Voter Suppression Update for March 14, 2012

Posted By: Erica Evans

Post Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
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Recent Updates
Over the past two weeks, the U.S. Department of Justice objected to Texas’ photo ID law and to Florida’s law restricting voter registration drives and cutting the early voting period. In other good news, two state judges in Wisconsin issued a temporary and permanent injunction that suspends the photo ID law passed last year.
 
New photo ID laws are making their way through several state legislatures in Michigan and New Hampshire. A bill for a November vote on a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote is working its way through the House and Senate in Minnesota. Pennsylvania and Virginia both approved a voter ID law. Both states are waiting for their governor’s signature.
 
Nationally, groups affiliated with True the Vote – a group with ties to the Tea Party movement – in over 30 states are training volunteers to comb through voter registration lists to find irregularities and to challenge voters at the polls that they don’t believe they are who they say they are.
 
The Fair Elections Legal Network provides regular updates on election law and administration that will reduce access to voting. To receive these regular updates, please contact Josh Spaulding at jspaulding@fairelectionsnetwork.com.    
 
The Good News
 
Florida: The U.S. Department of Justice objected two weeks ago in a court filing to the Florida law that puts onerous restrictions on voter registration drives and cuts early voting, citing that Florida was unable to prove the new provisions were non-discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, to which five of Florida’s counties are subjected, all changes to Florida’s voting laws must be reviewed to ensure they will not have a discriminatory effect. Instead of waiting on DOJ approval, Florida filed for approval in the D.C. U.S. District Court for approval.
 
Maine: On Tuesday, the state Senate approved a bill passed by the House that originally would have required voter’s to show a photo ID to vote but instead as amended now only calls for a study to be conducted by the Secretary of State on voter participation and registration in Maine. The amended bill faces a final House and Senate vote.
 
Texas: On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice rejected a Texas photo ID law because Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card. The DOJ found that a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification. A three-judge panel, the same one that recently heard the Texas redistricting case, will now hear a lawsuit brought by the Texas attorney general to allow the state to enforce the photo ID law.
 
Wisconsin: Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a permanent injunction against Wisconsin’s photo ID law on Monday in a case brought by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, ruling the law unconstitutional because it eliminates the right to vote for eligible voters that lack the resources to obtain the required identification. This stems from a lawsuit separate from the one that issued a temporary injunction against the law last week by Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan from a lawsuit filed by the NAACP's Milwaukee branch and Voces de la Frontera. The Wisconsin attorney general is appealing both to the State Supreme Court.
 
The Bad News
 
New Hampshire: The state Senate passed a bill last week to require voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The bill is now awaiting a vote in the House. It would require a picture ID starting in 2016. If a voter is unable to show an acceptable ID, they can sign an affidavit and have their picture taken at the polls. Those that signed an affidavit will be contacted by election officials via mail. If no response is received, the attorney general’s office will be notified to investigate.
 
Michigan: On Tuesday, a bill to require photo ID or sign an affidavit to obtain an absentee ballot in person was passed out of the House Redistricting and Elections Committee. 
 
Minnesota: On Tuesday, a bill that would put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to require voter’s show a photo ID passed the House Ways and Means Committee. It now heads to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. A companion bill in the Senate has passed three committees and is awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee.
 
Ohio: State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) recently said that Ohio is not meeting its obligation under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of updating its voter registration rolls. Politifact did a review to determine if her statements were true. It found an option to update voter registration is not being offered in online Bureau of Motor Vehicle transactions and Ohio's rate of registrations and registration updates from BMV transactions is far lower than the national average – 16.4 percent compared with 37.1 percent – showing Ohio is not meeting requirements under NVRA.
 
Pennsylvania: Last week, the state Senate passed a restrictive voter photo ID bill. Today, the House passed the bill on concurrence by a vote of 104-88. The bill allows for a driver’s license, state ID, many government employee photo IDs, student IDs from colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, and IDs for people who live in elder-care institutions in the state, as long as they show a name, photo and expiration date that makes them current. Governor Tom Corbett said he will sign the bill. Legal challenges to the law are expected.
 
Virginia: The House concurred with a Senate passed bill that will require voter’s to present an ID or else vote by provisional ballot. Acceptable ID would be a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, voter ID card, or social security card to vote. Student IDs from 4-year higher learning institutions in Virginia, a current utility bill, or bank statement will also serve as proof of identification. If a voter does not have identification they would cast a provisional ballot. The electoral board is not required to take any affirmative steps to review the provisional ballot, which would only be counted if the voter provides proof of identification to the electoral board by fax, email, or in person within six days. The bill has been sent to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature.
 
Wisconsin: The State Assembly voted to remove a requirement that voter registration be offered to high school students. The bill passed the Senate last month and is headed to the governor.