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“The Republican Self-Preservation Act”: Texas Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Women, Students And Minorities

Texas’s new voter ID law got off to a rocky start this week as early voting began for state constitutional amendments. The law was previously blocked as discriminatory by the federal courts under the Voting Rights Act in 2012, until the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the VRA in June. (The Department of Justice has filed suit against the law under Section 2 of the VRA.) Now we are seeing the disastrous ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Based on Texas’ own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be “substantially similar” to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.

Just yesterday, this happened (via Rick Hasen), from KiiiTV in South Texas:

“What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

Watts has voted in every election for the last forty-nine years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for fifty-two years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was.

“Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,’” Watts said.

The difference? On the driver’s license, Judge Watts’s maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it’s her actual middle name. That was enough under the new, more strict voter fraud law, to send up a red flag.

“This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” Watts said.

The disproportionate impact of the law on women voters could be a major factor in upcoming Texas elections, especially now that Wendy Davis is running for governor in 2014.

Moreover, the state is doing very little to make sure that voters who don’t have an ID can get one. As I mentioned, 600–800,000 registered voters don’t have an acceptable voter ID, but according to the Dallas Morning News “only 41 of the new cards were issued by DPS [Department of Public Safety] as of last week.”

Getting a valid photo ID in Texas can be far more difficult than one assumes. To obtain one of the government-issued IDs now needed to vote, voters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); there are no DMV offices in eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to the closest location. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car). “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” a federal court wrote last year when it blocked the law.

Texas has set up mobile voter ID units in twenty counties to help people obtain an ID, but has issued new IDs to only twenty voters at the sites so far.

Supporters of the voter ID law, such as Governor Rick Perry, argue that it’s necessary to stop the rampant menace of voter fraud. But there’s no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem in Texas. According to the comprehensive News21 database, there has been only one successful conviction for voter impersonation—I repeat, only one—since 2000.

Texas has the distinction of being one of the few states that allows you to vote with a concealed weapons permit, but not a student ID. Provisions like these suggest that the law was aimed less at stopping voter fraud and more at stopping the changing demographics of the state. Based on what we’re seeing thus far, the law might better be described as the Republican Self-Preservation Act.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 23, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bursting At The Seams”: No Tent Is Big Enough For The GOP’s Crazy Wing

The problem with a big tent is that it takes just a couple of people inside to ruin everyone’s afternoon by misbehaving, yelling or refusing the bathe ahead of time. And that is the very problem the Republican party is facing as it seeks to placate the crazy wing of the party while trying to present a more serious and dignified conservative front.

Both major parties have their share of malcontents and blowhards. Both have people who make outrageous comments or comparisons to get attention (Democrat Alan Grayson recently compared the tea party movement to the Ku Klux Klan, which seems an especially provocative comment given that we have an African-American president who might not see the tea party’s rogue actions as being quite on the level of lynching and hanging black men).

But when that element starts to define the party, then it’s trouble.

The people who think not raising the debt ceiling will not cause a default, or that a default on the nation’s debt would not create a massive global economic problem are not conservatives. Nor do they reflect anything in the Republican Party platform. They are either ill-informed about basic economics or are simply ready to win a war by dropping the fiscal equivalent of an atomic bomb. There is nothing conservative about that, and it’s an insult to the genuine conservatives on the Hill to characterize it as such.

Then we have folks like Don Yelton, the (now former) precinct chair of Buncombe County in North Carolina. Yelton gave an interview for The Daily Show in which he defended North Carolina’s new voter ID law – not because it won’t disenfranchise voters, Yelton suggested, but because he simply doesn’t care about the people who might not be able to vote. He told the Comedy Central show:

The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt. If it hurts a bunch of college kids too lazy to get up off their bohonkas and go get a photo ID, so be it. If it hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.

The North Carolina GOP, to its credit, asked for Yelton to step down, calling his comments “completely inappropriate and highly offensive.” Yelton did resign.

The GOP can’t ask tea party members to step down (nor should it – it’s up to the voters who gets elected to office). But the party can make it clear that racism or serial intransigence or failure to recognize economic reality are not conservative values. No tent needs to be big enough for people like Yelton.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 25, 2013

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Voter Fraud: The GOP Search For A Non-existent Problem

Earlier today I dared the Internet to send me examples of voter fraud — particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters through photo ID requirements and other such pernicious nonsense.

The Internet obliged, weakly.

A few readers reminded me that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter was accused of voter fraud in 2009, for voting by absentee ballot in Connecticut in 2002 and 2004 despite the fact that she was living in New York. The Connecticut Election Commission investigated, but decided to take no further action since Ms. Coulter was a registered voter in the state and did not vote elsewhere. I never imagined defending Ms. Coulter, but this does not seem like a threat to our democratic way of life.

Lots of people on Twitter directed me to posts on the right wing blog Red State, which put together a handy compilation of examples (apparently just for me). First among them was the case of the 2003 Democratic mayoral primary in East Chicago, Indiana, in which campaign workers for the incumbent paid voters to cast absentee ballots. Red State also mentions the investigation of a Troy, NY, city council race, a series of ballot “manufacturing” cases in Alabama, and an alleged plot by three poll workers to throw a 2005 state senate election in Tennessee to the Democratic candidate, Ophelia Ford.

Suspend the elections! Demand genetic fingerprinting at the polls!

If that’s the worst that’s out there, I’m sorry, but I’m still not afraid of voter fraud. Counting all the Alabama incidents separately and throwing in Ann Coulter, that brings us to a grand total of eight cases. That is most certainly not a national crisis requiring action from the government. (It’s an odd reversal, come to think of it: Liberals insisting the government butt out, conservatives demanding it butt in.)

Besides, from what I can tell every one of the Red State incidents revolved around corrupt poll workers or local officials or some other functionary messing with absentee ballots. That’s an age old problem but one that voter ID laws will not fix.

I’m still not seeing evidence of large numbers of individuals impersonating someone else to cast a ballot or voting despite the fact that they don’t meet eligibility requirements. Surely they must be out there, or the anti-voter-fraud lot would not be so up in arms.

So, just for fun, let’s consider an example that my Twitter followers did not cite. As the Times editorial board noted in October, Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, pushed for an ID law on the basis of a list of 221 reported instances of voter fraud in Kansas since 1997. But when The Wichita Eagle looked into the cases, it found that they were almost all honest mistakes: “a parent trying to vote for a student away at college, or signatures on mail-in ballots that didn’t precisely match those on file. In one case of supposed ‘fraud,’ a confused non-citizen was asked at the motor vehicles bureau whether she wanted to fill out a voter registration form, and did so not realizing she was ineligible to vote.”

Maybe I’m still missing something really big (and no, not the 1960 elections or whatever LBJ may or may not have got up to in Texas more than 50 years ago). Or maybe voter ID laws, as the saying goes, are a solution in search of a problem.

By: Andrew Rosenthal, The Loyal Opposition, Published in The New York Times, November 7, 2011

November 8, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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