UPDATE: Lawsuits, politics color voter ID in Pennsylvania

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed HB 934, a voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in May, and in June, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that he, too, plans to challenge the law in court. Fitzgerald and local officials cite the legislation as being too expensive and too difficult to implement by November, among other major flaws. We’ve since written about the practical impacts and political implications– now there’s new information on both fronts.

Recent analysis suggests that HB 934 will affect even more voters than previously thought. It requires voters to have an ID issued by the state transportation department, and, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 758,000 (over 9 percent of the state’s voters) do not have one. These voters live disproportionately in Democratic areas of the state. David Boyer of the Washington Times notes that In "Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 6-1, 18 percent of the city’s registered voters do not have the state photo ID."

The reason is clear why the Right Wing has been so eager to invent voter fraud and then offer gratuitous solutions such as HB 934: to disenfranchise the voters least likely to back conservative politicians. Slate’s David Weigel explains:

In 2008, Barack Obama won Pennsylvania by the biggest majority of any candidate since 1972* -- 620,478 votes. So, the total number of voters lacking ID is greater than that. Most of Obama's margin came from his landslide in Philadelphia County -- 478,759 votes over John McCain. So, the total voter bloc that lacks valid ID is about 39 percent as large as the Obama-McCain margin.

Further highlighting the political interest of the Right Wing in suppressing the vote in Pennsylvania is the recent revelation that the state Department of State has granted a contract to the lobbying firm Bravo Group, run by Mitt Romney fundraiser Chris Bravacos, to develop the "voter education media campaign" for the 2012 election. Outrageously, the contract is funded by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which aims to clear roadblocks to voting for underrepresented groups.

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.

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Lawsuits, politics color voter ID in Pennsylvania

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed HB 934, a voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in May, and in June, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that he, too, plans to challenge the law in court. Fitzgerald and local officials cite the legislation as being too expensive and too difficult to implement by November, among other major flaws.

Even Secretary of State Carol Aichele, who has been touring the state to defend the law, seems to have fallen prey to one particular flaw – the restrictive expiration date clause, which is expected to bar a large chunk of the student population from the polls. When displaying her own ID, it was noticed that it lacked an expiration date, automatically invalidating it for voting purposes.

Aichele and other proponents claim that HB 934 will minimize so-called widespread voter fraud. There is a reason the Right Wing has been so eager to invent such a problem and then offer gratuitous solutions: to disenfranchise the voters least likely to back conservative politicians. Indeed, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a one-time ALEC member recently suggested that the new law will deliver Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney in November.

The first of the HB 934 trials is set to begin at the end of July, setting the stage for what will surely be a long battle.

Until then, 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.

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New Lawsuit Challenges Voter ID in Pennsylvania

This week, voting rights supporters in Pennsylvania filed suit against HB 934, the state’s voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. They claim that it deprives citizens of their basic and fundamental right to vote. Witold Walczak, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania ACLU:

The commonwealth's phantom claims of in-person-voter fraud cannot be allowed to trump the very real disenfranchisement of long-time Pennsylvania voters. People need to wake up to the reality that not every voter has or can get photo ID, so making it a requirement will prevent many people from exercising one of our most precious rights.

Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year old woman from Philadelphia, is the lead plaintiff in the suit. Working as a welder during World War II and marching in support of civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Georgia, she has been voting since President John F. Kennedy came into office.

College students will also be greatly impacted come Election Day. Many college IDs in Pennsylvania will not be accepted as a valid form of identification since most lack an expiration date.

A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID voting law could potentially disenfranchise more than 80% of the state’s college students….Out of the 110 surveyed colleges and universities only 15 schools have student identification cards for all students that meet the requirements of having a photo, name and expiration date on the card.

Though the law will not be in full effect until the November election, its soft rollout during the April primary showed that the concerns of voting rights supporters are not without merit. For example, 91-year old Joyce Block attempted to acquire a photo ID but couldn’t. And we heard reports of several signs posted at polling places stating boldly, “ID Required to Vote”, with much smaller print (or none at all) clarifying that the requirement would not apply until November.

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.

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The Right to Vote under Attack: Latest News from the States

Voting rights and voter suppression, especially voter ID, continue to make headlines in many states. Below is a sample of the latest. For more information, click here and also 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.

Colorado

Voter ID (HB12-1111) made it through the House but was postponed indefinitely in the Senate. One of its lead sponsors, Representative Kenneth Summers, is an ALEC member.

Florida

Evidence continues to mount against what should properly be called the Voter Suppression Act for its disenfranchising impacts, including its reduction of early voting hours and its harsh new restrictions on community groups seeking to help register voters. HB 1355 was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Minnesota

The voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738) sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer has been approved by the state legislature and will now go to the voters in November. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says that it will “turn our state's entire election system upside down.” Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota, “expects groups opposed to photo ID to challenge the amendment in court on the discrepancy between the ballot question and the actual changes to the Constitution.”

Missouri

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment (SJR 2) on the grounds that the ballot summary is “insufficient and unfair.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorialized, “In a perverted, poetic justice kind of way, it's pitch perfect that in their alleged attempt to stop voter fraud, Missouri Republicans committed, well, fraud.” Prospects for an appeal are unclear, but the legislature is already working on contingency plans. They might try to bring the same bill back up with a new amendment (HCR 53), or they might get around the court by passing HJR 89. Representative Shane Schoeller, an ALEC member, is behind both, as well as efforts (HB 2109) to pass proof of citizenship for voter registration.

Nebraska

Voter ID looked set to pass before voting rights advocates put the brakes on LB 239, sponsored by Senator Charlie Janssen, ALEC member. But that doesn’t mean their work is over. Nebraskans for Civil Reform and Nebraska Appleseed have called for an investigation into polling place closures in Douglas County. Omaha World-Herald: “But is that cost savings worth making it harder for some people to exercise their right to vote? Is it worth eroding the American voting franchise, discouraging voters from going to the polls, not only because of the extra distance but also because of longer lines?” A lawsuit may be looming.

New Hampshire

SB 289, which would require voters to present valid photo identification, and SB 318, which would alter residency requirements and make other voter registration changes that could have a profound impact, especially among the student population, have both passed the Senate and are due soon in the House, as early as April 10. SB 318’s lead sponsor, Senator Sharon Carson, is an ALEC member who also supports SB 289. Tabled in committee was a bill (HB 1301) concerning oaths for vote challengers and the voters they challenge.

North Carolina

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed HB 351, legislation requiring photo ID, whose 3 primary sponsors all have ties to ALEC. But the House failed to override Governor Perdue’s veto. Now voting rights advocates are concerned that HB 351 will be pulled out of the “veto garage.”

Ohio

In July 2011, Governor John Kasich signed a sweeping “election reform proposal” (HB 194) into law. Voting rights supporters were able to move forward with a referendum for repeal, which is set for the November ballot. Now the forces behind HB 194, sponsored by former Representative and ALEC member Robert Mecklenborg, want to head off what they worry will be an embarrassing defeat at the ballot box. Senator William Coley, also an ALEC member, has sponsored his own version of repeal through SB 295. It has passed the Senate and is expected in a House hearing on April 17. We’ll have to see what they try to replace it with, likely much of the same language.

Pennsylvania

Last month, Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s (an ALEC member) HB 934 passed the Pennsylvania Senate. It got through concurrence by a House vote of 104-88. Governor Corbett signed it as soon as it got to his desk. Though photo ID is now law in Pennsylvania, the legal debate continues, and voting rights supporters continue efforts to demonstrate the impacts, including what it means for students and what it really costs to have “free” ID.

South Carolina

With the state still embroiled in its battle over voter ID, the ACLU and League of Women Voters have moved to intervene, as has the Department of Justice, which rejected the law last year. HB 3003 was originally sponsored by Representative Alan Clemmons, an ALEC member.

Wisconsin

Evidence continues to mount against voter ID and now the issue is before the state Supreme Court. Act 23 (aka AB 7) was originally sponsored by Representative Jeffrey Stone and several others with ties to ALEC.

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UPDATE: PA Passes ID Under Objections of 45 Groups and 13,000 Pennsylvanians

UPDATE: Last weekHB 934 passed the Pennsylvania Senate. It got through concurrence yesterday by a House vote of 104-88. Governor Corbett signed it as soon as it got to his desk. Now photo ID is law in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, in a 26-23 vote on HB 934, the Pennsylvania Senate passed photo ID. Having passed the House last June, it now goes to concurrence (final negotiations) and will soon reach Governor Corbett’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law. It’s important to note that the lead sponsor, Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member.

Protect Our Vote has taken a strong stand against photo ID in their state. Made up of 45 groups, the voting rights coalition recently held a rally at the state Capitol Rotunda, at which they unveiled a petition containing the signatures of 13,000 Pennsylvanians. Have you ever wondered what 13,000 signatures looks like?

It took 1,000 feet to display the strong opposition to photo ID. And voting rights supporters won’t stop there. There is already talk of lawsuits to challenge the (expected) new law.

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

PA Passes ID Under Objections of 45 Groups and 13,000 Pennsylvanians

On Wednesday, in a 26-23 vote on HB 934, the Pennsylvania Senate passed photo ID. Having passed the House last June, it now goes to concurrence (final negotiations) and will soon reach Governor Corbett’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law. It’s important to note that the lead sponsor, Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member.

Protect Our Vote has taken a strong stand against photo ID in their state. Made up of 45 groups, the voting rights coalition recently held a rally at the state Capitol Rotunda, at which they unveiled a petition containing the signatures of 13,000 Pennsylvanians. Have you ever wondered what 13,000 signatures looks like?

It took 1,000 feet to display the strong opposition to photo ID. And voting rights supporters won’t stop there. There is already talk of lawsuits to challenge the (expected) new law.

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