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“Undue Burdens”: Voter ID Laws Are Costing Taxpayers Millions

One federal judge has allowed a voter ID law to take effect in Wisconsin. Another is now contemplating whether to do the same in Texas. Defenders of these laws, which exist in some form in 34 states, insist that requiring people to show government-issued identification at the polls will reduce fraud—and that it will do so without imposing unfair burdens or discouraging people from voting. In North Carolina, for example, Republican Governor Pat McCrory wrote an op-ed boasting that the measures fight fraud “at no cost” to voters.

It’s not surprising that McCrory and like-minded conservatives make such arguments. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has steadily weakened the Voting Rights Act and related legislation, which for generations federal officials used to make sure minority voters had equal voice in the political process. But in 2008, when the Court approved Voter ID laws, the Court left open the possibility of new challenges if plaintiffs can demonstrate the laws impose a burden on would-be voters.

There are now good reasons to think the laws do exactly that.

One reason is a report, published over the summer, from Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. Researchers there complied published articles and legal testimony, in order to calculate the cost of of obtaining a government-issued identification. They included everything from the cost of waiting to the cost of traveling and obtaining documentation. Their conclusion? The costs can range anywhere from $75 to $400 per person. The study is not a comprehensive, since it examines evidence from just three states— Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which had its law blocked by the U.S. Justice Department but upheld by a District Court. But as many as 11 percent of voters don’t have a photo ID, according to the Brennan Center, and the study illustrates the challenge these people—many of them very poor—would face trying to get new identification documents. “The more it can be shown that is a substantial financial cost, the clearer it is that these laws are unconstitutional,” said Richard Sobel, author of the study.

Of course, some people would face higher costs than others. According to the study, people who move from another state can have a particularly hard time, because they’ll have trouble tracking down—and then paying for—the documentation they’ll need to get an identification card. Many states require that people present birth certificates in order to get Voter ID cards, but in at least two states, South Carolina and North Carolina, people who want a new birth certificate must present some other form of government identification. In other words, somebody would need a photo ID in order to obtain a voter ID.

Another group that can face extra costs and difficulty getting ID cards is women—specifically, women who have changed their names after marriage. A study by the Brennan Center from 2006 showed that just 48 percent of women with access to a birth certificate have access to identification with their legal name. “It’s clear the costs are much much greater largely because we change our names,” Elisabeth Macnamara, president of the League of Women Voters, told me. The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin has challenged Wisconsin’s voter ID law, partly on this basis. “We are seeing courts considering the Photo ID and see how much it takes to get one.”

A separate issue is the hassle people face when they try to get Voter ID cards. “We’ve experienced people being treated differently depending which DMV they go to or which examiner they talk to as to whether which document is sufficient,” Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in an interview. These difficulties should strengthen legal challenges to the requirement, he said: “It does bolster the argument that it amounts to a poll tax.”

Individual voters aren’t the only ones who face extra costs because of Voter ID laws. State governments’ do, too. The report from Harvard’s Houston Center showed the laws could cost Pennsylvania between $15.75 million and $47.26 million; South Carolina’s law would cost the state between $5.9 million and $17.70 million; and in Texas, could see the costs for its law go between $26.07 million and $78.22 million. “This is a huge amount of money to get a free ID, especially when the right to vote is a right that should be exercised freely and these resources could be used to getting people out to vote,” Sobel said.


By: Eric Garcia, The New Republic, October 3, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Voter ID, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rigging The System To Keep Power”: Republicans’ Voter Suppression Project Grinds On

Mitt Romney was in Michigan this week trying to make it competitive in the presidential election. It’s a steep climb for the native Michigander because President Barack Obama’s auto bailout, which Romney opposed, has helped bring the state’s unemployment rate down by 5.7 points since 2009.

But Romney has a strong ally there: legislation being pushed this month by his fellow Republicans aimed at preventing the nonpartisan League of Women Voters from undertaking the voter-registration drives it has sponsored for nearly a century.

Across the country, the Republicans’ carefully orchestrated plan to make voting harder — let’s call it the Voter Suppression Project — may keep just enough young people and minorities from the polls that Republicans will soon be in charge of all three branches of the federal government.

Yes, both sides try to change voting laws to favor their team. The 1993 “motor voter” law that made voting more convenient by extending registration to the Department of Motor Vehicles helped mostly Democrats. That was at least in the long American tradition of expanding the franchise.

The Republican effort to restrict voting isn’t just anti- Democrat, it’s anti-democratic. No fair-minded person believes the tall tales of voters pretending they were someone else, which have been debunked by the Brennan Center for Justice and others. What fool would risk prison or deportation to cast a single vote?

This isn’t about stopping vote-stealing and other corruption, for which there are already plenty of laws on the books. It’s about rigging the system to keep power.

First we saw the efforts during the George W. Bush administration by Karl Rove and Justice Department officials to get rid of U.S. attorneys who refused to pursue bogus voter- fraud cases. When Republican prosecutors complained, Rove and company ran for cover.

Then came Crawford v. Marion County, the 2008 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory photo-identification laws were constitutional on the basis of ballot protection. The evidence presented included not a single case of in-person impersonation fraud — the only fraud that photo ID laws can prevent. And the millions of Americans — mostly less-affluent seniors — without driver’s licenses? Good luck.

The big Republican victory in the 2010 election was essential to the Voter Suppression Project. With the help of ALEC — a conservative lobbying outfit that spreads cookie- cutter bills to state legislatures — Republicans moved with lightning speed to implement their scheme. Since 2011, 18 states have enacted voter-suppression bills, with similar ones pending in 12 more.

In the presidential race, it’s hand-to-hand legal combat, with almost every battleground state embroiled in a struggle over voter eligibility.

Michigan’s bills attack the League of Women Voters by requiring some volunteers to attend state-approved training sessions before they can register voters. The catch is that the bill makes no provisions for such sessions. Ha! It does threaten them with penalties for registration offenses that aren’t specified.

The bill is modeled on Florida’s, parts of which a federal judge invalidated May 31 because he said they had “no purpose other than to discourage” constitutionally protected activity.

In Ohio, the Obama campaign helped collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot repealing restrictions on absentee voting. Preferring not to face the voters directly on voter suppression, the Republican-controlled legislature repealed its own law, although it left intact a related measure that prohibits early voting on the three days before an election. That’s designed to discourage the tradition in black communities of busing worshippers from church to the polling place.

Several battleground states have new photo-ID requirements. Pennsylvania’s law allows valid student ID, but with a number of restrictions. Same in Wisconsin, which attached a series of bring-me-the-witch’s-broomstick demands for students looking to use a school ID. Fortunately, a state judge ruled against the Wisconsin law, although it’s being appealed.

Virginia’s legislation allows multiple forms of photo ID but restricts registering for an absentee ballot in person. A New Hampshire bill that required those without photo ID to fill out an onerous affidavit was thankfully just vetoed by Governor John Lynch.

The Obama campaign is obviously concerned about these ballot-access issues for political reasons. But even those with no dog in this fight should recognize that a great democracy doesn’t sully itself by suppressing the precious right to vote.


By: Jonathan Alter, The National Memo, June 22, 2012

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Opportunity Lost To Register A Voter Is An Opportunity Gone Forever”: Federal Judge Blocks Florida Voter Suppression Law

A federal judge blocked much of Florida’s year-old voter suppression law today as an unconstitutional infringement on speech and voting rights.

Last year, the Republican-held Florida legislature passed HB 1355, which imposed harsh new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups, requiring them to turn in completed registration forms 48 hours — to the minute — after completion, or face fines. Outside groups often register hundreds of people at a time and, before this law, had used a quality-control process that took days to ensure the accuracy of submitted forms. With the onerous restrictions now in place, some groups like the League of Women Voters were ultimately forced to cease registration drives in the Sunshine State.

In blocking the new law, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote:

The statute and rule impose a harsh and impractical 48-hour deadline for an organization to deliver applications to a voter registration office and effectively prohibit an organization from mailing applications in. And the statute and rule impose burdensome record-keeping and reporting requirements that serve little if any purpose, thus rendering them unconstitutional even to the extent they do not violate the NVRA. […]

The plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, first because the denial of a right of this magnitude under circumstances like these almost always inflicts irreparable harm, and second because when a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever.

Though state judges and the Department of Justice have already taken steps to prevent voter disenfranchisement, Hinkle’s decision is the first time a federal court has blocked one of the most recent round of state voter suppression laws.

Voters have already begun to experience the effects of new anti-voting laws. Minority voter registration is down significantly from the 2008 election. Among Latinos nationwide, voter registration has dropped five percent; for blacks, registration rates are down seven percent.

New York University’s Brennan Center, which studies voting rights issues, hailed the decision. “Florida’s law and others approved in the past year represent the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades,” said director Wendy Weiser. “Today’s decision will help turn the tide.”


By: Scott Keyes, Think Progress, May 31, 2012

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Escalates Voter Suppression In Ohio

If any Democrats you know need a reason to raise hell about the GOP-led effort to restrict early voting, please direct them to Ken McCall’s Dayton Daily News article, “Changes to early voting rules could hurt Dems.” The headline is actually an understatement, as McCall’s article makes clear:

A Republican-sponsored state law designed to curb voter fraud by significantly limiting the number of days to vote early has a greater potential to hurt Democrats than Republicans, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of voter patterns from the 2008 presidential election.The Daily News examined precinct-level voting results in five counties and found that Democratic voters were much more likely than Republicans to come to boards of elections offices and vote early in the 2008 presidential election, especially in urban counties.

The analysis of voting in the 2,830 precincts in Montgomery, Franklin and Hamilton counties found that precincts won by Democrat Barack Obama had significantly more early votes than those that went for his Republican challenger, John McCain.

And the more a precinct went for Obama, the more early, in-office votes were cast….In the top 10 Obama precincts — all from Dayton and all voting 98 percent for the Democrat — early, in-office votes made up almost 29 percent of all votes cast. In the top 10 precincts for McCain — all in rural or suburban areas of the county — only 2.4 percent of the ballots were cast at the board of elections before Election Day….

House Bill 194, now known as the Elections Reform Bill, contains more than 180 changes to election law, including provisions cutting early, in-office voting by about two-thirds — from 35 days to the equivalent of 11.

Even the nonpartisan League of Women Voters has expressed concern about the bill as an instrument of voter suppression. “The League never talks about people’s motivations, but the effect of it will be to depress the vote,” according to the League’s Peg Rosenfeld, quoted in McCall’s article.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has filed petitions to overturn the law. Hopefully there will be mounting protests against the legislation, which targets African American voters as well as Democrats. In any event, the Republican-lead campaign against early voting should underscore the urgency of Dems having stronger GOTV programs in every state where early voting is under assault.

It’s about as naked an attempt to suppress pro-Democratic voters as we are likely to see in the months ahead. For all of the GOP’s flag-waving and blustering about freedom, when you get right down to it, they want to make it harder for people to vote.

By: Democratic Strategist Staff, August 21, 2011


August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Gov John Kasich, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberty, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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