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UPDATE: Attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments last Friday after a weeklong trial. Experts expect the ruling, which could come before November, will hinge on whether the defendants have successfully shown that the law has a disparate impact on minorities. Representative Fischer highlighted the hurdles that many Texans would have to clear in order to acquire valid ID, pointing out that some "would have a 200-mile round-trip drive." Attorney General Eric Holder described the ID requirement as a "poll tax." As the New York Times editorialized, "People died to achieve [the Voting Rights Act], but 47 years later, the discrimination has not disappeared."
Back in April, instead of signing the voter ID bill, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell sent it back to the legislature for several amendments, with mixed results. He ultimately decided to sign it into law, but issued an executive order mandating that the State Board of Elections conduct voter education and provide all registered voters with free ID.
The politics, however, remain a concern. ALEC Exposed reports that the lead sponsor of the original Senate version, Stephen Martin (R-11), is ALEC’s Virginia Chair and the lead sponsor of its House companion, Mark Cole (R-88), is also affiliated with ALEC. So is Governor McDonnell, who voting rights advocates say continues to ignore another source of disenfranchisement in his state.
On June 26, 2012 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (S. 1994). Sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer and Ben Cardin, the bill would amend federal criminal law to prohibit deceiving voters about when to vote and the qualifications for voting. It would also prescribe federal criminal penalties for doing so.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed HB 934, a voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in May, and in June, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that he, too, plans to challenge the law in court. Fitzgerald and local officials cite the legislation as being too expensive and too difficult to implement by November, among other major flaws. We’ve since written about the practical impacts and political implications– now there’s new information on both fronts.
Back in 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which required people in the state to produce proof of citizenship in order to vote and use public services. Two years later, PFAW Foundation joined voting rights supporters in filing suit against its voting-related provisions. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down the law’s requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship, but upheld its voter ID provisions. In April of this year, the full Ninth Circuit ruled the same.
Last week, the US Supreme Court refused to continue a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which had previously been granted by Justice Kennedy at the request of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Horne had sought to keep the citizenship provisions in place pending appeal.
The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details the worst of the worst of the Right’s fight to suppress the vote. Many states have indeed taken up this fight with voter ID, proof of citizenship, and other suppressive legislation.