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.