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UPDATE: Shortly after the election, several voting rights advocacy groups released reports or statements detailing problems voters encountered at the polls. Demos put out a report describing how all the various voter suppression tactics affected the 2012 election. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement addressing the problems voters faced and the steps that should be taken to prevent future problems. Project Vote also released a statement praising diligent voters for overcoming adverse voting circumstances.
Despite the concerted efforts by conservative legislators to suppress voters’ rights throughout 2011 and 2012 using a number of tactics in the supposed interest to combat voter fraud, millions of Americans took time last week to cast their vote on Election Day. However, a number of problems for voters still occurred, shedding light on some obvious inadequacies within our voting process.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota state legislature passed SF 509, requiring photo ID at the polls. Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, but proponents led by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer managed to bypass him by pushing through a constitutional amendment version (HF 2738) and sending the voter ID question to voters. Efforts went forth to remove it from the ballot but the MN Supreme Court denied the challenge.
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.
UPDATE: Back in March, we turned our attention to the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. In the months since, we’ve crisscrossed the nation and detailed how the fights of 50 years ago are being resurrected today. The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen yesterday offered his own telling, invoking Dr. King’s famous quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice,” to break down the dangerous myths and machinations of voter suppression, concluding that “[t]hese new laws seek to bend the arc backward again, to take away from people their effective right to vote.” It’s important that we remain vigilant over the next nine weeks, so that on November 6 eligible Americans are able to cast a vote and have it count. In the words of LBJ, “Then with his vote and his voice he is equipped with a very potent weapon to guarantee his own dignity.” Click here and here for more from Andrew Cohen.
UPDATE: Federal District Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit against Election Day voter registration brought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, affirming its constitutionality. Secretary Ritchie praised the decision, saying Minnesota’s same-day voter registration serves as a model for our nation and, in part, accounts for our consistent top ranking in voter participation among all states. This ruling is a victory for voting rights, but the fate of Election Day registration is now in the hands of Minnesotans, who will vote on a constitutional amendment this November that would effectively eliminate it. For updates on all aspects of the fight over voter ID in Minnesota, click here.
UPDATE: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is now asking the state Supreme Court to reinstate Act 23 (aka AB 7) in time for it to apply in November. Along with the state Department of Justice, he will file a Petition to Bypass Court of Appeals and a Motion for Consolidation in both cases. League of Women Voters lawyer Lester Pines called the move a kind of a hail Mary pass by the Attorney General, and seemed confident that the Supreme Court would reject the requests. He pointed out that this is the same court that refused to immediately take up the cases earlier this year. Still, the voting rights supporters who originally brought cases are concerned and will fight the Attorney General’s requests. Meanwhile, two federal challenges to the law are currently pending, with hearings scheduled in October.
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.
In a ruling last week hailed by voting rights advocates, US District Judge Gregg Costa temporarily enjoined Texas Election Code provisions restricting voter registration, including those implemented by HB 2194, which has ALEC ties in author Larry Taylor and sponsor Mike Jackson.
Citing the Federalist Papers, Judge Costa wrote: