South Carolina

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Voting Blogs: Minnesota Election Law Ballot Measure – So Much More than Just Voter ID | Brennan Center for Justice

This week, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced the title of the ballot measure addressing election administration for the November election. The new title of the measure is: CHANGES TO IN-PERSON & ABSENTEE VOTING & VOTER REGISTRATION; PROVISIONAL BALLOTS. Some proponents of the measure have cried foul, arguing this title is misleading. In fact, it is painfully accurate. Many voting rights advocates, including this blogger, have been loosely referring to the measure as the “Voter ID Amendment.”  But the proposed amendment is much broader than simply drastically increasing the ID requirements for voters. This amendment goes further by limiting how registered voters are verified, impacting more than in-person voting on Election Day. It will undermine the long tradition of Election Day registration that many believe accounts for Minnesota’s consistently high voter turnout rates. Beyond that, it will affect how voters confined to their homes can vote and will necessitate the creation of a cumbersome and costly provisional balloting system. 

Full Article: Minnesota Election Law Ballot Measure – So Much More than Just Voter ID | Brennan Center for Justice.

Editorials: The Past is not Past – Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act | Jonathan Brater/Boston Review

Today the state of South Carolina sued the Justice Department for blocking its new law requiring citizens to show government-issued photo identification to vote. This is just the latest broadside in what promises to be a protracted battle over the constitutionality of state voting laws and federal protections against discrimination. For decades, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been a cornerstone of civil rights law. The provision requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to get federal “preclearance” before enforcing new voting laws. Today, opponents of the law are trying to dismantle this foundation of our democracy, bringing several court challenges in recent months. They argue that, 50 years after the worst abuses of the Jim Crow era, the law should be struck down as unconstitutional, and that federal protection of minority rights in these jurisdictions is no longer needed. Do they have a point? To paraphrase William Faulkner, the past is not past.

Full Article: Boston Review — Jonathan Brater: The Past is not Past (Voting Rights, Voter ID Laws).

National: More voters casting ballots early – early voting benefits campaigns with money, manpower | USAToday.com

When South Carolina voters cast their ballots in the Republican presidential primary Saturday, they’ll have company. That same day, Florida Republicans can begin in-person voting for the state’s Jan. 31 primary, joining more than 100,000 state residents who already have cast absentee ballots. As the votes are counted in Florida on Jan. 31, voters in Ohio and other states with primaries on March 6 — Super Tuesday because of its 10 GOP primaries and caucuses — will begin absentee voting. That week, voters can vote early in Arizona for its Feb. 28 primary. Later in February, polls will open for early voting in the March 6 Georgia and Tennessee primaries.

Full Article: More voters casting ballots early – USATODAY.com.

Editorials: Voting in Plain Sight | Linda Greenhouse/NYTimes.com

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.

Full Article: Voting in Plain Sight - NYTimes.com.

National: Partisan feud escalates over voter ID laws in South Carolina, other states | CSMonitor.com

The Obama administration’s recent decision to block a new voter ID law in South Carolina is fueling one of the biggest partisan debates of the day: Do stronger state voter ID laws really curtail the minority franchise? States have been on a tear of late to enact tighter controls on voting, including in South Carolina. Last year, 34 approved or considered tougher voting regulations, in a bid to ensure that voters who show up at the polls on Election Day are who they say they are.

Full Article: Partisan feud escalates over voter ID laws in South Carolina, other states - CSMonitor.com.

Voting Blogs: Now the REAL Debate Can Begin: How DOJ’s SC Voter ID Objection FINALLY Brings Data to the Discussion | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Way back in late August, I blogged about the Voting Rights Act review by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of South Carolina’s new voter ID law. In that post, I said:

Regardless of the outcome, DOJ’s review of SC’s photo ID laws will give us something we haven’t much of in the debate to date: hard data. While this data will only describe one state’s experience, the lessons learned may finally enable the field to approach voter ID – indeed, all election policy – from an empirical rather than a rhetorical perspective.

Fortunately, I was right; DOJ’s December 23 objection letter avoids the familiar (I would say tired) rhetoric about the impact of voter ID and jumps right into the data. In objecting to South Carolina’s ID requirement, DOJ makes the following observations:

  • + The State provides no evidence of the fraud that ID is designed to prevent;
  • + Nearly 240,000 (almost 9%) of South Carolina’s registered voters lack ID;
  • + Minority (“non-white”) voters are 20% more likely to lack ID;
  • + county-to-county figures for lack of ID range from 6.3% to 14.2% – and encompass several of the state’s largest minority populations; and
  • + all of these figures suggest that 81,938 minority registered voters lack required ID.

While the objection has set off the predictable partisan firestorm about the wisdom and courage (or lack thereof) of the DOJ, it has also elicited some empirical resistance that could be important if and when the objection is reconsidered, either by DOJ or a federal court.

Full Article: Now the REAL Debate Can Begin: How DOJ's SC Voter ID Objection FINALLY Brings Data to the Discussion - Program for Excellence in Election Administration.

National: Redistricting Spurs Debate Over Voting Rights Act | Roll Call

As new Members take the oath of office in January 2013, something unprecedented may occur: Not a single white Democrat from the Deep South could be a Member of the 113th Congress. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina already have just a single Democratic Representative in Congress. Each of those Democrats is African-American and represents majority-black districts.

It’s a trend that may extend to a fifth state in the Deep South. Georgia’s Republican-written Congressional redistricting map, which became law earlier this year and was approved by the Department of Justice just before Christmas, undermines the current Democratic bent of Rep. John Barrow’s district. He’s the Peach State’s one white Democratic Member. The new map is likely to leave Georgia’s delegation with only four Democrats — representing the state’s four majority-black districts.

Full Article: Redistricting Spurs Debate Over Voting Rights Act : Roll Call Politics.

Editorials: Holder’s Voting Rights Gamble – The Supreme Court’s voter ID showdown. | Rick Hasen/Slate

On the Friday before Christmas Day, the Department of Justice formally objected to a new South Carolina law requiring voters to produce an approved form of photo ID in order to vote. That move already has drawn cheers from the left and jeers from the right. The DoJ said South Carolina could not show that its new law would not have an adverse impact on racial minorities, who are less likely to have acceptable forms of identification.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the DoJ decision blocking the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: “It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights.” The state’s attorney general vowed to fight the DoJ move in court, and thanks to an odd quirk in the law, the issue could get fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, which could well use it to strike down the Voting Rights Act provision as unconstitutional before the 2012 elections.

The current dispute has an eerie echo. More than 45 years ago, South Carolina also went to the Supreme Court to complain that Section 5 unconstitutionally intruded on its sovereignty. Under the 1965 Act, states with a history of racial discrimination like South Carolina could not make changes in its voting rules—from major changes like redistricting to changes as minor as moving a polling place across the street—without getting the permission of either the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington, D.C. The state had to show the law was not enacted with the purpose, or effect, of making minority voters worse off than they already were.

Full Article: The Obama Administration’s Risky Voter ID Move Threatens the Voting Rights Act.

National: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states | theGrio

The Justice Department’s decision last week to block a new South Carolina law requiring voters to present photo identification is only the first of what will be a year-long battle between advocates and opponents of stricter voting laws. And the results of those fights could determine the winner of the 2012 presidential election.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, said her state will appeal DOJ’s decision in court, casting it as “bullying” by the federal government. At the same time, civil right groups are promising to fight similar provisions in states such as Wisconsin and Texas, arguing these laws unfairly target minorities, who are less likely to hold photo identification.

Full Article: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states.

National: Civil Rights Groups Press Justice Department To Block Other Voter ID Laws | TPM

It wasn’t long after the Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on Friday that Republicans accused the Obama administration of putting the President’s reelection ahead of preventing voter fraud. “Obama’s S.C. voter ID decision shows he’s putting the 2012 election above policy by opposing efforts to protect against cheating and fraud,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote on Twitter, indirectly acknowledging that voter ID laws suppress Democratic voter turnout. “Moreover, from S.C. decision looks like they just want to benefit from cheating and fraud.”

“It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement.

Here’s the problem, though: In-person voter impersonation fraud is an extremely risky and ineffective way to try to steal an election and there’s been no evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud — the only type of voter fraud that strict voter ID laws could potentially prevent — taking place in South Carolina. But Republicans have taken the position that the laws are necessary. They also strongly reject the suggestion that the laws are racially discriminatory, though South Carolina’s own data showed that non-white voters were 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack the specific type of photo voter ID required under South Carolina’s statute.

Full Article: Civil Rights Groups Press Justice Department To Block Other Voter ID Laws | TPMMuckraker.

Editorials: Holder’s Legacy | Jeffrey Toobin/The New Yorker

Two years ago, the Supreme Court decided a case that may, it now appears, save Barack Obama’s chances at reëlection—and, more importantly, preserve a precious corner of American democracy.

For many years now, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been under assault. The law requires that any changes in voting rules in certain states, mostly in the South, be “pre-cleared” by the Justice Department, to make sure that they do not impinge on the voting rights of minorities. Many people in these states and elsewhere have argued that the law is now obsolete and that its pre-clearance provisions stigmatize and demean places that have long ago reformed from their racist pasts. In the 2009 case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, the Court had a chance to invalidate the law—and ducked. Instead, by a vote of 8-1, the Justices disposed of the case on procedural grounds and left the larger fight for another day. (Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that the Voting Rights Act is indeed obsolete and unconstitutional.) The Voting Rights Act, and its pre-clearance provisions, remained intact.

The importance of the Northwest Austin case was apparent last week when the Justice Department rejected South Carolina’s new law to impose a photo-identification requirement for voters in 2012. “According to the state’s statistics, there are 81,938 minority citizens who are already registered to vote and who lack D.M.V.-issued identification,” Thomas E. Perez, the chief of the department’s civil-rights division, said in a letter to South Carolina officials. The only reason the Justice Department had the chance to rule on the South Carolina changes is because of the pre-clearance rules. (South Carolina may challenge the Justice Department decision in court, thus possibly setting up another test of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court.)

Full Article: Comment: Holder’s Legacy : The New Yorker.

Editorials: 2011, the year of the recall – Why has the recall vote suddenly become so popular? You may think it’s anger, but it’s really technology | Joshua Spivak/latimes.com

This year an enraged electorate has made its presence felt, through Occupying events and a roller-coaster Republican presidential primary process. But the most obvious sign of political activism has been the unprecedented use of recall elections. The numbers tell the tale: In 2011, at least 150 elected officials in 17 states faced recall votes.

Recalls stretched from the Arizona state Senate to the Miami-Dade mayor’s office to the school board in Grenora, N.D. Eleven state legislators faced recall — including nine in Wisconsin. Thirty mayors were subject to recall votes in 2011. At least three municipalities adopted the recall. Nineteen U.S. states allow recalls, with more — South Carolina among them — seriously considering adopting the process. It’s even grown internationally, with governments in India, Britain and Australia all considering adopting the recall in some form.

Full Article: Joshua Spivak: 2011, the year of the recall - latimes.com.

Voting Blogs: Justice Department Blocks South Carolina’s Voter ID Law | TPM

The U.S. Department of Justice will block the voter ID provisions of an election law passed in South Carolina earlier this year because the state’s own statistics demonstrated that the photo identification requirement would have a much greater impact on non-white residents, DOJ said in a letter to the state on Friday. The decision places the federal government squarely in opposition to the types of voter ID requirements that have swept through mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures.

Officials in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division found a significant racial disparity in the data provided by South Carolina, which must have changes to its election laws precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, because of past history of discrimination. The data demonstrated that registered non-white voters were 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack the specific type of photo identification required to exercise their constitutional rights, according to a letter sent to South Carolina and obtained by TPM.

“Put differently, although non-white voters comprised 30.4% of the state’s registered voters, they constituted 34.2% of registered voters who did not have the requisite DMV-issued identification to vote,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division, wrote in the letter to South Carolina. “Non-white voters were therefore disproportionally represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election.”

Full Article: BREAKING: Justice Department Blocks South Carolina’s Voter ID Law | TPMMuckraker.

National: Under Partisan Fire, Holder Soldiers On | NYTimes.com

For nearly three years, Republicans have attacked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on national security and civil rights issues. For months, they have criticized him over a gun-trafficking investigation gone awry, with dozens of leaders calling for his resignation. Last week, more than 75 members of Congress co-sponsored a House resolution expressing “no confidence” in his leadership. The intensifying heat on Mr. Holder comes as the Justice Department is stepping into some of the most politically divisive social issues of the day, including accusing an Arizona sheriff known for his crackdowns on illegal immigrants of racial profiling, scrutinizing new restrictions on voting in search of signs that they could lower turnout among minorities and telling judges that a law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

As Mr. Holder’s third year as attorney general draws to a close, no member of President Obama’s cabinet has drawn more partisan criticism. In an interview last week, Mr. Holder said he had no intention of resigning before the administration’s term was up, although he said he had made no decision about whether he would continue after 2012 should the president win re-election. “I think that what I’m doing is right,” Mr. Holder said. “And election-year politics, which intensifies everything, is not going to drive me off that course.”

With F.B.I. agents standing guard outside his hotel room on Tuesday, Mr. Holder spoke hours before delivering a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library here that criticized the largely Republican-led efforts to put new restrictions on voting in the name of fighting fraud. At that moment, protesters were rallying outside the library, some in support of stricter voter identification laws and others holding signs urging Mr. Holder to resign over the disputed gun-trafficking investigation, known as Operation Fast and Furious. Several dozen jeered when his motorcade arrived.

Full Article: Under Partisan Fire, Holder Soldiers On - NYTimes.com.

Voting Blogs: AAUGH! South Carolina GOP Funding Decision Scrambles Counties’ Primary Plans | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Earlier this week, the South Carolina GOP stunned election officials by announcing that they would not, as promised, be paying $650,000 to the cost of the state’s January primary but would instead limit their contribution to $180,000 from filing fees by the candidates in the January 21 vote.

Party officials claim their decision is required by the recent state Supreme Court ruling – described by the party chair as a “game changer” – that the state and county election officials are required to run the primary as part of their authority under state law. The party’s executive director suggested that county election officials only had themselves to blame: “The state party was negotiating in good faith with these four counties through the state Election Commission, and yet they filed a hugely expensive lawsuit knowing this was one of the potential outcomes.”

Full Article: AAUGH! South Carolina GOP Funding Decision Scrambles Counties' Primary Plans - Program for Excellence in Election Administration.

National: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights | The Washington Post

The Obama administration on Tuesday will wade into the increasingly divisive national debate over new voting laws in several states that could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect the president in 2008.

A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an “assault on democracy” and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.

With the presidential campaign heating up, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver a speech Tuesday expressing concerns about the voter-identification laws, along with a Texas redistricting plan before the Supreme Court that fails to take into account the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, he said in an interview Monday.

Full Article: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights - The Washington Post.

National: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Democrats are warning that stricter voter identification laws sweeping through state legislatures could suppress voters in the 2012 elections. At least 34 states have introduced legislation, with varying degrees of restrictiveness, that would require voters to display identification at the polls before they are given a ballot. Some of these laws require voters to produce photo identification; some do not.

The battleground state of Wisconsin has a new law requiring photo IDs, while proposals at various legislative stages in the perennial presidential swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are also giving Democrats heartburn. The more restrictive voting ID measure in Ohio is pending Senate floor consideration. A bill to introduce ID rules for the first time in Pennsylvania has passed the state House and is currently in a state Senate committee. Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach said Ohio is “one of the states where this has been a big concern.” 

Full Article: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws : Roll Call Politics.

Voting Blogs: A Win for Voters Is Colorado Secretary of State Gessler’s Second Loss | Jonathan Brater/Huffington Post

Across the country, legislators and political operatives seem determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote. Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present specified government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Last week, Secretary Gessler was at it again. This time he asked a court to essentially freeze the Denver electorate to those who voted in 2010. The court refused.

Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler sued the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, had it prevailed, could have kept thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason.

Full Article: Jonathan Brater: A Win for Voters Is Gessler's Second Loss.

Editorials: Five myths about voter fraud | The Washington Post

In “The Breakfast Club,” a geeky high school student played by Anthony Michael Hall says he procured a fake ID not to buy beer, but to vote. But are new photo ID laws in Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin really necessary to stop widespread fraud like that perpetrated by a John Hughes character? Or are photo ID laws just another conservative scheme to oppress young people and minorities and limit Democratic turnout? Let’s put aside what we think we know about the ballot box and find out.

1. We need state voter ID laws to prevent fraud.

Prosecutable cases of voter fraud are rare. For example, a 2005 statewide study in Ohio found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004, out of 9 million votes cast. An investigation of fraud allegations in Wisconsin in 2004 led to the prosecution of 0.0007 percent of voters. From 2002 to 2005, the Justice Department found, only five people were convicted for voting multiple times. In that same period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for improper voting.

According to Barnard political scientist Lorraine Minnite, most instances of improper voting involve registration and eligibility, such as voters filling out registration forms incorrectly or a person with felony convictions attempting to register. Neither of those issues would be prevented by a state photo ID requirement. According to George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, a former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1,000 legitimate votes (perhaps over 10,000 legitimate votes) for every single improper vote prevented.”

Full Article: Five myths about voter fraud - The Washington Post.

Voting Blogs: The Latest Battle in the War on Voting | Brennan Center for Justice

A Denver judge ruled on October 7 that the Denver Clerk and Recorder can mail ballots to “inactive” voters who missed one election, as she had planned. There will be a later legal proceeding to fully consider the issues. All across the country legislators and political operatives seem to be determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote.

Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present certain government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Now Secretary Gessler is at it again, in a move that — if it stands — could essentially freeze the electorate to those who voted in 2010.

Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler is suing the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, if it prevails, will keep thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason.

Full Article: The Latest Battle in the War on Voting | Brennan Center for Justice.