President Obama has said that Dr. King led our country on a salvation path for the oppressed as well as the oppressor. I love this statement because it highlights Dr. King’s vision that the political is the personal. Just as relationships between individuals can only work if they’re based on mutual respect, our democracy can function only if its laws advance— not thwart—each person’s dignity and right to political expression.
North Carolina’s harsh voter identification law, the Voter Information Verification Act, has met strong resistance since it passed in 2013. As the Act nears its 2016 implementation, the state Board of Elections recently released its proposed set of specific rules for administering the ID requirement, followed by nine hearings across the state for the purpose of soliciting public comment on the rules.
Many North Carolinians used the hearings as an outlet to express their concerns about the law’s potential to disenfranchise voters, and in a triumph for the democratic process, the legislature has now responded with a bill to help ease some (though not all) of the law’s harshness.
The 2013 Voter Information Verification Act requires, in part, that voters present an approved form of photo ID in order to vote. The law states that the photo must bear a “reasonable resemblance” to the voter, but stops short of specifying what “reasonable resemblance” means. The proposed rules released by the Board of Elections include specific guidance on the “reasonable resemblance” requirement, including the instruction that perceived differences in weight, hair style, facial hair, complexion, disability, and other characteristics may not be grounds for finding a lack of resemblance.
The New Jersey state legislature recently introduced multiple versions of a bill called “The Democracy Act” that aims to bring sweeping reforms to numerous elements of the state’s voting and election laws. The first version of the bill (NJ A 4574) was introduced to the Assembly, referred to several committees, amended, and has not passed the Assembly yet. The second version of the bill (NJ A 4613) passed the State Assembly, moved on to the State Senate where it also passed, and is now headed to Governor Chris Christie’s desk where it will likely be vetoed. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, aims to make voting and registering to vote much easier, but also aims to deal with deceptive voting practices and voter fraud. Despite containing seemingly bipartisan provisions, the bill has been supported along partisan lines, gaining support amongst Democrats and opposition from Republicans.
Lawsuit by Arizona and Kansas to Force Changes in Federal Voter Registration Form Reaches the End of the Road
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United States Supreme Court denied a Petition for Certiorari filed by Arizona and Kansas in Kobach v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission. By refusing to hear an appeal in the case, the Supreme Court leaves in effect the November 2014 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, which unanimously ruled that Arizona and Kansas cannot force the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to alter the federal voter registration form to require documentary proof of citizenship.
On Thursday I had the privilege of traveling to Roanoke, Va. to rally alongside hundreds of people in support of the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Act, introduced in Congress on Wednesday by Senators Leahy, Durbin and Coons and Representatives Lewis, Sewell, Sanchez, and Chu, has a simple objective: restore the Voting Rights Act, the law that has guarded against discrimination at the polls for 50 years. It is hard to imagine such an objective could be controversial, yet for two years now Congress has refused to consider the issue.