Photo: Voter Identification Laws
Though the perception is that photo ID battles are slackening a bit, this week’s news 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.