict new voter laws that opponents predict coulddisenfranchise millions of voters.

Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on voting rights and new laws Monday during which civil rights advocates testified about their impact on African-Americans and other voters.

Voting Blogs: To Be Young, Mobile and Unable to Vote | The Demos Blog

Last Tuesday, Mainers went to the polls and successfully defended Same-Day Registration in their state. Earlier this year, the Maine legislature had repealed the decades-old practice based on baseless claims of rampant voter fraud — fraud that Charlie Webster, Chair of Maine’s Republican Party, and Charlie Summers, Maine’s Secretary of State, failed to prove, try as they did, after dramatically launching an investigation of 206 University of Maine students originally from out of state.

Young would-be voters are being picked on all over the country — from the photo ID laws that don’t allow student IDs (as opposed to concealed handgun licenses) to changing domicile requirements so that out-of-state students are prevented from voting — because students are “foolish” and “vote with their feelings.” Plus, now they are also poor, so they really shouldn’t vote.

Maine: After Maine vote on same-day registration, focus shifts to voter identification bill | The Republic

Now that Maine voters have made clear their support for same-day voter registration, the focus shifts to another hot election-related proposal that will come up during the 2012 legislative session: voter ID.

The bill requiring voters to show photo identification in order to cast ballots comes up after voters rejected by a 3-2 margin Tuesday another move to tighten the state’s election laws. That vote repealed a law requiring voters to register at least two days before an election. In doing so, voters reinstated Maine’s long-standing same-day registration policy.

Maine: Voters restore Election Day registration | seattlepi.com

A law requiring voters to enroll at least two days before an election was repealed Tuesday, restoring a four-decade policy of allowing registrations up to and including Election Day. Unofficial results showed the proposal to repeal the newly enacted requirement passed with 60 percent of the vote.

“This is a big day for the voters of Maine,” said David Farmer, spokesman for the Yes on One campaign. “They stood up for their rights to be heard. This tells us that Maine people won’t stand for people messing with their elections.”

The referendum was put on the ballot through a people’s veto initiative after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law in June requiring voters to register at least two business days before an election is held. That set aside a state law passed in 1973 that allows Election Day, or same-day, registrations.

Maine: History of ‘same-day’ voter registration in Maine | Bangor Daily News

Maine’s Election Day voter registration law was born quietly with bipartisan support nearly four decades ago, with little debate and overshadowed by much bigger issues of the Watergate era. That’s in contrast to that law’s demise in June, which was marked by shrill partisan debate that set the stage for next Tuesday’s referendum to restore what’s become known as “same-day” registration.

The 1973 session, which turned out to be one of the longest at that time, featured high-profile issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment, property tax relief, abortion rights, reporters’ right to protect sources and even health insurance reform. Same-day registration surfaced silently in the background as part of a routine revamping of the state’s election laws. Debate on the House floor was dry and tame with no hint of partisan differences in the Republican-controlled Legislature, the legislative record shows. The focus was on arcane technicalities rather than the merits of the policy.

Maine: House supports banning same-day voter registration, requiring IDs at polls | Bangor Daily News

The House of Representatives on Monday gave preliminary approval to a pair of bills that will change how and when Mainers vote. The House voted 74-70 along party lines to approve LD 1376, a bill backed by Republican leadership and Secretary of State Charlie Summers that eliminates Maine’s 38-year-old, same-day voting registration and bans absentee voting two business days before Election Day. The House also voted 75-69 to give preliminary approval to LD 199, a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls.

Proponents of LD 1376 say the legislation is designed to ease the workload of town clerks overwhelmed by an increasing number of voters who cast absentee ballots and who wait until the election to register. But critics counter that the absentee voting issue should be handled separately and without eliminating same-day registration, which they say will affect students, the elderly and the disabled.