News

9/15/2014

Local clerks and state elections officials are putting their absentee ballot mailings on hold as they hustle to reinstate Wisconsin's photo ID requirement for voters in the wake of Friday's federal appeals court decision.

University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are also analyzing the decision and considering whether to begin issuing ID cards that could be used for voting. While some student IDs can be used for voting, the ones issued at UW-Madison and some other schools cannot. ...

The deadline in state law to mail the ballots to those who have already requested them is Thursday. So far 8,000 people in Milwaukee alone have asked for them. ...

Reid Magney, a spokesman for the accountability board, said his agency would likely provide advice to clerks Tuesday and hold a news conference that day at 2 p.m.

"These are complex issues, and the guidance will need to be approved by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Some issues may not be resolved by the time of the news conference," Magney wrote in an email to reporters. ...

"Our ID cards are not compliant, and were not designed or intended to comply with voter ID laws," UW-Madison spokesman Greg Bump said by email.

When the law was passed, campus officials put together a plan for issuing separate student IDs that could be used for voting. They are now evaluating what to do next, Bump said.

The voter ID law allows student IDs to be used for voting only if they come from Wisconsin-based colleges and universities, have signatures on them and expire within two years of being issued.

9/14/2014

Acceptable forms of photo ID include: a Virginia driver’s license or other photo ID issued by Virginia, U.S. passport, any photo ID issued by the U.S. government, a student photo ID that was issued by a Virginia university or an employee photo ID. Voters may use an expired ID as long as it expired within 12 months of the election and the photo still resembles the voter. Virginia also offers free voter ID cards from the voter’s county registrar.

A U.S. passport costs $110. A valid photo ID in Virginia costs $10. That doesn’t include the cost of taking time off work or the cost of transportation to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a license or the U.S. Postal Service for a passport. Even going to the county registrar’s office for a free ID would be a challenge. Most wealthier citizens already have a vehicle and a driver’s license which would make them eligible to vote. Those who can afford to pay the fees for a passport and travel are also likely to be in a higher tax bracket. This new law would be an issue for those of lower-income who do not already have a driver’s license or a vehicle.

The cost is just one hurdle. When applying, for one, a citizen must have two documents proving their identity, a document proving legal residence in the U.S. and a document proving permanent residency in Virginia. These can be difficult for some individuals to obtain — especially if  they’re homeless. Many people have to go through a lot of bureaucratic red tape to obtain an original birth certificate or Social Security card. Transgendered Virginians especially have a difficult time proving their identity when their photo ID does not match their outward appearance. Obtaining a free photo ID still requires two original documents for proof of identity.  ...

If you do not have a valid photo ID for election day, visit www.GotIDVirginia.org or call the election protection hotline at 1-866-687-8683 (OUR-VOTE).

9/14/2014

When the state supreme court upheld voter ID earlier this summer, it was under one condition, that voters not be required to pay for the documents required to get that ID. So, Friday, Governor Scott Walker approved a new procedure designed to give folks free access to those documents. But when we called the DMV's voter ID hotline, we immediately ran into some roadblocks while talking to the operator. He told us you would need more.

"You're going to need a piece of mail from the last 90 days, it could be a cell phone bill a utility bill, a bank statement or any government issued correspondence," he said.

“But, what if we don't have any of those things?” we asked.
He replied, "That's just one thing that we just can't get around in order to move forward with the product in Wisconsin, you do have to be able to prove Wisconsin residency." ...

Another DMV hotline worker told us they're still getting up to speed with the new procedure and that it just came down yesterday, so clearly, the agency is still working through this. A good resource for voters is the non-partisan Wisconsin Election Protection Coalition. You can call them at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

9/13/2014

Under the new law, voters who don’t have a state-approved photo ID are to be given a provisional ballot, which is counted if their signature matches the one on their voter registration.

In one incident, an older Hispanic woman was turned away from voting in Providence for lack of identification, a poll watcher reported, after the warden told her that “even for a provisional ballot, you need an ID.”

In another incident, a Providence man with an expired license was denied a provisional ballot until he showed poll workers in writing that provisional ballots are available to voters without proper identification.

In a third incident, a voter in Pawtucket told the ACLU he explained the law to poll workers, who took 45 minutes after calling a supervisor to determine how to administer a provisional ballot.

9/12/2014

A U.S. appeals court has ordered that Wisconsin’s voter ID law go into effect immediately, raising the prospect of chaos and confusion at the polls this fall.

A three-judge panel made the ruling after hearing an appeal Friday by the state of Wisconsin. The ID law had been struck down by Judge Lynn Adelman in April, who ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination. ...

The ruling noted that since the April ruling striking down the law, the procedures had been revised to make it easier to get ID, lessening the burden on voters. ...

Rick Hasen, a prominent election law expert, called the ruling “a big big mistake for election administrations.”

“Making changes in election rules as voting gets underway (think of overseas and military voters, for whom the process starts 45 days before election) is likely to create a great deal of confusion and uncertainty,” Hasen wrote online. “It is hard enough to administer an election with set rules—much less to change the rules midstream.”

Hasen said the plaintiffs could make an emergency motion to the Supreme Court, and that there’s a “decent chance” the Justices might intervene. ...

In one sign of the potential confusion, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, which runs the state’s elections, said earlier Friday that 11,815 absentee ballots had already been mailed to voters without photo ID instructions.

9/12/2014

Nineteen states have laws that require voters to show photo identification at the polls, though legal fights are pending over the issue in four states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. ...

WISCONSIN

A federal appeals court reinstated Wisconsin's voter ID law on Friday after the three Republican-appointed judges questioned whether the law was truly discriminatory. Afterward the state elections board said it would move toward implementing the law in time for November's general election, which includes a tight governor's race between Republican incumbent Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. ...

TEXAS

The U.S. Justice Department is asking a federal judge to throw out Texas' voter ID law in a trial that began this month, but a ruling isn't expected until after the November elections. That means voters must show a photo ID at polling sites. ...

ARKANSAS

Arkansas' voter ID law was approved last year after the Republican-led Legislature overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. Although a judge ruled the law unconstitutional in May, he put his ruling on hold pending court appeals, meaning the law remains in effect.

A lawsuit challenging the law is set to go before the Arkansas Supreme Court on Oct. 2, less than three weeks before early voting begins for the November election. ...

NORTH CAROLINA

A law requiring North Carolina voters to show photo identification is set to take effect in 2016, but that requirement is among several provisions in the state's 2013 elections-overhaul law that are being challenged by federal lawsuits. For now, poll workers ask voters whether they have a photo ID and give them information about how to obtain one if they don't.

Lawsuits challenging that and other law provisions are set for trial next summer, though the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments this month about whether other voting restrictions can be used for the November election. If plaintiffs are successful, that could prevent poll workers from even asking voters if they have a photo ID.

9/12/2014

“Botetourt County’s Electoral Board has authorized an immediate, direct-action mail outreach program aimed at 418 county voters who are regarded as possibly not having acceptable photo identification (photo ID) in this November’s election,” Chairman William (Buck) Heartwell has said.

Heartwell said it is the Electoral Board’s hope and intent that the number of Botetourt County voters who encounter photo ID problems and then have to cast provisional votes “will be as close to zero as is humanly possible.”

The Electoral Board took the action after being informed by General Registrar Phyllis Booze that a comparison between databases maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Virginia Department of Elections (VDE) spotlighted registered voters who apparently do not have either a driver’s license or a DMV-issued photo ID — the most commonly utilized identification at the polls. ...

The Botetourt County outreach effort will parallel a similar statewide VDE program.

9/11/2014

Each month, about 50 residents in the Johnson County area of Kansas become newly minted U.S. citizens.

Like naturalization ceremonies in most jurisdictions, following the speeches and the official swearing in and before they get to the punch and cake, with the help of theLeague of Women Voters, the new citizens are given a chance to register to vote.

However, unlike most other jurisdictions outside of Kansas (and Arizona) these newly registered voters have to show proof of citizenship, something that seemed simple enough given the occasion, but actually proved problematic. ...

As part of the “iPad, iRegister” program, each month the county elections office loans the League of Women Voters an iPad to take with them to the naturalization ceremonies where the volunteers snap a photo of the naturalization certificate. The volunteers return the iPad filled with photos and the county downloads the photos and attaches them to the paper voter registration forms. ...

Since its inception the program has helped facilitate the registration process for about 600 new voters. ...

Obviously iPad, iRegister is fairly specific to jurisdictions in Kansas and Arizona since they are the only states that currently require proof-of-citizenship for a complete voter registration, but Newby [Johnson County election commissioner] says the program demonstrates the possibilities iPads and other such tablets provide.

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