Wendy Weiser

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Editorials: Voter suppression laws are already deciding elections | Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post

Voter suppression efforts may have changed the outcomes of some of the closest races last week. And if the Supreme Court lets these laws stand, they will continue to distort election results going forward. The days of Jim Crow are officially over, but poll-tax equivalents are newly thriving, through restrictive voter registration and ID requirements, shorter poll hours and various other restrictions and red tape that cost Americans time and money if they wish to cast a ballot. As one study by a Harvard Law School researcher found, the price for obtaining a legally recognized voter identification card can range from $75 to $175, when you include the costs associated with documentation, travel and waiting time. (For context, the actual poll tax that the Supreme Court struck down in 1966 was just $1.50, or about $11 in today’s dollars.) Whatever the motivation behind such new laws — whether to cynically disenfranchise political enemies or to nobly slay the (largely imagined) scourge of voter fraud — their costs to voters are far from negligible.

Full Article: Catherine Rampell: Voter suppression laws are already deciding elections - The Washington Post.

National: Midterm Voter Suppression Election Protection Hotline Swamped | New Republic

It may never be possible to calculate exactly how many eligible voters were unable to vote Tuesday due to new voter-ID laws, registration problems, and polling location misinformation. Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, wouldn’t give an estimate of how many people were likely blocked from the polls this year, but she did say that millions of Americans were affected by new changes, particularly laws passed after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last summer. In Texas alone, the implementation of a new voter-ID law meant that 600,000 registered voters lacked the proper identification. You can get a sense, though, of the scale of voter difficulties from the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE). The hotline is a project of the Election Protection Coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The hotline handles calls from voters who need to know if they’re registered, find their assigned polling locations, and report difficulties in their attempts to vote. Yesterday, the national hotline had taken over 16,000 calls by 8 p.m., with 3.5 hours to go until polling ended. (By comparison, the hotline received 12,857 calls all day on Election Day in 2010.)

Full Article: Midterm Voter Suppression Election Protection Hotline Swamped | New Republic.

National: Voter laws: Stumbling blocks | The Economist

According to some civil-rights groups, voting on Tuesday was a bit of a mess. Changes to voting laws in more than a dozen states caused confusion, frustration, long lines and turned-away voters. Some people arrived at the polls in Texas without a valid photo-ID, while others in North Carolina were sent packing even though the state’s voter-ID law doesn’t take effect until 2016. Thousands of voters called hotlines complaining about inaccurate voter rolls, malfunctioning machines and bewildering new rules. Some volunteers at polling stations were reportedly just as flustered as everyone else. Such complaints are unsurprising. America wins few awards for administering orderly and streamlined elections. The way citizens register and vote is “still in the dark ages in many ways,” says Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Centre for Justice, a public-policy think-tank. Most states rely on a paper-based registration system, and many close registration weeks before election day. Few allow voters to vote early, which leads to crowding and last-minute hiccups at polling stations. Polling staff tend to be untrained volunteers, and many machines are either incredibly old or new and untested. Different states also have different voter laws, with little integration of voter data, which makes it tricky when people move. 

Full Article: Voter laws: Stumbling blocks | The Economist.

National: Voting machine, ID problems crop up in U.S. elections | Reuters

Voting machine and voter identification problems emerged in some U.S. states on Tuesday when Americans went to the polls in midterm elections that will shape the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Although a full picture of the problems was not yet clear, officials and voting rights advocates reported machine failures in North Carolina and Texas, polling breakdowns in a key Florida county and an overall increase in the number of people reporting they were turned away for lack of proper identification. “It all points to problems we need to solve,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the non-partisan Brennan Center Democracy Program. In North Carolina, where a strict election law barring provisional voting outside a voter’s normal precinct was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting was briefly halted at one precinct after officers responded to an altercation between voters and election officials, according to the state’s Democratic Party. There were also reports of voting machines in Columbus County that were down but later fixed, said Election Protection, a non-partisan voting rights group.

Full Article: Voting machine, ID problems crop up in U.S. elections | Reuters.

National: What the voter ID court battles could mean for Election Day | CBS

With three weeks left before Election Day, officials and voting rights advocates in Texas are still wrangling in court over the state’s controversial and restrictive new voting law. Any day now, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to say whether the Texas voter ID law should be implemented on Election Day or not. The Supreme Court could step in as well. Should the appeals court — and possibly the Supreme Court — side with the law’s supporters, the law will be reinstated before the midterms, keeping more than 608,000 registered voters that don’t have the required ID from voting. If the courts side with opponents of the voter ID law and put it on hold for the time being, the law’s supporters argue it would inject “doubt where for 15 months, and three statewide elections, there had been certainty.” The Texas case is just one of several ongoing disputes over controversial voting laws that could have an impact at polling places on Nov. 4.

Full Article: What the voter ID court battles could mean for Election Day - CBS News.

National: Voting rights cases may be headed back to Supreme Court | USA Today

The Supreme Court’s decision last year eliminating a barrier against voting procedure changes in mostly Southern states came with a caveat: Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the Voting Rights Act still included a “permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting.” Now federal courts from Texas to Wisconsin are on the verge of deciding whether Roberts was right — or if what remains of the 1965 law after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling is less able to stop states from making it harder to vote. An appeals court hearing Friday in the Wisconsin case, following a two-week trial in a Texas district court, might point the way back to the Supreme Court. Cases in North Carolina and Ohio also could be headed that way. Those states and others have made voting more difficult in recent years to combat what they claim are instances of voter fraud. Texas imposed strict new photo identification rules hours after the Supreme Court ruling. North Carolina cut back on early voting, same-day registration and provisional balloting. They were among 15 states freed in whole or in part from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to clear any changes with the Justice Department. The high court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the list of states dating back a half century.

Full Article: Voting rights cases may be headed back to Supreme Court.

National: Kansas, Arizona Require Proof of Citizenship for Voting | Wall Street Journal

Election rules in Kansas and Arizona are set to bar thousands of people in coming weeks from casting ballots in state primaries even as the federal government allows some of them to vote in congressional races. The split system is the result of a growing battle between federal officials and a handful of states over the necessity of verifying that a newly registered voter is a U.S. citizen. Kansas and Arizona say the federal registration process doesn’t rigorously check citizenship. They have established their own verification systems and are barring people who register using the federal system from voting this month for such offices as governor and local posts. In recent years, mostly Republican-controlled states have tightened voting rules, including requiring voters to produce picture identification at the polls, arguing it prevents fraud. “There is a very real problem with aliens being registered to vote,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said about a dozen states are likely to pass such measures in coming years. Democrats have countered that there are few examples of fraud at the polls and that such steps suppress the vote of such groups as minorities and women.

Full Article: Kansas, Arizona Require Proof of Citizenship for Voting - WSJ.

Editorials: New voter ID laws: Nothing like it ‘since Reconstruction’ | Los Angeles Times

A federal judge recently struck down a Wisconsin law that would have required voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, one in a series of judicial rulings addressing how states can control who gets to cast a ballot. A slew of voter ID laws were passed after the 2010 election gave Republicans control of both branches of legislature in many states. Supporters say the laws prevent fraud at the polls. But studies indicate that fraud is virtually nonexistent, and that states that saw higher minority turnout were more likely to pass voter ID laws, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We haven’t seen a legislative movement like this since Reconstruction,” she said.

Full Article: New voter ID laws: Nothing like it 'since Reconstruction' - latimes.com.

National: Wisconsin threw out voter ID Tuesday. It’s a fight still playing out in 12 other states. | Washington Post

A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law Tuesday, less than a week after a Circuit Court judge found Arkansas’ voter ID law unconstitutional. At least one more court decision should come down before November, but voting rights cases and legislation are brewing in plenty of other places worth keeping an eye on this year. Here’s a guide of what to watch — and where.

Arizona

A federal judge ruled in March that Arizona’s 2004 law requiring new voters who register by mail to prove documentation of U.S. citizenship was valid. The Supreme Court had invalidated part of Arizona’s law last year, after which the state joined up with Kansas, which passed its own proof-of-citizenship voter requirements last year. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the the 1993 National Voter Registration Act had mandated that states use the federal voter registration form, so Arizona’s more complicated form — which opponents say targeted the state’s large Latino community — is not valid. Voting expert Richard Pildes told NPR at the time, “What Justice Scalia has essentially said here for a substantial majority of the court is if you want modifications to these federal forms that have been required up till now, you have to go to this commission to get those modifications.” The decision in Arizona and Kansas’ case last month requires that Election Assistance Commission to modify the federal registration form to include Kansas and Arizona’s requirements, saying that the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to regulate elections. The case is heading to the 10th Circuit of Appeals later this year.

Full Article: Wisconsin threw out voter ID Tuesday. It’s a fight still playing out in 12 other states..

National: GOP pushes back on Obama voting report | MSNBC

A voting report released Wednesday by a bipartisan presidential panel offers a frank rebuke to Republicans working to make voting harder—especially through cuts to early voting. And the GOP is already working to limit the report’s impact. “The administration of elections is inherently a state function so I do not believe that new one-size-fits-all Washington mandates would be of assistance.” Rep. Candice Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state and the House GOP’s point person on voting issues, said in a statement. The Republican National Lawyers Association, a group of GOP election lawyers that has played a key role in advancing voting restrictions, echoed Miller’s view. The report has mostly been applauded by voting rights groups and those looking to expand access to the ballot. “The commission’s recommendations are a significant step forward,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, in a statement. 

Full Article: GOP pushes back on Obama voting report | MSNBC.

National: Key fights ahead for right to vote | MSNBC

Voting rights advocates are girding for a series of crucial battles that will play out over the next twelve months in Congress, in the courts, and in state legislatures. Victories could go a long way to reversing the setbacks of the last year. Defeats could help cement a new era in which voting is more difficult, especially for racial minorities, students, and the poor. Despite some scattered efforts by states to improve voting access, the right to vote took a big step backwards last year. Republican legislatures in states across the country continued to advance restrictive voting laws, while a major Supreme Court rulingShelby County v. Holder, badly weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Wendy Weiser, who runs the Democracy program at the Brenan Center for Justice, called Shelby “the single biggest blow to voting rights in decades.”

Full Article: Key fights ahead for right to vote | MSNBC.

National: States joining forces to scrub voter rolls | Associated Press

More than half of states are now working in broad alliances to scrub voter rolls of millions of questionable registrations, identifying people registered in multiple states and tens of thousands of dead voters who linger on election lists. Poll managers are looking for more states to get involved and say the efforts are necessary because outdated voter registration systems are unable to keep up with a society where people frequently move from one state to another. While many of the registration problems are innocent, some election leaders fear the current disorder within the system is inviting trouble. “It creates an environment where there could be more problems,” said Scott Gessler, the Republican secretary of state in Colorado. “It’s a precursor to potential fraud, there’s no doubt about it.” Half of all states have now joined a consortium anchored by the state of Kansas, compiling their voter registration lists at the end of every year to assess for duplicates. That program has grown rapidly since beginning in 2005 in an agreement between four Midwestern states. Meanwhile, seven states are coordinating on another project that makes those assessments more frequently with advanced algorithms _ while also checking for deceased voters.

Full Article: States joining forces to scrub voter rolls - Imperial Valley Press Online: Elections.

Editorials: The entire U.S. voting process is flawed | Wendy Weiser/The Denver Post

Can congressional Democrats and Republicans put aside partisan politics to seriously address the major issues facing our country? With the debt crisis ever looming and judicial and executive nominees languishing, there is plenty of opportunity for partisan rancor. But there is one area where politics should be — and, surprisingly, may be able to be — tossed aside: voting.

Full Article: Weiser: The entire U.S. voting process is flawed - The Denver Post.

National: Voter ID battle set to rage again | NJ.com

The national battle over voter ID laws that roiled the presidential campaign for a time then fizzled before Election Day is set to rage again in 2013. This year promises a flurry of new voter ID legislation across the country as well as reignited court battles in states where the laws were blocked last year and a Supreme Court ruling on part of the Voting Rights Act. All of the activity will bring the debate — which pits conservatives targeting potential election fraud against voting-rights groups convinced the laws are really about disenfranchising low-propensity liberal voters — to the forefront again. “There are a number of states where there’s clearly active legislative attempts to make their voter ID laws more restrictive,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been involved in court challenges to a handful of the voter ID laws around the country. “This is not an issue that has gone away.”

Full Article: National voter ID battle set to rage again | NJ.com.

National: Effect of States’ Voter Laws Is Hard to Identify | WSJ.com

Voters in more than two dozen states next month will be asked to provide some form of identification before casting a ballot. How many Americans who would otherwise vote will be turned away or won’t turn up at all remains a hotly contested number. Some researchers have tried to count the number of voters affected, by surveying people about whether they have the required ID. This has produced a wide range of results, though, and some researchers question whether people whose IDs aren’t valid are aware of it, and whether they would rectify the situation if their state passed a tough ID law. Other researchers instead study actual effects of voter-ID laws on past turnouts. But the strictest forms of such laws—which require photographic identification and are studied most closely because they are thought likeliest to exclude the greatest number of people—took effect just before an exceptional presidential election that made it difficult to isolate their effect. As a result, such studies haven’t been able to convincingly demonstrate that these laws suppress turnout. “It’s so tricky to filter out unrelated factors, some of them unique to the election cycle, that may dissuade people from voting,” said Tim Vercellotti, a political scientist at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

Full Article: Effect of States' Voter Laws Is Hard to Identify - WSJ.com.

National: Many Strict Election Laws Blocked or Delayed | Associated Press

Tough new election laws aimed at forcing voters in many states to show photo identification at polling places have been blocked or delayed, delighting opponents who claim they were among a variety of partisan attempts to keep minorities from voting. Supporters of the measures nevertheless predict they will prevail in the long run. And court battles continue in some states even as the Nov. 6 election date draws near. The stakes are high especially in swing states where a close margin is expected in the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, as well as in numerous congressional and local campaigns. Other battles in key states such as Florida and Ohio have been fought over reductions in the number of early voting days and new restrictions on voter registration drives.

Full Article: News from The Associated Press.

National: State voting-law cases test Supreme Court’s politics just ahead of Election Day | USAToday

Efforts by some states that could make it tougher to register to vote or vote are heading toward the Supreme Court, providing a fresh test of the justices’ political mettle. The court agreed Monday to hear Arizona’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that blocked the state from requiring proof of citizenship when registering by mail. The case, which could affect other states including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee, likely will be heard in the winter and decided in the spring. More urgent is the court’s imminent decision whether to hear Ohio’s appeal of lower-court rulings that blocked the state from closing early voting centers three days before the election, while allowing military and overseas voters continued access. President Obama’s campaign is opposing the state’s case.

Full Article: State voting-law cases test Supreme Court's politics just ahead of Election Day.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID Law on Trial | Epoch Times

A trial over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law will either uphold or block a new requirement that state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) called “purely about partisan politics.” A ruling is expected this week. In a phone press conference on July 31, Hughes said the law “reverts us back to the days of poll taxes.” He said that if the trial allows Pennsylvania voter ID requirements to stand, “we will do our best to make sure everyone who needs one gets an ID.”

“The context of the trial is that nationally we are in the middle of the biggest national rollback of voting rights in decades,” according to Wendy Weiser, co-director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The law disproportionately affects minorities, the elderly, and poor people, according to Weiser.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Voter ID Law on Trial | National News | United States | Epoch Times.

National: Voter ID laws could swing states | Politico.com

At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012. Supporters of these new laws — spearheaded in six swing states, as well as other less competitive ones — argue they are just trying to stop voter fraud and protect the integrity of the vote. But opponents, mainly Democrats and Obama’s campaign, which is closely monitoring the daily warfare over the new laws, believe they are trying to change the face of the electorate in a way that benefits the Republican candidate for president. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, all viewed as important states this fall, each have enacted stricter ID laws. Florida and Ohio have cut back on early voting. And a whole host of other states have passed new ID laws as well. As a result, millions of voters will find it much more difficult to vote on Election Day in November — some estimates, such as one from the Brennan Center of Justice last fall, put the number of those affected nationwide at more than 5 million. In Pennsylvania alone, the state’s Transportation Department released figures showing that more than 750,000 registered voters in the state — 9.2 percent of voters there — do not have the required forms of ID to vote in November.

Full Article: Voter ID laws could swing states - Emily Schultheis - POLITICO.com.

Florida: Florida at the forefront as states plan fresh assault on voting rights | guardian.co.uk

Voting rights groups are struggling to hold back a tide of new laws that are likely to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote in the presidential election in November and could distort the outcome of the race for the White House. Since January 2011, 19 states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. Some states are newly requiring people to show government-issued photo cards at polling stations. Others have whittled down early voting hours, imposed restrictions on registration of new voters, banned people with criminal records from voting or attempted to purge eligible voters from the electoral roll. The assault on voter rights is particularly acute in key swing states where the presidential race is likely to be settled. Five of the nine key battleground states identified by the Republican strategist Karl Rove have introduced laws that could suppress turnout – Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. Between them, the states that have imposed restrictions account for the lion’s share of the 270 electoral college votes that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney must win to take the presidency. Sixteen of the states that have passed new voter restrictions between them hold 214 electoral votes. “We are seeing a dramatic assault on voting rights, the most significant pushback on democratic participation that we’ve seen in decades,” said Wendy Weiser of the non-partisan thinktank the Brennan Center for Justice, and the co-author of the definitive study of US voter suppression in the 2012 election cycle. “These laws could make it harder for millions of eligible American citizens to participate, particularly in swing states.”

Full Article: Florida at the forefront as states plan fresh assault on voting rights | World news | guardian.co.uk.