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.

Oklahoma Senator and author of Senate Bill 4, John Ford (R-Bartlesville) is confident the voter ID bill will pass in 2009, despite resistance from the legislature to pass a similar bill earlier this year. However, opponents maintain that such a measure would "suppress the vote among the elderly and among minorities," according to the Tulsa World earlier this month. Furthermore, "there's no documentation of any fraud anywhere in the voting system," said Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah).

Last week, Maryland Senator Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) pre-filed S 43, a bill requiring all voters to provide government issued photo ID when voting at their polling place. Two days later, the Baltimore Examiner reported an effort to require the voters in Anne Arundel County to provide photo ID at the polls. It would be the only jurisdiction in the state to require photo ID.

"My goal is to improve voter confidence in the election system," said Republican Anne Arundel County delegate and voter ID supporter, Nic Kipke. "There is skepticism over the validity of elections."

Despite this assertion, Kipke also admits that there were no instances of voter fraud in the county or the state to inspire the legislation, according to the Examiner.

Voting rights advocates are opposed to such measures in Maryland because such requirements "suppress turnout by intimidating people [away from the polls]," said state ACLU legislative director, Cindy Boersma."They'll feel as if their vote is being tracked. You shouldn't be able to prevent people from voting if they are constitutionally eligible to vote."

In May of this year, voting rights advocates, including Project Vote, helped defeat a voter ID/Proof-of-Citizenship bill (HJR 48) in Missouri. Last week, however,  the state appeared to be re-igniting this battle by pre-filing another constitutional amendment to require photo ID (HJR 9).

Other states, including Mississippi, have recently made headlines for similar legislative plans for the new year. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is reportedly proposing to "expand the powers of the secretary of state," by way of multiple election reform measures, including voter ID. In 2008, voter ID was a top election issue in the state with the introduction and failure of several voter ID bills in both the regular and special sessions. In 2009, Elections Committee Chairman Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, "said he would produce [voter ID measures] and other legislative measures on a piece-by-piece basis rather than inserting all Hosemann's voter legislation in a Senate omnibus bill this year," according to the Jackson Free Press.

Currently, eight states either require or request government issued photo ID. Eighteen more states exceed Help America Vote Act requirements and request both photo and non-photo ID in order for voters to cast their ballots.

Beginning next week, states will begin convening for the 2009-2010 legislative sessions. To monitor voter ID or other election reform bills in 20 states, visit www.ElectionLegislation.org (registration required). To receive a weekly update on election legislation in 50 states and related news, please email eferns@projectvote.org.

Quick Links:

www.ElectionLegislation.org

"Voter ID Requirements." Project Vote (Web page).

"Voter ID Requirements by State." Project Vote


In Other News:

N.C. voter participation swelled in 2008 - Raleigh News & Observer [N.C.]
Democracy North Carolina says 2008 was the Year of the Voter.

Voting changes proposed: Measure would allow early voting, more absentees - Associated Press
RICHMOND (AP) - Virginia voters would find it easier to avoid long lines on Election Day if legislation submitted for the 2009 General Assembly becomes law.

Tags: election integrity, 2009, election legislation, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Project Vote, South Carolina, state legislatures, texas, Virginia, voter id, voter intimidation, voter suppression, Voting Rights (all tags)

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