Coffee Break Ballot, July 12: Current Trends in Voting Rights

All signs suggest a momentary trough in the #VoterID frenzy of the last few days.

The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is concluding a hearing on the Texas photo voter ID law. The decision by the three-judge panel is sure to send anger and/or gloating on both sides of the partisan divide through the roof. For today the digital conversation is focused elsewhere.

Vice President Joe Biden’s decidedly politicized speech at the annual NAACP conference in Houston this morning brought up the Obama Administration’s stance on ballot access and voting rights.

The weekend likely will be busy for commentators and opinion pages weighing in on the voting rights debate; Monday will be a big news day.

What We’ve Been Reading

New court filings: SC would proceed with voter ID for election,” (Renee Dudley, 07/12, S.C. Post and Courier)

Overheated Rhetoric from VP Biden and Others on Voter ID,” (Michael Collins, 07/12, Republican National Lawyers Association)

The GOP’s make-believe voter fraud epidemic,” (Dana Liebelson, 07/12, The Week)

Mitt’s real insult to the NAACP,” (Joan Walsh, 07/12, Salon)

Texas’ Road to Victory in Its Decades-Long Fight Against Voting Rights,” (Brentin Mock, 07/12, The Nation)

Biden Defends Health Care Reform and Decries Voter ID Laws,” (Rebecca Berg, 07/12, New York Times)

Twitter Trends

An explosive story from Charleston, S.C., today suggested the state will rush implementation of its photo voter ID law if approved by a three-judge federal court in September.

The story shows South Carolina’s continued insistence on the acceptability of its law, which was denied twice by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Right Division under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Most Twitter commentary today in our key search areas is focused on the apparent hypocrisy of Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder speaking out against photo voter ID at an event where to comply with the Secret Service, photo ID was required for entry.

Texas is still making minor waves, as is Pennsylvania. Yet, the only time the twitchy, knee-jerk denizens of Twitter discuss voting rights and voter ID in sustained fashion is during an election, wherever that election may be. August congressional primaries could see a revival in some swing states.

We’ll keep you posted on that front, but be sure to follow @LinsdeyRuta and @AnneliseRussell for the latest updates from the Texas voter ID trial. And as always, follow us @WhoCanVote.

Texas lawsuit includes differing estimates of voters without ID

Day two of Texas v. Holder is underway and this morning the testimony was all about the numbers.

Court resumed with testimony from Thomas Sager, a University of Texas statistician whose studies show the number of Texas voters who lack ID. Sager estimated that around 167,724 registered voters do not have an ID — lower than the Department of Justice estimate that ranged from 1.5 million to 1.9 million.

Sager testified that Justice Department studies included inflated estimates. He said the estimates included statistical biases against women and Hispanics, and that previous studies did not account for age and other parameters. For example, people over 65 can vote by mail without an ID.

On cross-examination, Justice Department lawyers pointed out that Sager received assistance in his studies from the Texas attorney general’s office and that he did not conduct all the studies himself. Sager maintained that he verified all the studies.

The defense also noted that Sager used a different list of Texas driver’s licenses than the one used by their expert.

Sager maintains that all matching in the case — both by himself and by defense expert Stephen Ansolabehere — are ultimately “inconclusive” because their methodology includes statistical bias against Hispanics.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

A quick glance at U.S. voting patterns

Members of the News21 team are compiling data from the U.S. Census and academic studies to better distinguish voting patterns.

Here is a sneak peek at what they’ve been working on:

• In the 2010 election, the state with the lowest percentage of voting-age registered people was Hawaii, with 48.3 percent. However, Texas was the worst state for registered voter turnout, with 31.4 percent.

• Maine topped all states two years ago and was first in registered voters and turnout in the 2010 election. Nearly three-quarters of those eligible in Maine are registered, and 58 percent voted.

• A 2006 Pew Center survey on who votes highlighted different categories of people likely to register and vote.

1) Conservatives are more likely to be registered and vote regularly, while liberals are less likely to register.

2) Married people vote more frequently than non-married people.

3) Nearly 25 percent of people who moved to a new neighborhood within a year are not registered to vote, and only three percent of them regularly vote.

4) Persons 50 to 64 years old vote most regularly.

By Alia Conley, News21

Texas: A quick look at the Hispanic population

A history of discrimination toward African Americans in Texas prompted the federal government in 1975 to add the state to those whose election laws are monitored. Now the prospect of a new voter ID law in Texas has the U.S. Department of Justice focusing on the Hispanic population there.

In Texas, 38 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to the 2010 Census, compared to 11.8 percent African Americans. In Webb County, just north of the Mexican border near Laredo, 96 percent of county is Hispanic, the largest Hispanic population for a U.S. county.

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project contend that the voter ID law would disenfranchise members of this growing minority who are unable to obtain the necessary documents to obtain a government-issued photo ID. Texas Republican state senators who support the proposal reject that assertion.

Take a look at the percent of Hispanic residents in Texas’s 10 most populous counties, according to the most recent Census:


Texas: A quick look at the Hispanic population

By Annelise Russell, News21

Texas primary: De La Fuenta campaign comes to a close

Supporters gathered at Juan in a Million in Austin on Tuesday night to celebrate 167th District Judge candidate, Efrain De La Fuenta. De La Fuenta lost to David Wahlberg, who won with 56 percent of the vote. Despite his loss, De La Fuenta was optimistic and thanked his supporters. – By Lizzie Chen, News21

Texas primary: De La Fuenta campaign comes to a close

Judge Efrain De La Fuenta talks to a group of campaign supporters Tuesday night at his primary watch party at Juan in a Million in Austin, Texas. De La Fuenta lost the Democratic 167th district court primary to David Walhberg. Photo by Lizzie Chen/News21

Texas primary: De La Fuenta campaign comes to a close

Voters in Austin gathered at Juan in a Million to show support for candidate Efrain De La Fuenta. While eating tacos and queso, they watched as the election results rolled in. Photo by Lizzie Chen/News21

Texas primary: De La Fuenta campaign comes to a close

Voters, including members of Efrain De La Fuenta's family, drove to Austin, Texas, to show support for De La Fuenta's campaign. Photo by Lizzie Chen/News21

Hispanic organization reports low turnout in Austin, Texas

Despite efforts by advocacy groups to engage the Latino community, Austin’s Hispanic voters comprised just seven percent of the turnout in Travis County, said Linda Chavez, state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

That is typically low for the county, Chavez said, and she thinks the delayed Texas primary, originally scheduled for March 6, played a roll in the low turnout Tuesday.

The Latino community has a pattern of low voter turnout, and engaging future voters is a topic LULAC plans to discuss at its state convention June 7-10, Chavez said.

By Lindsey Ruta, News21