Top Senate Republican Hints Voting Rights Act May Be Held Hostage In Exchange For Voter Suppression

— by Ian Millhiser on Jun 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Tuesday’s decision neutering a key prong of the Voting Rights Act leaves supporters of voting rights in a difficult position. If they do nothing, voter suppression laws can go into effect, and may not be struck down by the courts until after they have succeeded in disenfranchising many voters. Yet the Roberts Court’s decision to hollow out America’s voting rights protections also allows conservatives to exact concessions before the voting rights regime that five Republican justices killed can be restored.

Shortly after the decision, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dropped a hint at just what those concessions could be — give the greenlight to a common GOP-backed voter suppression law, or the heart of the Voting Rights Act is dead forever. In an interview with CBS News, Grassley claimed he is “open to looking at ways to address the issues addressed in the court’s decision.” Yet he added that he believed the Justice Department was wrong to use the act to block “common sense measures such as voter identification laws.”

Voter ID laws are not common sense, and they are exactly the kind of device the Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent. Although Republicans often claim these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud at the polls, such fraud is virtually non-existent. A study of Wisconsin voters found that only 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of in-person voter fraud, meaning that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls.

What voter ID laws do accomplish, however, is removing many low-income voters, students and people of color from the electorate — all of which are groups that tend to vote for Democrats. The entire purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to block laws that suppress voting among racial minorities, so the Justice Department correctly invoked the act to hold up voter ID laws.

Now, however, Grassley’s statement suggests that Republicans could demand that voter ID laws be given an exemption from the Voting Rights Act before the act can be reinstated. In essence, Republicans could block the most effective mechanism of stopping voter suppression laws unless the new voting rights law exempts the GOP’s favorite tactic for suppressing minority votes.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Seven Terrible State Bills

— by ThinkProgress War Room | Mar 27, 2013

Recently, we discussed some of the terrible bills floating around out there in state legislatures. Here’s another look at some of the worst proposals, including a couple that were signed into law this week:

  • NORTH DAKOTA: The state’s Republican governor signed a trifecta of terrible anti-abortion bills, which are likely to have the effect of banning abortion in the state. One bill unconstitutionally bans abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. An even more insidious bill takes up the anti-abortion movement’s favorite new tactic: drastic overregulation of abortion clinics to all but guarantee that they will have to close. These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are also moving in North CarolinaMississippiTexasAlabama, and Virginia.
  • KANSAS: A new bill will allow the state to quarantine HIV positive individuals, something Kansas actually banned back in 1988.
  • INDIANA: An anti-abortion bill was going to mandate forced ultrasounds before a woman is provided with the abortion pill. Lawmakers explain that they are dropping the controversial provision in order to focus on their real goal: regulating abortion clinics out of existence.
  • VIRGINIA: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that will mandate that Virginians present photo identification when they vote, which will disproportionately impact young people, minorities, and the elderly.
  • KENTUCKY: The legislature passed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals to ignore laws based on the vague notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people, among other problems. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but unfortunately his veto was overridden yesterday.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Top Republicans in the state have yet to abandon a GOP plan to rig steal the White House by rigging the distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes. Republicans in Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states dropped the idea, but Pennsylvania Republicans are keeping it on the table.
  • ARKANSAS: In addition to its race to the bottom on abortion, Arkansas is considering some highly regressive tax changes. As part of an effort meant to stimulate growth, an Arkansas legislative committee passed two tax cuts that will largely benefit the rich and then rejected one that would benefit the working poor. A recent study found that state-level tax cuts don’t promote job growth.

Another week, another set of terrible proposals moving out in state legislatures.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

How Voter Suppression in 2012 Will Erode Reproductive Rights

— By Charlene CarruthersRH Reality Check | News Analysis

There is power in a woman’s right to vote.

Since 1984, women have been the majority of the total vote in every presidential election. This year, millions of women will stand in line and prepare themselves to decide who will serve in state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress. They will decide who sits on the local school board and who becomes the next President of the United States. They will also decide who shapes the future of reproductive health and rights for all women in this country. The power to preserve and expand reproductive rights is inextricably tied the right to vote.

But what is power if your ability to leverage that power is stripped away?

That’s just what Republican-led state legislatures across the country are poised to do. Since 2010 state legislatures with Republican majorities have introduced and passed restrictive laws with the potential — and many argue the intent — of forcing widespread voter suppression, and to disenfranchise women, people of color, students, the elderly, and low-income communities.

The overall strategy has included efforts to:

  • Pass laws that require voters to produce proof of citizenship;
  • Make the voter registration process more difficult by eliminating Election Day registration and creating new restrictions on voter registration drives;
  • Cut early and absentee voting periods;
  • Make the restoration of voting rights more difficult;
  • Require eligible voters to possess current and valid state issued photo ID

Brennan Center for Justice.Brennan Center for Justice.These voter suppression tactics are not new, our nation has faced this type of encroachment before. During the civil rights movement African-Americans, women, students, and allies all fought together to gain access to the vote for all citizens. Now, Republican-led state legislatures across the nation are working to roll back hard-earned progress.

What happens if this strategy succeeds?

According a Brennan Center for Justice study, approximately one in ten, or 21 million, Americans do not currently possess valid and current government-issued photo ID. Many of those voters are women whose last names changed with marriages.

The same study found that since the beginning of 2011, at least 180 bills restricting voting rights were introduced in 41 states. Due to this well-funded and well-organized GOP-led effort, 16 states succeeded in passing restrictive voting laws. These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency. If these restrictions are enacted, an estimated 5 million eligible voters could be turned away from the polls in 2012.

Republican state legislators are not pushing this agenda alone. A corporate-funded conservative group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — whose membership includes legislators and major corporations — created model voter ID legislation. Then, legislators and corporations worked together to introduce and push the model voter ID legislation in several states under the guise of preventing voting fraud.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “proponents of such voter suppression legislation have failed to show that voter fraud is a problem anywhere in the country.” Right-wing politicians and groups including ALEC are leveraging the right to vote against a problem that doesn’t exist.

Brennan Center for Justice.Brennan Center for Justice.What’s happening in states?

Florida has a long history of disenfranchising its eligible voters. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to purge more than 180,000 Floridians from voter rolls just before a key election is a prime example the GOP’s effort to disrupt the voting process and disenfranchise eligible voters. In the 2000 presidential election, thousands of ballots from African American voters were rejected and tossed out. George Bush’s victory was hinged upon the decision of Florida election officials, he won by just 573 votes. Every single vote counts.

Some Republican officials are transparent about the intent behind their efforts to rig the 2012 elections. Last month, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) openly stated that voter ID “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”  As a result of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, over 758,000 eligible voters now face disenfranchisement because they lack an acceptable form of ID. Over 186,000 of these voters live in the urban center of Philadelphia — home to nearly half of all African Americans in Pennsylvania.

In Mississippi the photo ID referendum has proved to be especially cumbersome. In order to obtain the required photo ID, voters have to have a birth certificate. To obtain a birth certificate, voters most have a state photo ID. See where this gets sticky?

The Texas voter ID law will accept gun licenses — but not student IDs — as proof of identification in lieu of a photo ID. Fortunately, like Mississippi, Texas is required to undergo federal review for any changes to its voting laws due to a history of discriminatory practices.

There are several factors that contribute to a person not having a current and valid photo ID. They expire. Some voters live in areas where driving is not necessary, therefore a state-issued drivers license is not necessary. Voters move and are unable to obtain new ID prior to registration or election day. College students who live away from home and only possess a student ID are also at risk of being turned away for the polls in some states.

The latest available figures show that only 48 percent of voting-age women with ready access to their U.S. birth certificates have a birth certificate with their current legal name. The same survey showed that only 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name.

Ultimately, these measures make the voting process more confusing and place additional burdens on groups who each had to struggle to obtain the right to vote and the right to access quality & affordable reproductive health care.

What are leaders in the movement saying?

“If you can’t access the ballot box, how do you ensure access to reproductive health care?” — Aimee Thorne-Thompson, Advocates for Youth

For reproductive justice advocates, voter suppression is a reproductive justice issue. Many groups like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights (RCRC) and NYC Reproductive Justice Coalition (NYC RJC, formerly SisterSong NYC) and Advocates for Youth work year-around to educate communities on the issues and mobilize them to vote for progressive candidates and ballot measures.

Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Justice Director at RCRC, Angela Ferrell-Zabala says voter suppression has the potential to affect down ballot measures and local races in states like Florida.

“Down ballot issues like Amendment 6 will open the state’s constitutional privacy laws and make it very difficult for women to seek abortion care’’ Ferrell-Zabala states.

If Amendment 6 is passed, politicians will be allowed to intrude on personal medical decisions and take away access to healthcare that many women who are Florida public employees currently have.

There is much at stake and “we have to look at the repercussions, it all leads back to reproductive justice. Accessing healthcare and education — making informed decisions about your sexual health and family planning.” Ferrell-Zabala explains.

This is about agency and the power to transform communities.

“To limit the agency of women and youth who are disenfranchised by the social conditions of our race, gender, age and socio-economic status is unacceptable at best, and a direct violation of our human rights at its worst.” says Jasmine Burnett, NYC RJC lead organizer.

Gloria Feldt, author and past president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America argues that “the young, the poor, the women struggling to make ends meet for their families are most vulnerable to disenfranchisement yet have the most to lose if right-wing perpetrators of voter suppression succeed.”

The power of the women’s vote can only be effectively leveraged if every woman who is eligible to vote is able to enter the voting booth and have her vote counted. If they are not counted in 2012 then, “reproductive rights, health, and justice would be among the first freedoms to go, and economic justice not far behind.” said Feldt.

The implementation of voter ID laws and other restrictive measures have the potential to shape whose votes are cast and counted in this year’s presidential election, but we must think long-term. What happens after the next presidential inauguration takes place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol?

Local races will occur where the individuals on the ballot stand to gain the power to decide what happens in women’s lives. They will have the power to decide what health centers receive funding, or whether the personhood of a woman is valued over the interests of a fertilitized egg… laws passed by elected officials who will never be in the position to choose. More often than not, these decisions affect women of color and women with low-incomes the most.

“The reproductive health, rights and justice movement must work with organizations doing voter education and civic engagement work to defeat these bills and ballot measures. Otherwise, all of our other rights are at risk.” says Thorne-Thompson.

As America’s democracy grows older and its citizenry becomes more diverse, our elected officials should focus on reducing barriers to voting and developing a more modern voting process. We must create a more streamlined and effective registration process and improve our use of technology in the voting process in order to realize full voter-participation. The power of the vote depends on this and our democracy is dramatically weakened — indeed completely undermined — without it.

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. This article is republished from RH Reality Check, a progressive online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information.

CHARLENE CARRUTHERS
Charlene Carruthers is a New York City based activist and writer. A native of Chicago, she has worked extensively to promote social justice, empowerment and build leadership on local and national levels. Trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition of community organizing, Charlene believes in intentional and inclusive power building. Her passion for working with young leaders to build capacity and leadership has led her to work with and train youth of color and women across the country. She has worked for national progressive organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law and the Women’s Media Center and ColorOfChange.org. She has traveled and studied throughout the global south and brings with her a sense of global citizenship. Charlene received her Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, where she focused on urban development and public policy. She is also a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University where she majored in History and International studies. Follow Charlene on twitter at @CharleneCac.

Texas Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court

— By Aviva Shen on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections, “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification.

The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable.

The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 14 will “disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law.”

As of the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become the minority in Texas, shrinking to 45.3% of the population from 52.4%, while Latinos accounted for 65% of Texas’s population growth over the past decade.

But Latinos are not the only people hurt by the restrictive bill. People who want to vote but don’t have an ID will have to pay a fee to get one, like Jessica Cohen, whose story ThinkProgress documented in November. After she lost her identification during a robbery, the only way to get a voter ID was to pay a fee to Missouri officials in order to obtain her birth certificate.

On Monday, Texas will defend the law as a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued that “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters.” But the San Antonio Express-News reported that fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

The Texas voter ID law isn’t the first the DOJ has had to combat. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted,

“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”


This material [article] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Source: http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/06/512245/texas-voter-id-law-which-accepts-gun-licenses-but-not-student-ids-challenged-in-court/

NAACP and Stand4Freedom.org

The Koch brothers don’t just want to take away your right to vote. They want to trick you into believing they are voting rights supporters.

The same oil billionaires who bankroll the Tea Party are now channeling their vast fortune to limit the right to vote in 38 states and counting. The NAACP has sounded the alarm against their attacks, launching Stand4Freedom.org to expose them and mobilizing a rally outside their New York headquarters on December 10th.

Now here’s the amazing part: The Koch brothers have responded with a bizarre online advertising campaign. Now, when you search for the NAACP on Google, they’ve paid to have ads pop up directing people to a “Stand for Liberty” web page — a page that’s a blatant take-off of Stand4Freedom.org and actually brags about the Koch’s so-called commitment to civil liberties.

Do they think we’re stupid? That’s not just inaccurate — it’s offensive.

The NAACP has always risen to protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations when their rights have been threatened, and we will continue to do so with your help. We need you to take action today, to ensure that millions are not disenfranchised next year.

Regardless of what they want you to believe, the facts are clear. The Koch brothers have a long history of fighting civil rights. For years they have bankrolled extreme right-wing and anti-government think tanks and fought affirmative action and other civil rights initiatives. Recently the PAC that they founded led the political effort to re-segregate North Carolina schools, and now they have launched their biggest initiative yet: to roll back voting rights in advance of the 2012 election.

Photo ID as a prerequisite to voting, proof of citizenship before casting a ballot, radically restrictive rules on registering new voters, dramatic cuts to early voting and Sunday voting — these are just a few of the tactics that the Koch Brothers are using to make it harder for you to vote.

If the Koch brothers have their way, millions of students, the elderly and working families of all colors will fall victim to arcane voter suppression laws that this country hasn’t seen in one hundred years.