Coffee Break Ballot, July 27: Current Trends in Voting Rights

After nine weeks of tracking, posting and tweeting, our voting rights trend watch has come to an end.

That doesn’t mean we won’t keep tabs on the voting rights buzz cycle in the run up to the Nov. 6 election. But our regular postings on the daily ups and downs of our reading habits end today, just as the News21 newsroom empties and the summer comes to a close.

The biggest and most exciting parts of our reporting are still to come. Stay posted to for our upcoming launch in a few weeks.

What We’ve Learned

Here are some trends and topics from our more than 40 posts.

  • Trends on Twitter are Ephemeral

We’ve tracked the rise, fall and further fall of a few voting rights-related search terms, but we couldn’t help but notice the cyclical nature of any report, voter suppression/voter fraud alarm or well-argued column. The quick-reaction qualities that make Twitter excellent for instant news alerts also make it a terrible memory keeper.

  • Even the Most Explosive Numbers Fade

Remember when Pennsylvania admitted that up to 750,000 registered voters didn’t have a photo ID required under the state’s new law? Or perhaps when the Sentencing Project reported that one in 10 Florida adults would be prevented from voting because of felony convictions? Reactions to reports and statistics that are difficult to comprehend can’t last, because memories fade quickly – the numbers won’t mean much until the election.

  • Voting Rights, Voter ID and Voter Fraud Only Trend During Elections

We admit we’ve been lucky. The Wisconsin recall election in mid-June was a fluke in an election-year summer. That and a few hotly contested primaries enabled us to see how an election can drive interest in election policy minutiae that dominate a news day. Keep posted for a few more closely watched primary elections in August as lead-ins for how Twitter users might behave come November.

  • Election Policy Is Hard to Explain on Social Media

Explaining the intricacies of poll challenges, ballot access and election technologies is not suited to crowd-sourcing techniques. Factoids are tweeted, retweeted and replied, but the ultimate election law understanding comes in the links and stories within the tweets.

  • Voter Fraud Is Always Popular on Twitter

Got an example of voter fraud? How about absentee ballot fraud? Voting registration fraud? Did you dog or cat receive a registration form in the mail? If so, that story likely will be tweeted, retweeted and angrily posted all around social media. It’s a phenomenon that is rather evergreen; registration fraud always can occur, regardless of elections.

Remember to keep an eye on our homepage for our site launch, and keep following @WhoCanVote for more links, commentary and voting rights news.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 26: Current Trends In Voting Rights

We have to admit that it’s a little challenging to report on social trends in voting rights news and conversation when the main platform of that dialogue serves up a great big fail whale.

As our readers probably have noticed, microblogging site Twitter shut down temporarily this morning, rendering our regular trend-tracking efforts mostly moot.

But we have found some great reads on Florida voters affected by the controversial, ongoing voter roll purge, and we’ve been fortunate enough to catch the Pennsylvania ACLU’s series of timely factoid tweets on photo voter ID in that state.

What can we say? We’ve got one more day of updates, one more day of blogging. Stay tuned.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida at the forefront as states plan fresh assault on voting rights,” (Ed Pilkington, 07/26, The Guardian)

Voter suppression: ‘I’m a better citizen than any of them. I’m not going to quit,'” (Ed Pilkington, 07/26, The Guardian)

In Voter ID Law Court Fight, Expert Says Pennsylvania Is Soft-Pedaling The Impact,” (Cherri Gregg, 07/26, CBSNews)

Pennsylvania Governor Can’t Recall Requirements of Voter ID Law He Signed,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/26, Talking Points Memo)

Twitter Trends

Aside from the obvious, Twitter outage-related decline in all of our search terms this morning, the most notable trend is a slight decline in mentions of ‘voter ID’ on Twitter.

Even though the Pennsylvania photo voter ID state lawsuit continues today and through the rest of the week, the bombshell pretrial admission by the state that it had no credible cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud sparked a momentary Twitter firestorm. It has since died down.

The conclusion of the trial and lingering discomfort on both sides of the voter ID argument over Pennsylvania’s voter fraud admission will probably keep voter ID on the rise later in the week, but we’re deeply fascinated by the changes in conversation as new buzz items distract and distort the fundamental facts at the core of this issue.

As always, remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.


Coffee Break Ballot, July 25: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Pennsylvania calmed down a bit today, but the Keystone State voting rights fight is far from finished. Commonwealth Court heard opening arguments in a Pennsylvania ACLu suit that seeks to block the recently adopted photo voter ID law.

The hubbub around yesterday’s rally opposing the law spilled into today’s columns, articles and tweets.

Pennsylvania is on the front lines of the election year tussle over ballot access. The judge in the case has said he hopes to make a ruling on the constitutionality of the law by mid-August. Appeals are possible. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet announced whether its investigation into the state’s voter ID law will result in a separate, federal suit.

Nothing like a little court case to get reporters and civil rights activists riled.

What We’ve Been Reading

Pennsylvania voter ID case opens in state court,” (Robert Barnes, 07/25, Washington Post)

What’s the Deal with the Pennsylvania Voter-ID Law?” (Abby Rapoport, 07/25, The American Prospect)

Judge denies restraining order in Memphis suit to make library photo cards valid for voter ID,” (Richard Locker, 07/24, Memphis Commercial Appeal)

Key state of Colorado among worst prepared for voting problems, report finds,” (Stephanie Cordon, 07/25, CBSNews)

Why Today’s Voter ID Faceoff in Pennsylvania is Crucial,” (Brentin Mock, 07/25, The Nation / Colorlines)

No, Democrats Aren’t Trying to Register Kids and Dogs to Vote,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/25, Talking Points Memo)

Democratic Voting Enthusiasm Down Sharply From 2004, 2008,” (Jeffrey M. Jones, 07/25, Gallup)

Twitter Trends

Our four key voting rights search terms are booming today on Twitter. The Pennsylvania voter ID state trial, coupled with an explosive FOXNews story on a culture of vote buying in eastern Kentucky, has pushed voting rights social media conversation sharply up.

According to social media search engine, the biggest gainers today are “voter ID” and “voter fraud.” The Pennsylvania case ties both terms — it centers on a voter ID law, and the state announced it has no credible examples of voter fraud. The Kentucky story shows prosecuted election fraud – while in this case was not preventable through photo voter ID laws – that still proves troubling to election integrity activists.

We’d love to see this kind of momentum build well through the rest of the summer and into the fall elections.

But the Olympic opening ceremony is Friday, meaning attention will be diverted to London for a fortnight of athletic excitement.

For voting rights excitement, remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 24: Current Trends in Voting Rights

We promise that we’ve been reading about states other than Pennsylvania.

But the state admits in pre-trial documents that no examples of in-person voter impersonation fraud exist – the fraud that photo ID laws would prevent – and that it will not argue that point in the ACLU trial against Act 18. We admit: we read the entire brief.

As this is posted, a large protest is taking place on the Capitol steps in Harrisburg, Pa. The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is investigating the photo voter ID law independently of the suit the ACLU.

Many voting rights watchers have been waiting for a turning point in the debate over the efficacy, effect and educational aspects of photo ID laws. Few observers, however, could have expected that Pennsylvania – which does not fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – would push the debate as much as it did today.

What We’ve Been Reading

Ahead of Voter ID Trial, Pennsylvania Admits There’s No In-Person Voter Fraud,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/24, Talking Points Memo)

U.S. investigation of Pa.’s new voter ID law,” (Bob Warner and Angela Coloumbis, 07/24, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Goes to Court,” (Ari Berman, 07/24, The Nation)

DOJ letter on voter ID,” (Tim McNulty, 07/24, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Wisconsin Republican Senator Believes Voter ID Will Help Romney ‘In A Close Race,’” (Scott Keyes, 07/24, ThinkProgress)

Pennsylvania admits it: no voter fraud problem,” (Jamelle Bouie, 07/24, Washington Post)

Twitter Trends

There’s been huge movement in the social media discussion of voting rights, but not in ways expected.

The biggest mover in our search process is voter fraud, an election or primary centered term that coalesces around ballot mischief allegations. An almost six-fold increase in mentions of voter fraud stems from Pennsylvania’s no-fraud admission.

As news sources – Talking Points Memo, The Washington Post, MSNBC – pick up the story, users have been tweeting and retweeting the legal brief and related stories. The Harrisburg rally also took a news tweet turn when the voter fraud pretrial brief became public, as state politicians and civil rights leaders responded to the news.

In short, it’s a Keystone State kind of day.

Be sure to follow us @WhoCanVote for more updates and links throughout the day.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 23: Current Trends in Voting Rights

The regular weekend lull in voting rights news hit in full force, with a pause in online discussion of some of our regular voting rights topics.

The News21 newsroom has hit a bit of a pause as well. More than half of the team has left the building, and the rest will finish stories and leave at the end of the week.

We’ll still be blogging all week, and the tweets won’t stop until well past the mid-August site launch. Until then, stay tuned to what’s going on in voting rights news.

What We’ve Been Reading

Do We Need a New Voting Rights Act?” (Abby Rapoport, 07/23, The American Prospect)

Bill Daley Asks: Is Obama Campaign Ready for Recounts?” (James Warren, 07/23, The Daily Beast)

Public Relations Firm Educating Pennsylvania Minorities On Voter ID Stacked With Republicans,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/20, Talking Points Memo)

The voter ID mess subverts an American birthright,” (Charlie Crist, 07/20, Washington Post)

GOP trumpets rampant Philly voter fraud in a report that doesn’t show it,” (Issiah Thompson, 07/20, Philadelphia City Paper)

Rate of Possession of Valid Photo Identification, And Public Knowledge of the Voter ID Law in Philadelphia,” ( Matt A. Barreto and  Gabriel R. Sanchez, 07/16, University of Washington)

Twitter Trends

Well-placed and widely read reports and articles — like those that covered the new lawsuit in Pennsylvania over that state’s strict photo voter ID law — can spur online conversation.

Twitter conversation across four key search terms on social media search engine was considerably quiet this morning. One trend is a concerted push from progressive opponents of voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and other states.

Viral mentions of an upcoming anti-voter ID rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., have spread this morning, as have legal briefs and summaries of the ACLU lawsuit against voter ID requirements there.

Most of our linked articles this morning will direct you toward the Keystone State, and all this digital buzz is why.

For more news and links, remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 20: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Election-centered presumptions about voting rights news didn’t take into account the effect a well-placed, well-sourced report can have.

The Washington Post, NPR, the Huffington Post, Reuters, Yahoo!News and the New York Times (today in a lengthy front-page news profile) have referenced and sampled the Brennan Center for Justice study on the difficulties faced by voters who don’t have photo ID as they try to obtain proper identification before the November election.

We’ve enjoyed watching this report spread, and we are definitely impressed by the way well-placed stories can take an issue like voting rights from the realms of political wonks to a more general audience. We’re hope for a similar spread when our project appears next month.

What We’ve Been Reading

Legal Battles Erupt Over Tough Voter ID Laws,” (Ethan Bronner, 07/19, New York Times)

AARP Says Senior Voters Will Suffer From Voter-ID Law,” (Randy LoBasso, 07/20, PhillyNOW)

Colorado election watchers see officials chipping away at public oversight,” (John Tomasic, The Colorado Independent)

Iowa elections chief seeks to prove voter fraud,” (Ryan J. Foley, 07/14, Associated Press)

Section 5 challenges reach Court,” (Lyle Denniston, 07/20, SCOTUSBlog)

Voter suppression — Round 2 in the debate on ID laws,” (Leonard Pitts, Jr., 07/20, Miami Herald)

Twitter Trends

We’re expecting a considerable boost next week when columnists, writers and journalists react to the Supreme Court arrival of two petitions that challenge Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and additional push back from conservative supporters of photo voter ID legislation.

But it’s Friday, and half the News21 newsroom is on the way out of Phoenix. So we’ll join them over some ice cream, and we’ll be back next week.

Remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 19: Current Trends in Voting Rights

With all the charts, reports and numbers from earlier this week, today is a bit of a lull.

It’s not that news isn’t happening — far from it — but most of our regular sources of voting rights updates are taking a break.

Granted, there was big news this week. The Minnesota Supreme Court Tuesday heard a lawsuit challenging the intent and language of a proposal to require photo voter ID for all elections. A Wisconsin judge ruled that the state’s photo ID law was unconstitutional.

Overall, though, things have speeding up as the countdown to the November election ticks. Here, too, we’re picking up speed as summer comes to a close. Edits and revisions are daily facts of life in the News21 newsroom. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement on our launch date.

What We’ve Been Reading

Lots of litigating to go before voters cast their ballots,” (Tom Curry, 07/19,

Is Voter Fraud a Fraud?” (Eliza Shapiro, 07/19, The Daily Beast / Newsweek)

Voter ID Education,” (Bryan Schwartzman, 07/18, Jewish Exponent)

Pennsylvania’s strict voter ID law faces ACLU lawsuit,” (David G. Savage, 07/18, Los Angeles Times)

More than 20K Voter IDs Issued in Primary Election Run-Up,” (Andrea Zelinksi, 07/19, TNReport)

Don’t LIke Blacks? You’ll Love Voter ID,” (Jamelle Bouie, 07/19, The American Prospect)

Twitter Trends

Just as we’re not seeing a lot of movement in the news, we’re also not seeing a lot of Twitter action on key search terms.

A report by The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan research institute based at the New York University School of Law, details difficulties some voters might face in obtaining a proper photo ID continues to spread, with casual users tweeting and retweeting the link, and in some cases, @ both major candidates for President.

The biggest Twitter mover today is “voter ID,” but even that is reduced in comparison with earlier gains this month. A big boost in “voter suppression” and/or “voter fraud” could come when several states start runoff elections.

When those changes happen, we’ll be the first to tell you about it.

Remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 18: Current Trends in Voting Rights

This is a week of numbers.

Granted, we regularly look for numbers in our daily Web searches – reports, data sheets and voter surveys that help News21 reporters. But this week has been significant already.

We talked earlier in the week about The New York Times’ Nate Silver. Yesterday evening, the Brennan Center for Justice – a nonpartisan research institute based at New York University School of Law – released a report detailing the potential difficulties that many voters face when attempting to obtain proper photo identification to vote.

The report is worth a read, but highlights from the report include some pretty staggering numbers.

Almost 500,000 eligible voters without ID live more than 10 miles from an identification-issuing office and lack access to a vehicle, while more than 10 million voters are more than 10 miles from their identification-issuing office.


Many of those offices have reduced or limited hours, especially in rural areas with high concentrations of the poor and minorities.


The states affected by these laws will deliver 127 electoral college votes in the presidential election this fall — almost half of the total needed to win.

We’ve had a lot to read this week in the News21 newsroom.

What We’ve Been Reading

The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” (Keesha Gashkins and Sundeep Iyer, 07/17, Brennan Center for Justice)

Millions of Felons Barred From Voting Booth,” (Rosa Ramirez, 0718, National Journal)

Election Officials Respond to Illegal Voter Study,” (Cori Coffin, 07/18, KREX News [CO] )

Woman cut twice from voter rolls is dead certain she’s alive,” (Scott Powers, 07/17, Orlando Sentinel)

Study: 500,000 face major challenges with voter-ID laws,” (Aamer Madhani, 07/18, USAToday)

Wash. to unveil voter registration on Facebook,” (Rachel La Corte, 07/17, Associated Press)

Analysis: Philly voters over 80 would be most inconvenienced by new ID law,” (Bob Warner, 07/18, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Dems call for Bolger to step down as speaker over candidate switch,” (Paul Egan, 07/18, Battle Creek Enquirer)

Twitter Trends

The most significant movement among our regular search words this morning isn’t terribly surprising. ‘Voter ID’ is gaining a noticeable uptick, most likely because of stories repackaging the Brennan Center report on voter ID. NPR, Politico, USA Today and other national news outlets detailed findings from the report.

Philadelphia Inquirer story assessing the effects of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law on the elderly also is making the Twitter rounds.

These stories are keeping voter ID mentions moving, although the continued tweets and retweets of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s petition against ‘voter suppression’ in Pennsylvania are also showing some movement on social media search engine

For news and updates, follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 17: Current Trends in Voting Rights

We like numbers here in the News21 newsroom. One of the biggest gaps we’ve seen in voting rights reporting during our 10-week project has been solid numbers. In the ongoing debate over photo voter ID, for example, both supporters and opponents of such legislation have difficulty pointing to hard numbers on the effects on the actual number of affected voters.

One of the key and most controversial elements of last week’s federal District Court hearing on Texas’s voter ID law focused on numbers. The state and the U.S. Department of Justice were unable to agree on the precise number of registered voters who might not have proper photo identification to vote under the new law.

So this week has been a good one for those of us who like numbers. A pair of solid, nuanced studies on turnout and voter ID (from The New York Times’ Nate Silver and The New Republic’s Nate Cohn) yesterday and today’s comprehensive report on black ‘swing voters’ from the National Urban League provide for excellent reading.

Granted, we won’t know the actual numbers on any of this until November 6. But until then, we’re glad to see some credible, careful analyses. Read on.

What We’ve Been Reading

The Hidden Swing Voters,” (Report, 07/16, National Urban League)

Marc Veasey, Domingo Garcia wage gritty battle for Dallas area’s new congressional seat,” (Gomer Jeffers, Jr., 07/16, Dallas Morning News)

ACLU leads challenge to voter ID amendment in court today,” (Tim Pugmire, 07/17, Minnesota Public Radio)

The U.S. Should Require All Citizens to Vote,” (Norman Ornstein, 07/17, The Atlantic)

W. Va. county official charge in vote fraud probe,” (Lawrence Messina, 07/17, Associated Press)

Obama Campaign Sues Ohio for Shortening Early Voting Period,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/17, Talking Points Memo)

Twitter Trends

Although we would have thought the real motion on Twitter today would have been related to the hearing in the Minnesota Supreme Court over the ACLU challenge to the wording on a voter ID ballot initiative, we were wrong. Instead, we’re seeing a (small, but notable) rise in mentions of voter suppression.

On social media search engine, the biggest relative motion we’re seeing comes from a series of tweets promoting a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee petition against what it calls ‘voter suppression’ in Pennsylvania (Even R&B singer Alicia Keys tweeted her support for the petition.)

Tweets like Keys’ have made voter suppression our biggest mover today among our regular voting rights search terms. The term might rise with continued celebrity promotion, but we still can’t imagine ‘voter suppression’ will break into the Twitter trend big leagues for some time.

And of course, for more updates remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Coffee Break Ballot, July 16: Current Trends in Voting Rights

We’re already big fans of the New York Times‘ Nate SIlver, whose Five Thirty Eight blog has gained a following for its statistical election predictions.

So when Silver tweeted a post, offering his numbers-heavy analysis measuring predictable effects of photo voter ID laws on voter turnout, we were intrigued.

His post is making the rounds around the Twitterverse, with some regular followers in the News21 newsroom tweeting, retweeting and commenting on the post.

It points out that much of the rhetoric on both sides is moot when statistics and raw data are taken into account. That’s one of several numbers-heavy pieces we’ve been looking at this morning.

What We’ve Been Reading

Measuring the Effects of Voter Identification Laws,” (Nate Silver, 07/15, The New York Times)

Will Voter ID Laws Cost Obama Reelection?” (Nate Cohn, 07/16, The New Republic)

Voter ID is a hot topic, but will Alabama’s ID law stop election fraud?” (Tim Lockette, 07/15, Anniston Star)

Rick Scott: Other states can purge voter rolls,” (Kevin Robillard, 07/16, Politico)

HUSKEY: Showing ID is common, effective,” (Stan Huksey, 07/15, The Times Herald)

Ballot fraud retrial gets into details,” (Kenneth C. Crowe II, 07/11, Rochester Times-Union)

Photo IDs may be inconvenient, but they help prevent voter fraud,” (Robert Bennett, 07/16, The Deseret News)

Florida Decides Poll: Gov. Rock Scott’s low approval ratings,” (Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, 07/15, Florida13 News)

Twitter Trends

After the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles released data suggesting more than 700,000 registered voters could lack required photo voter ID under the state’s new law, we’ve been waiting for the conservative pushback. That commentary came today.

One of the most buzzed about items today came from the Daily Caller, which has repackaged a story from the Rochester (N.Y.) Times-Union about a local election fraud trial in which a Democratic city council candidate testified that voter fraud was a “reality of both parties” in the state.

The fraud in question is ballot fraud – not voter impersonation –  which photo voter ID laws would not solve. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t provided ammunition for supporters of photo voter ID legislation.

It’s definitely buzz-worthy, and it meets the criteria for popular tweets — it features a member of the Democratic party admitting that fraud happens, regularly, giving supporters something talk about.

It’s also the kind of detail-orientated story that could prompt real conversation about election administration, but that’s not how Twitter is generally used.

Follow our reporters @DoubleOChen and @JoeHenke as they report from the National Association of Secretaries of State Convention this week in Puerto Rico, and as always, follow us @WhoCanVote for the latest updates on voting rights news and trends.