Voter Suppression Update for July 18, 2012
The Brennan Center for Justice released a report this week that details the challenges – in cost and transportation – for voters to get an ID to vote. According to the report, nearly 500,000 eligible voters in 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws live in households without vehicles and reside at least 10 miles from an ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. For voters in rural areas with few public transportation options, this could be an insurmountable barrier.
The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to allow Florida, Colorado, and 11 other states to have access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) database. Once they have settled on terms of agreement on use of the database, Florida and Colorado indicated they will move quickly to match their lists of potential noncitizens against the database.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorado: The Department of Homeland Security granted access to Colorado to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) database. The database contains legal noncitizens, naturalized citizens, and U.S. citizens that were born outside of the U.S. Colorado wanted access in order to compare voters Colorado officials suspect as possible noncitizens on the voter rolls against the database. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is moving quickly to use the database to remove ineligible voters before the National Voter Registration Act’s 90 day deadline (August 8) for completing systematic voter purge programs.
Florida: Last week, the Department of Homeland Security granted Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) database. The database contains legal noncitizens, naturalized citizens, and U.S. citizens that were born outside of the U.S. Florida wanted access in order to compare voters Florida officials suspect as possible noncitizens on the voter rolls against the database. While Governor Rick Scott is hoping supervisors of elections will move forward with the voter purge, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections is urging its members to proceed slowly because the state and DHS haven’t finalized a formal agreement on using the database, making it unlikely supervisors will remove voters before the August 14 primary.
Iowa: Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said his top priority is to persuade lawmakers to pass a law requiring voters to show identification at the polls to eliminate “cheating” in Iowa elections. He has set out to prove there is fraud by having his office conduct an investigation into the state’s voter rolls. Records turned over to the Associated Press however only found three cases that were investigated. Two were legally registered to vote. The third was a foreigner who voted improperly but investigators did not find criminal intent. However, he said his office has uncovered potential cases of persons who are not U.S. citizens voting and voters casting ballots in multiple states in the same election. He won’t release those records because of an ongoing investigation. His office has also opened a "voter fraud" telephone hotline for anyone to report irregularities, and his agency's website prominently features a place to do the same.
Minnesota: The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments this week on the challenge to the voter ID constitutional amendment that is scheduled to be on the ballot this November. Three of the justices raised questions regarding the differences between the ballot language and the language of the proposed constitutional amendment, which the voters will not see on the ballot. Other justices asked questions on how they could “fix” the ballot language without creating other constitutional problems. The justices are expected to issue a decision in late August.
Ohio: The Obama campaign filed a federal lawsuit against the state to allow early voting the weekend before the election. The General Assembly last year passed a law banning early voting the three days before Election Day. However, military and overseas voters can cast early ballots up to the day before Election Day. The Obama campaign claims this is in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Secretary of State John Husted cast the tiebreaking vote to not allow the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections office to stay open the last two Saturdays and Sundays before the election. He stated in any tiebreaking vote to extend in-person voting hours, he would vote against it.
Pennsylvania: An analysis of registered voters in Philadelphia found that 15.6 percent do not have a driver’s license or nondriver ID issued by PennDOT. Registered voters 80 and over in Philadelphia are impacted the most by the new voter ID law. Over a quarter (27.4 percent) do not have a PennDOT ID.
A woman that recently moved to Pennsylvania is having a hard time getting a new driver’s license because after two marriages, her name no longer matches her birth certificate. Without a new ID, she would not be able to have her vote count this November. PennDOT is requiring her to document her name changes. To do so, she must obtain a 50-year-old marriage certificate from North Carolina and a 46-year-old divorce decree from Mexico along with her birth certificate.
It took a 51-year-old man three months to obtain his free voter ID after several administrative errors caused by PennDOT officials.
Pennsylvania will update state employee ID badges for those that plan on using their ID badge at the polls. The current IDs lack an expiration date which is required for a voter ID.
Tennessee: The City of Memphis appears likely to file a lawsuit to allow Memphis Public Library ID cards to be used for voting. The library ID cards were changed recently to comply with the voter ID law passed last year. However, the secretary of state’s office and county elections office has said that the library IDs will not be accepted.
Texas: As the trial challenging Texas’ voter ID law was wrapping up last week, the judges hearing the case appeared skeptical whether the law was fair. They questioned the state's attorneys about the lack of witnesses and the need to prove that the law is fair to minority voters. One judge also mentioned the long distances – over 100 miles – for some voters to travel to obtain an ID. A decision is expected in the next month.
Texas Secretary of State Esperanza "Hope" Andrade is drafting a letter to request access for Texas to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) database to check from possible noncitizens on the voter rolls.
Wisconsin: This week, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan became the second judge to declare Wisconsin’s photo ID unconstitutional, by issuing a permanent injunction barring the law from being enforced. He also said the law was "unlikely to protect the electoral process" and was one of the most restrictive in the country. The ruling could be appealed but, at this point, will unlikely not be in effect in November.