Even local Republican election officials don’t believe the voter fraud claims.
How low is Florida’s Tea Party Republican governor Rick Scott willing to go to disrupt the right to vote in 2012—particularly for the GOP’s perceived political opponents?
Progressive voting rights groups and even county election supervisors from Scott’s own party are saying the businessman-turned-governor’s latest gambit—claiming there are as many as 182,000 non-citizens among the state’s 11.2 million registered voters and having his appointed Secretary of State send out an initial list of 2,600 names to be purged—has crossed a line in the Florida sand, topping previous voter suppression efforts, and may violate two federal voting right laws.
On Thursday evening, in a late-breaking development, the U.S. Justice Department's top voting rights enforcement officer, sent Florida's Secretary of State a letter saying the state should stop the planned purge and explain its intentions within a week. The turn-of-events capped several days of escalating
“What’s happening is un-American,” said Ion Sancho, longtime Supervisor of Elections in Leon County, where the state capital is located. “That’s the only way I can put it.”
“It shouldn’t be politics. It should be straight up, if the person is eligible, let the person vote. That’s what we care about here,” said Eddie Thompson, public information officer for Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott. “She is the same party affiliation as the governor… but has called him out on this.”
Scott’s urge to purge voters, particularly likely Democrats and the imagined right-wing obsession—hoards of non-citizens voting illegally—has been a constant throughout his tenure. It is consistent with the conservative hyperventilating in other states where GOP majorities have imposed many statewide ballot security measures complicating voting, even though—as in Colorado recently— claims of non-citizen voters could not be substantiated.
Last year, Florida’s legislature changed 80 sections in the state’s election law, three of which have been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. These contested provisions, which cannot be implemented until cleared by the DOJ or a court, halved the state’s early voting period, heavily regulated voter registration drives, and required that poll workers give eligible voters who have moved across county lines a provisional ballot.
These three changes disrupt the voting process at key stages. On the front end, venerable groups like League of Women Voters have canceled registration drives this year for fear of large fines if they did not meet difficult filing deadlines. Then, as Election Day nears, a shorter early voting period, in a state where the number of voters has grown by 18 percent since 2000 but the number of polling places has shrunk, is a prescription for chaos. And that congestion will only be augmented by thousands of voters receiving provisional ballots because they moved across county lines—and the GOP won’t allow local officials to speedily accommodate them using electronic voter registration records.
On Thursday, a federal court in Florida issued a preliminary injunction against the state for restricting the registration drives, creating a window for those to resume before the August primary elections. Whether that will be appealed by the state or continue into the fall is not known, the League said in a press conference call.
But that is not all Scott has done to roll back voting rights. The governor also reversed rules established by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, to re-enfranchise an estimated 70,000 nonviolent felons who have served their sentences. Scott imposed a five-year-waiting period before the ex-convicts can recover their voting rights.
“They are making it hard to get on the rolls by restricting voter registration drives. They are making it hard to vote by limiting the number of days for early voting. They’re shrinking the electorate by making it more difficult for people with felony convictions to get their rights restored. And now they are making it hard to stay on the rolls,” said Myrna Perez, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, interviewed before Thursday's court ruling.
Scott’s latest gambit to purge what he alleges are 180,000 non-citizen voters pressed even more political hot buttons—in addition to possibly violating federal civil rights law, as the Justice Department informed him on Thursday evening.
The threatened mass voter purge rekindles memories of Florida’s 2000 presidential election, when Democrats lost the presidency by 537 votes after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Florida Supreme Court’s statewide recount. In a litigation settlement in 2002, the state’s election division acknowledged that 22,000 legal voters had been purged from Florida rolls before the 2000 election. Their names were similar those on a nationwide felon list compiled by a contractor working for another arch GOP partisan, Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Longtime administrators such as Sancho believe the figure is closer to 50,000 purged voters, because the state was reluctant to admit its errors.
In 2004, the GOP-dominated state again tried to purge what it believed were felons on voter rolls, but backed off after a storm of criticism surfaced. Sancho, whom the Florida Supreme Court appointed to oversee the 2000 presidential recount that was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court, says the state was gradually forced to improve the paper trail from law enforcement to election officials.
What’s common to all these voter suppression efforts—starting in 2000 and seen again with Scott’s claim of 180,000 non-citizens on Florida voter rolls—is that arch partisan Republicans are relying on inaccurate information to impose restrictions on various stages of the voting process.
The main difference between 2000 and 2012 is that the GOP’s new voting rights villain is no longer felons but instead the imagined illegal voter—presumably a person of color who is not a citizen but is willing to risk imprisonment to vote again and again for Democrats. This imagined enemy has fueled efforts by GOP lawmakers in dozens of states to enact tougher voter ID requirements before receiving a ballot—which started before 2008.
Both odious currents have been seen in Florida elections. In 2008, poll workers turned away soldiers back home from Iraq-Afghanistan deployment because they lacked the newly required photo IDs. That October, Florida’s Republican Attorney General, ex-Congressman Bill McCollum, piled on the Republican Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a former county election supervisor appointed by Gov. Crist, because Browning said there were possibly 108,000 names of registered voters who might be felons.
Crist was confident there would not be problems—but hard-right politicians in Florida and other states, such as New Mexico and Colorado, kept saying voter registration fraud was a terrible problem that was all-but stealing elections for Democrats. In fact, senior RNC officials raised that prospect again this week, as they looked ahead to Tuesday’s special gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin.
Rick Scott’s Voter Purge
Last year, as Florida’s legislature, which did not fund Crist’s felon re-enfranchisement program, passed the voting changes now challenged by the Justice Department, Scott met with Browning to discuss what he believed were thousands of non-citizens on the rolls.
Browning recently recounted that meeting to the Associated Press, saying, “Scott asked him whether or not non-U.S. citizens were registered and if those people were voting?” He explained, “People who register and falsely claim they are citizens can be charged with a crime.” But the governor did not accept that, Browning told the AP. “He says to me—well, people lie.” Browning said that he further replied, “Yes, people do. But we have always had to err on the side of the voter.”
Browning resigned as Secretary of State soon after Florida’s late January presidential primary. According to Sancho—and many other state election directors who have spent their lives working to protect voting rights under Democrat and Republican governors—Browning knew that there was not a single reliable data source or database anywhere in the government with citizenship information that can be accurately used to determine voter registration eligibility. Instead, various state and federal agencies collect citizenship information—usually an oath under penalty of perjury—for their own purposes.
Browning had been around elections long enough to see the trouble ahead, Sancho said. He explained that Brown quit “because he knew this was in fact, potentially, a real disaster. And he didn’t want that happening on his watch. Even though he is a good Republican, there is only so much he can take. He was around in 2000 and 2004 as a supervisor of elections, and he didn’t want that on his watch. ”
Browning’s replacement, appointed by Scott, is former beer industry lobbyist Ken Detzner, and he had his marching orders. In early May, he announced that 182,000 suspected non-citizens would be removed from Florida voter rolls—along with 53,000 newly discovered dead voters on the state’s voter rolls.
These alleged non-citizens' names were identified through the process of data mining—combining different databases to identify information irregularities. Florida’s Division of Elections told local election officials that it had used state motor vehicle records, which relies on Social Security data and contains citizenship information collected since 2007, county jury duty lists, and its statewide voter list, to generate the 180,000 names.
The problem with this process is that none of these data sources was designed to be used for voter registration, which means people will be incorrectly indentified. The Social Security database is especially error-prone in this regard. In 2008, when GOP partisans tried to use it in several Midwest states to identify presumably illegal voters who would be challenged at the polls, they lost every lawsuit in federal court.
Moreover, there is nothing alarming—except to partisans who want to raise alarms—about dead people being on voter rolls. Deceased people are routinely removed after local election offices receive notice from health officials. On May 8, letters were mailed to 2,600 Floridians saying they had been identified as non-citizens, and informing them that they needed to present proof of citizenship within 30 days to regain their voting rights.
As expected many people who were registered voters received the letters. One recipient was 91-year-old Bill Internicola, who fought in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, received a Bronze Star for bravery, and has been a Florida voter for 14 years. Another was 41-year-old Juan Artabe, a Democrat who emigrated from Cuba and has been a citizen since 2009. “I’m upset,” he told the Tampa Times. “How can they be asking me for this?” Another was Miami’s Maria Ginorio, an infirm 64-year-old Cuban who became a citizen in 2009, who told the Miami Herald, “I guess I won’t vote anymore.”
Some Republicans defended the purge letters—such as Florida’s U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio, another Tea Party Republican, who apparently said that it was positive that several hundred of the 1,600 people who were flagged as non-citizens in Miami-Dade County had stepped forward with proof of citizenship. However, the civil rights community more than cringes when it sees the letters sent to Florida counties with the largest minority populations.
That factor—and change in voting procedure—is why voting rights groups such as the Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, Latino Justice PRLDF, LULAC Florida and Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition, and a half-dozen Democratic members of Congress have sent formal letters urging Scott to stop the purge, saying it violates Section 8 of the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which bans purges 90 days before a federal election (Florida has congressional primaries on August 14).
Moreover, the new voter purge policy also would violate the federal Voting Rights Act, according to New York City’s Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School--a conclusion echoed in the Justice Department's letter sent Thursday.
“Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Florida is not allowed to implement any new practice or procedure that affects voting in counties covered by the Act—including a new purge procedure—without first getting approval from the Department of Justice or a federal court,” said Wendy Weiser, Democracy program director.
Florida Election Directors Say Enough
Two weeks ago, Florida’s local election officials—led by county supervisors such as Leon County’s Sancho and Brevard County’s Scott—told their state overseers that they do not want to be saddled with a politically motivated purge on top of their other duties preparing for Florida’s upcoming 2012 elections. Scott, for example, has been working to open new early voting sites in response to the shorter early voting period.
“I’m feeling really uncomfortable about this,” Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes told state officials attending local election officers’ summer convention, according an AP report. Brian Corley, the Pasco County Supervisor, noted that the state had been sitting on the ineligible voter list for over a year. Gertrude Walker, the St. Lucie County supervisor, said, “We don’t have confidence in the validity of the information.”
It is noteworthy that Florida’s county election officials were blowing the whistle. The AP reported that Gisela Salas, the state elections division director, replied that Florida has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for access to a federal database—to further screen the non-citizen list, but had been turned down.
In the meantime, the Miami Herald conducted a computer analysis of the 2,600 names to be purged and concluded that, “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are most likely to be targeted.” And this week, the push-back by other election supervisors who also are Republicans, continued. Seminole County Supervisor Mike Ertel posted a picture on Twitter of a voter who was accused of being ineligible—with his passport.
Sancho says the state election division has told county election offices that Florida will be getting data from the federal Department of Homeland Security to further vet the 180,000 or so remaining names. Sancho doesn’t believe that 180,000 figure is even close to being accurate—as statewide Florida only has prosecuted three dozen people between 2008 to 2011 for not being eligible voters but casting a ballot.
“I think the 180,000 number is a bogus number,” Sancho said. “It has to do with projecting out over a long period of time all of the potentials that they haven’t even begun to do. That is the number that they are using to throw to their base. Gov. Scott is a self-described Tea Party governor, that when he released his first budget he did not release it in Tallahassee, he released it in the villages and barred the press.”
But here is where this developing story gets very strange. The May 9 press release from Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner says the Florida Department of State “is actively seeking access to federal Department of Homeland Security databases such as SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) for further verification of immigration status.” But, to put it mildly, there is no guarantee that this imagined federal database actually would clarify the status of Scott’s alleged 180,000 non-citizen voters.
First, Republicans in other states—such as Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler—last year spent months raising the same issue of thousands of non-citizens voters, and then tried to pressure DHS to release data to clarify the situation, but got no response from federal officials. And the reason for that, according to federal database experts contacted by AlterNet, is that there is no one DHS database with complete and accurate citizenship information.
This is exactly what unfolded in Colorado, where the Denver Post pursued Gessler’s imagined solution, the definitive DHS database, to his imagined problem—thousands of non-citizens voting—and could neither prove that the non-citizen voter problem actually existed as Gessler described, or that DHS could share data to remedy it.
“Identifying and purging non-citizens from voting has become a hot topic of late,” Denver Post editorial writer Alicia Caldwell wrote a day after Florida announced its 180,000 non-citizen voters. “Secretary of State Scott Gessler has made attempts to investigate registered voters who he suspects are non-citizens, so far to no avail. The Post editorial board has always agreed with Gessler that people who are not eligible to vote should not be on the rolls. We’ve just disagreed with him on methods of investigating and purging.”
This same Tea Party script is now playing out in Florida, where recent population growth means it has 29 Electoral College votes in 2012—the fourth largest state. Meanwhile, back in Florida, local officials are awaiting the state’s next move with skepticism.
On Thursday, Courtney Heidelberg, the spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles -- and the only state government official to return AlterNet's calls -- said the agency's attorneys had determined on Wednesday that they could not use the federal DHS immigration database for voter registration screening purposes, because that use was not specified in the state's contract with DHS.
"As it now stands, we will not check the 180,000 names," she said. "We had planned to do it, but upon the advice of the office of general counsel we have been advised not to do it."
In other words, as was the case in Colorado, the tool eyed by the state's GOP political leadership to 'resolve' its claims of alleged non-citizen voting is now off the table. Gov. Scott's charge that 180,000 non-citizens are on Florida voter rolls remains just that, an unproven and unprovable allegation.
Florida's Voting War Continues
Because there is an information vacuum, political propagandists like Florida’s Tea Party governor can continue to raise the imaginary spectre of non-existent threats to the voting process. He can continue to abuse the public trust accorded to his office by pushing for ever more draconian voting rights restrictions, and he can force his state government to create a climate of fear and suspicion around another presidential election.
Meanwhile, county election supervisors such as Sancho are telling the press there will be no voter purges in their counties, citing the NVRA's 90-day window precluding such "list maintenance" before a federal election. The Justice Department's letter fortifies that stance.
How low will Scott’s anti-voting crusade go? It’s hard to predict. And what will stop this partisan madness? It appears Florida is heading into another perfect voting rights storm in 2012. Whether or not the fabricated non-citizen voter purge now whimpers away—as was the case in Colorado—the state still curtailed registration drives for most of the spring, shortened early voting, complicated polling place voting for people moving across county lines, disenfranchised former felons and created an overall atmosphere of fear. And November’s election is more than five months away.
Link to original article from AlterNet
Voter Suppression -
Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley issued an order today permanently blocking the controversial photo identification law that threatened to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. His ruling can be appealed by the commonwealth.
"Today was a good day to be a Pennsylvania voter,” said Michael A. Rubin of Arnold & Porter LLP, a member of the plaintiffs’ legal team, which also includes the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Advancement Project. “In striking down this law, the court recognized that constitutional rights, especially the most...
Sara Mullen | ACLU 17 Jan 2014 Hits:738 VS-DRA Articles
More than a decade after Congress took steps to ensure equal access for people with disabilities at the polls, a new report finds that legal, physical and attitudinal barriers remain.
During the 2012 election cycle, 1 in 5 voters with disabilities said they were kept from casting their ballot on their own and more than half said they encountered hurdles — including rude or condescending attitudes from election workers — while inside their polling place.
The findings are based on the experiences of nearly 900 people with disabilities who were queried by...
Shaun Heasley | Disability Scoop 05 Nov 2013 Hits:770 VS-DRA Articles
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright (D-Texas) tried to get a voter identification card at a Texas Department of Public Safety office on Saturday.
But the only photo identification cards Wright has -- an expired Texas driver's license and a Texas Christian University faculty identification card -- do not satisfy the requirements of the state's restrictive vote identification law, passed in 2011. Wright is 90 years old.
“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram on Saturday. “I think they...
Ashley Alman | Huffington Post 04 Nov 2013 Hits:725 VS-DRA Articles
Women who change their last name may have an extra step in voting under new laws.
Some states that have tightened their voter identification laws are using workarounds to avoid voting problems for women whose names have changed because of marriage or divorce – even as opponents of the laws warn there is still potential to disqualify female voters.
Voter ID laws are intensely controversial: the Justice Department is currently suing Texas and North Carolina to block their new, stricter laws, and lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have also prevented voter ID...
USA Today 02 Nov 2013 Hits:669 VS-DRA Articles
The man who wrote Arizona's "Papers Please" law before running for Kansas Secretary of State in 2010 on the premise of stamping out "voter fraud" there ... before winning and subsequently not being able to find much, if any of it, at all, is nonetheless still at work attempting to keep legitimate voters from being able to cast their vote under the premise that thousands of non-citizens are somehow, secretly, illegally voting in the state of Kansas.
"In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive," Kris Kobach's personal...
Brad Friedman | The Brad Blog 08 Oct 2013 Hits:872 VS-DRA Articles
Date North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law HB 589, the Voter Information Verification Act or VIVA, which makes sweeping changes to the state's election laws:8/12/2013
Number of states with voting laws that are more restrictive than North Carolina's: 0
Date two separate federal lawsuits were filed against VIVA claiming it violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution: 8/12/2013
Date a lawsuit was filed against VIVA in state court, claiming it also violates the N.C. Constitution: 8/13/2013
Under VIVA, year that North Carolina voters will have to...
Bretin Mock | Facing South 18 Aug 2013 Hits:731 VS-DRA Articles
Today, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the nation’s worst voter suppression law. The sweeping law requires strict government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot, cuts the number of early voting days by a week, eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, makes it easier for vigilante poll watchers to challenge the validity of eligible voters and expands the influence of unregulated corporate money in state elections.
Two lawsuits were filed today challenging the voting restrictions as racially discriminatory in federal court under Section 2 of the Voting Rights...
Ari Berman | The Nation 13 Aug 2013 Hits:854 VS-DRA Articles
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes to court again today at 1 p.m., the first day of a trial seeking to permanently overturn the law after it was temporarily put on hold before last year’s presidential elections and this year’s primary. Attorneys will present new and ongoing evidence to the Commonwealth Court showing that, 16 months after Pennsylvania passed the law, it remains abundantly clear that it cannot be implemented without disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Co-counsel from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Advancement...
Sara Mullen | PA ACLU 12 Jul 2013 Hits:467 VS-DRA Articles
Nearly five decades after Bloody Sunday in Selma, he’s in the fight of his life, as the Supreme Court threatens to overturn his signature achievement.
On March 7, 1965, John Lewis threw an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, some toothpaste and two books into his backpack, and prepared to lead a fifty-four-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The impromptu march was organized to call national attention to the disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the South and to protest the death of a young civil rights activist shot by police during a...
Ari Berman | The Nation 07 Jun 2013 Hits:922 VS-DRA Articles
Richmond, VA- Concerning the Governor’s actions related to voter ID legislation, SB 1256, the following statement can be attributed to Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director:
The ACLU of Virginia is extremely disappointed that Governor Bob McDonnell has chosen to sign legislation requiring photo ID at the polls for all voters. There is no evidence of need for such legislation, particularly after the Commonwealth enacted an enhanced ID requirement last year. There is not one case of voter impersonation fraud in Virginia, the only voter fraud that photo ID...
ACLU Virginia 28 Mar 2013 Hits:1129 VS-DRA Articles
Arizona imposed stricter voter registration requirements. But the GOP doesn't want to stop there.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today to decide whether an Arizona statute that imposes restrictions on voter registration conflicts with federal law. The case could potentially decide the balance between the state and federal governments when it comes to elections and voting rights. After becoming law in Arizona, the bill at issue was adopted as a "model" by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, arises in...
Brendan Fisher | PR Watch 23 Mar 2013 Hits:1735 VS-DRA Articles
President Obama earned one of the loudest rounds of applause during his fourth State of the Union address when he declared, “We ...
Ari Berman | The Nation 11 Mar 2013 Hits:1242 VS-DRA Articles
In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. introduced a statistical claim that he took to imply that an important provision of the Voting Rights Act has become outmoded.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being challenged by Shelby County, Ala., in the case before the court, requires that certain states, counties and townships with a history of racial discrimination get approval (or “pre-clearance”) from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. But Chief Justice Roberts said...
Nate Silver | The New York Times 10 Mar 2013 Hits:935 VS-DRA Articles
We do not have to guess what the states currently subject to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act will do if the Supreme Court grants their wish to have that provision declared unconstitutional — top Republicans in those states have already told us. In a brief filed last August, Republican attorneys general from six of the states covered, at least in part, by Section 5 of the Voting Right Act complained that this landmark legislation is all that stands between them and implementing a common methos of disenfranchising minority...
Ian Millhiser | Think Progress 03 Mar 2013 Hits:1198 VS-DRA Articles
Pop champagne: Racism is over.
"There is an old disease, and that disease is cured," Bert Rein, the attorney leading the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act—the landmark law intended to ensure all Americans can vote—told to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. "That problem is solved."
Rein represents Shelby County, Alabama, one of the jurisdictions covered by a key section of the Voting Rights Act called Section 5. Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for permission—or "preclearance," in legal terms—from the Justice...
Adam Serwer | Mother Jones 03 Mar 2013 Hits:1044 VS-DRA Articles
If you listen to the court watchers reacting to Wednesday’s oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, you might be bracing yourself for a roll back of voting rights. They are largely predicting the formula used to determine which states and localities are subject to or “covered” by the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) will be struck down by the Supreme Court. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard these prognostications. In 2009, similar predictions abounded in a similar case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility...
Myrna Pérez | Brennan Center for Justice 01 Mar 2013 Hits:1058 VS-DRA Articles
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will review the Voting Rights Act of 1965In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court will hear arguments on Section 5 -- the heart of the Voting Rights Act -- that allows the federal government to block state election practices that are discriminatory. A predominantly white county in Alabama, Shelby County, charges that the decision of Congress in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 is unconstitutional.
The case comes on the heels of a federal election last fall in which our nation witnessed the...
Penda D. Hair and Benjamin Todd Jealous | Common Dreams 26 Feb 2013 Hits:1145 VS-DRA Articles
President Obama made a good start in his State of the Union speech at honoring his election night promise to fix the breakdowns that left tens of thousands of Americans standing in hours-long lines at the polls last November.
His moving introduction of 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who had to wait for six hours at a North Miami precinct to cast her ballot, humanized the threat to democracy posed by the rickety machinery of our elections.
And in creating a Commission on Election Administration and tapping a...
Bob Edgar | Huffington Post 14 Feb 2013 Hits:817 VS-DRA Articles
In 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another twenty-five years. The legislation passed 390–33 in the House and 98–0 in the Senate. Every top Republican supported the bill. “The Voting Rights Act must continue to exist,” said House Judiciary chair James Sensenbrenner, a conservative Republican, “and exist in its current form.” Civil rights leaders flanked George W. Bush at the signing ceremony.
Seven years later, the bipartisan consensus that supported the VRA for nearly fifty years has collapsed, and conservatives are...
Ari Berman | The Nation 08 Feb 2013 Hits:1213 VS-DRA Articles
Relying again on the tie-breaking vote of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Republicans in the evenly divided Virginia Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a bill that would require nearly all voters to present a form of photo identification in order to cast a ballot.
Final approval of Senate Bill 1256, sponsored by Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, is contingent upon funding the estimated cost of providing free photos to registered voters who do not have an accepted form of photo ID.
A similar bill died in...
Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch 06 Feb 2013 Hits:948 VS-DRA Articles
In the run up to the 2012 election (as in every presidential election since at least 2004), Ohio was again at the center of controversy. On early voting, provisional ballots, and more, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office took positions that we strenuously opposed because they would make it more difficult for Ohioans to cast ballots that would be counted.
But this post isn’t about those controversies. It’s about an important step taken by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to ensure the ballots of...
Vishal Agraharkar | Brennan Center for Justice 31 Jan 2013 Hits:875 VS-DRA Articles
Republicans Obenshain, Bell, candidates for attorney general, put forth proposals.
A year after controversial voter identification legislation passed the Virginia General Assembly, several Republican lawmakers are proposing even greater restrictions on the identification required to cast a ballot, including the requirement of photo identification.
Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, will introduce what he terms “Photo ID — No Exceptions,” a measure that would require voters to present valid government-issued photo identification in order to vote. Acquiring the identification would also require proof of U.S. ...
Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch 08 Jan 2013 Hits:1022 VS-DRA Articles
Voter ID laws were one of the most contentious issues of the past election season. (Here is everything you need to know about the laws.) Proponents insisted IDs should be required at polling places in order to thwart fraud. But there has been little evidence of such fraud and Democrats argued that the laws were meant to suppress voters.
The impact of the laws on this past election isn't clear. But one thing is clear: There are still pushes for the laws in many states.
So what happens next?
We've rounded up the...
Suevon Lee | Pro Publica 28 Dec 2012 Hits:951 VS-DRA Articles
Number of states where Republican lawmakers passed new voting restrictions in the run-up to this year's election that critics said would suppress the youth, African-American and Hispanic vote: more than 12
Number of days by which Florida's Republican lawmakers reduced the state's 14-day early voting period amid concerns over strong Democratic turnout in 2008: 6
As a consequence, hours that Juanita Morales of Miami-Dade County, Fla. waited in line to cast a ballot during early voting while tethered to an oxygen tank: more than 4
Sue Sturgis | Facing South 15 Nov 2012 Hits:1228 VS-DRA Articles
CLEVELAND — Thousands of lawyers from both presidential campaigns will enter polling places next Tuesday with one central goal: tracking their opponents and, if need be, initiating legal action. It will be a kind of Spy vs. Spy.
The lawyers will note how poll workers behave, where voters are directed, if intimidation appears to be occurring, whether lines are long. And they will report up a chain of command where decisions over court action will be made at headquarters in Chicago and Boston.
This will go...
Ethan Bronner | New York Times 02 Nov 2012 Hits:1207 VS-DRA Articles
Voter ID measures have mostly been blocked. But there are plenty of other hijinks that have liberals on edge for Election Day.
A few months ago, Democrats were convinced that voter ID laws were Republicans' secret plan to steal the election. But as Election Day nears, these and other allegedly suppressive efforts -- from Florida's attempt to purge voter rolls to Ohio's move to restrict early voting to Pennsylvania's strict voter ID law -- have mostly fizzled, thanks largely to legal challenges from the Justice Department,...
Molly Ball | The Atlantic 01 Nov 2012 Hits:1256 VS-DRA Articles
With a little more than a week before Election Day, grassroots campaigns are hoping to maximize voter participation among often disenfranchised communities. Cuéntame has launched a series of public service announcements targeted at some 50,000 new Latino voters in three swing states: Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. The PSAs, made in conjunction with 300 partner groups, are airing on major Spanish language television stations like Univision, MundoFox, and Azteca America. But it’s not all good news. Our community journalists write in that schemes...
Aura Bogado | Colorlines 26 Oct 2012 Hits:2117 VS-DRA Articles
It may be less than 150 monitors and observers, but a UN affiliated organization (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)) will be in the US on Election Day to report on any perceived irregularities. According to The Hill, the delegation is coming at the request of US Civil Rights groups concerned about the massive national effort by the Republican Party to keep non-GOP voting groups from casting ballots:
Civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say...
Mark Karlin | Buzzflash 22 Oct 2012 Hits:1775 VS-DRA Articles
Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election....
Jane Mayer | The New Yorker 22 Oct 2012 Hits:2050 VS-DRA Articles
A man originally reported to have been working for the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested by the Rockingham County, Va., Sheriff’s Office on Thursday and charged with attempting to destroy voter registration forms by tossing them into a dumpster behind a shopping center in Harrisonburg, Va.
“Prosecutors charged him with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice,” according to a report late Thursday afternoon from TPM’s Ryan Reilly....
Brad Friedman | The Brad Blog 21 Oct 2012 Hits:2157 VS-DRA Articles
Arizona’s Apache County is obscuring the collective power of the Native vote in an unprecedented way. The County, which has previously violated the Voting Rights Act, has inaccurately…
Washington, D.C. – South Carolina voters will not need to show a photo ID to vote in this year’s election, a federal court ruled Wednesday, the latest in a series…
Democrats are frustrated: Why can’t Republican voters see that Republicans pass voter ID laws to suppress voting, not fraud?
Democrats know who tends to lack ID. They know that the threat…
The struggle over state-sponsored legislation limiting or redefining how and when citizens can vote has generated contentious debate. Judith Browne Dianis, Co-Director of Advancement Project, a non-partisan…
(Reuters) - A new South Carolina law that generally requires voters to show photo identification does not discriminate against racial minorities but cannot go into effect until…
RICHMOND, Va. --Kemba Smith Pradia's voting rights have been restored.
More than a decade after she served a federal prison sentence for drug-related offenses — and was granted…
The Government Accountability Office released a new report Thursday confirming millions of Americans have been disenfranchised by voter suppression laws in up to 31 states, signalling a "major shift"…
Another disturbing revelation from the still-expanding nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal...
From Palm Beach to Richmond, from Las Vegas to Portland, it's not a coincidence, it's a coordinated GOP…
This election year voting rights laws have turned into a heated issue as civil rights groups and state legislatures fight over photo ID requirements. While that issue has received a…
PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.