All Cost, No Benefit: States Aim to Raise Voting Barriers to Prevent Rare Crime

Cross-Posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

by Erin Ferns

As we predicted last December, legislation designed to prevent so-called voter fraud has dominated election law debates in several states this year. Last week alone, Georgia's controversial voter ID law was upheld by a federal appeals panel, the Texas Senate "sparked deep partisan tensions" by eliminating the majority rule in order to aid the passage of a voter ID law, and nine more states introduced numerous voter ID bills.

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Disenfranchisement Reform: Lawmakers Move Toward Expanding Voting Rights in 2009

Cross-Posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

by Erin Ferns

The 2008 presidential election was an inspiration for many citizens to take part in the American democratic process, including first-time voter and convicted felon Eric Stephen Willems of Minnesota. Unfortunately, that vote cost Willems, who was on probation, a trip back to jail, according to the Associated Press last week.

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America Can Do a Better Job at Registering Voters

Cross-Posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

by Erin Ferns

Despite the 2008 election showing that the minority and low-income voting bloc is quickly growing, the effort to keep voters from actually casting a ballot persists through the introduction and passage of restrictive election reforms, wrote syndicated columnist and former state representative, William A. Collins in a recent opinion piece. "As we all know, becoming and remaining a voter is not just a theoretical exercise. At least in this country that right is hotly contested in hard-fought political combat. He who controls the voter lists often controls the election."

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Voter ID still a Looming Threat for 2009

Cross-Posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

by Erin Ferns

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld one of the country's strictest voter ID laws in April, several states rushed to pass similar bills before the year's end. By December, more than 25 states introduced legislation to require voter ID at the polls. Though none of these bills were successful this year, lawmakers in several states are hoping to revive such restrictive requirements in 2009.

Since July of this year, at least seven states have pre-filed or carried over voter ID legislation for the 2009-2010 sessions, including Nevada, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

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All I want for Christmas is verified voting

Seven weeks after election day, there is still no declared winner in Minnesota's Senate race. If the frequent updates on the MyDD front page aren't enough to satisfy your Minnesota recount fix, WineRev's Daily Kos diaries will tell you everything you need to know about what's been going on.

Norm Coleman has been in court trying to prevent ballots that might give Al Franken the lead from being counted, and after Franken did take a narrow lead, Coleman's team was back in court looking for other ways to subtract from Franken's total. Imagine how much more contentious this process would be if Minnesota did not use paper ballots in every county. Less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Franken from Coleman. If touchscreen voting machines had been involved in any way, large numbers of people would surely believe the election had been rigged in favor of whoever came out ahead.

Mark Halvorson of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota published this piece on what has worked well during the Minnesota recount, and how the system could still be improved.

Iowa had more state legislative races decided by less than 1 percent of the vote this year than in any other election I can remember. Fortunately, the state legislature heeded Secretary of State Mike Mauro's call to require optical scanner machines with paper ballots in every county, and Governor Chet Culver signed that bill into law this spring. Otherwise the legitimacy of these extremely close races could have been questioned.

As this map at VerifiedVoting.org shows, Minnesota is one of 18 states that has mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records. Iowa is one of 13 states that require paper ballots, but without mandatory audits to make sure the scanners are producing accurate counts.

Election integrity advocates in Iowa are encouraging Mauro to ask the legislature to take the next step toward "verified voting" (mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records). That would allay fears about malfunctions or tampering with the optical scanners as they count the votes.

Some other states have a lot further to go. In New Jersey, advocates are still working toward mandatory paper ballots, while some politicians want to take the penny-wise, pound-foolish path of retrofitting touchscreen machines to print out paper receipts.

Congress has so many huge issues to tackle in the next two years, but I sincerely hope they will pass a federal law to ensure that all Americans will be able to vote with paper ballots. This page at VerifiedVoting.org summarizes all the relevant pending legislation at the federal and state levels.

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