As campaign season is getting into high gear, voter protection issues across the country are just starting to heat up. Check out a wrapup of voter protection news from across the country below.
Colorado: Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking for help in verifying a list of over 5,000 registered voters he believes may be non-citizens. His letter was joined by 11 other election officials from other states. The letter asks for a response by July 20. Colorado John Suthers sent DHS a separate letter stating that DHS is required under federal law to provide the information, and that the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated that requirement in its recent decision on Arizona’s immigration law.
Mississippi: Voters without a valid ID for voting in Mississippi could have a problem getting one. While the new law allows voters to obtain a voter ID for free, they must show a birth certificate. However, Mississippi law requires residents to show a valid photo ID to receive a copy of their birth certificate. No birth certificate, no ID. No ID, no birth certificate.
New Hampshire: The New Hampshire legislature was able to override a veto from Governor John Lynch to allow a voter ID bill to become law. For this year, the voter ID law will require voters to show one of the following IDs to cast a ballot: a driver’s license, a New Hampshire non-driver ID card, military ID, U.S. passport, a valid student ID card, or any other valid photo identification issued by federal, state, county, or municipal government. Voters that do not present an acceptable photo ID can fill out a voter affidavit and then cast a ballot.
Beginning in September 2013, student IDs and the category of “other” IDs issued by federal, state, county, or municipal governments will no longer be accepted. All IDs will have to either be valid or, if expired, list an expiration date within the last five years. Voters will be required to announce their name and address, for election clerks to record out-of-state drivers’ licenses on the checklist, and to photograph those without identification to be attached to affidavits swearing to their domicile. Those with religious objections to being photographed will be exempted from having their picture taken. New Hampshire will provide free non-driver ID’s to those that do not have acceptable ID to vote.
The legislature was also able to override a veto of a bill that requires anyone who registers to vote in New Hampshire to follow the laws that apply to all residents of New Hampshire, including applying for a New Hampshire drivers license and registering their motor vehicle within 60 days.
Both laws must now be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before taking effect.
North Carolina: Before the end of the legislative session, the House Speaker was unable to negotiate a bipartisan compromise to pass a voter ID bill that could receive enough votes to override Governor Bev Perdue’s veto.
Pennsylvania: Despite Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele’s claim that 99 percent of Pennsylvanians have a valid ID for voting this November, data released this week by state election officials showed that over 758,000 registered voters (9.2 percent of registered voters) in Pennsylvania lack a PennDOT issued ID.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, at a state Republican Party meeting, stated that the new voter ID bill will help Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania in November.
The 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are exploring ways to update student IDs to comply with the new voter ID law, either by issuing new IDs with expiration dates, or providing stickers with expiration dates for IDs.
The Department of State announced it will launch a $5 million campaign to educate Pennsylvania voters about the new voter ID law.
Tennessee: Last week, the city of Memphis unveiled new library cards that contain a photo ID that, the mayor claimed, can be used as ID for voting. However, the Tennessee election officials said that the library cards will not be acceptable. Additionally, Shelby County Election Commissioners announced that the photo library cards will not be recognized as voter identification when early voting starts on Friday. It appears the city of Memphis may bring a legal challenge to the voter ID law.
Texas: Last week, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia was hearing arguments over Texas’ voter ID law that was blocked by the U.S Department of Justice. The state of Texas plans on challenging the federal government’s authority to block legislation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Already, Texas’ election official Brian Ingram testified the law was necessary because of fraud. However, he admitted the cases of fraud he mentioned could be due to a clerical error and have not been sent to the attorney general for investigation. A couple of democratic lawmakers also testified that the bill was rushed through. A San Antonio teen took the stand and testified that she would be disenfranchised if the law went into effect because she lacks the proper ID and transportation to obtain one.