News

10/30/2014

Voting is now underway in Texas, a state with one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation. This is the first federal [general] election since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which would have required Texas to get government approval for these changes. Below are stories from actual voters and the difficulties they’ve encountered. Initials are used for those voters who wish to remain anonymous. In many cases, Texas failed these voters twice — first by requiring identification they did not have, and second by not training election officials to help them navigate the rules. …

When he went to vote, [Lee Calvin Molina] was told by a poll worker that he was not allowed to vote with his ID even though it expired less than 60 days ago (as the law allows)….[An experienced campaign volunteer] told Mr. Molina that he had been given the wrong information and should have been allowed to vote. He called the election office and they told him that he could in fact vote with that ID. After the call, he went back and cast his ballot….He just assumed that they would have the same rules across the state, and it would not depend on what poll worker he spoke with. …

Mr. P’s son was not allowed to vote with his expired license even though he had a Texas ID with his picture on it, his voter registration card, and even his birth certificate. Instead, they told him to renew his license. But his son was so frustrated by the experience that he told Mr. P that he was just going to get his license renewed and then not vote — he was embarrassed and demoralized  by being told he wasn’t allowed to vote in front of several other people.

Mr. P said his son wasn’t the only one who was stopped from voting. An African-American man only two spots ahead of them in line was also blocked, possibly because of an expired ID. He was with his family and was clearly upset. And he has heard of many other problems in the Edinburg area. One woman who works at the polls said the number of problems people were having was “out of control.” Mr. P is also worried about the large senior population in the area. …

Diana F says that when she was trying to help her [95-year-old] mother [who’s driver’s license has expired and who doesn’t know the location of her birth certificate], she did not learn anything about other voting options from the state officials responsible for guaranteeing voter access. Only when she called a non-government election hotline did she find out that an absentee ballot might be an option for her mother. With Ms. F’s help, her mother was ultimately able to vote by mail, and was very happy to be able to continue her long tradition of participation. …

The poll workers told her that her passport was not valid and that in order to vote, she would need to provide a Texas driver’s license, which she does not have. If Ms. Briathwaite-Lawson had not pushed back and insisted they accept her passport, she would not have been allowed to vote.

10/30/2014

A disabled woman in Travis County was turned away from voting because she couldn’t afford to pay her parking tickets. An IHOP dishwasher from Mercedes can’t afford the cost of getting a new birth certificate, which he would need to obtain the special photo ID card required for voting. A student at a historically black college in Marshall, who registered some of her fellow students to vote, won't be able to cast a ballot herself because her driver's license isn't from Texas and the state wouldn't accept her student identification card.

There are plenty of stories like this coming out of Texas in the early voting period leading up to Election Day. ...

The early voting period is still going on in Texas, but voters and election officials told The Huffington Post there have already been problems casting ballots due to the new restrictive measure. Under the law, Texans without acceptable forms of identification must go to a driver’s license office to get a voting card. In Austin, 45-year-old Eric Kennie, who hasn't set foot outside the state his whole life, couldn't get his card because the birth certificate he struggled to afford lists his mother's maiden name. In Houston, an election judge claims that a 93-year-old veteran was turned away from the polls because his driver's license had been expired for too long. Another 62-year-old woman told MSNBC that she was threatened with jail time when she went to obtain her voter ID because she was driving with a California license.

Dana DeBeauvoir, the clerk responsible for overseeing election conduct in Travis County, which has over one million people and includes the city of Austin, said she spoke this week to a 61-year-old disabled woman, Madeleine, who was “in tears” because she was turned away when she went to vote at a grocery store. ...

Jesus Garcia, 40, was born in Texas. He has his voter card as well as an expired form of photo identification that works just fine for most purposes. But under the Texas law, that isn't enough proof, because his ID has been expired for too long. Getting another form of identification is difficult because his birth certificate, along with his wallet, was stolen about a year ago.

"I'm barely working, I don't have enough money to get my ID," Garcia, who works as a dishwasher at an IHOP restaurant, told HuffPost. He would have to pay roughly $30 to obtain a new copy of his birth certificate and a new card, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Garcia has made two trips to the Department of Public Safety to obtain an identification card, but has been unsuccessful. ...

Krystal Watson is a student at Wiley College, a historically black college in Marshall, Texas. She voted here before the new restrictions were enacted, and even registered fellow students to vote. But she didn't realize until recently that the restrictions would prevent her from casting a ballot this year because she has an out-of-state license. ...

Voting experts say that people willing to speak out about voting troubles make up only a small percentage of the total number of Texans being disenfranchised. The majority may simply give up and go home. As Ginsburg predicted, the law “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands.”

10/30/2014

A Kansas law requiring people to show proof of citizenship to register to vote is having a disproportionate impact on young voters, voters from low-income neighborhoods and voters not affiliated with either of the two major political parties, according to an analysis by the Journal-World. ...

The analysis was conducted by the Journal-World using records of the 23,774 voter registrations being held in suspense on Oct. 17, two days after the deadline to register for the upcoming election. ...

The law requires anyone registering for the first time in their county to show proof of U.S. citizenship: a birth certificate, passport, military ID or other document that qualifies under the statute. Those who do not provide such a document have their registrations placed “in suspense,” and they have until the day before the election to submit the paperwork and have their registration activated.

10/30/2014

When Virginia’s new voter identification law goes into effect statewide Tuesday, voting rights groups will monitor select polling places to help people comply with the rules, which are among the nation’s strictest.

For years, voters have been required to provide identification at the polls, but this year — for the first time in Virginia — an ID with a photograph will be required. ...

Valid forms of ID include a driver’s license that has not been expired for more than one year or another photo ID issued by Virginia; a U.S. passport; a photo ID issued by the federal government; a student ID that has a photograph and was issued by a school in Virginia; or an employee ID card that has a photograph.

Registrars can issue voters a temporary photo ID at any time.

Voters who show up to the polls without acceptable identification will be allowed to vote by provisional, or paper, ballot. However, such votes will be counted only if voters go to the official register in their county or city travel before noon Nov. 7 to present proper ID or apply there for a photo ID. ...

On Election Day, the ACLU of Virginia will answer questions via a hotline, 800-678-9885, and e-mail: acluva@acluva.org and ProtectTheVote@aclu.org.

More information is available at www.GotIDVirginia.org or by calling the election protection hotline 866-687-8683.

10/29/2014

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the Texas voter identification law, which requires voters to show an approved form of picture ID in order to vote at a poll.  Those who are already registered and who are qualified to vote by mail can still cast a ballot and the state provides free election certificates to those who can prove their U.S. citizenship and residence in Texas. ...

Marianela Acuna of VoteRiders, a non-profit [non-partisan] group, said there are many reasons why someone may not have an approved form of identification.

“There are people who need to renew their ID, there are also people who need to get their ID for the first time and do not have documents to prove their name change or their birth,” said Acuna.

10/28/2014

U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña, of the Northern District of Texas, has appointed four assistant U.S. attorneys to serve as district election officers in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Abilene, Lubbock, and Amarillo offices.

These DEOs will lead the efforts of her office in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program for Tuesday’s general elections.  ...

Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them. For example, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law. Further, federal law protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice. ...

In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on Election Day. The Dallas FBI office can be reached by the public at 972-559-5000.

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington by phone at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, by fax at (202) 307-3961, by email to voting.section@usdoj.gov or by complaint form at http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/votintake/index.php.

10/28/2014

A costly, time-consuming barrier

Jesus Garcia was born in Texas and lives in Mercedes. He was unable to vote with his driver’s license, which expired about a year ago. He went to the Weslaco Department of Public Safety (DPS) office twice and both times was unable to get an ID. His birth certificate was stolen and he does not have a copy. ...

Deputized to register but denied the ballot

Krystal Watson is a student at Wiley College in Texas, a historically black college. She is originally from Louisiana and has voted in past elections in Texas. This year, she signed up as a deputy registrar and registered about 100 people to vote. The person who deputized her told her the registration rules but not about the new voter ID requirement. When she herself went to vote, she was not allowed to cast a ballot because she had a Louisiana driver’s license and a Wiley College ID, but not the ID required by the law. ...

“You can’t vote with this card” ...

The poll workers Mr. R encountered were unfamiliar with the basics under the new strict photo ID law. Mr. R. was not told anything about how to get an Election Identification Certificate (EIC), the allegedly free ID available to people who want to vote, but don’t have a qualifying ID. Nor was he offered a provisional ballot, which would have given him additional time to obtain ID. ...

Disabled voters can participate — but only if family members foot the bill

Esmeralda Torres is a disabled American who lives in Elsa. She first learned about the new ID law when she tried to vote. She was blocked because she didn’t have acceptable ID. Her disabilities preclude her from driving and make it hard for her to get around. Ms. Torres had previously tried to get an ID but had been rejected because she lived with her sister and had few documents containing both her name and her physical address. ...

Olester McGriff, an African-American man, lives in Dallas. He has voted in several Texas elections. This year when he went to the polls he was unable to vote due to the new photo ID law. Mr. McGriff had a kidney transplant and can no longer drive; his driver’s license expired in 2008. He tried to get an ID twice prior to voting. In May, he visited an office in Grand Prairie and was told he could not get an ID because he was outside of Dallas County. In July, he visited an office in Irving and was told they were out of IDs and would have to come back another day. ...

Despite his health and mobility problems, the poll workers did not suggest that he vote by absentee ballot — an option available to him because he had a disability. Eventually, he was given an absentee ballot application, but it was only because, Ms. McMinn, the volunteer, suggested the idea, and then pushed a poll worker to review the rules after having already told Mr. McGriff  it was too late. After the poll worker confirmed her mistake, Mr. McGriff was able to get an absentee ballot application. ...

Countless others disenfranchised

For example, one election official reported that in one day of early voting at a single site, seven voters were turned away because they had expired or insufficient ID. One can only hope that as poll workers become more familiar with the new system, legitimate voters will be allowed to cast ballots — or at least furnished with the correct information on how to do so.

10/27/2014

In the six days that early voting has been underway in Texas, election judge William Parsley on Sunday said he has only seen one potential voter turned away at his polling location, the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center in downtown Houston.

“An elderly man, a veteran. Ninety-three years old,” Parsley, an election judge for the last 15 years, told ThinkProgress. “His license had expired.” ...

With the voting process in such early stages, it’s hard to say how many people will be affected this time around. But poll monitors in Houston say they’ve already encountered problems with some registered voters not being allowed to cast their ballots.

“We had a voter show up with her Mississippi ID, and it’s a valid ID with a picture and name,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, the Texas coordinator for VoteRiders, a non-profit that helps people obtain their voter ID so they can vote. “Her name matched her voter registration, but it’s not one of the IDs that the law requires.”

“She was offered a provisional ballot, but she refused,” Acuña Arreaza continued. “She came out and told the poll monitors.”

In partnership with Common Cause, another non-profit that lobbies for voting rights, Acuña Arreaza is organizing and dispatching poll monitors in Houston who seek to help people who are turned away at the polls. From the time early voting started in Houston, Acuña Arreaza said she’s seen about 10 cases of registered voters not being allowed to vote — a number that was less than she expected, but “still too many.”

Acuña Arreaza and Parsely are both hopeful that the voters turned away for early voting will be able to get some form of acceptable ID by Election Day. But one thing that worries Acuña Arreaza is that the process of getting turned away can sometimes be so embarrassing that people get dejected — they don’t want to come back, and they don’t want to tell anyone what happened.

“We try to encourage people to come back, but what we’re worried about is that we may just lose that ballot as a whole,” she said. “A lot of people are ashamed of being rejected, and they just don’t want to talk about it. We have so many cases, but not everyone wants to come out and speak about it.”

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