Voter Suppression Update for February 29, 2012
The good news this week is that it looks like the voter ID bill in Iowa will not move forward this year and there may be a compromise occurring in Minnesota that will stop the voter ID constitutional amendment and instead replace it with legislation for use of “electronic poll books” to help poll workers verify voters, not rely on photo ID, and preserve same day registration. It looks favorable that voter ID laws in Colorado and Nebraska won’t make it out of each state’s legislature. The Senate in Colorado last year blocked the bill and there doesn’t appear to be enough votes in Nebraska to overcome a likely filibuster.
However, there are several things to watch out for on the horizon. It seems like New Hampshire and Virginia are both poised to pass a voter ID law. In this week’s primary in Michigan, the Secretary of State unilaterally implemented a change to voting procedures that includes a question on the ballot application asking if the voter is a U.S. citizen, even though she has no legal authorization to do so. In the Kansas House, the bill to move the proof of citizenship requirement for first time registrants from January 1, 2013 to June 15, 2012 passed and is on its way to the Kansas Senate. And in Minnesota, a lawsuit was brought that attacks certain procedures involved in the state’s same day registration process.
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The Good News
Florida: A preliminary injunction hearing will be held this Thursday in Tallahassee to halt the restrictive third party voter registration law that became law last year.
Iowa: Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said the bill sponsored by Secretary of State Matt Schultz that would require voters to show a photo ID to vote will not move forward in the Iowa Senate this year.
Kansas: A half-dozen organizations, including the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri and League of Women Voters of Kansas, have formed a coalition called the Kansas Voter Coalition to consider legally challenging the state’s new voter photo ID law. At the center of the lawsuit will likely be the cost to obtain the underlying documents needed to receive a government-issued photo ID.
Minnesota: A bi-partisan proposal by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, in hopes to avoid a pro-photo ID constitutional amendment, is picking up steam in the state senate, where it will likely be introduced next week by a Senate Republican. The proposal is to use electronic poll books to verify a voter’s identity. The technology would allow a poll worker to pull up a voter’s driver’s license photo or take a photo of the voter at the polling place and add it to their registration. The new plan would also preserve same day registration. However, the constitutional amendment has cleared two senate committees and is headed for the floor but a number of legislators seem to be lining up to support the legislation instead.
Ohio: Fair Elections Ohio last week released a poll that showed a majority of Ohioans (54%) support repealing HB 194 (31% oppose) that, among other provisions, would shorten early voting. Even Republicans appear divided on their support with 44% supporting repeal and 43% opposed to repeal.
South Carolina: Last Friday, the ACLU and ACLU of South Carolina filed a motion to become involved in the lawsuit regarding South Carolina’s voter ID law that was blocked by the U.S. Department of Justice. The motion would add interveners to the suit including three registered voters who would not be allowed to vote under the new law because they do not have acceptable ID, as well as Family Unit, a Sumter nonprofit group that helps people register to vote.
Wisconsin: Last week, a coalition of civil rights groups and labor unions filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin photo ID law that went into effect for last week’s primary election. The coalition is arguing that the law discriminates against black and Hispanic voters. This is the fourth lawsuit filed challenging the law.
A Wisconsin veteran, during last week’s primary, discovered that veteran’s photo ID is not an acceptable ID for voting. Instead of voting, he left in protest, and contacted his state representative, Robert Turner. Turner announced he would introduce legislation to make U.S. Veterans Affairs cards as an acceptable form of identification to vote.
The Bad News
Colorado: Last week, a Colorado House committee held a hearing and passed out of committee a photo ID proposal that require a photo ID to vote. The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. Regardless of what happens in the House, the bill will likely die in the Senate as it did last year.
Kansas: Last week, the Kansas House passed a bill that would move up the date from January 1, 2013 to June 15, 2012 when proof of citizenship would be required to register to vote. GOP senators in the GOP-controlled Senate appear split over whether to move up the date.
Maryland: The House Ways and Means Committee debated a bill introduced by Delegate Nic Kipke that would require voters to present a current government-issued photo ID, a voter notification card, or the sample ballot mailed by a local board of elections in order to vote. Those who refuse or are unable to would be required to vote on a provisional ballot. The ballot’s validity would be confirmed after the election, if no other person with that name had voted in the state. Similar bills have been introduced every session since 2005 and will unlikely pass in the current Maryland legislature.
Michigan: During Michigan’s primary on Tuesday, applications for a ballot included a check box for voters to declare they are U.S. citizens to vote despite no law requiring voters to do so. Voters already declare their citizenship when they register to vote. This was a change directed by the Secretary of State’s office, possibly violating several laws, including implementation of a change in voting procedures without pre-clearance by the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Two Michigan townships require preclearance from the Department of Justice before changes to voting laws are implremented. There was a reported instance of a person almost turned away for refusing to check the box declaring his citizenship. It appears in many polling locations there was confusion over whether a voter would be denied a ballot if they refused to fill out the citizenship box. Currently, there is a bill in the legislature that will codify the requirement for a voter to affirm their citizenship in order to vote.
Minnesota: The Senate State Government Committee voted out of committee a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo ID to vote. If the amendment clears the house and senate, it will be before voters this November.
The Minnesota Voters Alliance filed a lawsuit this week over the counting of votes of those that registered and voted on Election Day before it is determined whether the voter is actually eligible to vote or not. The recounts in the 2008 U.S. Senate race and 2010 gubernatorial race sparked the lawsuit. This appears to be an attack on same day registration. The attorney that brought the lawsuit, Erick Kaardal, also represents Minnesota Majority, the group that is leading the fight for a voter photo ID requirement in the state.
Nebraska: The Nebraska Senate debated a bill to require photo ID to vote on Monday. The issue is expected to be picked back up again later this week or next. Opponents of the bill are planning a filibuster. Currently, supporters do not think they have the 33 votes to cut off debate.
New Hampshire: A voter ID bill, requiring voters to show a picture ID before casting a ballot, passed out of the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee by a vote of 4-1 and will likely be voted on in the full Senate next week. Introduced by State Senator Russell Prescott, the legislation 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. The bill has the support of Secretary of State Bill Gardner and the New Hampshire City and Town Clerks’ Association.
North Carolina: Counties across North Carolina are considering resolutions requesting the state legislature to pass a law granting them the authority to require state-issued photo ID to vote in November’s election.
Pennsylvania: There is a rumor that the Senate could vote on the voter ID (HB 934) bill in March. The bill has already passed the House.
Texas: Last year, Texas passed into law a strict voter ID proposal that requires a limited number of acceptable ID’s in order to cast a ballot. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the law is under review by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ has until March 12 to give a response on the Texas law. In December, the DOJ blocked a similar law from taking effect in South Carolina citing a disproportionate impact on minority voters.
Virginia: The Virginia Senate passed a voter ID requirement on Monday. The vote on the bill was tied 20-20 with the lieutenant governor casting the tie breaking vote. The bill would require a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, voter ID card, or social security card to vote. A current utility bill or bank statement would also be a sufficient alternative proof of identification. If a voter does not have identification they would cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the voter returns to the local registrar with acceptable identification. The bill goes back to the House for concurrence with amendments that were added. The House is expected to take up the Senate-passed bill next week. The Virginia Registrars Association does not support the ID proposal that passed since it eliminates the current fail-safe affidavit that voters could sign under penalty of law.
West Virginia: The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week on a bill that would require voters to present identification that included their name, address, and photo in order to vote. If they fail to show acceptable identification, they would be offered a provisional ballot to vote. At this time, it does not appear likely that the bill will be voted on.
Wisconsin: The state Senate passed a bill that would no longer require voter registration to be offered to high school students. It is now headed for a vote in the Wisconsin Assembly.