Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing the nation’s strictest voter photo ID law that could have denied more than 300,000 registered voters the right to vote in the Nov. 4 election.

The one-page order gives opponents of the law 90 days to file a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case. The court’s three most conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

It is estimated that some 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters—mostly African American, Hispanic, students and young voters (18–24) and those older than 65—do not currently have the types of IDs the law requires.

There have been a number of legal challenges to the photo ID law that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the Republican-majority state legislature passed in 2011. The most recent when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to block the ruling.

Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair says:

As we showed in the federal District Court, approximately 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters, disproportionately voters of color, lack the forms of ID that would have been required under the state’s restrictive voter ID law. These voters have a fundamental right to vote, a right that should not be denied by politicians who manipulate the voting rules weeks before Election Day. In a democracy, elections should be free, fair and accessible to all Americans.

Also announced yesterday, a federal judge struck down Texas’ very strict voter ID law.

On Oct. 8, the key parts of North Carolina’s restrictive voting rights law go forward, and last week the court allowed new voting restrictions in Ohio that severely curtailed early voting opportunities to go forward.

The Fair Elections Legal Network says that over the past two years, more than 30 states have introduced legislation or enacted laws that would curb voters’ access to voting. Find out more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

Horrible: Supreme Court Allows North Carolina’s Voting Restrictions to Go Forward

North Carolina AFL-CIO photo

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday allowed key parts of one of the most restrictive voting rights laws in the nation to go forward. A federal appeals court had enjoined the provisions and North Carolina officials asked the Supreme Court to stay that ruling.

The majority of justices who voted to stay the appeals court ruling that would have reinstated same day voter registration during the early vote period and allowed the counting of ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct did not comment on their reasoning.

But Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented, wrote that allowing the two provisions to stand “risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise” their right to vote.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted (5–4) the Voting Rights Act by eliminating a provision that allowed the federal government to step in and preserve the people’s right to vote in all or parts of 16 states with long histories of voter discrimination.

Justices Ginsburg said Sotomayor said North Carolina’s new restrictions on voting “likely would not have survived” scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act.

Studies show that in North Carolina, African Americans were more likely to use same-day registration than other groups. The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and organizer of the “Moral Monday” protests, said:

Tens of thousands of North Carolina voters, especially African American voters, have relied on same-day registration, as well as the counting of ballots that were cast out of precinct, for years.

The ruling means that Friday is the last day North Carolinians can register to vote. Find the latest information on voter requirements from the North Carolina Board of Elections.

The 2013 North Carolina law was pushed by extremist lawmakers, including North Carolina House Speaker and current U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory (R). It directly targets the voting power of working people by shortening early voting periods, imposing restrictive voter ID requirements in 2016, along with eliminating same-day voter registration. The law faces further legal challenges next year.

USA Today reports that Tillis trails Sen. Kay Hagen (D) by just two percentage points. Figures from the North Carolina State Board of Elections show that more than 21,000 voters registered and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2010, and more than 6,000 voters were able to have their ballots counted even though they voted in the wrong precinct.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Wisconsin’s strict voter photo ID law soon. Last week, the court allowed new voting restrictions in Ohio that severely curtailed early voting opportunities to go forward.

In a video posted Monday on the Department of Justice website, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said:

The early voting times targeted for cancellation, including weeknight and Sunday hours, previously provided critical opportunities for many people to get to the polls [and] disproportionately affect people with child care responsibilities, hourly salaries and reduced access to transportation—people who may have difficulty getting to the polls at any other time, and who are much more likely to be low income or minority individuals.

The Fair Elections Legal Network says that over the past two years, more than 30 states have introduced legislation or enacted laws that would curb voters’ access to voting. Find out more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Talk to Your Friends and Family About…Voting Rights

This is the first installment in a new series in which we give you advice on how to talk to your friends and family about key issues for working families. We know that with family and work responsibilities, you don’t have the time to do all the research on important topics you need to know about to be an effective voter, so we’re going to do that for you and provide you with the best information and messaging about how you can talk to your friends and family.

This time, we’re going to talk about voting rights. It’s an election year and we’re quickly approaching the time when you will be casting your ballot and making sure your voice is heard. Every state is different, though, in how you exercise those rights, and many states have different voting rules that have been passed in recent years. While there are many examples of states pushing laws to expand voting rights, there are also many politically motivated, partisan attempts to manipulate the outcomes of elections by changing the rules rather than by offering policies and politicians the people support.

In any conversation about politics, it is important to talk about values and to connect those values to real-world consequences for the average American. Across the political spectrum, Americans share the value that voting is a right that should be equally accessible to all citizens. A key component of democracy in the United States is the right to vote, and most Americans support keeping the right as free and as fair as possible.

Here are some of the most common topics and arguments you might encounter and the best ways to respond to those arguments:

“We need voter ID laws.”

While it is important to protect the integrity of our elections, the biggest fraud we face in our elections are laws that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast their ballot, particularly when those laws are attempts to manipulate the system and subvert the will of the people. Voter ID laws often require forms of identification that tens of millions of Americans don’t have and, in millions of cases, aren’t free or easy to obtain. Flexible voting laws, that guarantee election integrity and allow every American who wants to vote to do so, are vitally important.

“But everybody should have to show an ID to vote.”

The problem is that the new laws generally are so specific in what types of IDs they allow and these laws usually outlaw types of IDs that were previously acceptable without any real evidence that those types of IDs were associated with significant voter fraud. More than 10% of Americans lack a government-issued photo ID and the laws we’ve seen passed in the past four years are disproportionately likely to make it harder to vote for seniors, people with disabilities, students, women and many others.

“But you need an ID to fly or buy a beer.”

True, but if you can’t buy a beer because you don’t have the proper ID, it has no negative effect on the functioning of our democracy or your ability to express your right to vote. When eligible voters are denied the right to vote that undermines democracy and denies people’s rights.

“Early voting should be curtailed because it is a gateway to fraud and double-voting.”

Elections are the time when Americans are the most equal—we all have only one vote and nobody’s vote counts more than anyone else’s. Our elections should remain free, fair and accessible. Many people choose to vote early because of work or family responsibilities, because they are traveling or because they have transportation challenges. Early voting makes it easier for responsible voters to make sure their voice is heard. There isn’t significant evidence of fraud in early voting and it’s wrong to limit access to the ballot for political reasons.

“The system works fine as it is.”

If you are an eligible voter, you should face as few barriers as possible to casting your ballot. Our registration system is inconsistent from state to state and is vulnerable to human error (such as typos and lost or incorrectly entered forms), which can prevent citizens from voting through no error of their own. We can harness technology to modernize our system and give more options to register securely and conveniently. Voters shouldn’t lose their right to vote simply because they move, something that is happening more and more often in tough economic times.

If you or someone you know hasn’t updated his or her registration since moving or needs to register, registering to vote is easy and fast through the AFL-CIO’s TurboVote tool.

If you have questions on what is needed at your polling place on Election Day, check out the MyVoteMyRight website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

Governor Corbett Finally Pulls the Plug on ALEC Voter ID Law in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) will not appeal the Commonwealth Court’s recent decision to strike down the so-called voter ID law.

Gov. Tom Corbett put another nail in the coffin of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law on Thursday, announcing he would not appeal a judge’s decision that the law violated the fundamental right to vote.

The Republican governor issued a statement that defended the law, but he also said it needed changes and that he hoped to work with the Legislature on them.

We’ve written frequently about the voter ID law in Pennsylvania, which contained some of the most restrictive voting restrictions in the country. As many as 750,000 Pennsylvania residents lacked the ID required by the law, many of them seniors minorities, students, and low-income workers.

The law passed in March 2012 mirrored other “voter ID” bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide, all of them based on ALEC model legislation. Prominent ALEC member State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) was one of the laws main boosters in Harrisburg.

The state spent about $7 million trying to enforce the law, while at the same time making huge cuts to education and public services.

“That’s money that could have been spent elsewhere. It’s money that could have gone to schools,” said Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, “It’s money that could have gone to real voter education and that’s really a shame.”

According to MSNBC, Gov. Corbett “raised the idea” of fixing the voter ID law through the legislature, but “suggested it wasn’t a priority.

In 2012, Working America members made educating their communities about the potential new voting restrictions a top priority. Through canvassing, radio, social media, and simple conversations with friends and family, we educated an estimated 425,000 Pennsylvanians before the law was enjoined. The effort was chronicled in detail by Voting Rights News.

If Gov. Corbett is defeated this November, it may be a very long time before we see voter ID in the Keystone State.

Photo by @abc27news on Twitter

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pennsylvania Judge Rules Against ALEC Voter Suppression Bill, But the Fight Goes On

Last week, those of us who think voting should have equal access to the ballot received a bit of good news.

The voter suppression law passed in Pennsylvania in March 2012, one of the most restricting voting rights policies in the country, was ruled unconstitutional by a Commonwealth Court judge:

The Supreme Court worked quickly when it addressed voter ID in the run-up to the 2012 election, so it remains unknown whether voters will be required to show photo identification in the May primary.

For now, however, the law is invalid after Judge Bernard McGinley of Commonwealth Court found that it “unreasonably burdens the right to vote” and threatens a fundamental right of hundreds of thousands of qualified voters.

“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal,” the decision states.

The decision confirmed what Working America’s 500,000 Pennsylvania members already understood: The law threatened the constitutional right of Pennsylvanians to vote, and it disproportionately targeted the elderly, students and communities of color.

If that sounds awfully similar to other voting rights restrictions passed in other states, like Wisconsin and North Carolina, that’s no accident. The Pennsylvania voting rights law is based on an ALEC model bill, and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who shepherded the bill through the legislature, is an active ALEC member.

Republican legislators dismissed concerns that the law had been designed to depress Democratic turnout ahead of the 2012 election. However, Rep. Mike Turzai let it slip at a recorded meeting that “voter ID” would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

“[The] decision is a victory for working families in Pennsylvania,” said Catherine Balsamo, Senior Member Coordinator with Working America. “Folks deserve the right to advocate for themselves and their communities, and the right to vote provides that essential voice.”

In 2012, after the law’s passage, Working America members raised community awareness about the law to help everyday Americans know what they’d need to do to keep their right to vote.  Between our media presence, conversations with community members, online actions and more, Catherine, Benita and the Working America team reached an estimated 642,000 people with information about what they’d need to vote.

Our member Benita Campbell was active in that campaign. “It’s another feather in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hat, because it’s a continuation of our collective struggle,” she said of the decision. “It’s a wonderful way to honor him…If this ruling is upheld, we all win.”

So what’s next? Some Republican legislators are considering an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or even passing an entirely new bill that could pass constitutional muster. Hopefully, though, Gov. Corbett and his legislative allies will move on from political attacks on voters to the issues that our members actually consider: creating jobs, expanding Medicaid, and adequately funding Pennsylvania public schools.

Tags: , , , , , ,