Strict voter-ID laws spurred massive opposition this year as GOP-dominated legislatures sought to prevent fraudulent voting that foes said happens so rarely that it's not even a statistical blip. What the initiators of these laws were actually trying to do was suppress the votes of people who are more likely to cast ballots supporting Democrats: minorities, low-income people, young people. But the courts, state and federal, sometimes with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a backstop, blocked most of the laws from going into effect, at least for the 2012 elections.
The fear among citizen advocates was that even though the laws weren't in effect, some voters would stay home out of confusion over whether they needed a photo ID and whether some poll workers would ask for IDs despite court rulings. We'll never know how many people may have stayed home because they were fearful, confused or poorly informed about the laws. We do know that some poll workers asked for ID even though they weren't supposed to, but that the instances of this occurring were apparently not frequent.
Suevon Lee at the Pulitzer-winning investigative website ProPublica reported:
Experts agree that much-assailed voter ID laws were less an issue in this election than limited early voting hours, lengthy ballots and precincts shuttered after Hurricane Sandy. These issues contributed to long wait times, prompting some to simply throw up their hands and give up on voting.There were anecdotal reports that voter suppression, including efforts to impose those strict ID laws, actually spurred black and Latino voters to turn out more than they would have otherwise. But ProPublica found evidence of this to be "spotty," at best. For instance, in Philadelphia, where the population is 57 percent African American and Latino, turnout dropped from 61.6 percent in 2008 to 59.7 percent this year. Barack Obama received some 5,300 fewer votes in the city in 2012 than he did four years ago.
“Of all the issues relating to voting rules, voter ID got the most attention but was probably the least significant, mainly because we didn’t have it in Pennsylvania,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine who specializes in election law.
In Pennsylvania, where some feared the state’s continuing efforts to advertise the new law would confuse voters, election officials were required to ask voters for ID , but were not allowed to prevent anyone from casting a ballot for failure to produce one.
“On November 6, it was a dry run just as it was in the (April 24) primary,” said Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director at the Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan voter education group in Philadelphia. “We don’t know how many people might have been confused and didn’t show up. Among the people that did show up, there was certainly some confusion out there. But I wouldn’t characterize it as so overwhelming that it disrupted the voting process.”
Rep. George Miller proposes plans to speed voting
Democratic Rep. George Miller of California has proposed legislation to speed up voting:
“Americans shouldn’t have to wait for hours and hours to cast a ballot – and the fact that they had to do so in the 2012 election is absolutely unacceptable,” Miller [said]. “Voting is one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy and we must ensure that that right is protected. What we’re proposing here is a very simple solution. We’re saying give voters in every state the opportunity to vote early so that they won’t be left out on account of a last minute illness, a change in work schedules, or unavoidable emergencies, and make sure that there are enough resources on Election Day so that voters casting their ballots in person are not forced to choose between waiting hours to vote or not voting at all.”In the Senate, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware introduced legislation to provide Justice Department grants to the states as incentives for upgrading their voting procedures. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia signed on as co-sponsor, taking note as he did so the long lines at the polls in his state last week.
The proposed legislation:
• Requires all states to provide for a minimum of 15 days of early voting in federal elections.
• Requires states to ensure that each voting precinct has sufficient poll workers, voting machines and other resources to ensure that voting lines do not exceed one hour, whether on Election Day or during periods of early voting.
• Requires states to have contingency plans in place to resolve situations in which long lines nevertheless develop.
“In Prince William County, folks waited for up to three hours. In Chesapeake, Va., folks waited up to four hours. It was remarkable that it was five days after the fact before we even knew the results in Florida,” Warner said on the Senate floor.No amount of funding was specified.
The Justice Department is also looking into ways to deal with long voting lines.
(Please continue reading about the War on Voting below the fold.)
• CREW files FEC and FBI complaints against Rove's Crossroads GPS: The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lodged complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the FBI alleging that the third-party election group Crossroads GPS failed to disclose donors who contributed $6 million to the Ohio Senate race of Republican Josh Mandel. CREW also claimed that Crossroads GPS specifically solicited contributions for Senate contests in Virginia, Montana and Nevada. Crossroads GPS was co-founded by Karl Rove, a long-time Republican operative known especially for his work on behalf of George W. Bush.
Under the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, third-party groups are not required to disclose the names of their donors as long as the money is not tied to specific campaigns. But Rove specifically noted at a secret fund-raiser that a donor contributed $3 million in matching dollars that were dependent on Crossroads GPS raising another $3 million for the Senate race in Ohio, which Mandel lost last week to incumbent Sherrod Brown.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said, “Karl Rove and Crossroads GPS didn’t just skirt around the edges of the law; this time it appears they jumped headlong into a criminal conspiracy.”
There is every likelihood that the toothless FEC will not investigate.
• In case you missed it: The retiring GOP party chief in Maine thinks there is something fishy about black voters showing up at the polls in rural parts of the state. But don't call him a racist, he says, because he plays basketball with blacks every Sunday.
• State senator says Romney would have won Wisconsin with voter ID: President Obama won the state by more than 200,000 votes. In the mind of Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, who made the voter-ID claim, that victory was a fraud perpetrated by the president's campaign team's busing in all those black people after they voted in Maine.
• Kansas secretary of state wants power to prosecute election crimes: The secretary, Kris Kobach, wants to overhaul how Kansas handles election fraud and to give his office the power to prosecute cases. He has sought this power before without success. But the newly elected state senate is more conservative. Currently, prosecution of election-related matters is left to county attorneys who put such cases on the bottom of the pile below violent crimes and the like.
The idea is to separate various forms of ineligible voters, such as felons who try to vote and people who try to vote in the wrong district, and create separate penalties, Kobach said.• Florida ballot initiative slowed voting. On purpose? Florida voters stood in line for as long as seven hours this year, and some people, including a couple of state legislators, think ballot issues that could have been handled by the legislature were intentionally put before the voters to slow down the lines of people waiting to cast their ballots. State Rep. Perry Thurston, the incoming House Democratic Leader, to Josh Israel at Think Progress:
“No one is going to be prosecuted for anything unless they have willful intent to break the law,” he said.
Without a doubt it was intentional. The items in those amendments were not items that needed to be placed in our constitution. Such a long ballot that requires so much reading, you see so many of them were defeated. That, along with the cutting back on the days for early voting, the hours. You could just see it coming and it was gonna be turmoil. […] It clearly was [the Republican majority's] intention to make it more difficult, and to discourage individuals. There is no way people should be waiting six to seven hours, but four to five hours is too long as well. It’s a sad reflection on our state when you require that kind of time to do something that’s not a privilege but a right.• Poll shows 88% of 2012 voters want federal voting standards
• Ad hoc coalition seeks voting changes in Florida: In the wake of the voting disaster in Florida last week, a group of labor unions, Democratic lawmakers and activists are calling on state authorities to take action so that next time voters don't wind up standing in line for six to nine hours to cast ballots in some counties. The coalition made nine recommendations to improve matters.
"This election cycle now marks 12 years of Florida being a voting disaster area," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a liberal civil rights group based in Washington, D.C.Later in the week, Gov. Rick Scott asked the secretary of state to meet with county election officials to discuss possible reforms.
For an executive official of the state to flout state law in arbitrarily reassigning a poll worker’s statutory duty to a voter, with the result being the disenfranchisement of the voter.But the appeals court disagreed in its stay order, arguing that Husted would probably prevail when the case is heard:
"Voting in the November 2012 election is now complete. Poll workers performed their duties during that election based on longstanding instructions provided by the secretary which put the voter in charge of writing down identification information," the appeals court said.• Republicans fail in effort to stop count of Latino votes in Arizona county: The vote in Cochise County, Arizona, for the state's 2nd District congressional seat included provisional ballots cast by Latinos that Republicans would mean their candidate, Martha McSally, couldn't beat incumbent Ron Barber in the state's 2nd District. So they tried to stop the count of those ballots for not being in sealed envelopes, even though that is not a requirement. They gave up the effort, however, agreeing to have the ballots counted but set aside so that they might challenged in the future. At press-time, Ron Barber, the incumbent in Gabrielle Giffords's old seat, was leading.
Opinions and Op-Eds
• How To Fix the Vote by the Jewish Daily Forward.
• Ten Things I Learned On (and Around) Election Day 2012 by Doug Chapin
• Outside Group Spending Controlled the 2012 Election Convresation by Meredith McGehee and David Vance
• Partisan bias in U.S. House elections by Rob Richie.
• Changing Times: The Courts and the Future of Voting Laws by Linda Greenhouse
• Is the Voting Rights Act Doomed? by Nathaniel Persily
• Rethinking Super PACs by Reihan Salam
• GOP’s gerrymandered advantages by Harold Meyerson
• 10 Right-Wing Election Myths Debunked by Reality in 2012 by Steven Rosenfeld
• Limiting Citizen United's ill effects by Erwin Chermerinsky
• Why the Voting Rights Act Likely Won't Survive Supreme Court Review by Brentin Mock
• Chief Justice Roberts's Iffy Support for Voter Rights by Rick Hasen