News

12/18/2014

President Barack Obama’s decision to grant temporary legal status to five million immigrants could end up haunting Democrats’ voter registration efforts, by fueling the Republican push for voter registration laws requiring proof of citizenship.

The Republican response to Obama’s move has thus far focused on rolling it back, via lawsuits and the budget process. But down the road, especially if those strategies stall or backfire, Republicans may conclude that they can gain more political advantage by shifting the debate out of Washington.

Five states –- Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee –- already have laws requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering. In 2015, Republicans will control both the legislative and executive branches in 23 states, and Obama’s move on immigration may spur more into action. In one stroke, they could achieve two goals: exacting revenge on Obama, whose Department of Justice has championed voting rights, while also hurting Democrats’ voter registration efforts in 2016.

Voters typically register by providing a driver's license or Social Security number. Since noncitizen legal residents are eligible for such documentation –- which the Supreme Court affirmed this week -- Obama’s executive actions raise the possibility that more might illegally register to vote.

Of course, the vast majority of noncitizens don’t register to vote or cast ballots. The risk of getting caught (possible imprisonment and deportation) just isn't worth it. But some small sliver of the population does, as comes to light now and then, possibly out of confusion about the law. “Noncitizen voting is a real, if small, problem,” election law expert Rick Hasen has written.

12/12/2014

Do street-level bureaucrats discriminate in the services they provide to constituents? We use a field experiment to measure differential information provision about voting by local election administrators in the United States. We contact over 7,000 election officials in 48 states who are responsible for providing information to voters and implementing voter ID laws. We find that officials provide different information to potential voters of different putative ethnicities. Emails sent from Latino aliases are significantly less likely to receive any response from local election officials than non-Latino white aliases and receive responses of lower quality.

12/9/2014

Residents in a southeastern New Mexico city have overwhelmingly approved a measure to require a photo ID to vote in municipal elections.

About 78 percent of voters in a special election Tuesday decided to amend the city charter to require residents to present photo identification at polling places.

Hobbs is the latest battleground over requiring strict identification to cast ballots.

12/5/2014

A report today by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and two other groups today says 119 absentee ballots were not counted in Jefferson County in the Nov. 4 election because voters did not submit the required photo ID.

The report says 21 absentee ballots in Choctaw County were not counted for lack of photo ID. ...

The Center for American Progress, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Elections Foundation released a preliminary analysis of the effects of new voting laws in Alabama and four other southern states. ...

The group issued a report in September saying that at least 282 ballots in the June 3 primary went uncounted because of the new law, most of those absentee ballots. ...

[Deuel Ross, a lawyer with the Legal Defense Fund,] said the new law can suppress the vote because it's hard for some to get the proper ID, some don't know about the requirements and some are discouraged from trying.

While it might seem easy to the average working person to have a valid ID, Ross say it's not easy for the poor, elderly and people who don't drive. ...

Deputy Secretary of State Emily Marsal responded to today's report, saying that the office worked hard to spread the word about photo ID and issued more than 5,000 of the new IDs.

12/5/2014

In 2011, Kansas instituted a strict photo ID rule and a harsh documentary proof of citizenship requirement for those registering to vote. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who had just won election, strongly backed the measure after making it a priority in his campaign. He based his support on hotly disputed claims of illegal voting. The photo ID requirement went into effect in 2012 and the proof of citizenship law was implemented in 2013.

The proof of citizenship law, which requires those registering to vote to produce a document showing citizenship — such as a birth certificate or passport — has stymied the efforts of community-based organizations to conduct voter registration drives. ...

A list of suspended registrations released after the election showed more than 20,000 registrations remained in suspense — meaning tens of thousands of Kansans who attempted to register were blocked. ...

One 94-year-old woman who has been voting since she was 21, for example, was able to cast a ballot only after she made one trip to the polls, three trips to the bank to get the documents she needed for an ID, another trip to get her ID, and one more to the clerk’s office. ...

The damage done by these laws goes well beyond the number of provisional ballots cast. Would-be registrants on the suspense list could not vote even if they showed up on Election Day with citizenship documents, so many may have not have come to the polling place at all, or left without casting a provisional ballot. Similarly, those lacking ID may have stayed home or left without voting provisionally.

Even so, while only a handful of Kansas’s 105 counties have released provisional ballot details, information reported by advocates, media outlets, and counties shows examples of nearly 500 votes being blocked. More data is expected from advocates who monitored county election canvasses and other sources. 

12/2/2014

Virtually every system adopted by states across the country leaves out a significant and important part of the population – citizens who don’t have a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID with a signature on file. In other words, the states are imposing a restrictive ID requirement on voter registration online.

As a result of this limitation, millions of eligible voters who lack the proper IDcan’t participate. For example, many young people are left out since they are much less likely than the general population to have a driver’s license. And, ironically, young people are also much less likely to be registered to vote! Moreover, the Brennan Center for Justice and others have shown that seniors, people of color, and people with disabilities are especially impacted. These circumstances raise concerns about voter discrimination, plain and simple. …

Solutions are available that will open online voter registration to all. The key is to ensure that the voter registration applicant can “sign” the online form.

States should enable eligible voters to legally attest that the information they enter online is accurate by using a computerized mark, similar to the way in which Internet users can “sign” contracts, credit card invoices, banking and other transactions online. These voters could then be required to provide a “wet” signature when they visit a polling place for the first time. This method is similar to the Help America Vote Act’s (HAVA) provisions for first-time voters who register by mail.

Another way to increase the accessibility of online voter registration is to utilize existing technology to capture and accept an electronic version of the registrant’s signature. This option would enable voters both to register online and provide a signature instantaneously. In addition, the use of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones would not only increase access directly, it could significantly assist organizations like the League [of Women Voters] that conduct voter registration drives and help mitigate the problem of uneven access to computers and the Internet.

It is important to remember that many individuals have out-of-date voter registration records, often due to recent changes of address or changes in their name, especially women, about 90 percent of whom change their name when changing marital status. An efficient online registration must allow individuals to update their voter registration record to reflect changes. We are, after all, a very mobile society, and updating addresses online would significantly improve the accuracy of voter registration lists.

11/26/2014

Some plaintiffs challenging Texas’ voter ID law want a federal appeals court to speed up its consideration of the case, looking to sort it out before the next wave of elections in the state.

In a court document filed Wednesday, the plaintiffs note that 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet set a schedule to hear the case, casting uncertainty over how much time its outcome will give municipalities to prepare for their elections in May. ...

In the latest filing, the plaintiffs remind the 5th Circuit that the federal judge found hundreds of thousands of voters may have been disenfranchised by the law on Nov. 4. Viewed as one of the toughest laws of its kind in the country, SB 14 requires to show one of seven forms of ID to cast a ballot.

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.

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