SC voter ID law spurs League of Women Voters to act

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina has been concerned about the state’s photo voter ID bill since it appeared in the General Assembly, but it was not until Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law May 18 that the league acted.

The league is a defendant in South Carolina’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, supporting the federal government’s claim that the law will negatively impact

“The league believes that voting is a fundamental right, and the government depends on
all citizens being informed,” said Barbara Zia, president of the South Carolina League of Women Voters. “We feel, and we have made this case to the court, that [our] mission of engaging citizens in our democracy would be impacted if this law were [upheld].”

The case will be argued in September before by a federal court in Washington, D.C, but
Zia said her group is encouraging residents to obtain a photo ID, just in case.

“This barrage of legislative measures to restrict voting will definitely have an impact
on voter access and we feel government should be in the business of increasing citizen
participation in our nation’s democratic process, rather than decreases,” she said. “We
don’t want to go back to the old days we remember in the South of voting restrictions.

“This is a step backwards.”

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

California sentencing laws could disenfranchise additional prisoners

California sentencing laws are changing who is eligible to vote, and prisoner rights advocacy groups say 85,000 California voters have been disenfranchised as a result.

The issue has become murky since April, when Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that realigned the criminal justice system to reduce prison overcrowding and cut budgets. Over the last nine months, the state’s 58 counties have assumed responsibility for low-level felony offenders who would have otherwise been in prison.

Since 1974, Californians with serious and lesser felony convictions have had the right to vote unless they’re in state prison or on parole. In December, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, told county election clerks there’s no difference between county and state incarceration when it comes to felons’ right to vote.

The League of Women Voters and prisoner rights organizations, such as All of Us or None, see a difference. They sued in the state’s Supreme Court May 28, challenging interpretation of the law. The Supreme Court hasn’t decided to hear the case yet, although the groups ask the state to clarify who is eligible to vote while serving in county jail.

A plaintiff in the case, 31-year-old Alisha Coleman, is serving a three-year sentence in San Francisco County jail for drug trafficking convictions, followed by one year of mandatory supervision. She cannot vote, but hopes the court will allow her to vote by mail from her cell.

Bowen’s office declined to comment on the case.

By Alissa Skelton, News21

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

Journalists are apt to think every day is a big news day; today really qualifies.

A federal appeals court judge in  Florida — the same judge who blocked the state requirement that voter registrations be submitted within 48 hours – has ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice cannot stop the voter purge. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said the 90-day provision, which DOJ attorneys cited as too close to an election to purge rolls, did not apply to removing non-citizens from the rolls. Hinkle did say there were “some problems” with the program.

In New Hampshire, the state Senate voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a voter registration bill and passed a modified version of a photo-identification bill. And The Nation published a new rundown of the political questions at the heart of the current voting rights fight.

These stories aren’t causing as much of an uproar as the Pennsylvania House Republican leader’s comments Monday on voter identification or the furious reaction to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s assertion of Republican voter suppression, but they are definitely trending.

What We’ve Been Reading

Make Voting Mandatory,” (Peter R. Orszag, 06/19, BloombergView)

Last-minute voter ID changes facing Senate, House action today,” (Ted Siefer, 06/26, New Hampshire Union Leader)

Federal judge rejects DOJ request to stop voter purge,” (Kathleen Haughney, 06/27, Orlando Sentinel)

GOP: Obama planning to ‘Steal’ the Election,” (Ari Berman, 06/27, The Nation)

Angry Twitter Birds: Unhappy NYC Voter Demonstrates Power, Reach of Social Media,” (Doug Chapin, 06/27, The Election Academy)

Twitter Trends

The big-ticket stories this morning haven’t really buzzed as much as other controversial voting rights stories this summer. They are mostly policy-oriented, and social media users — and the public  — aren’t interested in stories on the slow process of judicial review and legal adjustment.

But the last article in our list brings up a curious and potentially lasting phenomenon. It’s an exploration of how voter anger and engagement is more possible through directed media campaigns.

Here at News21, we’ve followed directed campaigns by many secretaries of state and “get out the vote” accounts on Twitter and have enjoyed watching the way these accounts try to encourage voter participation and education. Secretaries aren’t followed nearly as often as national organizations like Rock The Vote or the League of Women Voters. As a whole, these accounts demonstrate the fledgling possibilities inherent in social media voter conversations.

It’s the kind of thing that drives this daily post (and our Twitter account), and it’s worth a read for any voting policy wonk, public opinion specialist or voter in general.

Remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Florida registration drives to resume

Florida registration drives to resume

Anita Smith, 37, of Gainesville, Fla., updates her address at an Alachua County voter registration drive on April 21, 2012. Voter outreach departments at several county offices stepped up registration efforts after groups such as the League of Women Voters suspended their drives in 2011. Photo by Ethan Magoc/News21

After a 13-month hiatus, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote are again registering Florida voters.

In May 2011, the two groups stopped registration drives, which League President Deirdre Macnab said was the group’s most popular activity, because of the passage of HB 1355, a controversial elections bill that required voters to turn in completed registration forms within 48 hours.

In December, the groups filed federal suit in Tallahassee to block the 48-hour registration provision. A judge granted that injunction last Thursday, returning the registration form deadline to 10 days.

That prompted today’s announcement in Orlando.

“Now it’s time for our volunteers to work overtime to make up for lost ground,” Macnab said.

Proponents of the law, including Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel, have said the League’s decision to end registration drives was a publicity stunt.

“I said (to the League), ‘Please don’t cancel the drives. We will go to your drive, allow you to do the voter registration and handle it immediately,” he said Jan. 31 at a U.S. Senate Tampa hearing.

By Ethan Magoc, News21

New Florida registration law ordered on hold

Barbara Johnson from the National Council of La Raza registers Willie Mae Dixon, 68, of Miami, to vote outside a grocery store in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, May 31. Photo by Ethan Magoc/News21

Barbara Johnson from the National Council of La Raza registers Willie Mae Dixon, 68, of Miami, to vote outside a grocery store in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, May 31. Photo by Ethan Magoc/News21

A federal judge has stopped the state of Florida from requiring that the League of Women Voters and other third-party organizations comply with a state law that sets a 48-hour deadline to deliver voter registrations.

U.S. District Judge Robert S. Hinkle ordered the injunction, based upon the analysis that Florida’s regulations for registering voters would impose a “harsh and impractical” deadline for organizations turning in voter registration applications.

By Ethan Magoc, News21