Entries in Voter ID Law (6)


Civil Rights Groups Vow to Overturn NC Voting Reform Law

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- North Carolina's sweeping and restrictive new voting law is facing multiple legal challenges from civil rights groups that argue it discriminates against black and young voters.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill Monday, which goes into effect in 2016. Among other things, the law requires voters to bring state-issued photo IDs to the polls, cuts down early voting time by one week, eliminates same-day voter registration, and bans pre-registration for youth voters who will turn 18 on Election Day.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with two other groups, immediately filed a legal challenge that argues the law attempts to suppress minority voters, thereby violating the Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The NAACP has filed a similar suit.

Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a statement, "Taken together, the new restrictions in this law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, depriving many of our most vulnerable citizens from being able to easily exercise a constitutional right."

A third lawsuit will challenge the voter ID provision under the state's constitution, according to The Nation.

McCrory and Republican lawmakers noted that voter ID laws are popular in opinion polls and stated that the North Carolina law is simply meant to prevent voter fraud.

But Democrats and civil rights groups argue that voter fraud is a negligible problem in North Carolina. And moreover, they say that Republicans are simply trying to improve their chances of winning elections by preventing young and minority voters -- who tend to vote Democrat -- from casting ballots.

North Carolina is the latest battleground on voting rights. Last June, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of racial discrimination, including North Carolina, to get federal permission before changing their voting laws.

Since the restrictions were removed, several states have moved swiftly to enact new voting laws. The Justice Department has already indicated it will pursue legal action against Texas for its new voter ID law, and North Carolina could be next on the list.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Arizona Voter ID Law

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for Arizona, a state that has clashed repeatedly with the federal government on the issue of immigration, will be back at the Supreme Court on Monday defending a state law that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in elections.

Critics of the law say that it conflicts with federal law — the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) — which is sometimes referred to as the Motor Voter law. It was enacted in 1993 to establish uniform procedures to vote in federal elections.

The NVRA provides a federal form for registration in which the registrant is required to check a box indicating U.S. citizenship and to sign the form under penalty of perjury.

But the state law, Proposition 200, which was passed into law in 2004, requires any registrant who does not have a driver’s license issued after 1996 or a non-operating license to provide documents such as a copy of a birth certificate or a passport.

“The case is intrinsically important,” says election law expert Edward B. Foley of the Moritz School of Law at Ohio State University, “because it asks whether a state can add a requirement to prove U.S. citizenship at the time of voter registration, beyond what the federal government requires under the NVRA”.

“This is an important case that is under the radar screen, because it involves not only the issue of immigration but also the regulation of voting rights,” Foley says. “More broadly, how do we make the rules of elections and who gets to write the rules — the federal government or the states?”

Groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) say the law puts an additional burden on voters. They argue that a voter registrant who submits the federal form but does not provide additional documentation required by the state law is rejected for voter registration.

In court briefs, lawyers for MALDEF say: “Although states are authorized to design and use their own mail voter registration form, nothing in the statute permits states to use their forms to the exclusion of the federal form.”

Nina Perales, MALDEF’s Vice President of Litigation says that Arizona is trying to portray the dispute as a “David and Goliath battle between a state and an overbearing federal government,” but she says the “bottom line, is that Arizona’s law excludes U.S. citizens from registering to vote and it conflicts with federal law. Federal law says an individual can register to vote using a federal voter registration form. Arizona rejects the federal voter registration form unless they meet additional documentation requirements.”

She says that following the enactment of Proposition 200, more than 31,000 individuals were rejected for voter registration and less than one-third of the rejected registrants were subsequently successfully registered to vote.

A federal appeals court ruled against Proposition 200 and blocked the provision at issue.

Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne argues in court briefs that Proposition 200 is necessary to preserve the integrity of elections. He says the state law does not conflict with the NVRA.

“The requirement that applicants provide additional evidence to support their application does not constitute a ‘rejection’ of the federal form any more than an identification check at an airport gate entrance constitutes a ‘rejection’ of a passenger’s ticket,” Horne says in the court briefs.

“Arizona, like other states, has experienced fraud in voting with regard to both registration and casting ballots,” Horne argues.

Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas have filed a brief in support of Arizona saying that the state law “works hand in glove” with the federal law at issue and that Proposition 200 “is itself designed to protect the electoral process for the benefit of eligible citizens.”

But the federal government has filed a brief in support of the challengers, arguing that the NVRA “prohibits a state from imposing additional requirements on applicants who seek to register for federal elections through the federal form.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign: Ruling on Pennsylvania Voter ID Law ‘Great News’

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Obama campaign Tuesday welcomed as “great news” a Pennsylvania judge’s decision to block the state’s new voter identification law, ordering that it not be enforced until after the presidential election.

“This decision makes one thing clear for the people there: if you’re eligible to vote, you’ll be able to vote on Election Day,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. “We believe that the right to vote is an American value.”

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled that voters in Pennsylvania will not have to produce a photo ID to vote in the upcoming presidential election, on the basis that he expected more IDs to be issued to voters who need them in time for the next election.

Voter IDs have become a hotly contested issue this election cycle, especially in the key state of Pennsylvania, one of 10 states that have passed ID laws in the past two years. Republicans passed the law without Democratic support, arguing it would protect the integrity of the electoral process. Opponents claim it would disproportionately prevent racial minorities and seniors from voting.

“I am not still convinced,” Judge Simpson wrote in his opinion, “that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election.”

Simpson said election officials could still ask voters for ID cards, but could not turn away those who do not have them.

“We’re encouraged by it,” Psaki said.  "As we’ve done in many other states, we’ll be focused on making sure people in Pennsylvania are educated on how they can vote, when they can vote and how to participate in the process.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Leads to DMV Trips from 'Hell'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two government offices, three hour-long lines, two 78-mile trips, two week-long waiting periods, four forms of identity and two signed affidavits later, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to vote.

Under the state's new voter ID laws, which require every voter to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, that is the epic process thousands of native Pennsylvanians have to go through to get the ID required to cast their ballots in November.  And they now have just 56 days to complete it before the election.

"It was hell all told," said Jan Klincewicz, who helped his 87-year-old mother, Jisele, through the process.  "To have to go through that kind of rigmarole to exercise her right to vote I think is excessive."

Pennsylvania is one of five states that will have a strict photo ID law in effect for the 2012 election.  Kansas and Tennessee approved similar laws last year.  Georgia and Indiana have required voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls since 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Proponents of the law argue that the IDs prevent voter fraud.  Opponents claim it presents a burden so large that the ID requirement will effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters.  How many thousands of voters is hotly disputed.

In Pennsylvania, where 20 electoral votes are up for grabs on Nov. 6, the State Department estimated about 90,000 eligible voters may not have the required form of ID to vote.  The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the law in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week, claims as many as 759,000 voters lack a valid ID for voting.

Since Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed the law in March, the state has issued about 7,200 non-driver ID cards solely for the purpose of voting, according to the state's Department of Transportation, which issues the IDs.  But for the tens of thousands of voters who, according to conservative estimates, still lack the ID, the transportation, verification and mobilization barriers that stand between them and that voting requirement are significant.

Many of those ID-less voters are very old or in nursing homes, and have limited mobility and few ways to get to a driver's license issuing center, said Nicole Berner, associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union.  Many others, whether they are homeless, living with their parents or simply not named on a lease or utility account, do not have the required documents to prove their address, she added.

"Most of these people are on the margins of society," Berner said, "but they still clearly have the right to vote."

Eligible voters who don't have an original copy of their birth certificate have to make two trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which for residents in rural northern Pennsylvania may be up to 30 miles away; once there, wait times average 59 minutes.

Voters lacking a Social Security card have to truck over to the Social Security office, where wait times vary from 15 minutes to an hour, and apply for a replacement card, which takes two to three days to receive in the mail, before making that first trip to the DMV.

"It's long lines and it's multiple trips," Berner said, adding that many people she has encountered "are just becoming demoralized and saying 'I'm just not going to vote.'"

But the state argues that after a $5 million ad campaign -- funded entirely from federal voter education grants -- a toll-free information hotline and ample documents posted online, voters should be informed and aware of the requirements.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pennsylvania Court Upholds Voter ID Law

Comstock/Thinkstock(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- A Pennsylvania judge upheld the state’s strict voter ID law today, rejecting civil rights groups’ claims that the law will disenfranchise thousands of voters.

The ruling is a victory for Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed the voter ID law in March, and state Republicans, who pushed the law through the GOP-controlled legislature. Not one state Democrat voted for the law.

Corbett advocated for the law because he said it “protects a sacred principle, one shared by every citizen of this nation.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, said in a statement after the ruling that the court’s decision “will reinforce the principle of one person, one vote.”

“I am pleased Judge Simpson affirmed the constitutionality of the voter ID law,” Aichele said. “By giving us a reliable way to verify the identity of each voter, the voter ID law will enhance confidence in our elections.”

The law requires Pennsylvania voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls before voting in November’s election. Valid forms of photo identification include driver’s licenses, military IDs, college IDs, local or county government employee IDs and photo IDs from state care facilities. Most Pennsylvania state college IDs will not be accepted because they do not have expiration dates.

The state’s Department of Transportation is required to provide free IDs for any prospective voters who do not have the requisite form of identification. As many as 1.3 million Pennsylvania voters lack the required form of ID, according to testimony from Matt Barreto, a Seattle political scientist from the University of Washington who was called to the stand by lawyers from The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group challenging the law.

Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, told ABC News that it was “ludicrous to think that any significant percentage” of the more than 1 million Pennsylvanians who do not have a valid photo ID will be able to get one before November’s election.

“I think the intent was for it to affect the elections,” Hair said. “Elections in Pennsylvania are ordinarily decided by margins that are less than 1 million voters. That’s how many voters we are talking about being barred from voting this fall.”

Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made waves in June when he said at the Republican State Committee meeting that the voter ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” Turzai said in a speech to committee members, Politics PA reported.

Turzai then listed a handful of accomplishments such as “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

The Obama campaign responded to the court’s ruling by vowing to redouble their efforts to inform voters about the ID needed to vote and how to obtain one.

“Now more than ever it is important that the Commonwealth follow through on its plan to make available free IDs to any voter who may need them,” Jennifer Austin, spokeswoman for Obama for America Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Regardless of party affiliation, we support ensuring any voter eligible to cast a ballot has the right to do so.”

The Advancement Project was one of a handful of activist organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that asked the court to issue an injunction preventing the voter ID law from taking effect.

Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne-Dianis said the civil rights groups will take “immediate steps” to appeal the commonwealth court’s decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law erects an unequal barrier to voting for hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, disproportionately blocking veterans, seniors and people of color from the polls,” Browne-Dianis said in a statement.

Pennsylvania is one of eleven states that passed strict voter ID laws in 2011 and 2012. Three of those laws, in Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin, were struck down by the courts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry Demands that Obama Apologize

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- The Republican governor of Texas today welcomed President Obama to the Lone Star State by asking him to distance himself from comments made by Attorney General Eric Holder comparing the state’s 2011 voter identification law to a “poll tax,” the Jim Crow-era laws that were declared unconstitutional in 1937.

“Perhaps while the President is visiting Texas, he can take a break from big-dollar fundraisers to disavow his Attorney General’s offensive and incendiary comments regarding our common-sense voter identification law,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “In labeling the Texas voter ID law as a ‘poll tax,’ Eric Holder purposefully used language designed to inflame passions and incite racial tension. It was not only inappropriate, but simply incorrect on its face. The president should apologize for Holder’s imprudent remarks and for his insulting lawsuit against the people of Texas.”

In a speech to the NAACP one week ago, Holder said that under Texas’s law “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.”

Last week, a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in Washington. D.C. heard arguments in the stand-off between the Obama administration and the state of Texas over the law. While the voter ID itself is free, the documentation required to obtain an ID – a birth certificate, a Social Security card – is not.

In his remarks, the attorney general specifically said that the Texas law would be “harmful to minority voters” because 25 percent of African Americans lack the required identification needed to obtain a voter I.D., as opposed to eight percent of whites.

“Especially in recent months, Texas has – in many ways – been at the center of our national debate about voting rights issues,” Holder said. “Let me be clear: we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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