Laws requiring that voters produce a photo ID were signed into law in Texas and Wisconsin this week – and vetoed in Minnesota. John Tanner, former chief of the voting section of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, has an interesting perspective on how the Texas bill might fare in the inevitable court challenges ahead. In Wisconsin, election officials expressed concern about implementing the State’s new voter ID and residency requirements in time for a spate of recall elections. Vancouver’s plans for internet voting in this Fall’s municipal elections were cancelled because of concerns about security and voter privacy as well as a conflict with Provincial law. On a party-line vote, the US Committee on House Administration reported out a bill that would terminate the Election Assistance Commission and transfer its ongoing responsibilities to the Federal Election Commission and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. In an ironic twist, newly-minted Senator Dean Heller’s failure to establish procedures for special elections during his tenure as Secretary of State has resulted in confusion and court challenges about how to fill the Congressional seat recently vacated by – Dean Heller. And Ohio joined South Carolina and Florida in limitiing their citizens’ options for early voting.
- Republican States Push Revisions to Voting Laws | NYTimes.com
- John Tanner: Why voter ID won’t fly in Texas | statesman.com
- Election officials wary over cost, implementation of Wisconsin voter ID bill | LaCrosse Tribune
- Vancouver voters will not be casting ballots online in November | The Province
- Minnesota governor vetoes voter identification bill | Reuters
- Republicans vote to end Election Assistance Commission, set up after Bush v. Gore — TheHill.com
- Jane Ann Morrison: Anyone could have written better rules for special elections in Nevada | ReviewJournal.com
- Ohio Senate OKs shortened period of early voting | Dayton Daily News
May 29, 2011 12:15 am
Republican States Push Revisions to Voting Laws | NYTimes.com
Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.
Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed laws last week that would require each voter to show an official, valid photo ID to cast a ballot, joining Kansas and South Carolina.
In Florida, which already had a photo law, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this month to tighten restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations — prompting the League of Women Voters to say it would cease registering voters in the state — and to shorten the number of early voting days. Twelve states now require photo identification to vote.
The battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are among those moving ahead on voter ID bills, part of a trend that seems likely to intensify the kind of pitched partisan jousting over voting that has cropped up in recent presidential races.
When voters in predominantly black neighborhoods in Florida saw their votes challenged in the contested Bush-Gore election of 2000, Democrats made charges of disenfranchisement. In 2008 Acorn, a group organizing minority and low-income communities, became a particular target, with Republicans asserting that Acorn was trying to steal the election with large voter-registration drives, some of which were found to be seriously flawed.
Democrats, who point to scant evidence of voter-impersonation fraud, say the unified Republican push for photo identification cards carries echoes of the Jim Crow laws — with their poll taxes and literacy tests — that inhibited black voters in the South from Reconstruction through the 1960s. Election experts say minorities, poor people and students — who tend to skew Democratic — are among those least likely to have valid driver’s licenses, the most prevalent form of identification. Older people, another group less likely to have licenses, are swing voters.
May 28, 2011 03:48 pm
John Tanner: Why voter ID won’t fly in Texas | statesman.com
It has started again. Proponents of voter ID requirements are preparing another push, confident that the law is on their side. In fact, they are backing into a buzz saw. On the surface, the pro-ID group has reason to be complacent. It won in the Supreme Court in Indiana, which had the most restrictive ID requirement in the nation, and also in Georgia. Those states, however, are a world away from Texas.
The key in both cases was the failure of the opponents of the Indiana and Georgia ID laws to produce anyone who could not vote because they did not have an ID. The handful of people who lacked an ID could easily get one at the nearby county seat, which they visited frequently as part of their regular routines. The courts saw the problems as inconsequential.
Instead of actual victims, the ID opponents offered expert testimony that hundreds of thousands of registered voters lacked IDs, but each expert analysis was thrown out under the rule rejecting “junk science” as evidence. The Georgia expert listed the federal judge himself as not having an ID. The judge was not amused.
Let’s be clear. The pro-ID requirement crowd has relied on hot air rather than facts. Its case rests on the myth that crowds of people are going to the polls and pretending to be someone else. The fact is that cases of voter impersonation are as rare as hens’ teeth. But when neither side has had evidence, the courts have upheld ID laws out of deference to the legislatures.
The Supreme Court has made clear that anti-ID forces can and will prevail if they can produce actual individuals whose right to vote will be denied or abridged by an ID requirement.
Welcome to Texas.
Texas is a unique state with a unique population mix, unique size and unique geography — among other unique characteristics. What might be true in Indianapolis will not be true in the Rio Grande Valley.
In Indiana and Georgia, county seats are local business, commercial and community hubs. Local residents visit them often in the normal course of their daily lives. Those without cars catch a ride with a friend or relative, as they can in much of East Texas.
But so much of Texas is different. Take Presidio County. Marfa, the county seat, is a tiny town of 2,121 souls notable mainly as an oasis of minimalist art. It sits at the northern end of the county, while most county residents live 89 miles away over rough mountain roads in the town of Presidio.
Full Article: Tanner: Why voter ID won’t fly in Texas.
Election officials across Wisconsin are bracing for a difficult transition as the state rushes into place new rules for voting signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday — including a controversial measure requiring voters to use photo identification.
Passage of the law, which has been discussed by Republicans for more than a decade, means those charged with enforcing it have less than two months to develop and implement the training needed to handle polls in the coming recall elections.
“This will be a huge undertaking, to get everything and everybody ready,” said Diane Hermann-Brown, Sun Prairie city clerk and president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association. “We still have questions about how this will work.”
… With passage of the law, Wisconsin joins Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and South Carolina as states with photo ID requirements. Four other states request photo IDs but allow voters to cast regular ballots without one. The Wisconsin measure, which could cost the state as much as $7.5 million to execute, has long divided Republicans and Democrats.
Supporters contend it will cut down on voter fraud and say it’s reasonable to expect the same level of scrutiny for voting as for cashing checks, renting cars or using credit cards. Opponents say it is a solution without a problem. They fear it discourages people from voting, especially college students, seniors, minorities and people with disabilities.
May 27, 2011 09:17 am
Vancouver voters will not be casting ballots online in November | The Province
Internet voting won’t be a part of the political process in this November’s civic election in Vancouver, The Province has learned. The mayor’s office was notified earlier this week. “We’re disappointed that the pilot project for online voting will not be in place for this fall’s election, as we believe it provides a great opportunity to expand citizen engagement,” Mayor Gregor Robertson told The Province.
…But there are also risks that need to be carefully considered and addressed before we can move forward. “These risks include: the vulnerability of Internet voting to service disruptions or hacker attacks; authentication of voter identity without jeopardizing anonymity of the vote; and protecting voters from intimidation or coercion when they are exercising their franchise away from the transparent environment of a physical voting place,” said the letter acquired by The Province.
Earlier, NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton urged the province to reject the city’s request to use Internet voting for advanced polls.
“The discussions I’ve had with experts confirm that Internet voting at the moment is bad policy for two key reasons,” Anton said. “When an Internet vote is cast, you don’t know what happens to that vote, and you don’t know who is pushing the button.
“That kind of uncertainty undermines citizens’ faith in the democratic process,” said Anton.
Full Article: Voters will not be casting ballots online in November.
May 27, 2011 09:16 am
Minnesota governor vetoes voter identification bill | Reuters
Democratic Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have required voters to provide photo identification to cast votes. Dayton cited a lack of broad bi-partisan support for the bill and its potential as a $23 million unfunded mandate on local governments in part for his veto. The Republican-led Legislature had sent the bill to him on Monday.
… Dayton said he did not believe voter fraud to be a significant problem in Minnesota and that the reason most often cited for requiring photo identification, felons voting, would not be resolved by the bill.
“We have the highest voter turnout year after year and under intense, bipartisan scrutiny, the recent statewide recounts have highlighted how reliable the results are,” Dayton said in a letter notifying the Senate of his veto.
… Dayton’s letter quoted former Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, now a presidential candidate, in saying that changes to the election process should be bi-partisan.
Dayton signed an executive order establishing a bi-partisan task force to make recommendations by January 15, 2013, on ways to modernize the state’s voting, including fraud prevention.
Republicans on the Committee on House Administration have voted to eliminate the independent commission that was established to address election problems after the contested 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, has disbursed more than $3 billion in “requirements” payments to states to update voting machines and enhance election administration. But the commission has seen that funding significantly decline in recent years.
In a full committee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) called the EAC a “bloated bureaucracy that mismanaged taxpayer dollars,” and said it has far outlived its initial three-year mandate. The best course the committee could take, according to Harper, was to “dissolve the agency, end its wasteful spending and transfer its remaining beneficial functions to another location.”
Under the proposed legislation terminating the EAC, those duties would be given to the Federal Election Commission.
… Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) called for the EAC’s continued operations, citing recent improvements, including the hiring of a chief financial officer who could help get the agency’s accounts in better shape.
“No one could deny the EAC needs to do more,” said Gonzalez, but he added that the commission has been hampered by a staff shortage. He also called on the committee to improve EAC operations through legislation, rather than dismantling it outright.
Fellow committee Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) echoed Gonzalez, saying the continuation of the EAC is “about having a system in place that would make sure that all the Americans who want to vote have a chance to do that.”
Committee Democrats “acknowledge the shortcomings of the EAC,” wrote Kyle Anderson, spokesman for the Democratic staff of the Committee on House Administration, in an email.
“But Democrats don’t believe that cost-cutting should be done at the expense of efforts to ensure that eligible voters have every opportunity to participate in our election system,” he added.
The EAC’s Democratic support also extends beyond the committee. In April, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) testified before the Elections subcommittee that the agency should continue.
“Abolishing the EAC would be an invitation, in my opinion, to repeat the mistakes that blemished our democracy in 2000,” Hoyer said. “The debacle of the 2000 presidential election embarrassed the United States and showed just how flawed election systems were.”
Wonder which legislator did such a pitifully poor job writing a bill to spell out how a new House member should be chosen in Nevada in case of a midterm vacancy? Look no further than former Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Las Vegas.
In 2003, he sponsored Assembly Bill 344. But Perkins, now a lobbyist, thought so little of the bill that is now causing us so much of a ruckus that he handed the duties of carrying the bill to his intern.
Discussion of the bill in Assembly and state Senate committees focused on dates, not how candidates would qualify to file when there would be no primary.
The bill was about filling a House seat in case there was a catastrophe wiping out at least one-fourth of the House members or one-half of Nevada’s House delegation, so there was a sense of urgency. But it’s far more likely a congressman would die of natural causes or resign.
I asked Perkins how he thought the filing would be handled when his bill was prepared, and he emailed back, “At the time, we believed the SOS (Secretary of State Dean Heller) would create regulations to accomplish it.”
Of course, he didn’t answer the question, so I tried again Wednesday, asking again how he envisioned how the filing would work. Alas, no answer was forthcoming.
May 25, 2011 09:11 am
Ohio Senate OKs shortened period of early voting | Dayton Daily News
Ohioans would see a shorter early voting period under a proposal Tuesday that cleared the Senate in this traditionally presidential swing state. The Republican-led Senate voted 23–10 along party lines to pass the plan, despite Democrats’ objections that parts of the bill could lead to longer lines and discourage people from participating in elections.
Supporters argue they are addressing inconsistencies in the law and want to help county officials save money at a time when they’re struggling to balance budgets. Voters would have 21 days to vote by mail and could cast a ballot in person 16 days before Election Day. That’s down from the current 35-day early voting period.
The measure gets rid of a disputed five-day period in which new voters can register and then immediately cast a ballot. Though, it also gives people a chance to register and change their addresses online.
The GOP-controlled House recently passed a similar proposal, though the two bills differ on the length of the early voting period and a handful of other provisions.
Under the House bill, a voter couldn’t vote in person until 10 days prior to the election. It also changes the state’s presidential primary from March to May, and eliminates a requirement that poll workers direct a voter who is in the wrong precinct to the correct precinct.
Full Article: Ohio Senate OKs shortened period of early voting.