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This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

The Arkansas voting law twice ruled unconstitutional by a state judge is still on the books. And confusion about it is causing problems. The state supreme court vacated one ruling by state court judge Tim Fox, but the other is still being appealed.

While the recent Arkansas primaries were low-turnout elections, there is a high-profile Senate election this fall pitting incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor against Tom Cotton, one of the Republicans' best 2014 recruits in terms of optics and name recognition. It seems likely the same problems that state administrators are now shrugging off will appear in that election, according to Zach Roth at MSNBC. Among the issues:

[P]oll workers quizzing voters on their personal information, including address and birthdate, after being shown ID, and using electronic card strip readers to verify ID—both of which go far beyond what the law allows. Some voters without proper ID are said to have been wrongly denied provisional ballots. And large numbers of absentee ballots also are in danger of not being counted, thanks to the ID law.

“We’re hearing from some pretty steamed voters,” said Holly Dickson, a lawyer with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, citing “a smorgasborg of complaints and issues” about the law’s application. The ACLU is challenging the law in court.

On top of that are problems with absentee ballots. The law requires every voter, including those who vote absentee, to provide acceptable ID. Anyone who shows up at the polls without a proper ID are legally entitled to cast a provisional ballot that is counted if and when they return with ID soon afterward. But in some instances, according to Dickson, voters had to argue with officials to get their provisional ballot. Absentee ballots without proper ID are not counted. In St. Francis County, 83 of the 102 absentee ballots received for Tuesday's primary did not have ID included, and weren't counted.

There's more to read regarding the war on voting below the orange butterfly ballot.


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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signs reform voting bill: The law makes several changes in current law, including expanding the number of early voting days but does not include the Sunday before Election Day. That day is one that many African Americans have traditionally chosen to go to the polls together, often directly from church services. But municipalities will be allowed to have early voting on weekends.

Bay Staters will now be able to early-vote starting 11 business days and ending two business days before biennial elections.  

The law also establishes online registration and requires the creation of an online tool for voters to find out if they are registered and where they can vote. It allows 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote, but they must be 18 on Election Day to cast a ballot. Same-day registration was considered but did not make it into the law.

If the authors of a recent study are right, the law contains two big mistakes.

According to a study published late last year in the American Journal of Political Science—"Election Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform"—early voting decreases turnout by three to four percentage points, despite its popularity as a reform. The study compared states that have early voting with 15 that do not. It also showed same-day registration increased voter turnout by three to four percentage points where it has been adopted. A 2007 study found that voting by mail increased turnout, but other reforms had little or occasionally negative impact.

Outrageous Texas situation on voter ID ends in win for 92-year-old woman: The ridiculousness of the new Texas voter ID law was illustrated amply in the case of Ruby Barber. The law is the one the federal Department of Justice stopped under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Law of 1965, as amended. But when the Supreme Court overturned Section 4 of of the VRA, it made Section 5 moot until and unless Congress acts. So Texas immediately imposed the changes.

For Barber, 92 and frail, it meant trying to track down a copy of her nearly century-old birth certificate so she could get the kind of voter ID she previously never needed. And she didn't have a valid copy of the six documents the state allows citizens to present to be allowed to vote. Her Texas concealed gun permit would have worked, but she never had one of those. Her marriage license was burned in a fire more than 20 years ago. Her driver's license expired four years ago.

When she appeared with her Social Security card, Medicare card and driver's license to apply for an election identification certificate, state officials said nothing doing.

But, eventually, with a little help from bad publicity, the state got it together and found her birthdate in the 1940 Census and she got her EIC.

Barber first voted in 1944, casting a ballot for Franklin D. Roosevelt. She told the Waco Tribune she wants to vote for Texas governor and in the next presidential race:

“I want to see a Democrat win,” she said. “My daddy was a Democrat to the end of his life ... and he said, ‘Don’t none of you kids ever vote for a Republican.’ And I never have.”
Only property owners should vote says tea party wacko Rep. Ted Yoho.

Election turnouts for citizens with disabilities continues to fall below that of other voters.:

The Research Alliance for Accessible Voting used U.S. Census data to show in a survey report that there was a disability turnout gap of 7.2 percent during the 2008 presidential contest and 5.7 percent in 2012. [...]

In the United States, there are at least 35 million people with disabilities who are voting age, which is about 1 out of every 7 potential voters. That figure will grow as baby boomers age and begin to experience cognitive and physical declines. Plus, the number of voters with traumatic brain injuries—veterans or otherwise—keeps growing.

Drew Spencer for FairVote discusses a recommendation for upholding voting rights of overseas voters: It's ranked choice ballots for overseas voters for when an election may produce a run-off held soon after the initial contest. These make it hard or impossible for overseas citizens to vote in the run-off because of time constraints. By casting a ranked ballot, they can vote effectively in both elections.

Lucy Zhou at the Brennan Center discusses how to extend voting rights by executive action.

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