News

11/22/2014

The North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office and Grand Forks Democratic lawmakers are drafting separate bills to tweak the state’s voter identification law.

The proposed legislation comes after reports of people being turned away from the polls on Election Day due to identification problems. This year marked the first major election since North Dakota passed a law in 2013 that removed the option to sign an affidavit, allowing voters who didn’t have proper ID to swear under the penalty of law that they are eligible to vote.

Jim Silrum, deputy secretary of state, said Friday a proposed bill would allow someone with an acceptable North Dakota ID that doesn’t have an up-to-date address to use things like a bank statement, bill or U.S. Postal Service change of address form dated 30 days prior to the election to show a current address. ...

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider and Rep. Corey Mock, the 2010 Democratic candidate for secretary of state, said this week they planned on introducing legislation allowing for people without sufficient ID to vote with a provisional ballot. ...

Provisional ballots would not count until voters have proved they are eligible voters for a particular precinct. ...

North Dakota may be the only state with a strict voter identification law that does not currently allow for provisional ballots, according to Wendy Underhill, the program manager for the elections division of the NCSL.

11/19/2014

What does this mean for the future of the voter ID debate? For one thing, it means old tactics like denying the existence of fraud or appealing to courts on principle about the effects of voter ID are likely to fall on deaf ears. At the same, it means that claims that voter ID doesn't affect anyone or will have limited effect will engender strong resistance from the large numbers of Americans who worry about disenfranchisement.

If you ask me, both sides in the current debate have an opportunity to get what they want by making sure that wherever voter ID exists or is enacted, there are strong provisions (and a sufficient timeline and funding) for eligible voters without the proper ID to get it.

As I've said many times, the voter ID debate - at least in the courts - is no longer about "should voters have to show ID?" it's "do eligible voters have - and can they get - ID in time to vote?" To the extent that the parties are interested in actually addressing (and not merely arguing about) ID, this is a promising way forward. [NOTE: I strongly expect "to the extent" in the current environment to be at or very near zero.]

11/19/2014

In North Carolina, early voting was cut by seven days. In Kansas, 22,000 people were stopped from registering to vote because they lacked proof of citizenship. And in Texas, Democrats say the country’s toughest voter ID law contributed to a one-term congressman’s losing a tight race to his Republican rival.

After an Election Day that featured a wave of new voting restrictions across the country, data and details about who cast a ballot are being picked over to see if tighter rules swayed the outcomes of any races or contributed to the lowest voter turnout in 72 years.

Since 2011, a dozen Republican-led states have passed strict voter ID requirements, some blocked by courts, measures that Republicans describe as needed to increase confidence in elections and critics call the modern equivalent of a poll tax, intended to suppress turnout by Democratic voters.

Few are arguing that the laws drastically affected the overall results in a year that produced sweeping Republican victories, or that they were the dominant factor in voter participation. Although some Democrats claim the new laws may have swung close elections this month, voting experts caution that it is too soon to tell.

11/19/2014

HOUSTON – Provisional ballots cast by hundreds of voters in Texas on Nov. 4 never became official in the days after the election, part of the little-noticed fallout from the state’s tough voter ID law.

Such ballots were accepted from voters who showed up at the polls lacking ID approved by the law or had some other identification-related problem, such as a driver’s license expired beyond the 60-day time limit. For their provisional votes to be counted, these voters had to return to their local elections office within six days after the election and show proper ID.

But more than 500 voters in eight counties failed to follow through, and their provisional ballots expired. In Houston’s Harris County, there were 229 such ballots. In San Antonio’s Bexar County, there were 27. Dallas County had 99.

The overall numbers were small – in Bexar County, the 27 provisional ballots amounted to less than .01 percent of the 304,000 total votes cast. But Democrats said it showed the negative effect the voter ID law had on Election Day, and it was unknown exactly how many voters were affected statewide in Texas’ 254 counties.

It is an issue of interest to the Justice Department, which sued Texas seeking to block the law. Justice Department lawyers have asked county election officials for data on all those voters who cast ID-related provisional ballots.

11/17/2014

The voter ID debate isn't going anywhere.

The issue is largely a state-by-state one. Generally, Republicans rise to control in certain states and pass legislation, and then liberal and minority groups and supporters sue to overturn. And with the GOP obtaining full control of even more states after the 2014 election -- they now have 24 -- more states could look at such laws in the near future.

So where do the American people stand? Well, on the surface, polls show they are overwhelmingly in favor of the concept of presenting identification before voting. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find a pretty deep divide on the basis for such laws.

A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute asked people which they thought was a bigger problem: voter fraud or voter disenfranchisement. Forty percent of Americans said the former, while 43 percent said the latter -- about an even split.

And as you might expect, there's a pretty big partisan split. While 68 percent of Republicans say ineligible voters casting ballots is a bigger problem, 64 percent of Democrats say eligible voters being denied the ability to do so is the prevailing issue.

11/17/2014

WICHITA, Kansas — The fight over a voter proof-of-citizenship law that prevented about 22,000 Kansas residents from casting ballots on Election Day has shifted back to state courts and lawmakers.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a federal judge's order that would have forced federal election officials to add citizenship documentation requirements on national voter registration forms for Kansas and Arizona residents. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach has championed the law as a way to limit fraud. Opponents planned to argue that the onerous requirements wrongfully disenfranchise voters.

"Any law that denies the right to vote to over 20,000 Kansas citizens is a bad law," state Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said. "We are going to try to correct it so that we prevent fraud without denying that right to vote."

Ward is among the lawmakers seeking to undo the law in the Kansas Legislature, which convenes in January.

The law requires new voters to prove their citizenship with a birth certificate, passport or other documents before they can register.

Kobach has vowed to defend it, saying his re-election proved it was the will of the people. "Voters are overwhelmingly in favor of it," he said. "So absolutely we will be keeping our law in place, and the voters of Kansas showed that they like it."

11/14/2014

Although North Carolina’s voter ID requirement doesn’t begin until 2016, more than 600 citizens have already requested free photo identification from the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Beginning this year, voters who do not currently have a valid photo ID for 2016 can get one at no cost from the DMV. According to data from the State Board of Elections, 665 free IDs have been issued between Jan. 1 and Nov. 5. That total reflects about .01 percent of the state’s more than 6.6 million voters.

An analysis of the data shows that those free IDs were requested mainly by Democratic, African-American males who were not previously registered to vote. A plurality of the IDs were given to voters between 46-65 years of age, followed closely by younger voters between 18-29 years old.

11/14/2014

Supreme Court rulings forced last-minute changes in state voting procedures for the midterm elections across the country, but the battle over voting rules is far from over. Courts are still hearing arguments over voter ID and early voting laws, legal challenges that could reshuffle voting rules again before 2016, when a presidential election will probably increase voter turnout and long lines at polls. ”The cases are not over,” says Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine and author of the Election Law Blog. “In a number of states, restrictions, which have been on hold or which were scheduled to be phased in, will be in effect. More states will pass new restrictive voting rules. And some states may pass rules making it easier to vote.”

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