Voter Suppression Update for August 2, 2012
The trial over Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law began this past week. The court heard from several voters on the difficulty of obtaining a voter ID.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, released results from a survey on young voters this week demonstrating that there is widespread confusion over voting rules and requirements, including registration, early voting and voter identification.
Following Florida’s lead, at least 12 states are looking at using the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program to check the citizenship status of registered voters. Currently, these states are negotiating to gain access to the SAVE program. While that access will come with certain safeguards, it remains to be seen how states will utilize this information.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing last week where House Republicans criticized the Justice Department's decision to challenge new voter ID laws in several states, saying it shows the Obama Administration is more concerned with Democrats winning in November than protecting against election fraud.
The Heritage Foundation held a voter ID forum last week. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, one of the panelists, tried to defend voter ID laws by giving an example where, ironically requiring voter ID would not have stopped someone from committing voter fraud.
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@
Alabama: The state filed a lawsuit last week challenging the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit asks that parts of the Voting Rights Act (Section 5, relating to pre-clearance) be found unconstitutional if Alabama’s new redistricting maps are not approved by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Alabama must have changes to voting procedures approved by the DOJ under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of voting discrimination.
Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler heard testimony at a rulemaking hearing over his plan to stop county clerks from mailing ballots to inactive voters.
Florida: Florida officials are working on an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security for use of the Systemic Alien Verification for Entitlement database to check citizenship status of registered voters officials think maybe not be citizens. A spokesman for Florida’s secretary of state said that Florida will be the model for other states that want to use the database to identify non-citizens on the voter rolls. The state does not plan to continue the voter purge program until after the August 14 primaries.
The Department of Justice sent subpoena’s to three Florida counties – Collier, Lee, and Hillsborough – to turn over documents and information related to a purge of non-citizens from the voter rolls as part of its lawsuit challenging Florida’s voter purge program.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and several other Democrats filed a lawsuit last week challenging Florida’s new law that shortened the number of days for early voting.
Indiana: A national group, Judicial Watch, has filed a lawsuit to force Indiana to clean up its voter rolls of people that have died or moved. There are 10 counties that have more registered voters than eligible voters and 12 that have nearly as many registered as eligible voters.
Iowa: Secretary of State Matt Schultz wants access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to check the citizenship of over 1,000 voters that he believes may not be citizens.
Kansas: Douglas County is trying to make it easier for voters to get a voter ID if they do not have an acceptable ID to vote. Voters can come to the county clerk’s office instead of the DMV to obtain a free ID. All a registered voter needs to bring is a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government documents that show a name and address. They do not need to provide a birth certificate. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a strong proponent of Kansas’ strict ID law, is reviewing the details of the program.
Maryland: A group with ties to the tea party, Election Integrity Maryland, turned over information on the names of 9,000 people in Prince George and Montgomery counties and the city of Baltimore that they claim are dead or have an improper address that are on the voter rolls.
Michigan: Despite Governor Rick Snyder vetoing legislation last month that would require voters to mark a checkbox, indicating they are citizens on their ballot application in order to vote, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has directed that the ballot checkbox be included on ballot applications.
Minnesota: On Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments over the ballot title language, drafted by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, for the voter ID constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot. A pro-voter ID group contends that the ballot title should be the one given by the Minnesota legislature. However, the Minnesota Constitution gives the secretary of state and attorney general the authority to give ballot questions a title.
The mayor of Rochester, Ardell Brede, came out in opposition to the voter ID constitutional amendment, saying it is too costly and there’s too few details about the amendment.
The Minneapolis City Clerk’s office released a report this week that estimated the cost of implementing a voter ID law in Minnesota to cost $50 million.
New Hampshire: The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire has produced two new flyers explaining the new voter ID law passed this year and general voter information.
New Mexico: Secretary of State Dianna Duran wants access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to match against the state’s voter registration lists to determine if there are non-citizens on the rolls.
North Carolina: A group in North Carolina called Voter Integrity Group claims that it has found 386 dead voters on Wake County’s voter rolls. This is part of a statewide effort to remove dead voters from the rolls. The group also has turned over names of 123 voters in Alamance County that they presume to be dead.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted wants access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. He said the database would be valuable in unique situations when a voter's citizenship is called into question and would not be used on a widespread basis to purge Ohio's voter rolls of non-citizens.
Pennsylvania: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele that the DOJ is investigating Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law to determine if it discriminates against minorities.
Before the trial over Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law began last week, lawyers defending the new law abandoned the claim that the law was needed to combat in-person voter fraud because the state has no evidence that the crime has ever been committed.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson began hearing testimony this past week over a challenge brought by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other groups over Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. The first day of the trial opened withexamples from voters having difficulty obtaining a voter ID. Testimony was heard from 89-year-old Joyce Block whose birth certificate and Social Security card bear her maiden name, Joyce Lucille Altman, and her marriage certificate is in Hebrew. Testimony was also heard from Danny Rosa, 63-year-old Air Force veteran, who was unable to obtain an ID because the name on his birth certificate is different than his actual name. Other witnesses reported roadblocks such as limited or no public transportation to PennDOT offices, limited hours when authorized employees were available, and clerks who said there was a $13.50 charge for the IDs that are supposed to be issued for free. Other evidence presented by the plaintiffs included video of a comment made by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to a Republican gathering in June that the new photo ID requirement "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania" in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
A University of Washington political scientist conducted a survey for the ACLU and testified during the voter ID trial, determined that over a million registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have the necessary ID to vote. Of eligible voters, the number is 1.36 million residents. The legislature had originally estimated that approximately 90,000 Pennsylvanians lacked p a photo ID.
Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele – who oversees elections in Pennsylvania – testified during the voter ID hearings that there are details of the law that she does not know. She also claimed that 99 percent of voters had an ID they could use for voting. She later admitted that the state does not know the real number of voters who need ID.
The Pennsylvania Department of State announced two weeks ago that it will begin offering a free voter ID in August for voters who are not able to provide all of the documents, such as a birth certificate, that they would otherwise need to obtain other state-issued photo IDs. In order to receive the free ID card, registered voters must give their Social Security number and date of birth and show two documents proving their residence, such as a utility bill. The cards will be valid for 10 years and can be used only for voting.
County election officials have not received materials from the state and have received differing instructions on the new voter ID law. They are reluctant to provide instructions and training to poll workers without clear and concise materials and instructions for poll workers. The Department of State plans to make a poll worker training manual available by the end of August.
York County Democrats have launched a campaign to help voters get an ID if they need one. They are calling voters that appear on a list provided by state of people on the voter rolls that appear not to have a PennDOT issued ID – more than 18,700 registered voters in York County. For those that do not have an ID, they are offering rides to a PennDOT center where they can get a free one.
The Philadelphia City Council announced this week it is working in partnership with the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition to educate voters about the voter ID law and help them obtain a free voter ID if they need one. Data recently released from the state shows that as many as 43 percent of Philadelphia voters may not have a valid PennDOT ID to vote.
Tennessee: U.S District Judge Aleta Trauger, despite questioning the way the voter ID law is written, ruled this week thatlibrary cards issued by the Memphis libraries could not serve as ID’s to vote.
Washington: Secretary of State Sam Reed requested access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. However, elections officials are unsure how or if they will be able to use the database. They need alien ID numbers to use the database and are not sure how they will obtain those.
Wisconsin: A report released by the League of Women Voters and the Wisconsin Election Protection coalition states that without increased training and staffing, new voter registration requirements could make it difficult or even impossible for many eligible Wisconsin voters to cast a ballot. The new law moves the amount of time that a person must reside at a voting address from 10 days to 28 days before they can register to vote at that address. The change in the law could significantly impact students who are more transient than other voters.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he plans to appeal a state court ruling that blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law as a violation of the state’s constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.