Alabama

Voter rights protected in WI and FL, but new threats emerge

By Amanda Litvinov/photo of Wisconsinites waiting to vote by Pete Prodoehl

With reports of packed polls and record turnout coming in from across Wisconsin in the history-making recall election currently underway, let us all take a moment to be thankful for the March circuit court decision that struck down Gov. Walker’s voter ID law and protected the rights of all of the state’s eligible voters.

“A government that undermines the right to vote imperils its own legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people and especially of the people,” wrote Circuit Judge Richard Niess in his decision. “It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution.”

Too bad this basic principal of democracy seems to have been forgotten elsewhere. Here’s our roundup of voter suppression efforts that have been halted, and those that remain a threat.

 
THE GOOD NEWS
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects ethnic and language minority populations from discrimination—is doing its job. Three examples:

This week Florida’s elections supervisors put the brakes on a voter purge that targeted 2,700 residents flagged as possible non-citizens, set into motion by Gov. Rick Scott several weeks ago. The supervisors cited two reasons for the decision:  1. The citizenship information held by the Department of Motor Vehicles, which the elections division was instructed to use, is often outdated or incorrect; and 2. The Department of Justice asked the state of Florida to knock it off, as the purge violates Section 5 of the Voting rights Act.

Shortly after civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis reminded fellow Georgia lawmaker Rep. Broun that people lost their lives fighting for the right to vote in this country, Broun withdrew his proposed amendment to cut all funding for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (see the clip above).

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Selma County, Alabama’s constitutional challenge of Section 5. This means that the Department of Justice still must review and approve election-related changes in all or part of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination.

THE BAD NEWS
Voter ID laws are just one of the voter suppression tactics that make it harder for minorities, low-income citizens, the elderly, voters with disabilities, and students to cast a ballot. Such proposals are still on the table in Michigan, New Hampshire and Ohio.

But the threat level is even higher in Mississippi and Virginia: Earlier this month Gov. Phil Bryant (Miss.) and Gov. Bob McDonnell (Va.) signed into law legislation requiring all voters to have a photo ID to cast a ballot. But Mississippi lawmakers did not set aside money for the provision, and in Virginia, an Executive Order requiring the state to issue all registered voters a voter ID card will cost the state $1.36 million. Both laws are under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

THE UGLY NEWS
From Texas: At this point, a state-issued gun license qualifies as valid voter identification in the Lone Star State. A student ID does not.

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