Restrictions in Early Voting and Voter Registration Used for Partisan Gain

The past two years saw a dramatic rise in states attempting to enact voter suppression, the impact of which was certainly felt on Election Day. Under the guise of combating voter fraud and saving money, we saw strong pushes for ID and early voting and voter registration restrictions.

Florida was among the worst offenders.

Attempts to Disenfranchise Ohio Voters Continue After Election

A few days before the election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ordered local election officials to reject ballots with mistakenly recorded identification information – even though the courts previously issued an order against this. Immediately following the election and with tens of thousands of ballots uncounted, Secretary Husted continued his crusade to change the rules for counting provisional ballots by issuing a directive excusing poll workers from correcting improper ballot forms, potentially invalidating many of the uncounted ballots.

Ohio members of the African American Ministers Leadership Council urged Secretary Husted to drop his attempt, with Reverend Tony Minor stating:

“A right for one is a right for another and a responsibility for all.”

In 1988, as Founding Chairman of People For the American Way, Norman Lear was among the cosigners of the Williamsburg Charter, “written and published expressly to address the dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities posed by religious liberty in American public life.”

Lear and others, including Presidents Carter and Ford and Chief Justices Rehnquist and Burger, agreed that “a right for one is a right for another and a responsibility for all.”

That is the spirit in which faith leaders and religious liberty advocates, including PFAW Foundation and the African American Ministers Leadership Council, led by the First Amendment Center and Interfaith Alliance, have come together in 2012 to answer the question, “What is the truth about American Muslims?”

Voter ID Blocked in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s ALEC-linked voter ID law, known as HB 934, has been fought several times since its passage earlier this year. Defenders of the strict photo ID law state that the law prevents voter fraud – even though there haven’t been any investigations or evidence regarding the presence of voter fraud. Furthermore, many Pennsylvanians lack appropriate ID and are likely to be disenfranchised as a result of the law.

However, as of October 2, HB 934 will not be fully enforced come November.

Voter ID lives to see another day in Pennsylvania

Although HB 934, Pennsylvania’s ALEC-tied voter ID law, has been tested since its passage earlier this year, it remains alive and well (for now, that is) after Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson refused to grant a temporary injunction. He was stunningly unconvinced that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable” – even with state officials admitting that it would affect more Pennsylvanians than previously estimated. And, he wasn’t at all bothered by the fact that the purported rationale for the law was a pretext for taking away the right to vote: Pennsylvania conceded that there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a one-time ALEC member, even championed its overtly political implications.

Voting rights supporters are by no means backing down.

Reverend Michael Couch, African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC):

UPDATE: Termination of evening and weekend voting sparks outrage in Ohio

LATE-BREAKING: Secretary Husted has officially made the call for statewide early voting hours, 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday to start, then 8 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday for the last two weeks.

UPDATE: Secretary Husted said Monday that he may impose statewide early voting hours following criticism of his actions at the county level. Following an ACLU request, Husted said that it is unclear whether state law gives him such authority, but that he will look at the matter and listen to what feedback I get. He also claimed to CNN that he has been a champion of uniformity. The concern is that uniformity would likely come in the form of across-the-board restrictions on voting hours, rather than the expansion that voting rights supporters want to see. Reverend Tony Minor of the African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC) vowed vigilance, No matter how hard they try to stop us, we will fight back against these restrictions and we will show up at the polls and vote." Click for more from the New York Times and The Nation.

Termination of evening and weekend voting sparks outrage in Ohio

Voting rights advocates in Ohio are outraged as Secretary of State John Husted has decided to end the evening and weekend voting in Cuyahoga County that have benefitted voters there in four of the past five years. He broke a tie vote after county election board members deadlocked along party lines about whether to maintain extended voting hours. Polls will now be open on weekdays only, from 8:30 a.m. until just 4:30 p.m.

UPDATE: Voter suppression package arrives on Michigan Governor’s desk

UPDATE: Though July 1 has now passed, Governor Rick Snyderstill has yet to sign the voter suppression package. The Michigan chapter of the National Action Network is planning a march from Detroit to Lansing on July 23-27 to protest these and other measures, should the Governor come down on the wrong side of civil rights. Chapter president Rev. Charles Williams II, a supporter of PFAW Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, says that the bill’s proponents are "playing games" and "we’re standing against it."