The war on voting continues and we have updates in five states this week. (If you missed last week’s update, you can check it out here.)
The Missouri Senate passed legislation on Thursday, February 17 to amend the state constitution to allow laws requiring voters to show a Missouri ID at the polls. According to an article in the Kansas City Star, “Sen. Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, tweeted following the debate that the Senate had ‘just voted to disenfranchise at least 230,000 voters.’” (That is about the number of currently and lawfully registered Missouri voters who do not have a photo ID.)
If the measure passes in the House – and it took a step in that direction by being voted out of committee this week – it will be up to you, dear Missouri voters, to decide whether to pass the constitutional amendment and allow the photo ID legislation to go into effect. The question of changing the constitution to allow strict photo ID laws would be on the 2012 ballot.
Maine is also pushing to join the ranks of states that will force citizens to show a valid Maine ID on Election Day in an effort to stop the scourge of voter impersonation.
According to the Maine League of Women Voters, there have been two cases of voter fraud in Maine in the past 30 years, and both cases were inadvertent mistakes that would not have been prevented by a requirement for photo identification.
An estimated 100,000 Maine voters do not have valid photo identification, and many of them are elderly and poor, according to Ann Luther of the League of Women Voters.
To avoid violating the 24th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids poll taxes, the state would be required to provide people with free photo identification, she said.
The Iowa clerks, who are responsible for running elections in the state, came out this week against tougher voter ID laws. The news is noteworthy because 60 percent of the county clerks are Republicans and they came out against the Republican legislature’s and Governor’s proposal. According to the Des Moines Register, the clerks concluded that a new law would be ” expensive, would pinch voter turnout — and is unnecessary”:
“We already have a very secure elections process. It doesn’t seem to make good sense in tough economic times to increase the costs and make it more difficult to vote,” said Tom Slockett, Johnson County’s 34-year elections chief.
In a state where the new Republican majority has proposed to pass photo ID legislation in the first 100 days, North Carolina college voters could be really out of luck. New voter ID requirements would only apply to one kind of voter – someone who goes to the polls – but not others (those who request an absentee ballot and vote by mail). Poll voters would be forced to present ID at the polls while mail-in absentee ballot voters would not have to show any ID.
Could this be because of partisanship? According to Democracy North Carolina, most absentee ballots in North Carolina are requested by Republicans, while college students tend to vote for Democrats. Hmmm.
On Wednesday, a coalition of voting rights groups came to the Capitol in Raleigh to demand that legislators “Respect My Vote,” including Common Cause NC, NAACP, Democracy North Carolina, NC A. Philip Randolph Institute, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the League of Women Voters, NC Fair Share, Unifour Onestop Collaborative, the Institute for Southern Studies and more. Students from several Historically Black Colleges and Universities were on hand, as well.
You can listen to and read stories from just some of the hundreds of thousands of voters that could be disenfranchised by a voter ID law at: http://www.democracy-nc.org/VoterIDStories.html.
Some encouraging organizing news in New Hampshire: students at Dartmouth are uniting across party lines to fight back House Bill 176. The bill would stop college students from being able to vote in state or local elections if they have not lived in New Hampshire for at least a year before enrolling in a New Hampshire college or university.
The College Democrats, College Republicans, College Libertarians and Student Assembly, in addition to various other student and Greek organizations, cosponsored an event about the legislation. You can read about it here.
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Check back for more updates soon. Suppression is un-American. Join the fight here.