The witch hunt for non-citizens lurking on voter rolls and compromising elections turned up short in Tennessee this week. According to the Tennesseean, an “outgoing” Davidson County, Tenn. election commissioner’s estimate of thousands of non-citizens on the county voter rolls turned out to be just 14 “potential non-citizens.”
More than two dozen civil and voting rights groups expressed concern over three new bills that may “limit and discourage participation in the voting process.” The bills were heard by House members earlier today.
On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s untimely death, Attorney General Eric Holder urged the United States Supreme Court to preserve the “crown jewel” of the civil rights movement: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 .
The federal provision requires states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to seek federal approval or “preclearance” before changing voting laws. The high court is now assessing whether this provision is still needed. Learn more about preclearance here.
The Associated Press reports:
“Let me be clear: While this country has indeed changed, and real progress has been made, we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act can be described as unnecessary or a product of a flawed political process,” the attorney general told the National Action Network.
This week, a group of voting rights and civil rights advocates, including Project Vote, wrote to the Florida Senate Community Affairs Committee as it reviews and amends the proposed SB 600.
The group requests that the committee passes new laws to shore up Floridians’ voting rights and fix the voting system that caused long lines throughout early voting and Election Day last year. While SB 600 has a few measures that seek to address voting problems in Florida, the voting rights and civil rights advocates argue that it fails to address many of the problems and more can be done.
Groups that signed the letter include Project Vote, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Fair Elections Legal Network, National Congress of Black Women, Advancement Project, among several others. Read the letter here.
Strict photo voter ID laws are popular in state legislatures. Already this year, legislators in 20 states have proposed restrictive voter ID policies reports Project Vote. Voting rights advocates fight strict photo voter ID, because it discriminates against those citizens who don’t have current IDs which are disproportionately lower-income Americans, seniors, young people, or minorities.
The Washington Post has this handy map for showing what ID is needed to vote in every state.
New voter suppression efforts prove the Voting Rights Act is still needed, said Ari Berman at The Nation today. Berman cited Project Vote’s new report, Election Legislation 2013: Threats and Opportunities Assessment.
“Despite the GOP’s avowal to reach out to new constituencies following the 2012 election, Republican state legislators have continued to support new voting restrictions in 2013. According to a report by Project Vote, 55 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 30 states so far this year.”
Berman concludes, “with Congress deadlocked, the states are where the action is. It’s good that people are finally taking notice, especially as state politics continue to shift further to the right in many places.”
In a report released today, voting rights organization Project Vote analyzes all of the voting related bills introduced, passed, or rejected across the country in the first quarter of 2013, and finds that the recent trend towards disenfranchisement continues.
According to the report, Election Legislation 2013: Threats and Opportunities Assessment, 30 states introduced laws that restrict voting. While the lawmakers’ continued focus on voter restrictions is disturbing, the report also finds a groundswell of support for ways to protect and improve access to the democratic system. “Members of Congress, state lawmakers, and the American people are focusing on combating anti-voting measures and bringing our election system into the 21st century,” writes report author Erin Ferns Lee.
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court “heard arguments about whether states have the power under the federal law to add restrictions to voter registration,” particularly a state’s requirement to submit documentary proof-of-citizenship with a federal registration form.
While SCOTUS deliberated over Arizona’s voter registration law, other states continued to push copycat bills. In the last seven days, legislators in states like Nevada (SB 367) and South Carolina (SB 227) went forward with similar bills.
Today, members of the Florida Senate heard a bill that is supposed to address the long lines that affected Florida on Election Day 2012. Project Vote submitted testimony on the bill, SB 600.
“While Project Vote acknowledges that this bill takes some positive steps, it does not go far enough to eliminate barriers to voting, and in some respects creates additional barriers,” Project Vote wrote. “Regarding early voting, the bill leaves too much to be decided by election supervisors: although it helps good election administrators to improve early voting, it does little to require improvement where it is needed most.”
Next Monday, March 18, the Supreme Court will review the critical voting rights case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, Inc (ITC). The stakes in the case are high: The ruling could gut the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, commonly known as “Motor Voter.” The NVRA requires states to provide voter registration opportunities when citizens get a driver’s license or seek government services at other agencies and provides for voter registration by mail, which is particularly important for citizen-led voter registration drives. In so doing, it protects voters against state restrictions on voter registration for federal elections.
We must protect this critically important legislation. When the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) first analyzed the NVRA in 1996, it found that the legislation had led to the highest percentage of voter registration ever on record. In the 2010 election alone, the most recent year for which data is available, the NVRA helped register over 45 million voters.
Hosted by our friends at the League of Women Voters, please join us and other voting rights and civil rights groups for a Tweetchat this Friday.
2:00pm ET, Friday, March 15
The tweetchat will explain the nation’s strong need for the National Voter Registration Act. Use hashtag #NVRA to join the conversation.
If the Supreme Court rules against the NVRA, states would be free to pass laws that restrict voter registration activities and prevent eligible citizens from registering to vote.