The U.S. Department of Justice has been forced to explore different strategies to protect voters from discriminatory and burdensome election laws in the void left by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Without a formula to determine which jurisdictions must preclear their election laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2 is the next best option to protect voters.
We spent a bit of time awhile back shaming Wisconsin for its omnibus legislation which threatened to reinstate voter ID, limit early voting hours, and toss out ballots at random. We certainly were not the only ones with qualms about the bill, and it would seem that our collective guilt trip worked!
Wisconsin seems to have dedicated this past month to limiting voting rights in the state. Last week, an omnibus bill was announced which would place numerous restrictions on Wisconsin voters. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has long been a proponent of such regulations as well as the state’s photo ID legislation. Following Vos’s lead, Rep.
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (G.A.B), the nonpartisan state government agency that administers the state’s elections, has released a report detailing the cost to taxpayers that would result from eliminating Election Day registration (E.D.R.) in the state. E.D.R. allows eligible individuals with proof of residence to register to vote at their polling place on Election Day.
A controversial gubernatorial recall election was held this past Tuesday. Of the estimated 3.5 million registered voters in Wisconsin, nearly 2.5 million voted. However, there were several reports of voters receiving misleading voting information and confusion over new laws passed last year by the legislature. Given these reports, did every voter who wanted to vote get the chance to vote?
The issue of strict photo ID laws has been a very contentious one in the past few years. Proponents of these laws claim they are necessary to deter alleged fraud and ensure confidence in the system. However, in-person voter impersonation fraud (the only type that a strict ID law could prevent) is essentially non-existant.
Today, the Michigan legislature is holding a hearing on the Safe and Fair Elections Initiative that would restrict community-based voter registration, require photo IDs, and require voters to answer a citizenship question in order to vote.
The biggest story in voting rights this week is news out of Texas that the Justice Department had blocked the state’s new voter ID law. On Thursday, an amended complaint was filed in the case which directly challenged Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.