Weekly Voter ID Update: WI, FL, Rachel Maddow & More
Welcome back to our Weekly Voter Suppression Update! Since we took a week off last week, there’s a lot to catch up on. Unfortunately, the news from the states remains grim.
The Good News
Montana: Last week, Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) vetoed a photo ID bill. This follows his veto of a bill to end EDR (Election Day Registration) last month.
California: Bills to implement Same Day Registration and Online Registration were recently moved to the “suspense file” by the Senate Appropriations Committee because they would require funding to implement. However, the committee is scheduled to vote next week on whether to move the Same Day Registration bill off the suspense list, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for now…and optimistically putting it in the “good news” column!
The Bad News
South Carolina: Governor Nikki Haley (R) signed a photo ID bill into law on Wednesday, and furthered incensed opponents by playing a song by the Black Eyed Peas at the signing (talk about adding insult to injury).
Florida: The Florida legislature rammed through omnibus voter suppression legislation that Governor Rick Scott (R) signed Thursday. Among other things, the bill shortens the early voting time period and places harsh restrictions on groups that go out and register voters. It also changes a decades old law that allows registered voters in Florida to update their address at the polls on Election Day and receive a regular ballot. Voters who move within the same county will still be able to do this but registered voters who move to a new county (think of all the students!) will have to remember to update their address before Election Day, or get stuck with a provisional ballot on Election Day – which may or may not count. The small silver lining is that the bill still has to go through the preclearance process, and, if it is approved, will still face inevitable court challenges.
Texas: When we last updated you, a conference committee of legislators had issued a report introducing new language into the photo ID legislation. We were hopeful the new proposal, which adds significant projected costs to the bill, would spark further debate. But we thought wrong; the legislature passed it on Monday without pausing to take up the fiscal concerns. It’s now awaiting signature by Republican Governor Rick Perry.
Missouri: As the session wrapped up last week, the legislature managed to reconcile some differences between House and Senate bills and pass two measures geared towards instituting a photo ID requirement. One bill, which Democratic Governor Jay Nixon can’t veto, will put a constitutional amendment to allow photo ID on the ballot for voters in 2012. This is a necessary maneuver because in 2006 the state’s highest court determined that a photo ID requirement is unconstitutional as a result of certain language in the state constitution. The other bill is enacting legislation - if voters pass the constitutional amendment, this other bill enacts the photo ID requirement. Governor Nixon has until July 14 to decide whether to veto the enacting legislation. Even if he does, the legislature may be able to override the veto or, failing that, pass enacting legislation next year.
Wisconsin: Though Democrats blocked the third reading of Wisconsin’s photo ID bill early Wednesday morning, the Senate ultimately passed the bill Thursday and Republican Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign it next week. Though the photo ID requirement will not go into full effect until next year’s primary, poll workers will be required to ask voters for photo ID during upcoming elections. Those who don’t have it will be informed that they will need it to vote in the future – a situation that will surely cause confusion for poll workers and voters alike. The bill will also significantly change the absentee ballot voting process. Rachel Maddow has video up of the procedures undertaken to rush the bill through the Senate.
Tennessee: A bill requiring people to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote went to the governor for signature last week.
Minnesota: The Senate passed the conference committee report on photo ID Wednesday, which now goes back to the House for final approval. In addition to creating a photo ID requirement, the legislation would also end the practice of vouching for voters on Election Day and create a new system of provisional balloting.
New Hampshire: The House passed an amended version of the Senate’s photo ID bill with a supermajority last week, which sent it to a finance committee before it returns to the House floor and gets sent back to the Senate. The finance committee had a second hearing on the bill this week and didn’t vote, but a vote is expected Tuesday. The bill will likely end up going to a committee of conference, composed of members from both the House and Senate, which will be tasked with taking the different versions of the bill and creating a compromise piece of legislation that both chambers will pass Sadly, even though this is merely a proposed law, without any current legal effect, , during a special election in the state on Tuesday, reports emerged of an election official posted a misleading sign saying: “Per pending legislation you will be required to produce a photo ID in order to receive a ballot. Please have your photo ID ready before you approach the ballot clerk.”
Ohio: Since our last update, the House and Senate committees raced to be the first to move omnibus “election reform” legislation, culminating in a win on the House side. After the State Government and Elections Committee passed its bill Wednesday, the full House voted on and passed the legislation which would, among other things, drastically shorten early in-person absentee voting, prohibit it on Sundays, and eliminate it altogether for the weekend right before Election Day. Another of the bill’s provisions provides a particularly stark example of its anti-voter goals: the bill would eliminate a requirement in state law that poll workers look up a voter’s correct precinct and/or direct them to it. What are poll workers there for, if not to help voters figure out how to cast their ballot correctly on Election Day?
Rhode Island: The Democratic-majority Senate passed a photo ID bill last week. It hasn’t been scheduled for a House committee yet, but the House passed similar legislation two years ago, and it’s unclear where the Governor stands on the legislation.
Pennsylvania: A House committee approved photo ID legislation last week, despite opposition from the county clerks. The bill now goes to the full House, but they are out this week and expected to focus on the budget next week.
Megan Donovan is a staff attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network. Tobin is the deputy director for Campus Progress.
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