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 Topsy.com 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.

 

Can people rely on lesser known voting rights protections?

The Voting Rights Act, recently well known for its federal approval required under Section 5, also includes a portion that prohibits vote dilution, or depriving minority voters an equal opportunity to elect a candidate.

In the past, courts have restricted applying Section 2, mainly because of the burden of proof that’s required, said Allison Riggs, a staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham, N.C.-based non-profit advocacy group.

Riggs, who has argued redistricting cases on behalf of state branches of the NAACP and defended the constitutionality of Section 5 in court, said she is concerned by the growing number of groups challenging the section as unconstitutional. For example, a Section 5 lawsuit filed by Shelby County, Ala., said the law was outdated, claiming the demographics in the municipalities had changed in the years since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

“In all of the work we do, there is a thread of concern that this Supreme Court might be inclined to strike down what has been the most important tool in our pocket for advancing and protecting minority voting interests,” Riggs said, noting that many still rely on the protections offered by Section 5.

Section 2 is harder for voters to depend on, she said. The burden of suing is on the minority voter claiming disenfranchisement. It’s costly, intense litigation, Riggs said, which excludes many from pursuing a case.

“One of the reasons that Congress said we need Section 5 is because Section 2 is very limited in its ability to bring about remedies because it’s time consuming, expensive and [voters] don’t have access to the resources they need in order to get there,” Riggs said.

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

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
voters.

“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

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, NBCPolitics.com)

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 Topsy.com 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 Topsy.com.

For news and updates, follow us @WhoCanVote.

True the Vote: Diversity?

If you follow voting rights, you’re likely watching Texas as a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C. determines whether the state’s controversial voter ID bill disenfranchises minorities.

Texas also is the birthplace of True the Vote, a Houston-based, Tea Party-backed group that trains poll watchers and volunteers to investigate voter rolls across the country looking for questionable registrations.

Texas Democrats say True the Vote’s activities could intimidate minority votes, pointing to a contentious November 2010 election where the group’s poll watchers were accused of harassing voters in some of Houston’s minority neighborhoods. True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht denies her poll watchers harassed anyone, and says the group is nonpartisan and dedicated to “free and fair elections.”

Engelbrecht also says her volunteers and poll watchers are diverse, representing all ethnicities and political ideologies. The volunteer registration page on True the Vote’s website communicates a diverse group of people smiling for the camera.

True the Vote: Diversity?

But a closer look reveals the image is a stock photo, owned by iStockphoto.com and titled: “Diverse Group of People Holding Volunteer Sign”:

True the Vote: Diversity?

News21 asked True the Vote multiple times for specific information about its demographic makeup, and Engelbrecht offered this response:

“That photo was chosen because it represents the American people,” Engelbrecht said in an email, adding that a similar photo is also used by The Voter Participation Center, a group aimed at engaging unmarried women in the electoral process.

By AJ Vicens, News21

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.

Texas v. Holder: Quotes From the D.C. District Courtroom

Even though the federal district court in Washington, D.C. wrapped up with closing arguments in the Texas voter ID case this afternoon, the case is far from over. The three-judge panel is expected to rule by August at the earliest.

In addition to our previous courtroom updates, our reporting team in Texas offers this collection of interesting comments and quotes from the last day of the trial.

“Crawford [v. Marion County (IN) Election Board] was not a case of race.” —Judge David Tatel

 

“People who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get it.” —Texas attorney John Hughes

 

“Isn’t it the state’s burden to show retrogressive effect? … Technically, the government didn’t need to do anything.”

—Judge David Tatel

 

“Texas bears the burden of proof.” —Judge Rosemary Collyer

 

“The record does tell us there is a subset of voters who lack ID.” —Judge David Tatel

 

“We have to think about economic burden and that minorities are disproportionately poor. … That’s what makes this case different from Crawford.” —Judge David Tatel

 

“Their cause is now our cause.” —Attorney J. Gerald Hebert on minorities

Coffee Break Ballot, July 13: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Today is a day of big reports and big numbers.

A widely anticipated report — at least in voting rights reporting and civil liberties circles — from the nonprofit Sentencing Project indicated that up to one in every 10 adults in Florida is barred from voting because of a felony conviction. Almost 25 percent of the state’s black population faces similar challenges at the ballot box.

That number makes Florida the national leader in the restriction of felon voting rights. We’ve done our own reporting on felon voting rights restoration, but the raw numbers of the Sentencing Project’s report created some buzz around the Internet.

Today is also the final day of the Texas photo voter ID case in Washington, D.C. Federal Appeals Court, which means court watchers have some time to kill until another ruling creates a new wave of inflammatory rhetoric on both sides.

We’ll be sure to let you know when that pops up.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida leads nation in excluding ex-felons from the polls,” (William E. Gibson, 07/12, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Swing state thievery,” (Randy Lobasso, 07/12, Salon)

Voting rights, voting wrongs,” (The Editors, 07/14, The Economist)

Young U.S. Voters’ Turnout Intentions Lagging,” (Jeffrey M. Jones, 07/13, Gallup)

‘Got Voter ID?’ State Efforts at Public Educational Campaigns Vary Widely,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/13, Talking Points Memo)

NAACP president, Holder insult the intelligence of minorities on Voter ID laws,” (Demetrius Minor, 07/13, Red Alert Politics)

Hawaii’s Vanishing Voter — Special Report on Voter Participation,(Ian Lind, 07/09 – 07/12, Honolulu Civil Beat)

Twitter Trends

We’re not seeing a terrible amount of movement on our four search terms today, despite what we might call an abundance of tweetable and readable stories. We would have imagined that the Florida felon story would create a storm of outrage among users both in favor of and against felon re-enfranchisement.

Maybe it’s because today is Friday, or because everyone is waiting to hear the verdict in the Texas voter ID case. But things change quickly on Twitter. The arrival of the weekend is just a trough in the never-ending stream of knee-jerk reactions.

Our Texas reporters in Washington, D.C. are on their way home to the News21 newsroom this weekend, but be sure to follow us all @WhoCanVote.