Voter Suppression Update: The Good and The Bad
The New Year is off to a busy start with many states continuing the assault on voters by pursuing legislation to make it harder for people to get registered and vote. We also saw a group try to prove voter fraud by actually committing voter fraud by impersonating a recently deceased voter in New Hampshire’s primary.
Not all the news has been bad. Just before the holidays, the Justice Department blocked the implementation of South Carolina’s photo ID law. Also, a handful of states began their legislative session with positive legislation that will expand access to voting.
Unlike in the past updates, we will also include updates on legislation that will bring positive changes to voting laws by expanding access and convenience of voting.
The Good News
Connecticut:Secretary of State Denise Merrill, along with Governor Dan Malloy, introduced an election reform package to streamline voter registration and increase access to absentee voting. The package of legislation would allow Election Day voter registration, online voter registration, broader use of absentee ballots and stiffer penalties for voter harassment or intimidation. Connecticut can only expand access to absentee voting through a constitutional amendment.
Florida: A bill was introduced in Florida that would repeal legislation signed into law last year that shortened early voting periods and placed onerous restrictions on voter registration drives. The bill would increase the early voting period to 15 days and allow third party groups 10 days to turn in completed registration applications.
Additionally, Senators Bill Nelson and Dick Durbin will appear at a Senate hearing in Tampa on January 27 on Florida’s new voting laws. Sen. Durbin requested that Governor Rick Scott appear at the hearing but Scott refused to respond to the request.
Nebraska: Movement began the first week of this year on photo ID legislation that was introduced last year requiring voters to present a valid, current photo ID, or qualify for one of several exceptions, before receiving a ballot on Election Day. After a sustained effort among voting rights advocates, Senator Charlie Janssen who originally introduced the bill, removed the bill from the legislature’s agenda.
New York:There has been a series of bills introduced in New York that would make registration and voting more convenient and guard against practices to deceive or intimidate voters. The bills would establish early voting up to two weeks before an election, allow citizens to register on Election Day, and make it illegal to knowingly deceive voters about the time or place of an election.
Tennessee:There’s a snag in Tennessee’s new voter ID law. Tennesseans 60 or over do not need to have a photo on their driver’s license. The problem is that you must be 65 or older to request an absentee ballot without a reason. You do not need to show a photo ID in Tennessee to vote by absentee. Without a fix to the law, Tennesseans between 60 and 64 might not be able to vote. A bill was introduced that would lower the age to 60 for requesting an absentee ballot with no reason.
Washington: A bipartisan bill was introduced last week that would allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. They would then be added to the state’s official list of registered voters once they turn 18. The goal is to increase the number of young adults that are registered to vote since most eligible voters are registered through the motor-voter program when they obtain their drivers license.
West Virginia: The West Virginia Judiciary Committee heard testimony on January 9 on the implementation of same-day registration.
Wisconsin: The Dane County Circuit Court will hear a lawsuit on January 18 brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the law passed last year that requires Wisconsin voters to present a photo ID.
The Bad News
Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach is lobbying the Kansas legislature to move up the implementation of the proof of citizenship requirement to register to vote for the first time or to re-register to vote after living outside of Kansas from January 1, 2013 to June 15, 2012, ahead of the presidential election this November. A Senate Election Committee hearing is scheduled for January 19. At issue is that the state computer system may not be ready to implement the change by June.
Maine: A photo ID bill that was voted down in the Senate last year is back again with a hearing in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee next week. One issue with the legislation is that it leaves it to the Secretary of State to create the technical rule over what forms of identification that could be required to vote.
Minnesota: A constitutional amendment bill was introduced this week in the legislature that will put before voters an amendment to require Minnesotans to show a photo ID in order to vote. Last year, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a similar bill. This will only require a simple majority of the House and Senate for it to be placed on the November ballot.
Missouri: Representative Shaun Schoeller – who is running for Secretary of State – filed a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. A similar measure was vetoed last year by Governor Jay Nixon. The Senate also held a hearing on January 17 on a bill introduced by Senator Bill Stouffer that would also require voters to present a photo ID before voting.
New Hampshire:During the New Hampshire primaries, a group called Project Veritas, attempted to prove how easy it is to commit voter fraud in states without a photo ID law by committing voter fraud. The incident has led to an investigation by the state’s Attorney General. The New Hampshire GOP has seized on the incident to call for a voter ID law. A voter ID bill was passed last year but was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. A hearing is scheduled on January 24 on a bill similar to the one vetoed last year. Governor Lynch has continued to express opposition to voter ID legislation.
New Mexico: State Representative Dianne Hamilton is planning on introducing a bill that will require a photo ID to vote, including to vote by absentee ballot.
Pennsylvania:A bill that has rolled over from last year that would require voters to present a photo ID in order to vote is expected to come up next week in the legislature.
South Carolina: The Department of Justice rejected South Carolina’s photo ID law because of concerns it would hurt minorities' ability to cast a ballot. The administrations action means the law cannot take effect. South Carolina is filing a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s rejection of the law.
Virginia: A bill was reintroduced last week that would require voters who are unable to present an approved form of identification at the polls would have to vote a provisional ballot – a ballot that would not be counted unless and until the voter’s identity is verified. This bill is identical to one passed by the Republican-controlled House last year but died in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Senate now has a Republican majority is viewed as having a better chance of passing. The bill passed out of committee by a 4-2 vote and will likely move quickly in the House and Senate.
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