Coffee Break Ballot, July 9: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Sometimes in the News21 newsroom, we pledge to not talk about News21 on the weekend.

But when we get hit with a series of big news items on Saturday and Sunday — a Nation blog post on gender and alleged voter suppression, a comprehensive study from the Associated Press on voter ID in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, the rapidly approaching Texas voter ID law hearing in Washington, D.C.  — we sometimes have to renege and spend Sundays reading, talking and drafting instead of brunching.

Today, a slew of new stories and data landed on the docket. We also have two reporters in Washington, D.C., for the voter ID federal court hearing.

First – the stories.

What We’ve Been Reading

Q&A: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on the Voter ID Law,” (Priya Anand, 07/08, Houston Chronicle)

Meet the hanging chad of 2012,” (Nathaniel Persily, 07/08, New York Daily News)

Gov. Corbett contracts with Romney fundraiser for PA Voter ID ad campaign,” (Daniel Denvir, 07/08, The Naked City)

Voter ID Laws Could Block Thousands From Voting,” (Mike Baker, 07/08, Associated Press)

Limbaugh Wants to Extend Vote Suppression to Women,” (Ben Adler, 07/08, The Nation)

State’s voter ID law could shut out over half-million citizens,” (Editorial Board, 07/09, Philadelphia Daily News)

NAACP pledges to overcome voter ID law,” (Joe Holley, 07/09, Houston Chronicle)

Twitter Trends

This week is going to be all about Texas.

If last week was Pennsylvania’s time in the Twitter voter ID spotlight, this week just boosts mentions of the term. Social media search engine indicates a real surge in mentions of #VoterID since a report last week that showed at least 700,000 registered Pennsylvania voters lacked valid photo ID.

Texas’ trial, which starts today and continues through Friday, meets several criteria for a Twitter surge: news from a large state, controversial U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and a legal hearing that could change the national conversation on voting rights.

Reporters @AnneliseRussell and @LindseyRuta will update the trial all week. Be sure to follow them for more live updates, and remember to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Texas elections director: State has 50,000 dead voters on roll

The U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. heard the first testimony this morning in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas to gain federal approval of its voter ID law.

Keith Ingram, director of the elections division of the Texas secretary of state’s office, testified that there are potentially 50,000 deceased voters on the Texas voter rolls.

Attorneys for Texas also noted that Ingram and his wife were included on a Justice Department list of 1.9 million potential voters who lack ID, even though the couple have current driver’s licenses.

Justice Department attorneys will continue this morning with cross-examination of Ingram.

By Annelise Russell, News21

Coffee Break Ballot, July 6: Current Trends in Voting Rights

It’s slightly amusing to look at the gap in news consciousness that a one-day, midweek holiday like July 4 can create.

What does that mean for voting rights? Well, from our perch over the Twittersphere, it seems the already limited attention spans of many users divided over questions of voting rights, voter ID, voter fraud and voter suppression have been reduced even more than usual.

It’s unfortunate, because there were some interesting stories this week — an expansive Mother Jones package on the history of voting rights legislation since the 1990s, a set of data from the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth suggesting that up to 10 percent of registered voters lack the required photo ID and fraud allegations in Mexico.

No one issue rocketed this week, but next week could be another doozy. A hearing examining the constitutionality of the Texas voter ID opens Monday in Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania numbers will probably be passed around and parsed.

We’ll have more on all that next week.

What We’ve Been Reading

Election integrity,” (Editorial Board, 07/05, Battle Creek Enquirer)

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law May Bar 9% From Presidential Election,” (Romy Varghese, 07/05, Bloomberg)

Reps. Moore, Ellison: Voter Suppression Issue is Behind Focus on Eric Holder,” (Khalil Abdullah, 07/04,  New American Media)

Vetoing Voter ID is the (Historically) Republican Thing to Do,” (John Nichols, 07/06, The Nation)

Stringent voter ID law in Pa. could prevent 750,000 from voting,” (Lucy Madison, 07/05, CBSNews)

Twitter Trends

Maybe it’s just Friday, but we’ve enjoyed seeing the (fictional) President Josiah Bartlet of “West Wing” fame offer his own opinion on the voter ID debate.

One of ‘his’ tweets from this morning already has received 84 retweets as of this post, and users on both sides of the voter ID debate have replied to him asking for clarification or pointing out the fallacy of his tweet.

Remember, Josiah Bartlet is a fictional character, and the Twitter account set up in his name perhaps has little or nothing to do with actual debate, politics or Aaron Sorkin.

But users are engaging him, retweeting and replying and even mocking his views. It’s a great example of how Twitter can be both a useful search tool and also a silly adventure into a blackhole of digital dithering.

Additionally, our routine use of social media search engine shows a dramatic uptick in mentions of #VoterID, which we can assume is directly related to the Pennsylvania voter ID numbers released this week.

We’ll keep tabs on those mentions, which will likely receive a bigger boost from the opening salvo in the Texas court case next week.

Our reporters, @AnneliseRussell and @LindseyRuta, will cover that hearing next week, so be sure to follow them for live updates. And as always, follow us @WhoCanVote for the latest links, tweets and trends from the News21 team.


Witnesses to be finalized in Texas voter ID case

Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Texas will confer today to determine who will testify in federal court next week in the case over the Texas voter ID law.

One representative from each party will join a conference call with the Washington D.C. District Court at 3 p.m. EDT to designate which witnesses will testify in person or whether depositions will be provided.

Each party also will have a chance to object to the final witness lists.

The court also will address scheduling.  The trial is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT Monday.

By Annelise Russell, News21

News21 prepares for Texas voter ID court case

On Monday, Washington, D.C., District Court will hear testimony over the Department of Justice’s rejection of the Texas voter ID law.

The News21 team is gearing up for the trip to D.C., and as we prepare for this case, we wanted to give you a brief look at the major players and what is at stake.

The law

The Texas Legislature passed its voter ID law in March 2011 on a party line vote — Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

Federal approval

Texas is one of nine states subject to preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. After a slow response by Justice and the denial of a similar law in South Carolina, Texas officials decided to sue Attorney General Eric Holder before the Texas law could be denied preclearance.

The state sued on Jan. 23, although the department did not
formally deny preclearance until March.

What’s at stake

Texas legislators argue that the law is an attempt to prevent voter fraud by instilling confidence in the electoral process and giving election officials the tools to maintain the integrity of elections.

In court documents filed by Texas, the state also argues that federal oversight of the law overreaches authority.

Attorney General Holder and advocacy groups assert that the
law could disenfranchise thousands of registered voters — particularly Latinos,
who are one in five registered voters in Texas.

By Lindsey Ruta, News21

J. Morgan Kousser: The Voting Rights Act and Hispanic Voters

UPDATE: 07/10 — J. Morgan Kousser testified today in the Federal Appeals Court hearing. Lawyers for both sides came to a last-minute agreement on witness lists.

The Voting Rights Act faces a sustained legal challenge that could threaten its existence, a Cal Tech researcher says, and there are striking similarities – with a notable demographic difference – to historic voting rights battles.

“After the initial passage of the Voting Rights Act, there was a huge attempt to inhibit the growth of political participation,” J. Morgan Kousser, a professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology, said of the 1965 law.

“But today, what we see is more than anything a reaction to the growing Latino population and a reaction to Latino growth in places where it really hasn’t been before.”

States such as Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia and Virginia fit that profile, Kousser said. He planned to testify in the scheduled federal court hearing on the constitutionality of the new Texas voter ID law, but the state’s legal team successfully petitioned last week to deny his testimony calling it opinionated and tangential.

If the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case challenging all or parts of the Voting Rights Act in its next term, Kousser said it is possible that the entire law could be ruled unconstitutional, opening the door to a new series of election laws.

“Suppose you made everybody re-register in a central location in a limited amount of time, and did not make that registration permanent,” Kousser said. “Nobody’s proposed this yet, but we had the umbrella of the Voting Rights Act protecting against such things.”

By Nick Andersen, News21