News

10/23/2014

A Tulsa voter has challenged Oklahoma’s voter ID law. A trial date is pending, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled the plaintiff has legal standing. ...

Oklahomans can register to vote with the county election board or at any tag agency or post office. Libraries and state and county offices often register voters. Applicants swear to a written oath with a signature and date.

County election boards check and approve applications. Approved residents are mailed free voter identification cards with name, address, precinct, date of issuance, political affiliation and polling place location. Those registering within 24 days of an election may not vote in that election.

Poll workers have always been able to request presentation of a voter ID card, and voters must apply their signatures next to their names in the rolls. Many see this as sufficiently fail-safe, especially if the goal is to maximize enfranchisement of legal voters. ...

Those who cannot produce an ID, or refuse, are still issued a provisional ballot. However, the voter must give a name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license number or last four digits of a Social Security number for verification. Unlike some other states, Oklahoma requires no further action by the voter after casting a provisional ballot.

Until a ruling is made by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, voters must follow the law as it stands.

10/23/2014

[W]hen S.B. 14 was signed into law in 2011 –veteran’s i.d.s were not acceptable forms of identification, specifically because they were not subject to regular renewal, and were not regarded as the equivalent of active military i.d.s. ...

Nothing in the language of the law has changed between 2011 and now....

When Section 63.0101 of the Texas Election Code was amended to impose the requirement for photo I.D., subsection (2) of that section defined one form of acceptable I.D. as being “a United States military identification card that contains the person’s photograph that has not expired or that expired no earlier than 60 days before the date of presentation.”

Media sources and veterans groups castigated the law for what what veterans groups saw as a betrayal of their constituency. The outrage caught Governor Perry and the bill drafters by surprise, and came at an awkward time for Governor Perry (who was at that time campaigning for the Republican nomination in the 2012 Presidential election, and who was touting his support for a strong military). ...

Oops.

The political reaction was swift. After delicate consultations (the rumblings of which are lightly hinted at within an October 17, 2013 memo issued by Keith Ingram, which among other things, urges county election officials to “discard” earlier materials regarding voter I.D.), the Secretary of State determined that the proper interpretation of the law was that veteran’s I.D.s were acceptable because they didn’t expire (glossing over the fact that technically, veteran’s I.D.s are not military I.D.s, and veterans are not members of the military). But things were briefly touch and go between groups touting veteran’s rights and the State of Texas.

Of course, what the episode illustrated in a more general way was the fundamental hypocrisy of the 2011 law – that the law was subject to ad hoc changes in its application and textual interpretation to benefit one group of voters over another, if those voters happened to be “the right kind of voters.”

10/22/2014

A week after the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the Voter ID Law some early voters say there's still some confusion at the polls.

"I was holding my ground and I told him no twice when he asked for the photo ID," says Pulaski County voter Diana Maulding. ...

Under Arkansas state law election workers are required to ask voters for identification, just as a matter of procedure. But voters don't have to show their ID to be able to vote. ...

If you feel a poll worker isn't following the law or you have questions about the process you can contact your county election commission for clarification or ask a poll supervisor.

10/22/2014

Millions of voters — about one in five — are expected to vote absentee, or by mail, in November's midterm elections. For many voters, it's more convenient than going to the polls.

But tens of thousands of these mail-in ballots will likely be rejected — and the voter might never know, or know why.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission found that in 2012 more than a quarter of a million absentee ballots were rejected. ...

The voter's signature on the [regular or provisional] ballot doesn't match the one on file.
This last mistake is a big problem, says [Kim Alexander, who runs the California Voter Foundation]. In California, all absentee ballot signatures are checked against the ones the election office has in its records. But many of those signatures come from the Department of Motor Vehicles, where people sign their names using a stylus on a pad, which can look a lot different than a signature written on paper.

"You also have the issue of younger people whose signatures change over time. You have older voters whose signature changes over time too," says Alexander. "And voters have no idea what image of their signature is on file."

She says it could be 10 or 15 years old. In 2012, thousands of California ballots were rejected because the signatures didn't match.

10/21/2014

Republicans are poised to gain next month from new election laws in almost half the 50 U.S. states, where the additional requirements defy a half-century trend of easing access to the polls.

In North Carolina, where Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s re-election fight may determine the nation’s balance of power, the state ended same-day registration used more heavily by blacks. A Texas law will affect more than 500,000 voters who lack identification and are disproportionately black and Hispanic, according to a federal judge. In Ohio, lawmakers discontinued a week during which residents could register and vote on the same day, which another judge said burdens lower income and homeless voters.

While Republicans say the laws were meant to stop fraud or ease administrative burdens, Democrats and civil-rights groups maintain they’re aimed at damping turnout by blacks, Hispanics and the young, who are their mainstays in an increasingly diverse America. Texas found two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in elections during the preceding 14 years, according to testimony in the federal case.

“You’re seeing the use of the election process as a means of clinging to power,” said Justin Levitt, who follows election regulation at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “You have more states passing laws that create hurdles and inconveniences to voting than we have seen go into effect in the last 50 years.”

10/21/2014

Because of [Arizona] state law, every ballot cast because of the new bifurcated voting system, cost taxpayers $14,867. State law says a voter can't vote in state elections until or unless they can prove they are a United States citizen.

The federal registration form does not require proof of citizenship. It asks only that the person swear upon penalty of perjury that they are indeed a US citizen.

For the feds, that's enough. For the state, it's not. However, the federal courts have ruled that the voters who use the federal form will be allowed to vote for federal offices even if they are barred from voting for state and local officials.

So, during the primary election, Pima County election's officials had to print separate ballots for those who used the federal form to register. That turned out to be for five different parties even if there were no candidates for a federal office.

And it had to print enough to deliver to 288 precincts. The final cost for all of those ballots was $104,068. Seven voters used the ballots, four Republicans and three Democrats.

That breaks down to $14,867 per vote.

10/20/2014

[V]oter ID laws don’t address what appears to be a more common source of voter fraud: mail-in absentee ballots.

A FRONTLINE analysis of voting laws nationwide found that only six of the 31 states that require ID at the polls apply those standards to absentee voters, who are generally whiter and older than in-person voters. And two states with strict photo ID policies for in-person voters — Rhode Island and Georgia — have recently passed bills that allow anyone to mail in a ballot.

Voter fraud generally rarely happens. When it does, election law experts say it happens more often through mail-in ballots than people impersonating eligible voters at the polls. An analysis by News21, a journalism project at Arizona State University, found 28 cases of voter fraud convictions since 2000. Of those, 14 percent involved absentee ballot fraud. Voter impersonation, the form of fraud that voter ID laws are designed to prevent, made up only 3.6 percent of those cases. (Other types included double voting, the most common form, at 25 percent, and felons voting when they were prohibited from doing so. But neither of those would be prevented by voter ID laws, either.) ...

[M]ost states — nine — of the 16 that have passed stricter voter ID laws since 2010 only allow voters to mail in ballots if they have an excuse, such as an illness, disability or old age.

Who Is Impacted by Voter ID Laws?

Laws that require photo ID at the polls vary, but the strictest laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation to only a handful of cards. For example, in Texas, voters must show one of seven forms of state or federal-issue photo ID, with a valid expiration date: a driver’s license, a personal ID card issued by the state, a concealed handgun license, a military ID, citizenship certificate or a passport. The name on the ID must exactly match the one on the voter rolls.

African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs, according to several estimates. Even when the state offers a free photo ID, these voters, who are disproportionately low-income, may not be able to procure the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one. ...

And new research from the Government Accountability Office, an independent agency that prepares reports for members of Congress, suggests that voter ID laws are having an impact at the polls. Turnout dropped among both young people and African-Americans in Kansas and Tennessee after new voter ID requirements took effect in 2012, the study found.

10/20/2014

Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed in 1835, “Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” That certainly describes the grand struggle over voting rights now unfolding in courtrooms across the country. And when it comes to who can vote and when, a clear message is hard to discern. In recent days, rulings, appeals and motions have pinballed around the system, with the U.S. Supreme Court answering emergency pleas, allowing some changes to take effect and temporarily blocking others, while key appeals head their way. The latest lurch: In a decision emailed out at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, the justices let Texas implement its controversial voter ID law, the nation’s strictest, just two days before early voting begins in the state.

Amid the confusion, an important new element has emerged. The breakthrough? Facts. Two powerful judicial opinions—one from a Texas trial judge, another from an esteemed appeals court jurist—and a landmark government study have shed new light on the costs and consequences of restrictive voting laws. They answer some key questions: Are these laws malevolent? (In Texas, at least, yes.) Do they provide a benefit that outweighs their cost? (No.) Do they suppress the vote? (Alarmingly, it seems, yes.) And can we prevent fraud without disenfranchising Americans? (Yes, absolutely.)

In a zone foggy with legal rhetoric, these three documents will—and should—live on beyond the 2014 election cycle. They might even help shape a new legal regime to protect voters while protecting against fraud. They’re worth a close read.

Pages