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National Issues

New Study Examines Impact of Voter ID Laws PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Brennan Center Press Release   
November 14, 2007

New Study Finds African Americans, Lowe-Income Voters, Students, and Seniors Least Likely to Have Valid Voter ID at Issue Before Supreme Court

 
First Quantitative Look at Impact of Indiana's Voter ID Law Comes on Day Voting Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs Challenging Law

Citing new evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, lawyers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and a coalition of voting rights organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging the U.S. Supreme Court to scuttle the Indiana law.  The brief is one of more than 20 amicus briefs being filed today by voting rights advocates, current and former Secretaries of State, law professors, historians, political scientists, student organizations, labor unions and civic, religious and civil rights organizations.  A full list of amici and a summary of their briefs is available here.

The Brennan Center's brief comes as new research, also released today, from the University of Washington Institute on for the Study of Ethnicity and Race is providing the first direct evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, especially African-American and low-income voters as well as senior citizens and students.

"The state of Indiana has the most stringent voter identification law in the country.  This study makes clear that their law - rather than preventing fraud - is actually disenfranchising substantial numbers of Indiana voters," said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center's executive director.

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Senate Bill Would Outlaw "Caging" as Voter Suppression Tactic PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Press Release   
November 13, 2007
Challenging a person’s right to vote because a letter sent to him or her was returned as undeliverable would be illegal under a Senate bill introduced today.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I., pictured at right) joined 12 other senators to unveil legislation aimed at preventing the practice of “voter caging,” a long-recognized voter suppression tactic which has often been used to target minority voters.
 
“In America, we believe that the right of an eligible voter to cast his or her vote is essential to our democracy,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. Attorney and Rhode Island Attorney General.
 
Caging is a voter suppression tactic in which a political party, campaign, or other entity sends mail marked “do not forward” or “return to sender” to a targeted group of voters – often minorities or residents of minority neighborhoods.  A list of those whose mail was returned “undelivered” is then used as the basis for challenges to the right of those citizens to vote, on the grounds that the voter does not live at the address where he or she is registered.  There are many reasons that mail could be returned undelivered, however; an eligible voter could be overseas on active military service or a student registered at a parent’s address.
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Rep. Holt Introduces Legislation to Establish National Standards for Counting Provisional Ballots PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Rep. Rush Holt Press Release   
November 09, 2007

Holt Responds to House Administration, Elections Subcommittee Chairs Call for National Standards

 

In the wake of Congressional hearings today on the subject of Election Day registration and provisional ballots, Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced legislation that would establish a national standard for the counting of provisional ballots. Holt’s bill would require ballots cast in a state to be counted in statewide races if the voter is registered anywhere in the state, and ballots cast in the correct Congressional district to be counted if the voter is registered anywhere in the Congressional district, regardless of whether or not the ballots were cast in the correct precinct.

 

“The Help America Vote Act sought to enfranchise voters by mandating that voters that are told they are not on the registration rolls be given provisional ballots,” Holt said.  “But it didn’t establish standards for how and when those ballots would be counted. In fact in many instances those ballots simply were not counted, leaving some to refer to them as ‘placebo ballots.’ I have introduced legislation today that addresses the need for a national standard.”

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The Supreme Court, Face to Face with the Politics of Voter ID PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Bob Bauer   
November 09, 2007

This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

The Supreme Court has never done well to jump into the middle of partisan politics when, as in Bush v. Gore, its intervention seems decidedly one-sided and deficient in neutral principles. But it fares no better if, ignoring partisan politics altogether, it turns a blind eye to illegitimate, ill-motivated burdens imposed on fundamental rights. The Indiana photo ID case asks the Court to confront the political facts "on the ground," which are these:  a legislature dominated by one party imposes a stringent ID restriction, the most stringent of its kind in the nation, in the knowledge—the very common knowledge—that it would solve no known problem but will burden most heavily voters allied with the opposition party. We will soon find out whether the Court faces this fact or ignores it; whether it deals squarely with political reality, or passes it off as of little jurisprudential significance.

 

The Indiana Democratic Party does what a good party, in defense of its supporters and adherents, would do, and it presses the Court to take account of the reality of partisan abuse in the regulation of electoral mechanics. The party’s point is restrained, all things considered: it does not call on the Court to rest its case on a finding of partisan intent or bad faith, but it asks that the constitutional standard be applied with a degree of "stringency when there is every circumstantial reason to believe that a given law was designed to suppress votes cast for political competitors."  Indiana Democratic Party Brief at 40.

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The Supreme Court, Face to Face with the Politics of Voter ID PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Bob Bauer   
November 09, 2007

This article was published on Bob Bauer's Blog abd it reposted here with permission of the author.

 

The Supreme Court has never done well to jump into the middle of partisan politics when, as in Bush v. Gore, its intervention seems decidedly one-sided and deficient in neutral principles. But it fares no better if, ignoring partisan politics altogether, it turns a blind eye to illegitimate, ill-motivated burdens imposed on fundamental rights. The Indiana photo ID case asks the Court to confront the political facts "on the ground," which are these: a legislature dominated by one party imposes a stringent ID restriction, the most stringent of its kind in the nation, in the knowledge—the very common knowledge—that it would solve no known problem but will burden most heavily voters allied with the opposition party. We will soon find out whether the Court faces this fact or ignores it; whether it deals squarely with political reality, or passes it off as of little jurisprudential significance.

 

The Indiana Democratic Party does what a good party, in defense of its supporters and adherents, would do, and it presses the Court to take account of the reality of partisan abuse in the regulation of electoral mechanics. The party’s point is restrained, all things considered: it does not call on the Court to rest its case on a finding of partisan intent or bad faith, but it asks that the constitutional standard be applied with a degree of "stringency when there is every circumstantial reason to believe that a given law was designed to suppress votes cast for political competitors." Indiana Democratic Party Brief at 40.

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EAC Kicks Off Voting System Reports Clearinghouse PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Media Release   
November 08, 2007
The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has received its first request to share voting system reports generated by state and local election officials. The first request comes from California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to provide the public with information about the state's top-to-bottom review of its voting systems. EAC's Voting System Reports Clearinghouse is available here.

 

"We appreciate Secretary Bowen working with us to share information about voting systems in California with election officials throughout the nation and with the public," said EAC Chairwoman Donetta Davidson. "This is an important first step in building a national clearinghouse of voting system reports that have been conducted by states and counties. We encourage election officials throughout the nation to participate by submitting the reviews they've conducted."

 

The Voting System Reports Clearinghouse is the result of a policy adopted by the Commission to post and distribute voting system reports or studies submitted by state and local governments. The policy also covers sharing information regarding the states' implementation of the voluntary voting system guidelines. Section 202 (1) of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) directs the EAC to serve as a national clearinghouse that provides information from state and local governments regarding their experience in operating voting systems.

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Election Day 2007: New ID Laws Disenfranchise Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
November 07, 2007

This article was published at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

New state laws requiring photo voter ID in Georgia and Michigan prevented some low-income and minority voters from casting ballots in local elections held on November 6, according to the NAACP.

 

"The experience is that voters in Detroit are angry and confused about the new voter ID law," said Melvin Butch Hollowell, general counsel with the Detroit National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We are receiving complaints that are 40 percent above of what we see in a gubernatorial or presidential election."

 

"Right now, you can see the early confusion going on," said Edward Dubose, president of the Georgia state conference of the NAACP. "We are very much concerned about it. We have teams in the field. We plan to have a follow-up public hearing on Friday."

 

While the mainstream media is reporting that Nov. 6, 2007 has been a quiet, low-turnout election with few problems, the biggest exception appears to be introduction of the photo ID laws in Georgia and Michigan -- where state officials have said hundreds of thousands of previously registered voters lack the ID now needed to vote. A half-dozen states held statewide or municipal elections on Nov. 6.

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Voter Intimidation May Plague Election Day 2007 PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
November 06, 2007

This article was published at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

Tough new voter identification laws, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, officials who won't follow federal election law, challenges to college student voter registrations, electronic voting machine failures -- these are problems that voting rights groups and Democrats will be monitoring as a handful of states vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

 

"No election is ever run perfectly," said David Becker, People for the American Way's Democracy Campaign director, which is staffing a national hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, that will be active on Tuesday to help voters if they run into problems at their polls. "Even if elections are run responsibly, things happen. ... We have to be vigilant."

 

As always in odd-numbered years, there are a handful of state and local races around the country. While not as high-profile as races for Congress or president, these contests can experience numerous voter suppression tactics and deceptive election practices. Some political observers say obstacles that will surface today may be a precursor for 2008.

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Rep. Ellison Would Ban Photo ID Requirement for Voting PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Rep. Keith Ellison Press Release   
November 05, 2007

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) has introduced legislation that would ban the use of photo identification as a requirement for voting in federal elections.

“In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation,” Ellison stated. “We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone’s ability to exercise that right. While photo ids seem harmless, they are in fact – the modern day poll tax,” Ellison said. Poll taxes were used extensively throughout the South from Reconstruction through the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Black voters. In 1964, Congress ratified the 24th Amendment which banned poll taxes.

The requirement for photo ids in federal elections can impose a burdensome requirement and ultimately disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of voters, particularly low-income, communities of color, senior citizens, women and young people.


Recently, the Chief of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Rights Division, John Tanner confirmed this when stating: “It's probably true that among those who don't [have Photo ID], it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame. Of course...our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first."

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Risks of E-Voting PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By David Wagner and Matt Bishop, for ACM   
November 05, 2007

Electronic voting has spread throughout the U.S. and the world without sufficient attention to reliability, security, or transparency. Today's e-voting systems use proprietary code, and vendors have often asserted the confidentiality of this code when independent reviews of certified systems were requested. This confidentiality conflicts with the transparency required for public elections.

 

In order to provide an independent assessment of the voting systems certified for use in California, Secretary of State Debra Bowen initiated a top-to-bottom review of those e-voting systems. She asked us to recruit a team of experts and gave us access to all the equipment, source code, and technical information that the Secretary of State's office had.

 

The results showed that the systems appeared not to be designed or implemented with security in mind. The design and implementation ignored basic security principles, and we found serious security vulnerabilities in all three vendors' systems. The security flaws were systemic and surprisingly similar across the three systems.

 

For example, malicious code could exploit vulnerabilities in the voting software to spread virally from machine to machine. As a result, when the voting machines return results to election central to count the votes, a virus could infect the county's election management systems. At the next election, the infected election management systems could then infect every voting machine in the county.

 

This virus could be introduced at several points in the process. An attacker could tamper with an e-voting machine while it is stored unattended over-night in a polling place. For some of the systems, a voter could introduce malicious code in under a minute, while voting.

 

Read the Entire Article at the ACM Digital Library 

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