Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Voting Litigation Addresses Increasing Disenfranchisement of Naturalized U.S. Citizens - The Battle Against Voter ID - Poll Tax of the 21st Century

Joanna Cuevas Ingram, Equal Justice Works Voting Rights Fellow at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area,writes:

 As continued voter suppression in the form of state "Voter ID" laws are struck down by federal courts in regards to jurisdictions that come within the protections of Section 5 of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, such as Texas, and in Pennsylvania under state constitutional provisions, extra voting requirements for naturalized citizens under the guise of "Voter ID" laws may actually disenfranchise U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. As NBC News Reports on the recent Advancement Project study, new laws in 17 states that require voters show proof of citizenship and photo identification at the polls -- along with recent voter roll purges or plans to adopt citizenship related voter roll purges in 16 states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington) could have a dangerously discriminatory effect and, as ABC News and Univision report, the combined effect of these new requirements may deter 10 million Latina/o voters across the country from exercising their right to vote on November 6.

As Kevin Johnson posted earlier this week, the Immigration Policy Center released, Chicken Little in the Voting Booth: The Non-Existent Problem of Non-Citizen Voter Fraud, which notes that Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico embarked upon ultimately fruitless “purges” of their voter rolls for the ostensible purpose of sweeping away anyone who might be a non-U.S. citizen. The update observes that "Proponents of harsh voter laws often assert, without a shred of hard evidence, that hordes of immigrants are swaying election results by wheedling their way into the voting booth. However, repeated investigations over the years have found no indication that systematic vote fraud by non-citizens is anything other than the product of overactive imaginations." Craig Newmark of Craigslist notes in his infographic that many of these laws claim to solve a major issue when where there were only 9 possible reported instances of voter impersonation or fraud between 2002 and 2007.

Darrel Rowland of the Columbus Dispatch reports that the American Civil Liberties Union, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, and Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law have brought suit on behalf of Ohio plaintiffs against the Secretary of State in Ohio to repeal such a law that amounts to clear voter suppression, a law that remains on the books, although it was declared unconstitutional over six years ago in 2006 by a federal court. Federal Judge Christopher A. Boyko found in 2006 that there “is a very real possibility of ‘profiling’ voters by poll workers or election judges exercising an unfettered ability to challenge on the basis of appearance, name, looks, accent or manner.” Rowland writes:

"The statute would allow Ohio poll workers to ask voters if they are naturalized citizens. If the answer is yes, the voter would be forced to cast a provisional ballot if he or she couldn’t immediately produce their naturalization papers. If the voter didn’t provide the papers to the elections board within 10 days, his or her ballot would be discarded."

The motion brought by the three civil rights organizations states: “As it now stands, any person in Ohio, including voters, poll workers, or organizational poll monitors might reference (the old law) and rely on this unconstitutional law on Election Day. Recurring directives and placing of required signage would ensure that both voters and elections officials are fully aware of the fact that although (the old law) remains ‘on the books,’ it is unconstitutional and unenforceable."

See the full news article here.

For more information about the relationship between Voter ID laws and eligibility to vote, or if you or your colleagues are concerned about ensuring all eligible voters can exercise their right to vote on election day, please visit and sign up to volunteer for Election Protection in your community with the Election Protection Coalition.


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