Primaries offer first major test of voter ID laws

Citizens in 10 states required to show a photo identification before voting
Associated Press
Mar 1, 2014

In elections that begin next week, voters in 10 states will be required to present photo identification before casting ballots — the first major test of voter ID laws after years of legal challenges arguing that the measures are designed to suppress voting.

The first election is March 4 in Texas, followed by nine other primaries running through early September that will set the ballot for the midterm elections in November, when voters decide competitive races for governor and control of Congress.

The primaries will be closely watched by both sides of the voter ID debate, which intensified in 2011, the year after Republicans swept to power in dozens of statehouses.

For months, election workers have been preparing new voting procedures, while party activists and political groups seek ID cards for voters who do not have them.

The debut of the new laws in a few smaller-scale elections over the last year has already exposed some problems, such as mismatched names, confusion over absentee voting provisions and rules that require voters to travel great distances to obtain proper documentation. In one case, voters had no recourse if their credentials were challenged.

"Unless people are paying attention, and a lot of them aren't, they don't even know this law exists," said Brian Schoenman, secretary of the elections board in Fairfax County, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb.

Supporters of the measures, mostly Republican conservatives, contend the ID checks protect against fraudulent voting and thus help build trust in government. Critics see them as a way of discouraging the kind of voters who lack picture IDs and might be more likely to support Democrats.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that states can require voters to produce photo ID at the polls without violating their constitutional rights. And last year, the high court threw out a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act, a decision that allowed voter ID laws to take effect in states where voting procedures had been under strict federal oversight for nearly 50 years.

Georgia and Indiana adopted some of the first voter ID laws. This year, in addition to the Texas law, new or stricter photo-identification voting laws take effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.

Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have approved similar action, but those measures are on hold because of court challenges. In Mississippi, black lawmakers have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to block their state's law.

When Arkansas held a special legislative election in January, dozens of mail-in absentee votes were thrown out after voters failed to include a copy of their photo ID with their ballot. The Arkansas law, passed over Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto, did not address absentee voting, and the GOP-controlled Legislature is not expected to take it up during the 2014 session.

The law allows voters without photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, but the ballot will not be counted unless they show identification by the Monday after the election.

"This is in no way an effort to suppress any valid vote," said GOP state Rep. Andy Mayberry, who supported the law. "It's a measure to help secure the credibility of our elections."

Arkansas voters will have two important races to decide this year. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, is expected to face an aggressive challenge from Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. A competitive contest for governor is also unfolding, with Republican former Rep. Asa Hutchinson likely to run against Democrat Mike Ross.

The higher-than-normal turnout expected for the midterm election will only compound the problems that emerged during the January election, according to Craighead County Election Commission Chairman Scott McDaniel, a Democrat.

"I foresee a great number, an unacceptable number of absentee voters to be disenfranchised because of this whole deal, and I don't like it," McDaniel said.

Virginia could be particularly confusing. Majority Republicans enacted a law requiring proof of identification, but no photo, in 2012. Last year, they amended the law to require photo ID to vote but set the effective date for the new law as July 1.

Virginia's primary is June 10, when voters will not be required to present a photo. But in November, they will.

"What I'm worried about is you've got a good number of communities of elderly, and foreign-born citizens who speak different languages," Schoenman said. "And we'll only have four months to get ready."

The state has about 330,000 more registered voters than licensed drivers, which is why minority Democrats last week unsuccessfully sought $250,000 to pay for the photo ID cards voters must have by November.

Democrats will be seeking to safeguard every potential vote. Last year's attorney general race was decided by 11 votes. This fall, the Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Warner is on the ballot, and the GOP needs to gain only six seats to claim the majority.

In Texas, as many as 600,000 voters could be prevented from having their ballots counted because of the state's newly enacted photo ID law, according to officials with Battleground Texas, a Democratic-leaning group aimed at helping register new voters.

One third of Texas' 254 counties do not have Department of Public Safety stations that can provide the cards. That means voters without proper identification have to drive more than 200 miles to get a card, provided they have the proper documentation, such as a birth certificate.

Still, state GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said few problems popped up with the law during last year's election, a low-turnout affair that included constitutional changes but only drew about 10 percent of the electorate.

"The law has already been tested and performed quite well. I see no reason for concern," Munisteri said.

The 10 percent were devout voters, well aware of the new requirements, said Dana DeBeauvoir, election commissioner in Travis County, which includes Austin.

"This was not a population that needs extra support," she said. "Where we're going to see the problem is in November."

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University is suing Texas and states with similar laws, but it's not clear whether the lawsuits will be decided by November.

"We have shown already that these laws correlate with places that had demographic changes that currently favor Democrats," said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Institute's Democracy program. "When you look at these things together, what's going on is discrimination."

 

Comments

jacksonbrowne

Every day, rich & poor, need an id for one reason or another and this should be no different.

Bottom Line

And that really should be end if story right there.

JudgeMeNot

Libers are butt-hurt over getting ID cards. How typical of the bunch of race card pullers.

oher332

>>>>//// Start working at home with Google! Just work for few hours and have more time with friends and family. I earn up to $500 per week. It's a great work at home opportunity. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. Linked here http://7.ly/egQy

Simple Enough II

+1

The Big Dog's back

Jim Crow making a comeback.

deertracker

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee's BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JudgeMeNot

Awww, the poor people who cannot get an ID card. Boo-f%^&in-hoo.

SamAdams

Wow, look at Big Dog suggesting that black people are too stupid, too ignorant, or too irresponsible to get photo IDs. Because that's what you're saying, isn't it, buddy? That Voter ID laws suppress the black vote?

Drivers licenses and passports are obvious forms of photo ID. But not everybody drives, and certainly not everybody needs a passport. For those folks, there's the handy dandy State ID card. Which, as it happens, is available for FREE for those who can't afford to pay for it.

I suppose there's something to the idea that anybody who doesn't get themselves a photo ID, especially when one is required for myriad transactions in today's world, really IS stupid, ignorant, or irresponsible. But I'm pretty sure that's not limited by race!

The Big Dog's back

So poor people should have to go 200 miles to get an ID? Really sam?

Contango

Re: "poor people,"

So how do these 'hypothetical' "poor people" prove their identity currently to cash a check, drive, et. al?

jacksonbrowne

Go to the food pantry? Need ID. Apply for Snap card? Need ID. Buying booze? Stores can ID. Doggiedo stop playing the "people can't get id's" card as it is getting old. If they truly want to vote and don't have an ID they will find a way to get one.

Contango

Good points!

Elk Grove Village, IL, city ordinance:

EVERYONE regardless of age MUST show an ID to purchase alcohol.

Is the act of voting less important?

deertracker

Happy White History Month Sham and jackassbrowne!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JudgeMeNot

Libertards butt-hurt over an ID card. Hillaryous.

coasterfan

Sam: No, that's not what Big Dog is saying. It's a personal lack-of-money issue. How this actually tends to play out is this: you'll have an old, infirm minority voter who lives in poverty on the southeast end of a city in poverty. They don't own a car and, due to continued GOP cuts to food stamps and other services they need to just get by day to day, they have zero money for anything extra. They suddenly learn that they need to purchase a government-issued ID, and that the only place they can get one is at a government office on the far end of town.

Instantly, it's a much bigger challenge for them to vote. They have to find money for public transportation to/from their residence, and often, there IS no public transportation from their area. And...they have to choose between eating dinner OR using that money for an ID.

And all for what? To prevent the almost non-existent problem of voter fraud. I recently read that the verified number of Ohio cases of actual voter fraud in the 2012 election was in single digits. No matter, say gerrymandered GOP politicians. They got what they wanted: the disenfranchising of thousands of lower-income minority voters.

Republicans often insist that they are NOT anti-minority or anti-poor or anti-gay. Actions speak louder than words, of course, and when they push through legislation that is obviously targeted at those groups, their thinly veiled excuses are exposed for all to see. They're enacting policies that adversely affect minorities because they know that minorities don't vote for their candidates.

Further proof of the above are the Ohio GOP's attempts to make it harder for Ohioans to participate in early voting and vote via absentee ballots. When a party blatantly does things to make it HARDER for people to vote, it SHOULD be a concern to all Ohioans.

Contango

Re: "It's a lack-of-money issue."

lol

Say it ain't so!

A progressive-socialist writing that there isn't enough money?

How about taxpayer funded govt. programs to get people FREE photo IDs?

Wait....there are.

So here's a govt. program that you don't like????

Say it ain't so!

jacksonbrowne

Yet they can get to the store to purchase items with their Snap card and the food pantry right coaster?

deertracker

Who's they?

Contango

Re: "Who's they?"

Correction: Who 'are' they?

deertracker

You got me pooh! BTW, Happy White History Month!

jacksonbrowne

The individuals that coaster claims to be to poor that can't even afford to go get an ID. Read all of his previous posts and you will find your answer.

ladydye_5

" old, infirm minority voter who lives in poverty on the southeast end of a city in poverty" How, did this person get the food stamps? How do they get to the store to use the food stamps?

The Big Dog's back

In the mail and pay to have groceries delivered.

ladydye_5

To APPLY to GET the food stamps you APPLY IN PERSON IN AN OFFICE WITH ID and all your income, social security card, address, bills, etc. You do not send it in the mail like a credit card offer. And as for PAYING to have them delivered??? Thought they were broke and poor??? DUH?

deertracker

The benefits are added to the card electronically. The bus, a friend, taxi, is a possible form of transportation.

jacksonbrowne

Well they can use the same forms of transportation to get to the voting booth.

deertracker

I agree! ID?

ladydye_5

To receive the benefits at all you first need to apply to get them, correct. To do this you need to go to an office and APPLY IN PERSON, with all your income, your ID, your social security car, your bills, your address, your "pertinent" information. They do not do that electronically or by mail!!!

jacksonbrowne

Amen.

Pages