Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run by Mitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state's Voter ID law.It's also the law that, if it stands, will disenfranchise more than three quarters of a million Pennsylvania voters if it passes muster in the courts this month. That's one out of eleven Pennsylvanians, and in the city of Philadelphia, that’s closer to one in five. But, that's if the law stands.
Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
It's currently being challenged, and the Christian Science Monitor has an excellent story on 93-year old Viviette Applewhite—the "Rosa Parks of voter ID"—who along with the ACLU is leading that challenge.
What makes the Pennsylvania case special is that it relies on a volume of voter qualification evidence not present in the definitive 2008 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Indiana’s strict voter ID photo requirements by a 6-3 vote.This case could very well end up going to the Supreme Court, and could very well end up being the key to stopping the flood of latter-day poll taxes Republicans across the country are enforcing.
In the Indiana case, Justice John Paul Stevens, a traditional defender of civil rights, sided with the Supreme Court’s conservative majority because he found no evidence that Indiana’s photo-ID requirement imposed “excessively burdensome requirements.”
The carefully prepared Pennsylvania case suffers no such evidentiary lack. It has a series of plaintiffs, led by Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old black woman, who worked as a welder in World War II and later marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The difficulties, delays, and expenses that Ms. Applewhite and the other parties to her suit have experienced are documented in the lengthy brief submitted to the court. [...] Applewhite, who lacks a driver’s license but has consistently voted since the 1960s, has, for example, made three tries to get her birth certificate from Pennsylvania’s Division of Public Records. At the time the suit bearing her name was filed, she still did not have her birth certificate, despite paying the required fee.
For more of this week's news, make the jump below the fold.
In other news:
- This story from the AFL-CIO about a voter registration drive in Arizona is really inspiring:
Going door to door in a Phoenix neighborhood to register voters, Mari Yepez, a canvasser with UNITEHERE!, met a man who told her he didn’t believe in voting. Yepez, a student at Arizona State University who has worked with the union to mobilize residents around such issues as the state’s harsh immigration law and the struggle to find good jobs, shared with him how she had come to realize the importance of voting.If Mari Yepez can do it, in Arizona, you can too. Call your local Democratic Party and find out about registration drives in your area.
“We as a community have to come together to make this happen,” Yepez told him. “Imagine what we could do if we all joined together.”
The man ultimately not only registered to vote but was enthusiastic about going to the polls in November.
- The NAACP didn't just get talked at by Mitt Romney this week. They strategized and organized.
This year’s convention theme “NAACP: Your Power, Your Decision – Vote” focused on the importance and voter participation and the impact of voting on all aspects of our lives, including economic policy, health care, education and more. [...]You could call your local NAACP chapter, too, to volunteer to help them out, if you were so inclined.
The NAACP has already implemented efforts to mobilize Black voters – from supporting the Voter Empowerment Act, which focuses on guaranteeing early voting, allowing same-day registration, outlawing “voter caging,” counting provisional ballots, and penalizing voter intimidation – to activating its Election Day Command Center on Nov. 4. [...]
Many NAACP units will also provide rides to the polls for those who do not have transportation. This is My Vote, the only non-partisan 50-state electoral program in the country, will conduct a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign near Election Day. The campaign will use door-to-door canvassing, registration booths at public events and work with churches throughout the state to help attract and turn out new voters.
- An infuriating story out of Florida from Think Progress. Sabu Williams, president of the Okaloosa County NAACP, celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday by registering voters. In doing so, he ended up violating the new voter restrictive voter registration law. They were charged with being an hour late in getting the forms in. That's part of the infuriating thing, but not all. Read what the county election supervisor told him in a letter:
“We appreciate you going out and registering voters,” the letter read. “However, you were late for two of those and if you’re late anymore we’re going to turn this over to the Florida Department of Justice for prosecution.”A judge has since blocked this part of the law from being enforced. But it's not at all hard to fathom, from Mr. Williams' experience, what Florida is trying to achieve.
- Despite a Tennessee program, by the state, to provide photo IDs to would-be voters who do not have them, the program has reached just a fraction of the population it was particularly created for: seniors.
A unique Tennessee law allows residents over 60 to get driver's licenses without a picture. According to state records, more than 230,000 Tennessee seniors have such licenses—126,000 of whom are registered to vote —meaning they wouldn't be able to vote with those IDs. [...]There's likely as many as 300,000 eligible Tennessee voters who still lack the required ID. It might not make a difference in the presidential election, since Tennessee isn't likely to be a swing state, but it could very much affect state and local, and potentially federal, races.
But a Facing South public information request to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security revealed that only a fraction of the voters who likely need photo ID cards to vote are getting them.
In an email to Facing South, Jennifer Donnals of the department stated, "As of Monday, July 9 our department had issued 20,923 state IDs for voting purposes to citizens in Tennessee."
That figure would only cover 17 percent of Tennessee seniors who are registered to vote but who, according to state records, lack photos on their driver's licenses, potentially leaving as many as 100,000 citizens aged 60 and up without the needed identification to vote.
- Last week, the Justice Department blocked South Carolina from enforcing its new voter suppression laws. The state's governor, Nikki Haley, is undeterred, saying that the state will most certainly win the ensuing court challenge and will implement the discriminatory law. The problem?
The problem—well, one of the problems—is that the decision isn't expected until September. For those mindful of the calendar, this means South Carolina, if it wins in court, intends to put a new, dubious voting law into effect less than two months before Election Day.
Will there be time to educate voters about the strict requirements? No. Will there be time to train staffers at individual precincts? No. Will there be time to clarify logistical questions? No. But Haley doesn't care. She wants her law, gosh darn it, and she wants it now.
- Michigan Gov. Mitch Snyder might have done the right thing this time around by vetoing the voter suppression law passed by his state's legislature, but that doesn't mean he won't sign a future bill.
Spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Snyder does not believe the bills are voter suppression efforts as critics have charged. [...]
Wurfel said Snyder spelled out the changes he wanted to see in his veto messages, though he did not address the photo identification requirement in HB 5061, which drew the most fire from critics.
“The governor is not opposed to the photo ID requirement, which has been a part of Michigan law for some time,” she said.
- A long and thoughtful article at RH Reality Check details what is particularly at stake for a big segment of the population targeted by voter suppression: women.
The latest available figures show that only 48 percent of voting-age women with ready access to their U.S. birth certificates have a birth certificate with their current legal name. The same survey showed that only 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name.
Ultimately, these measures make the voting process more confusing and place additional burdens on groups who each had to struggle to obtain the right to vote and the right to access quality & affordable reproductive health care.
- And here's another exhaustive article on the scope of problems the nation faces in having a free and fair election in 2012. It's a sobering, but important read. Here's a snippet.
This fall’s potential problems begin with a new generation of voter suppression laws and aging voting machines in a handful of presidential battleground states. And other important factors are in play, such as election officials curtailing voting options due to fiscal constraints, the increasing age of poll workers—volunteers averaging in their 70s—who must referee an ever more complex process, and the likelihood that close races will end up in post-Election Day legal fights.
- Forewarned is forearmed. Right? While all these stories are discouraging, be heartened by the amount of attention they are getting. It means we're at least getting educated and getting prepared. But as long as I'm encouraging you to volunteer, why not be a poll worker this election?