Electoral reform measures that some say are really suppression efforts in disguise, are popping up across the United States in statewide voter ID laws or Republican-led voter roll purges that some say are targeted against the Democrat-leaning voters.
Reports and experts consistently claim that the voter id laws and registration regulations as well as voter purges based on Hispanic surnames are going to disproportionately affect youth, seniors, low-income voters, Latinos and African Americans—all voter blocs that consistently vote Democrat. Most of the harshest measures are in states with Republican-led legislatures.
Plenty of theatrics and much misinformation has flowed from Republican and Democratic propaganda machines, but what are the facts to support their claims?
Since 2011, legislation has been passed or other actions taken to change voter registration regulations in 17 states. All except West Virginia, Minnesota, Rhode Island and North Carolina have Republican governors.
VOXXI has been bringing you a summary of the efforts and counter efforts going on in different states in this all-important election year, which many experts say is going to see one of the closest presidential races in decades.
Monday of last week, we took a look at measures in Florida and Georgia. Tuesday of last week, we got a briefing on proposals and changes in Mississippi and both North and South Carolina. Today, the series takes a look at six states: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.
It passed legislation (SB16) in May 2011 requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. At a press conference, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued that the Tennessee law is designed to reduce turnout among non-white, young, elderly, disabled, homeless and working-class voters. “There ought to be a conscious effort and a dedication of resources to give people an easy way to establish their legality and legitimacy as voters,” he said. “If this is a matter of you have to take off work, as I understand it, and spend four hours waiting for photo IDs, I think that kind of gets to the point where it creates a hardship.”
HB9 and SB1 became law in May. They require registered voters to have a state-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. To blunt criticism, including from the DOJ, which has acted against other Southern states with similar laws, Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered state election officials to send every registered Virginia voter a new voter-ID card, free of charge.
It will cost Virginia an estimated $1.36 million to mail the cards to the more than 4.7 million active, registered voters in the state before November.
Chesterfield County Republican Sen. Steve Martin, sponsor of SB1, praised McDonnell for going “the extra mile to make people know that we’re not trying to cause any harm.”
Gov. McDonnell announced on Aug. 20 that the Department of Justice had approved of the new law, clearing the way for it to be in effect on Election Day.
It passed legislation (S400A) in 2011 requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID (including a RI driver’s license, RI voter identification card, U.S. passport, an identification card issued by a U.S. educational institution, U.S. military identification card or a U.S. government or state of RI government-issued medical card) to cast a ballot. No eligible voter will be turned away at the polls.
Voters who do not bring an acceptable ID to their polling place can vote using a standard Provisional Ballot. The ballot will be counted if the signature they give at their polling place matches the signature on their voter registration.
According to proponents of the bill, it will strengthen the public’s faith in the integrity of the election and protect the voting process from fraud.
The law was implemented on Jan. 1. Based on the recent presidential primary vote, the law posed few problems at polling places, election officials said. Fewer than 25 voters lacked the necessary identification and were allowed to cast provisional ballots, according to a survey of polling places in 25 cities and towns conducted by Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, a Democrat.
HB934 passed in March. Under the auspices of voter fraud prevention, it requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Valid IDs include a Pennsylvania driver’s license, military ID, passport, ID card from state-accredited colleges/universities and state-licensed care facilities. Pennsylvania residents attending college out-of-state may not use their student IDs to vote.
The Pennsylvania Departments of State and Transportation recently released data showing that 758,939 registered Pennsylvania voters (9.2 percent of the 8.2 million voters) don’t have a Pennsylvania driver’s license or alternative PennDOT identification. Philadelphia, an urban and historically Democratic constituency, has 18 percent of registered voters (186,830) who do not have a valid photo ID.
On election day, any voter without a valid photo ID can still vote using a provisional ballot. They will have six days to show valid identification to their county election board to have their vote count.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) said the bill is “a simple, common-sense measure to protect the integrity of the voting process.”
More to the point, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), in checking off his list of legislative accomplishments, boasted: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania—done.”
Ohio passed legislation (HB194) in June of 2011 that drastically reduces the time frame for early voting from 35 to 16 days. This prevents counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to residents and eliminates requirements for poll workers to help voters find their correct precinct.
Critics argue this was a blatant targeted disenfranchisement campaign. Early voting was wildly popular among many Ohioans in the 2008 presidential election, especially among African-American voters, non-white church groups (i.e. Souls to the Polls Campaign) and grassroots organizers which greatly benefitted Obama’s victory.
HB194 was supposed to be on the November ballot for a potential “people’s veto”; however, legislators are close to repealing the underlying law and passing new suppression measures instead. This is a way for the legislature to avoid giving the people of Ohio a chance to vote against voter suppression laws.
Due to controversy and criticism, Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated the repeal of HB194 in March, arguing that it should be scrapped and reexamined after the November 2012 election. Instead of a full repeal, legislators passed SB295, which replaces HB194 and reinforces the ban on early in-person voting in the three days leading up to the election.
Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who has shown a pattern of governing based on his values rather than party-line discipline, vetoed legislation in June that Democrats state and nationwide criticized as voter suppression measures. SB751 and HB5061 would have required photo ID to be presented when voting absentee in person. SB754 would have severely restricted voter registration drives. SB803 would have required voters to re-affirm their citizenship when voting.
A statement by the governor’s office said, “While Snyder supports the concept of training individuals involved in voter registration, [these changes]… may cause confusion with ongoing voter registration efforts…[and]…this legislation could create voter confusion among absentee voters.”