UPDATE: Right-wing Florida officials win fight for citizenship data

UPDATE: Secretary of State Ken Detzner says that Florida, which expects imminent access to the SAVE database, will resume the purge and complete it prior to the November election. The Department of Justice is moving forward with its legal challenge.

8/3/2012: New developments continue to shed light on the purge and its far-reaching impact. An article in the Atlantic details the possibility that it could lead to a 2000-style fiasco. A woman who is most certainly alivewas removed from the rolls twice because the state thinks she is dead. The Guardian has profiled several other voters who are battling to preserve their rights. Thankfully, there is some good news, as despite being granted access to the SAVE database, it now looks like county election supervisors won’t be removing more voters from the rolls before the August 14 primary. Officials are being encouraged to proceed cautiously since the state may not be able to settle its ongoing disagreement with the federal government over the purge. In other news, Congresswoman Corrine Brown has filed a lawsuit to try to stop early voting cutbacks.

The federal government has granted Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, further fanning the flame under their voter suppression fire. The move followed last month's ruling that the purge did not violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Voting rights supporters remain concerned about the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters – and rightfully so.

Jonathan Brater, Brennan Center for Justice:

No matter what database Florida has access to, purging voters from the rolls using faulty criteria on the eve of an election could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights. Florida must use a more transparent and accurate process, and must leave enough time for voters targeted for removal to be notified and correct errors.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections:

[T]hose who have been here in 2000 and 2004 realize that if you produce a list that’s highly inaccurate, in all probability what you’re going to do is disenfranchise legal voters.

Further litigation is expected and also remains underway regarding HB 1355, the Florida law commonly referred to by voting rights supporters as the Voter Suppression Act. Last week, Judge Hinkle’s injunction blocking most of its worst provisions was appealed. HB 1355 was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Click here and here for more information, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box , a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Right-wing Florida officials win fight for citizenship data

UPDATE: New developments continue to shed light on the purge and its far-reaching impact. An article in the Atlantic details the possibility that it could lead to a 2000-style fiasco. A woman who is most certainly alivewas removed from the rolls twice because the state thinks she is dead. The Guardian has profiled several other voters who are battling to preserve their rights. Thankfully, there is some good news, as despite being granted access to the SAVE database, it now looks like county election supervisors won’t be removing more voters from the rolls before the August 14 primary. Officials are being encouraged to proceed cautiously since the state may not be able to settle its ongoing disagreement with the federal government over the purge. In other news, Congresswoman Corrine Brown has filed a lawsuit to try to stop early voting cutbacks.

The federal government has granted Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, further fanning the flame under their voter suppression fire. The move followed last month's ruling that the purge did not violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Voting rights supporters remain concerned about the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters – and rightfully so.

Jonathan Brater, Brennan Center for Justice:

No matter what database Florida has access to, purging voters from the rolls using faulty criteria on the eve of an election could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights. Florida must use a more transparent and accurate process, and must leave enough time for voters targeted for removal to be notified and correct errors.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections:

[T]hose who have been here in 2000 and 2004 realize that if you produce a list that’s highly inaccurate, in all probability what you’re going to do is disenfranchise legal voters.

Further litigation is expected and also remains underway regarding HB 1355, the Florida law commonly referred to by voting rights supporters as the Voter Suppression Act. Last week, Judge Hinkle’s injunction blocking most of its worst provisions was appealed. HB 1355 was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Click here and here for more information, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box , a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Michigan Primary raises citizenship question

UPDATE: With the so-called Secure and Fair Elections package facing auncertain future, confusion is surely looming for Michigan’s August 7 federal primary election.The vetoed citizenship check box remains, but without legislative force behind it, as Secretary of State Ruth Johnson conceded, checking it remains optional. Left is the question of whether voters know their option or if elections officials will enforce the rule. Elsewhere military access to absentee ballots has been called into question by DOJ.

Are you a citizen? was the question posed by the Michigan Primary even before voters were asked to decide between President Obama or Santorum and Romney.

The question of citizenship is not new:

Under the Michigan Election Law, voters have to swear under oath they are an eligible voter — which includes U.S. citizenship — when they apply to vote and it is verified by the Secretary of State's or local clerks' offices when the application is processed.

What is new is the added step of asking it at the polls.

The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill, sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, which requires voters to affirmatively state their citizenship before receiving a ballot at the polls. The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Elections and Redistricting Committee. Critics say Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson appears to be implementing an election bill prior to it being signed into law.

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Booher paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005, 2007 and 2009 while a state representative.]

Katy Flanagan, Project Vote’s Director of Election Administration:

Secretary Johnson appears to be implementing an election bill that hasn’t even passed the House--much less been signed into law. The legislative process would be meaningless if politicians could just enforce the bills they like. Our goal is to ensure no eligible voter is turned away from the polls. To protect everyone’s right to vote, our election officials should be enforcing existing laws, not proposed legislation.

Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan, continues:

Requiring voters to affirm their citizenship, again, at the polls on Election Day and on absentee voter ballot applications is a solution in search of a problem. This new requirement will only confuse long-time voters who affirmed their citizenship when they registered to vote for the first time.

Simply put by Kyle Caldwell, CEO and President of the Michigan Nonprofit Association:

Our elections must be free from fraud and we can do it without creating redundant steps.

Serious concerns have been expressed over Secretary Johnson’s claim that existing authority authorizes this change. And over her claims of its benign application that appeared yesterday to be anything but benign.

Groups have received reports from voters in various precincts around the state who are surprised and angry about this unnecessary and burdensome requirement. Additionally, there are also reports of inconsistent application of this new requirement by election officials.

We’re left with the suspicion that this is yet another tactic that falls right in line with The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Getting the inside scoop on voter suppression

The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation explains the methods the Right is using to suppress the vote under the guise of preventing non-existent “voter fraud.” It also shows the disproportionate effects that this has on minorities and other vulnerable populations. We’ve continued to highlight a national trend toward massive disenfranchisement, such as requests for citizenship data to purge the voting rolls and voter ID.

Last Thursday a Heritage Foundation panel discussion featured people who are leading the charge.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler:

We’ve got bloated and inaccurate voter rolls. We have a very loose honors system when it comes to voting in this country when it comes to both registration and voting as well, often times for example […] no photo ID required. And over time we have seen the increased use of mail-in ballots, which has good points, but also increases a very common avenue for voter fraud.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach:

When I was sworn in as Secretary of State in Kansas in January 2011 my primary objective was to set about drafting the strongest anti-voter fraud law possible in any state […] The Secure and Fair Elections Act made Kansas the first state to combine three things. Some states had done one or more of these, but we’re the first state to have photo ID at the polls, equivalent protection for mail-in ballots, so that you have to have signature verification on the ballot application before the mail-in ballot is sent out and you have to have either a photo copy of a qualifying photo ID or full Kansas driver’s license number or non-driver ID with the application coming in. And then thirdly, Kansas requires proof of citizenship at the time newly registered voters register to vote. [Link added]

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson:

When you hear out there that the implementation of voter ID and photo ID requirements in various states is akin to taking us back to the Jim Crow era or back to a time in the civil rights movement I find it insulting for those who actually lived through that time for people to make those analogies. When people say that this is an attempt to suppress minority votes, or that this is a solution in search of a problem, I find that very disconcerting.

Former Congressman Artur Davis:

[Waving his driver’s license] It’s a very tiny little thing that will fit in a breast pocket, will fit in a wallet. Carry it next to your pager, your Blackberry. It is not a billy club, if you look at it that’s clear. It’s not a fire hose.

Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote:

We’re helping to support hundreds of citizen-led election integrity organizations […] If our rate of growth continues we believe it is entirely possible that we might mobilize up to a million new volunteers into the election process between now and November 2012.

These Heritage panelists represent more examples of how the Right continues to adamantly deny the disenfranchising effects of the laws they are pushing, while redoubling their efforts to keep voters from the polls. And if recent events are anything to go by, those True the Vote volunteers will make the election more intimidating, less free, and less fair.

In other news heard straight from the horse’s mouth, former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer admitted recently that Republican officials have made deliberate attempts to prevent blacks from voting. Greer’s deposition, though part of his own criminal corruption trial, lends eyewitness testimony that these efforts are designed to subvert the right to vote. They certainly aren’t short on intention.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: “Gut and go” used to move up proof of citizenship in Kansas

7/27/12: Good news – H Sub SB 17 died in committee on June 1. With the legislature having adjourned, the bill will not return in 2012.

5/08/12: Representative Scott Schwab, an ALEC member who chairs the Committee on Elections, brought H Sub SB 17 to the House floor. It passed by a 67-53 vote on May 8, and now goes to the Senate, which supports delayed enactment. Representative Ann Mah, a voting rights supporter: “Putting this before them and asking them to vote on it gives them one more chance to be the hero and act like the adults in the room.” Regardless of the date, the law could be vulnerable following the ruling against proof of citizenship in Arizona. Click here for more from the Topeka Capital-Journal.

In 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback sign into law HB 2067. Sponsored by Representative Lance Kinzer (an ALEC member), this law contained requirements for ID when voting and proof of citizenship when registering. While the effective date for ID was set at January 1, 2012, it was delayed a year and set at January 1, 2013 for citizenship.

Last month, the Kansas House passed HB 2437 to move the citizenship effective date up to June 15, 2012. Last week, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections decided not to vote on it.

Enter Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, no stranger to ALEC or Right Wing Watch.

Kobach and his supporters used a backdoor maneuver known as “gut and go” to bring HB 2437 back to life. Essentially they stripped the contents of SB 17 and inserted HB 2437. Now known as H Sub SB 17, it is has a new life and a viable path to Governor Brownback’s desk.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Veto pen put to paper in Michigan

UPDATE: Despite hopeful signs from Governor Rick Snyder’s office, the fight against voter suppression is far from over in Michigan. Senators Darwin Booher and David Robertson have introduced SB 1219, identical to the vetoed SB 803. The ballot coaching provision in HB 5061 was referred back to the House Committee on Redistricting and Elections. SB 754 is also likely to return.

In a move hailed by voting rights advocates, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder separated himself from his conservative allies last week when he vetoed HB 5061, SB 803, and SB 754, all part of a voter suppression package tied in part to ALEC.

Melanie McElroy, Common Cause Michigan, Executive Director:

Governor Snyder's veto pen should send a strong message to Lansing politicians that it's time to halt these voter suppression efforts once and for all.

Susan Smith, League of Women Voters of Michigan, President:

Fortunately, the governor saw that this was a bill that was not only unnecessary, but put up barriers, obstacles for certain parts of the population.

Diana Kasdan, the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, Counsel:

Gov. Snyder did the right thing by vetoing this restrictive bill, which would have been bad for Michigan voters and could have violated federal law. In the past two years, a wave of restrictive laws has passed across the country that could make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. These measures, like the one in Michigan, are bad policy and must be rejected. It is good Gov. Snyder recognized that fact.

Governor Snyder did, however, sign SB 751, which creates an inactive voter list whose absentee ballots are now required to be automatically challenged. The fate of HB 5221, another suppressive bill with ALEC ties, has yet to be determined.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Push for citizenship data goes viral

After granting Florida access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, the Department of Homeland Security has begun discussions with a growing number of states who’ve requested the same.

State election chiefs, including Texas Secretary of State Esperanza Andrade and New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, claim the SAVE database will help identify noncitizens, but it is not a complete list of citizens, and therefore not entirely reliable. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has even acknowledged that he doesn’t have any confirmed cases of voter fraud, yet has pressed DHS for data, and recently filed open-records requests with jails for lists of anyone held on an immigration detainer since 2010 and ran them against the state’s voter registration database.

The growing push for such information has left voting rights advocates worried that more Florida-like purges are on the horizon – a threat that could potentially leave thousands of eligible voters disenfranchised for November’s general election.

Elena Nuñez, Colorado Common Cause, Executive Director:

Particularly in Colorado, as a swing state in a hotly contested election, we should all be doing everything we can to encourage all eligible voters to register and participate. To have the chief elections officer putting out a message that he thinks that some people shouldn't be on the rolls creates this atmosphere that's unwelcoming.

Carlos Duarte, Mi Familia Vota Texas, Director:

This is happening so close to the election that the actual effect is going to be disenfranchising people who otherwise should be eligible to vote.

Viki Harrison, Common Cause New Mexico, Executive Director:

I think the real crisis in voting is that 50 percent of New Mexicans who are eligible to vote are not registered. And we’re worried about things like this?

For more information, click here, here, and here, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focusreport by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Right-wing Florida officials win fight for citizenship data

The federal government has granted Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, further fanning the flame under their voter suppression fire. The move followed last month's ruling that the purge did not violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Voting rights supporters remain concerned about the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters – and rightfully so.

Jonathan Brater, Brennan Center for Justice:

No matter what database Florida has access to, purging voters from the rolls using faulty criteria on the eve of an election could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights. Florida must use a more transparent and accurate process, and must leave enough time for voters targeted for removal to be notified and correct errors.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections:

[T]hose who have been here in 2000 and 2004 realize that if you produce a list that’s highly inaccurate, in all probability what you’re going to do is disenfranchise legal voters.

Further litigation is expected and also remains underway regarding HB 1355, the Florida law commonly referred to by voting rights supporters as the Voter Suppression Act. Last week, Judge Hinkle’s injunction blocking most of its worst provisions was appealed. HB 1355 was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Click here and here for more information, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box , a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

US Reps decry Florida purge

The chorus against the Florida voter purge added sixteen new voices to the mix last week after House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI14) led a letter to Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX21) calling for:

[A]n oversight hearing on Department of Justice’s (Department’s) enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), specifically reviewing the Department’s recent decision to file suit challenging the State of Florida’s voter purging program.

Ranking Member Conyers continues:

Given the fact some states may frame voter purging programs around the question of citizenship, it is left to Congress to decide what this recent decision means for the NVRA. In the state of Florida, the process for purging and the names of potential voters to be purged has not been made public. More troubling, these programs may be over inclusive and delete newly registered citizens from voter rolls. In light of this kind of ruling, we need to review the NVRA so that over inclusive purging programs do not burden duly registered voters against the potential risk of non-citizen voters. […] If we allow threats to the democratic process to take place while on the Committee's watch, we violate the very principles of our Constitution that allow us to serve in a representative government. Therefore, the relevant focus the Committee has historically held on traditional civil rights issues must be continued in this Congress and should not get lost amidst any distorted agenda under the guise of civil rights.

That "distorted agenda" has been presented by the Right as a fight against voter fraud, when in reality it leads to the disenfranchisement of the voters least likely to back conservative politicians. Indeed, even Judge Robert Hinkle of the US District Court of Northern Florida, who recently refused to issue an injunction against the state, conceded that the purge is "discriminatory, at least in effect".

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Supreme Court declines to issue stay in Arizona voter ID case

Back in 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which required people in the state to produce proof of citizenship in order to vote and use public services. Two years later, PFAW Foundation joined voting rights supporters in filing suit against its voting-related provisions. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down the law’s requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship, but upheld its voter ID provisions. In April of this year, the full Ninth Circuit ruled the same.

Last week, the US Supreme Court refused to continue a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which had previously been granted by Justice Kennedy at the request of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Horne had sought to keep the citizenship provisions in place pending appeal.

Following the SCOTUS decision, Horne now contends that "Right now almost everybody uses the state form. We can’t ask for identification on the federal form, but we can on the state form." But Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling means that the proof of citizenship requirement should no longer be applied, regardless of which registration form is used. He noted, "In a presidential election year it’s particularly significant."

Even if the Supreme Court eventually agrees to hear Arizona’s appeal, any decision on the merits of the case would come down after Election Day. So the Ninth Circuit’s opinion goes into effect, and proof of citizenship will not be required in Arizona for the November election.

Also known as the Taxpayer Citizen Protection Act, Proposition 200 remains the ALEC model for voter ID and proof of citizenship nationwide. Compared side-by-side, you can see that the two measures are virtually identical.

For more information on ALEC in Arizona, check out the November 2011 report and the April 2012 update, co-authored by PFAW Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Media and Democracy, and Progress Now.

For more information on voting rights, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation