Will it make a difference about who gets Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes? Right now, a poll by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall shows President Obama holding a 6-point lead. That's in line with previous polls by various organizations in the past couple of months. But will the voter ID law have a negative impact on turnout of Democratic voters as critics of the law have claimed?
"The reality is it [voter ID] will not have much effect—if anything it will boomerang" against the Republicans, agreed Larry Ceisler, the veteran Philadelphia-based political analyst. He speculated that it might affect some local races, which could be decided by a handful of votes.Perhaps. But, as David Dayen points out, this is all about shaving votes off the margins when one or two percent points could make a difference, not just in local races but all the way to the top of the ticket.
The New York Times editorial board has weighed in on the decision:
There is no evidence that Judge Simpson contorted law and precedent to reach his conclusion. He even described Mr. Turzai’s comment as “disturbing” and “tendentious.” But his ruling, in a case brought by potentially disenfranchised voters, is a clear and disturbing illustration of the way Republicans have manipulated legislation for their own ends, placing a veneer of civic responsibility on a low-minded and sleazy political ploy.•••
The real reasons for voter ID laws are quite clear. The desire to dampen the Democratic vote after 2006—and particularly in the wake of President Obama’s election—prompted six states to decide, virtually simultaneously, to pass voter ID laws.
Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell have written an excellent analysis for NBC's Open Channel regarding the impact of photo ID laws on the Latino vote in Texas and other states with large Latino populations. Latinos have comparatively low voter participation rate. Although 600,000 of them become eligible to cast ballots every year, only about 30 percent of them actually do so. That could change, and in eight states, Latinos could come to dominate the political scene over the next one to three decades, depending on which state is being considered.
Expectations among groups such as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials are that the Latino vote percentage this year will be a good deal higher than in 2008. Given the distaste with which the majority of Latinos have for the Republican Party, it is no surprise that suppressing their votes is part of a GOP-led campaign.
In Texas, Republicans have passed legislation requiring a government ID card to vote and has made it more difficult for people to acquire such cards. The argument for doing so, as is the case elsewhere, is to prevent voter fraud. But, Ruta and Russell write that of the 100 cases Texas says it has investigated in the past decade, only 10 have led to convictions, and only one of those was for voter impersonation at the polls where a photo ID might have made a difference.
The state has 13 million voters, so the ID requirement is clearly a solution in search of a problem, as one legislator put it. Implementation of the law is pending a federal district court ruling. Estimates of how many voters lack the required ID in Texas range from the state's claim of 167,724 to the 1.5 million claimed by the U.S. Justice Department.
The low level of fraud is also the case in other states with large Latino populations whether they require photo IDs or not. In Colorado, for instance, a non-photo ID is required. There have been 21 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, only three for impersonating a voter. It is unclear from the data available whether these three were in person or by mail. Colorado legislators have considered but not passed photo ID laws in each of the past eight years.
In New Mexico, the state which has the highest concentration of Latino voters at 38 percent, there is no photo ID requirement. The state attorney general's office says there has never been a conviction for voter fraud. The legislature has rejected proposed photo ID laws there in each of the past four years.
(Continue reading about the war on voting below the fold.)
- Democrats and New Jersey Action have joined forces to ensure that a voter photo ID requirement does not become law in the Garden State. Three Ocean County Republicans have introduced such a bill. But both houses of the legislature are dominated by Democrats, so passage is highly unlikely. Just to be certain, however, a few Democrats and NJA members are getting the word out. There were at a senior apartment building Thursday to make their case.
“There are 21 million Americans that don’t have photo IDs. Eighteen percent of them are seniors, 25 percent—one in four—are African-Americans, 20 percent are students,” said Assemblyman John McKeon. “So two-thirds of that number are from constituencies that are frankly likely to vote Democratic.”
- A federal court has ruled that restrictions on early voting hours discriminate against African Americans in five counties of Florida and must be changed. [See analysis here.] The restriction on hours may discriminate in other counties, too, but the court only had jurisdiction in those counties under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It requires that 16 states or counties without states must pre-clear any major changes in voting procedures because of their past racial discrimination at the polls. Florida may therefore have two different early-voting regimens this year, one for those five counties and one for the rest of the state.
- In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted imposed standard early-voting hours statewide Thursday. [See analysis here.] The change was made under pressure from voter-advocacy groups complaining that election boards in Republican counties were extending early voting hours while election boards in Democratic counties were curtailing them with Husted's assistance. The boards are composed of four members evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Democratic board members in Republican counties were voting for extending hours, but Republican board members in Democratic counties were voting to curtail hours and Husted was weighing in with the tie-breaking vote in favor of keeping the hours short. This would have a discriminatory impact on minority voters.
Given the heat behind the scenes and in the media, critics were hoping Husted might extend the hours statewide. Instead, he chose to limit early-voting hours everywhere. Thus, there will be no weekend early voting and very limited early voting in the evenings.
- A spokesperson for a Virginia advocacy group says the state's proposed voter photo-ID law is reminiscent of the "Jim Crow" South and is part of "bare-knuckle attempts to keep the working poor, people of color and the wrong kind of women away from the polls." An ad hoc coalition of three progressive groups in the state seek reform on voting in Virginia, specifically passage of no-excuse absentee balloting and a new approach to restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time. The state now has one of the most restrictive restoration laws in the country.
- Democratic county clerks in Arkansas are irked that a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Reed has disparaged them for supposedly being apathetic about undocumented immigrants illegally registering to vote. Reed said on tape:
"That's why I preach around to the county officials that it's so important to have a Republican county clerk in every county," he said. "Because that's the main person there and that's who we work with the most. Either through error, they register and have the wrong address and it's, 'Oh well,' they're registered voters.'"
The Arkansas Association of County Clerks issued a statement, saying, among other things: "What's in question—is Reed implying that Democrat county clerks are not upholding voter laws? And what evidence is there that illegal immigrants have registered to vote?" Democrats blasted the GOP for failing to criticize Reed's remarks.
- New York is upgrading its online voter registration, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday:
"Today, we are knocking down longstanding barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the democratic process, while creating a more streamlined and more efficient system that will save taxpayers' money. At the DMV, or in their own homes, New Yorkers will now have a convenient and secure way to ensure they are able to register and exercise their right to vote." [...]
New York currently ranks 47th in the nation in voter registration, with less than 64% of eligible residents registered to vote.
- A U.S. district court judge dismissed a broad challenge to Minnesota voting laws on Friday. The ruling reaffirmed same-day voter registration. The lawsuit filed by a Republican state legislator, the Minnesota Voters Alliance and the Minnesota Freedom Council claimed, among other things, that election officials did not confirm the eligibility of those registering on election day before those votes were counted.
But Judge Donovan Frank stated that the claim was "based on the erroneous premise that elections official must verify voters' eligibility before their votes are counted. Under Minnesota election statutes, voters themselves certify their eligibility to vote, under threat of criminal prosecution if they do so falsely."
The Minnesota Voters Alliance is also behind a proposed amendment that would require a photo ID to vote. A case challenging aspects of the amendment is pending before the state supreme court.
Daily Kos War on Voting stories this week:
• Pennsylvania voter ID law upheld, for now by Adam B
• Is the Ryan Pick doubling down on Voter Suppression? by BruceMcF
• Pittsburgh Stealers: The Voter ID & Paul Ryan Strategy by CrazyHorse
• Ohio secretary of state sets early voting hours the same for all counties by Meteor Blades
• Florida plans to keep purging voters by Meteor Blades
• Ethnic Voter Cleansing by Words in Action
• Voter Fraud discovered! by litho
• Voting Rights: Information/Action Plans? by jmls qkw
• Jim Crow? What You Need to Know About Your Right to Vote by Susan form 29