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    Archive for the
    ‘War on Voting’ Category

    The Unsupervised Classroom: Why Changes to the VRA Opened a Can of Worms

    Monday, February 3rd, 2014

    I’ve got good news and bad news…and for the sake of ending on a good note, I’ll start with the bad:

    In the summer of 2013, the US Supreme Court reviewed and phased out section 4b of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). (You can read section 4b of the VRA of 1965 here.)

    If all of this doesn’t seem like a big deal, think again. Say “Goodbye,” to Federal Preclearance and brace yourself for the wrath of States Rights.
    Imagine a classroom full of 5th graders. Now, imagine the teacher leaving the classroom unattended for a few minutes. We’ve all experienced it, the classroom becomes a free-for-all: some kids stand on chairs, some throw paper balls, and others take out snacks to sneak a munch or three. Let’s not apply this analogy too strictly, but in a way, when the Supreme Court eliminated section 4b of the VRA, some states took on the persona of an unsupervised 5th grader. In this situation we have 3 students: Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

    Student One: Arizona. Here, it is now required that citizens submit “sufficient” proof of citizenship in order to vote in the upcoming election. (A list of acceptable documentation for proof of citizenship is here.)

    What does this mean? Voters who register with the federal form, and those who have recently moved (since they will have to register in a new county) will be excluded from voting in the upcoming state/local level elections (Governor, Attorney General, etc…) unless they provide additional/affirmed documentation of citizenship.

    *cough* SHOW ME YOUR FREEDOM PAPERS! *cough* Excuse me.

    Student Two: Kansas, where a similar approach has been taken on, first time voters are being prompted to provide proof of citizenship, in addition to fulfilling the requirements on the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) federal form.

    What does this mean? New registrants cannot vote in federal elections unless they provide proof of citizenship. In the event that the new voter sends in the NVRA form only, he/she will be placed on a “suspense list” and will not be permitted to vote until providing proof of citizenship.

    Student Three (my personal favorite): Gool Ol’ Texas, which is prompting voters to provide a photo ID when voting in person.

    What does this mean? Texas voters are now required to present an approved form of photo identification in order to vote in all Texas Elections. (Here is a list of the acceptable forms of photo ID.) Seems fair enough, but what makes this law particularly tricky is that it disproportionately affects minority voters.

    Since elimination of section 4b interferes with enforcement of section 5, lets just say that the Supreme Court opened a figurative can of worms. And while there is nothing wrong with States’ rights, lest we forget, in the past they have been used to justify some more than questionable policies—such as Jim Crow and discriminatory marriage laws.

    Now here’s the good news:

    It’s up to us as to combat voter disenfranchisement. We can pressure our lawmakers by informing, educating, uniting, writing letters, emails, making phone calls and most of all voting. While we may not have the same views, it is our responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard.

    “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” – Justice Ginsburg

    I have a feeling this is the start of what will be an…interesting few years for voter rights in the upcoming elections. Be sure to stay tuned to Rock the Vote for updates and followups on the VRA and state voter legislation.

    And remember…don’t ditch your water repellant gear just yet, it’s still raining out there.

    Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire
    Bio: Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire is currently a senior at Howard University. Majoring in Political Science and minoring in Swahili Studies, she plans to attend law school in the fall of 2015. An avid biker, knitter, painter, movie enthusiast, music junkie, reader and writer, she takes on all tasks with the utmost tenacity and dedication. She also has many leather-bound books, and her apartment smells of rich mahogany.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Supreme Court Arizona v. ITCA Ruling

    Monday, June 17th, 2013

    The Supreme Court has been faced with several major decisions that will change the course of crucial issues, such as voting rights and marriage equality. One of these is the Arizona v. Intertribal Council case – and the Supreme Court ruled on it today.

    The Justices ruled in a 7-2 decision that the Arizona state law requiring people who were registering to vote in federal elections to show proof of citizenship is preempted by the National Voter Registration Act. Under the NVRA, people only need to show valid ID, but no legal proof of citizenship at the time of registration. The case was brought forth by several Native American tribes, civil rights groups and Arizona residents who argued that the state law, known as Proposition 200, barred otherwise eligible voters from casting a ballot.

    In this landmark case, the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the NVRA. A big win for voters! Here are Rock the Vote, we are grateful for today’s victory, but the fight for equal rights, access, and opportunity continues; and Rock the Vote will continue to push forward with advocacy that supports the legacy of the NVRA and work to make the basic American right to vote available to all those who are eligible.

    Join us in this effort. Take a stand for the right to vote at www.rockthevote.com/wewill/issues/voting-rights/. Together, we will work towards a modern voting system that is inclusive and equal.

    Bio: My name is Jen Yam and I am a rising senior at Duke University pursuing a public policy major and neuroscience minor. I am a New York native and love music (both playing and listening) and reading. I am working in the political department here at Rock the Vote for the summer.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    The end of college voting in North Carolina?

    Friday, June 8th, 2012

    I grew up in North Carolina, and I go to college at Duke University. Even though my driver’s license has my home address on it, I chose to register and vote at college for a variety of reasons – we have an early voting site on campus, I can walk in and vote with just my college ID card to prove my residency, and I would have to go home or vote using an absentee ballot otherwise. At a college with the vast majority of students hailing from outside of the state, many other students also choose to vote on campus.

    However, last year, the North Carolina state legislature passed a bill that would require residents to have a state-issued ID in order to vote. While it was vetoed by the governor, the bill is back on the agenda, and it only needs a few members of the state house to change sides in order to override the veto. The original bill may need to be watered down before passage, but both versions would lead to massive drop-offs in the rate of college voting.

    The forms of identification that may be provided include “bank statement, utility bills, or any government documents with name and address” in addition to driver licenses, passports, and new voter registration cards. Most students living in on-campus dorms have none of these, and if they do, they usually contain the student’s home address. It remains to be seen whether tuition bills would be acceptable as a form of identification, but requiring students to bring another piece of identification to vote will decrease turnout. The bill does not allow student IDs to be used as identification, even those issued by state universities such as UNC. Right now, my college ID card is proof of my residency in the dorm and I do not need a photo ID to vote. I do not have any pieces of identification that could be used to vote at school – I would be forced to vote at home.

    Voter fraud isn’t exactly a pervasive problem. As WRAL News reports, “In 2011, the North Carolina State Board of Elections identified 12 non-citizens who had improperly voted in a North Carolina election. That’s 12 out of 6.3 million registered voters.” There is no need to put more restrictions on voting. If this voter suppression bill is passed, it will place an undue burden on thousands of college students wishing to vote.

    David Winegar
    Bio: David Winegar is the Digital Media intern for Rock the Vote. He is a sophomore at Duke University.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Primary Day in New Hampshire

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

    It is Primary Day in New Hampshire. The first primary in the 2012 contest. And while voters are heading to the polls for the Democratic and Republican primaries (polls close at 7pm!), some misinformation is being spread about the voting laws.

    So here is the low-down:

    1/ If you are registered to vote already, you do not need to bring ID to the polls.
    2/ If you are not registered to vote, you can do so at the polls today (!) and you must bring proof of who you are and where you live (utility bill, student ID, etc)

    Last year, the state of NH tried to pass legislation that would make it nearly impossible for out-of-state students to vote, end same-day voter registration, and require very specific voter ID at the polls. But students and citizens in NH rallied and won! The measures were all rejected.

    But today there has been a bunch of confusion caused by misinformation about voting rights flying around NH.

    Check out this message from Rock the Vote’s Amanda Brown (who used to be a student voter in NH) as she sets the record straight.

    If you have questions about election information, go to electionland.com for more information.

    And, clearly the attempts to make it harder for students to vote whether through laws or confusion are not going away. Rock the Vote will be fighting back. If you want to help, sign up to join our ‘Rock the Vote, Don’t Bock the Vote’ campaign.


    Heather Smith
    Bio: Heather is President of Rock the Vote.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    War on Voting Update

    Friday, May 27th, 2011

    The following post originally appeared at CampusProgress.org.

    Though the perception is that photo ID battles are slackening a bit, this week’s blog post proves that overall voter suppression efforts are not.

    The Good News

    Minnesota: Governor Mark Dayton (D) vetoed Minnesota’s photo ID bill yesterday. On the down side, lawmakers have also introduced a bill to put a photo ID constitutional amendment on the ballot for 2012. It hasn’t been brought to the floor in either chamber yet, but we may see it move now.

    California: Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed bills relating to online voter registration and a conditional form of same day registration. Though both would only be open to people with a California driver’s license or state identification card, these reforms would represent giant leaps forward in how California administers elections.

    Pennsylvania: The House failed to take action on the photo ID bill this week, buying a little more time. It will likely come up for consideration of amendments and a final vote when the House returns from recess the week of June 6. Last week the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an op-ed on the bill by FELN President Robert M. Brandon.

    South Carolina:Following Governor Nikki Haley’s Black signing of the photo ID bill with a Black Eyed Peas soundtrack last week, you might be thinking there’s no way South Carolina could be in the “Good” column. However, due to South Carolina’s history of racial discrimination, the law must receive approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before it can be implemented, and members of the South Carolina Progressive Network are working on building the case for its rejection.

    The Bad News

    Wisconsin: Governor Scott Walker (R) signed Wisconsin’s voter suppression bill into law Wednesday. Among other things, the bill:

    • Changes Wisconsin’s residency requirement from 10 days to 28 days before an election (effective immediately – impacting upcoming special and recall elections);
    • Shortens the early (absentee by mail or in-person) voting periods (effective immediately – impacting upcoming special and recall elections);
    • Enacts a strict photo ID requirement starting with the 2012 Primary election. Student IDs will be accepted if they contain the student’s photo, signature, and an expiration date no later than 2 years after the date of the election. Student IDs in WI do not currently meet these requirements, so expensive overhauls will have to be undertaken for students to be able to use their college/university ID cards as voter ID;
    • Even though ID isn’t required until 2012, poll workers will have to ask voters for ID at the polling place during upcoming elections – a “trial run” sure to cause widespread confusion and have a chilling effect on participation;
    • College student voters who need to prove their residency and are using their student ID must also provide a fee payment receipt from their school dated no more than 9 months prior to the election or must appear on a certified list of on-campus students provided by their university or college to the clerk.

    Tennessee: A photo ID bill was passed and sent to the Governor Bill Haslam (R) for signature on Monday. On Monday Governor Haslam also signed into law a proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration, effective January 1, 2012.

    Texas: Governor Rick Perry (R) has until Monday to sign, veto, or let pass without signature the photo ID bill passed by the legislature last week. His staff is reportedly reviewing it. But since Perry declared voter photo ID an emergency issue this legislative session, there is little doubt he will sign. Due to its history of discrimination, Texas is another state that must receive federal approval for changes to its voting laws, so the bill will still need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice or the D.C. federal district court before it can be implemented.

    Missouri: This week ourthoughts are with the victims of violent storms and flooding in Missouri. Understandably, we are still waiting to see if Governor Jay Nixon decides to veto recently passed legislation, which would automatically enact a photo ID requirement if voters approve a proposed constitutional amendment in 2012. He has until July 14 to decide.

    North Carolina: Last week,the House approved a bill to shorten early voting from two weeks to one week. Director of Elections Gary Bartlett has reportedly written in a memo to State Elections Board members that the bill would likely cause longer lines at the polling place and actually cost the state more money to run elections. The extra costs are attributed to an anticipated increase in the need for absentee ballots and additional Election Day polling locations.

    New Hampshire: When we last blogged, the House had passed an amended version of the Senate photo ID bill and sent it to the Finance Committee. This week, the Finance Committee approved the bill in an 18-8 vote, with two Republicans voting against the bill alongside Democrats. This sends it back to the House floor, where it is scheduled for a vote next Wednesday. It is expected to pass and be sent back to the Senate, where it could go to the floor immediately or be sent to a conference committee.

    Maine: Action on a bill to end Election Day Registration was expected in the House yesterday, but it didn’t run. The bill, which would close in-person registration on the third day before an election, is expected to be taken up next week. Separately, we remain concerned about pending photo ID legislation that could still move.

    Ohio: The recently-passed House elections bill has now been referred to the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee. This week, the Senate passed its own omnibus bill, sending it over to the House, where it will be referred to committee. The Senate bill, drafted in large part by Secretary of State Jon Husted’s (R) office and anticipated to be the vehicle through which changes end up being made, would (among other things): eliminate Golden Week (when Ohioans can register to vote and cast an absentee ballot at the same time) by shortening the absentee voting windows, and prohibit counties from sending out absentee ballot applications unless they are specifically requested. Absentee voting by mail would be shortened to a 21-day period. Absentee in-person voting (known as “early voting”) would be reduced to 16 days, prohibited on Sundays, and eliminated entirely on the weekend before Election Day.

    Rhode Island: The photo ID bill passed by the Democratic-majority Senate was referred to the House Judiciary Committee last week.

    Tobin Van Ostern
    Bio: Tobin is a Network Associate with Campus Progress and appears as a guest blogger for RTV.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com