Saturday, February 18, 2012

Votes On The Line With Voter Photo ID

A year after the 2008 presidential election, calls for new voter identification laws were heard in many states. Led by a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, proponents claim that such a law is needed because there is “rampant voter fraud.”

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a heavily conservative nonprofit organization funded by billionaires such as the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation) and corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. ALEC writes legislative bills that Republican governors and legislators introduce as their own in state legislatures.

ALEC’s public safety and elections task force drafted the Voter ID Act in the summer of 2009, which would require “proof of identity” to vote. Those without a valid photo ID must fill out a provisional ballot that is only counted if the voter produces an ID at the county elections office. It also suggests that ID cards be made available free of charge to eligible voters without a valid driver’s license.

PBS: Millions of voting age citizens don't have a U.S. Passport or photo ID issued by a department of motor vehicles office in any of the 50 states. The hurdles to vote by first obtaining a photo ID issued by state's department of motor vehicles can be daunting and costly for those who do not otherwise need or have a state DMV issued photo ID.

Watch Voter ID on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

The new voter photo ID laws being pushed by ALEC in all 50 states arguably represent the most serious efforts to exclude Americans from voting since the Jim Crow wave of anti-black voter suppression laws that Southern states enforced from the 1870s until the 1960s.

The Daily Planet - Minneapolis, MN

ALEC is a Republican-favored organization that is promoting “its right-wing agenda” in all 50 states, says Color of, a national activist group that has launched a national campaign calling for corporations and others to stop financially supporting the organization. The MSR tried contacting ALEC’s Washington offices for comment, but no one answered the phone and there was not an answering system available to leave messages.

Since 2009, 33 states have introduced some form of photo ID bill, and 14 states have passed laws that now require voters to present a federal- or state-issued photo ID with an expiration date at the polls. Opponents, who include most Democrats as well as local and nationally based organizations that advocate for Blacks and other people of color, say the legislation is “a thinly veiled attempt to depress [voter] turnout.”

“There have been no problems [of voter fraud in Minnesota],” says State Representative Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis), who told the MSR last week that there are more pressing issues that need addressing.

“Public policy and legislation should be about solving a problem or a challenge,” Champion says. The current same-day voter registration “encourages people to come out and vote. If a person doesn’t have something [to verify their address], their neighbor can vouch for them,” says the lawmaker.

State Representative Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) says, “We have a system that is working and very inclusive, and also represents that voting is a right. We have a group here trying to take that right [and] make it a privilege.”

The Republican-majority Minnesota Legislature did pass a photo ID bill last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. An attempt is now underway in this year’s session to introduce a bill that would amend the state constitution to require all Minnesotans to show either a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID at the polls.

If successful, this legislation would end same-day voter registration and absentee voting.

This amendment is not publicly driven but politically driven, says State Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis). “All you need is a simple majority in the Senate and the House to put it on the ballot,” he explains, adding that going this route “sets up a dangerous precedent like they have in other states. It really mucks up the ballot.”

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) joined several Minnesotans at the State Capitol on February 6 to speak out against the proposed amendment. He cited statistics from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office showing that over 700,000 Minnesotans — including seniors, college students, people with disabilities, people of color, and new Americans — would be affected by a new photo ID amendment.

Ellison later told the MSR that because statewide elections in both 2008 and 2010 were decided by, respectively, a few hundred and a few thousand votes, “Photo ID could unfairly tip the scales in future elections.”

Read the full article @ The Daily Planet


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