Voting Rights or Voter Suppression?
Voting Rights or Voter Suppression?
Crossfire over Voting Rights Sharpens
In the wake of President Trump’s unproven and widely disputed claim of illegal voting in the 2016 elections, the political battle over voting rights is sharpening and the debate over charges of voter fraud has escalated. The country is moving simultaneously in opposite directions – toward easier voting and voter registration in some states and toward new barriers in other states.
Evidently fearful that the legitimacy of his election is undermined by his losing the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million votes, Donald Trump raised an unproven cry of vote fraud. He said he would have won the popular vote, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” His claims were quickly rebutted by Republican and Democratic election officials from many states. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had “seen no evidence.” Trump’s own attorneys, challenging a call for a vote recount by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, asserted: “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Nonetheless, once in office, Trump set up a vote fraud commission, vowing to unearth masses of ineligible foreign voters. But the commission quickly ran into resistance and opposition from state election officials. When its operations manager, Kris Kobach of Kansas, ordered officials in all 50 states to send in their voting records and masses of personal information on their voters, he triggered a bipartisan revolt.
States Revolt Against Trump Commission
At least, 22 states refused to comply, some saying it would violate their privacy laws and others objecting to a wild goose chase. “My reply would be: they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” said Mississippi’s Secretary of State, Republican Delbert Hosemann.
By January 2018, Trump’s voter commission was so bogged down by lawsuits and resistance that Trump abolished the commission and turned issue over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In court filing, White House admitted that despite Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud in 2016, commission had not developed any evidence to support his charges. White House also said it was destroying commission’s records, not turning them over to DHS. Critics such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York hailed the demise of voter fraud commission, saying it never had a legitimate purpose.
But among others, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democratic commission member, warned that Dept of Homeland Security operating out of public view, could demand voter records from states and impose new restrictions on voter ID. “I think people who are saying ‘the witch is dead’ should be very alarmed by this move,” Dunlap told The Washington Post. “I think that’s very dangerous.”
New Worry: Russian Hacking in 2018 election
Worse, critics complained that the Trump commission failed to investigate the real dangers posed by Russian penetration of electronic voter system in 21 states in 2016. While state officials report no evidence that Russian hackers tampered with the 2016 vote count, they report that properly registered voters were blocked from casting ballots in several states by hacker disruption of electronic registration software. In North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Arizona, scores of voters complained of being turned away at the polls, even when they showed proper registration cards. “It felt like tampering or some kind of cyberattack,” a North Carolina voting monitor told The New York Times.
In mid-February, the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies warned Congress that Russian operatives were already at work to sow discord and disrupt the 2018 mid-term US elections. “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” warned Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence. “At a minimum, we expect Russians to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”
Other security experts warned that some states have outdated systems and lack funds to replace them. Cyber-security varies dramatically. A big city like Los Angeles has a staff of security experts, but smaller, rural districts lack such resources. “To the extent they have an ability to defend against these attacks, it’s quite limited,” Joseph Lorenzo, chief technology officer at the Center for Democracy and Technology told The New York Times.
Belatedly, on March 20, Congress took the first steps to bolster the safeguarding of U.S. voting systems by including $380 million in funding for electoral cyber-security in the #1.3 trillion government funding bill.The funding would provide states with grants to help them purchase more secure voting machines, conduct post-election audits and improve election cyber security training, but it was uncertain whether the money would flow fast enough for states to take action before the November vote.
Several states like Colorado, Delaware, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, fearing new Russian hacking in the 2018 mid-term election, have taken steps to improve election cybersecurity by upgrading electoral databases, replacing old voter machines, adding paper records as a backup and hiring cyber-security specialists. “What’s happening is a psy-ops operations – that’s what the Russians are running against us now, trying to erode confidence in our democratic processes,” says West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner.
Fork in the Road: States Take Very Different Paths
Despite the lack of evidence of significant voter fraud, several states have seen a push in recent months to tighten restrictions on voting. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that in 2017, some 68 bills were introduced in 27 states to restrict access to registration and voting. In Arkansas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, where state courts have struck down restrictive voter ID laws as unconstitutional, new restrictions were proposed. Civic groups seeking to help people register and vote have come under investigation or seen new legal obstacles in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Wisconsin.
But simultaneously, more than 400 legislative proposals have been made in 41 states to expand access to voting. Oregon, California, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont and West Virginia have adopted laws for automatic voter registration when people renew their driver’s licenses or obtain other state documentation. Another 16 states have adopted same-day registration – registering people on ElectioN Day when they come to cast their ballots. These actions reinforce a trend over the previous half century to broaden voting rights and access.
But in recent years another group of states, led by Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin have moved in the opposite direction, imposing photo ID laws that disproportionately affect minority voters, students, seniors and the poor as well as limiting early voting. These laws have been challenged by citizen protest movements and lawsuits that question their constitutionality.
The turning point was a U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 25, 2013, that struck down the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – the requirement that certain states had to obtain federal clearance on changes in their election laws to prevent them from using literacy tests, poll taxes, lengthy residency requirements or other barriers to voting by blacks and others.
In a 5-4 ruling, the high court agreed with local officials in Shelby County, Alabama, dominated by the largely white suburbs around Birmingham, that Congress lacked constitutional authority in 2006 to maintain restrictions originally imposed in 1965 because of a long history of racial discrimination in southern and border states. This ruling freed nine states to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
Texas Moves Fast, and Imposes Restrictions
The ruling had an immediate impact. Texas announced at once that a highly restrictive voter identification law adopted by the legislature in 2011 but blocked by the Justice Department would take effect at once. The court decision spawned newly tightened photo voter ID laws in several more states as geographically diverse as North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin, where Republican-controlled legislatures asserted that tight restrictions are needed to combat voter fraud, even though cases of voter fraud are extremely rare.
In American politics, voter ID laws date from 1970, when Hawaii adopted a law requiring identification but allowing multiple forms of ID, both photo ID and non-photo ID. Most states – 34 in all – use that same flexible approach under which voters can register using a range of documents from a driver’s license and student or tribal photo-ID to recent bank statements, utility bills, paychecks, or government documents showing the voter’s name and address.
But in 16 states, new voting restrictions took effect for the first time in the 2016 presidential election, ranging from strict photo ID requirements to cutbacks in thmichigane number of early voting days and other limitations. Those 16 states were Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
21 Million People Lack Official Photo ID
In 11 of those states, the most onerous new obstacle – the most important provision to lawmakers, largely in Republican-controlled legislatures, and the most controversial barrier to expand-the vote advocates — are the strict new requirements for photo ID documents, usually a driver’s license, U.S. passport, military ID, tribal ID, and state ID document.
In a study called “Citizens Without Proof,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School reported that about 11% of voting-age Americans, or roughly 21 million people, lack government-issued ID. The proportion was 25% among African-Americans versus 8% for whites. The study, based on national surveys done in 2006 and 2011, also found that for many low-income, elderly, poor and minority Americans, obtaining a government-issued photo ID is often a lengthy, well-nigh impossible process, given lost records and frequent misspelling of their names in official records. Even minor inconsistencies of name spellings are often used by election officials as a reason to bar voter registration.
In addition, 6.1 million people (one in 40 adults) are barred from voting by state laws that prohibit people with felony convictions from casting ballots – a disenfranchisement that disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics, according to a report by The Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization focused on criminal justice reform. Experts report that on certain crimes such as possession or use of illegal drugs, black or Latinoy defendants are more likely than whites to be charged with felonies, thus disproportionately affecting their voting rights.
Some of the harshest laws that levy a lifetime voting ban on felons are imposed by three important political swing states – Florida, Iowa and Virginia. In Florida, a stunning ten percent of the adult electorate is barred from voting because of these restrictions. “These are felonies and we want to make sure people have turned their life around,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott told The New York Times. Blocking former felons from voting can make a crucial difference. In the tight 2000 presidential election, the margin of victory between Al Gore and George W. Bush in Florida was 537 votes, but an estimated 600,000 former felons in Florida had completed their prison sentences but were not allowed to vote.
Fourteen states automatically restore voting rights when a person convicted of a felony has completed his or her prison sentence and is released. “We only think of people (just) coming out of prison, but the majority of people whose rights are not restored are people living in our communities,” comments Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group working to restore civil rights for felons.
ALEC Drives Tough ID Laws
The driving force behind rapid adoption of state voter photo ID laws since 2010 was the militantly conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose founder, Paul Weyrich, declared in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
In 2008, ALEC’s magazine ran a cover story headlined “Preventing Election Fraud.” In 2009, an ALEC task force developed a model voter ID bill. In 2011, several Texas legislators who were members of ALEC, used the ALEC model and got it adopted by the Texas legislature. Among ALEC’s members and supporters are major corporations, the high-profile billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch of Wichita, Kansas, and hundreds of mostly conservative Republican state legislators. As ALEC’s role has become more controversial, corporations such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have dropped their membership, and ALEC, having largely achieved its goals, has taken a lower profile on Voter ID laws.
But the laws seem to be having the impact that ALEC sought. So steep is the hurdle in Texas, that in September 2014, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg worried that stiff photo-ID requirements “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters from voting in person for lack of complicated identification” and a “sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.” In Texas, residents can vote based on their concealed hand-gun licenses but not their state-issued student university IDs.
In Alabama, the legislature raised an outcry by first requiring drivers’ licenses with photo-ID for voter registration and then shutting down 31 motor vehicle license offices in mostly black counties. In Wisconsin, a former state legislative aide testified in federal court that Republican state senators for whom he used to work acted gleeful and were literally “politically frothing at the mouth” at the prospect that a tough new photo ID law would reduce the vote in heavily Democratic precincts around Milwaukee.
Federal and State Courts Overturn Strict Photo ID in Seven States
In response to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of strict photo ID laws, federal courts have invalidated those laws in Texas, North Carolina and North Dakota, legally blocking their enforcement. In Wisconsin, federal judges ruled against the photo-ID law and softened the photo ID requirements without strikng down the law in its entity. (For details, see our state-by-state rundown.)
But the court decisions did not resolve the issue. Both in North Carolina and Wisconsin, voters and voting rights advocates contended that election officials in those states were not abiding by the court rulings and were imposing improper and unfair hurdles to voter registration in violation of court decisions. In rece Efforts by the federal courts to loosen voter ID laws “so far has not fixed problems for voters facing special burdens to produce identification.
In three other states – Arkansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania, state courts have ruled that laws with strict photo-ID requirements violate the state constitution by imposing an unfair burden on the right to vote. In five other states – Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the state government allows voters who lack the required documents to vote – after signing an affidavit stating they are unable to obtain Photo-ID and giving their names and address.
For Honest Elections, GOP Rep Says Restore Federal Protections of Voting Rights
With a flurry of charges, lawsuits, and court decisions over voting rights late in the 2016 campaign, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin called for restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act provision that requires states with a pattern of voter discrimination to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before changing their election laws or rules.
A bipartisan coalition of 100 co-sponsors have joined Sensenbrenner in backing a bill to require pre-clearance for any state that “demonstrates a consistent pattern of discriminatory voting practices.” The need for such legislation, Sensenbrenner argues, became clear in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. The country, he said, “has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.”
Voting Rights – How easy or tough is your state ?
- January 2011 –Republicans take control of Alabama legislature and quickly enact a new voter ID law that for the first time requires voters to present photo ID, including an Alabama driver’s license, U.S. passport, military or government ID, tribal ID, state voter ID or a state identity card from any state, a student or employee ID card issued by a public or private university. The photo ID requirement is much stricter than previous standard, which allowed many forms of non-photo IDs, such as a utility bill, a Social Security card or a copy of a birth certificate.
- June 25, 2013 – After Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, Alabama’s voter photo ID law takes effect before 2014 mid-term elections. Voter turnout is the lowest in almost three decades. Some critics blame the voter ID law. Others say that the lack of online voter registration and early voting days make Alabama among least convenient states for voting.
- State officials counter that Alabama has a program to provide cost-free voter-ID cards and easy access through a mobile service. However, only about 5,000 people took advantage of the state voter-ID card before the 2014 elections, partly because of the cost of obtaining the necessary underlying documents. Alabama law also allows two election officials to permit someone to vote without required ID by signing an affidavit confirming the person’s identity, a point challenged in a voter lawsuit on grounds that it gives election officials “unfettered discretion” to identify voters, or to refuse to do so.
- October 2015 – The obstacles for minority voters are compounded when the legislature cuts the budget of the state’s motor vehicle agency, forcing the shutdown of 31 driver’s license offices. Residents in eight of the state’s 10 predominantly black counties are left without any local DMV office, forcing blacks in rural areas to drive more than an hour just to apply for a driver’s license.
- December 2015 – The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Greater Birmingham Ministries file a lawsuit, contending that Alabama’s Voter ID law is an infringement on voting rights. The lawsuit estimates that 250,000 registered voters, disproportionately black and Hispanic, would be disenfranchised because they lacked an acceptable photo ID. In February 2016, U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler declined to issue a preliminary injunction to allow voters to present alternate forms of ID in the 2016 elections.
- January 2016 – Alabama imposes yet another restriction by obtaining authority from the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require voter applicants using a federal registration form to provide proof of citizenship. That decision is being challenged by watchdog groups.
- July 6, 2016 – Federal District Judge Richard J. Leon rejects a request for a preliminary injunction to block action by Alabama, Georgia and Kansas and allows them to enforce their new requirements for proof-of-citizenship for people using a federal form to register to vote. A lawsuit challenging that requirement was brought by League of Women Voters, NAACP in Georgia and other civil rights groups.
- Sept. 9, 2016 – Federal appeals court in Washington orders Alabama, Georgia and Kansas to suspend enforcement of requirement that state residents show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. A lawsuit brought by League of Women Voters, NAACP and civil rights groups contended that the citizenship requirement imposes unfair burdens on some residents, usually elderly and poor or minority, who lack a U.S. passport and have trouble getting an official birth certificate because of poorly kept local court records
- Alaska has some of the easiest voter registration requirements in the U.S. For identification, polling places accept a voter ID card, driver’s license, state IDs, military ID, hunting or fishing license, passport, birth certificate, or valid photo ID. Also acceptable are utility bills, paychecks, government check, bank statement, or other government-issued document.
- Residents can register online, by mail, fax or email, or in person. New residents coming from out of state must show proof of Alaska residency through a variety of documents, including Alaska driver’s license, Alaska hunting or fishing license, proof of Alaska student loan and college tuition showing Alaska as state of residency, military leave and earning statement showing Alaska as place of residence, proof of employment in Alaska, or other documentation showing state residency.
- Arizona is among 31 states and the District of Columbia that offer online voter registration. Identification, but no photo ID, is required at the polls. Usable documents include driver’s license, passport, tribal ID and two forms of non-photo ID, such as a bank statement and utility bill.
- Under a popular referendum passed in 2004, Arizona is one of four states requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. Accepted documents include a driver’s license, birth certificate that verifies citizenship, passport, U.S. naturalization documents and tribal ID.
- 2013 – The U.S. Supreme Court rejects Arizona’s efforts to require documentary proof of citizenship on the federal voter registration form, ruling that the U.S. government has the power of decision in federal elections.
- November 2014 – The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals once again rules against Arizona and two other states.
- March 2016 – Some presidential primary voters in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, have to wait five hours to cast ballots. County election officials acknowledge that they had cut the number of polling places from 200 to 60 to save money, reportedly leaving only one polling place for every 21,000 voters according to the Arizona Republic. The mayor of Phoenix called for a Justice Department investigation.
- Nov. 4, 2016 – Federal district judge rejects request by Democratic Party for injunction against harassment of voters, saying that Trump and Republican calls to watch polls for voter fraud “simply do not prove actual or likely intimidation.”
- 2013 – A Republican-controlled legislature passes a photo ID law, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
- October 2014 – The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously strikes down the photo ID requirement, ruling that it violated the state constitution by imposing an additional “qualification” to voting.
- A pre-existing, non-strict, non-photo ID law is now in effect. Citizens registering to vote must provide either a driver’s license or Social Security number. In order for citizens registering by mail to avoid additional identification requirements upon voting for the first time, they must submit with the form either a valid photo identification, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows their name and address.
- California permits a wide variety of documents to prove identification for residents registering to vote for the first time. These include driver’s license, Social Security number, student ID, student housing bill or cellphone bill dated within the past 12 months, utility bill, bank statement, government check and a document issued by the government, including a sample ballot mailed to applicant’s residence.
California’s new “motor-voter” law approved in 2015 instructs state officials automatically to register to vote anyone applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other identification card, as soon as work on a statewide database is complete. Target date: early 2017. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles requires that driver’s license applicants provide a Social Security number to verify a person’s legal presence in the state. When the “motor-voter” law was approved, the state estimated 6.6 million residents were eligible to vote but were not registered.
- 2013 – In an effort to increase voter registration, Colorado adopts a voting reform law expanding the period for registration up through Election Day, lengthening the early voting period to 15 days before a general election and 10 days before a party primary; and shortening the mandatory residency requirement for voting to 22 days in state.
- The 2013 law also required that a ballot be mailed to every registered voter; allowed voters to cast ballots in any precinct within their county; gave voters a choice on how they want to vote, whether to mail in their ballot, deliver it themselves, or vote in person, either early or on election day.
- Connecticut permits registration online, by mail and in person. First-time voters are required to show a Social Security card or any pre-printed form of identification that shows either name and address, name and signature or name and photograph.
- At voting polls, the state requires some form of identification. The rules are somewhat complicated for first-time voters who registered by mail, but most need to show one of the following: a copy of a valid photo ID that shows name and address, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows name and address. Voters without ID may sign a statement titled “Signatures of Electors Who Did Not Present ID.”
- May 17, 2016 – The Secretary of State’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles announce they will implement a “streamlined motor voter system” to automatically register eligible state residents when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or state identification card. The system is expected to begin operating in August 2018.
- Delaware permits voter registration by mail, by phone, in person and online and requires registration by at least 24 hours before an election. A wide variety of documents are acceptable for identification, including photo ID, utility bill, paycheck and any government document with the voter’s name and address. Persons who do not have ID may vote if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
- Delaware does not allow early voting and voters must provide an excuse to mail in an absentee ballot.
- 2013 – The legislature approved a constitutional amendment eliminating a five-year waiting period to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentence, including parole and probation. But persons convicted of murder or manslaughter, a felony offense against public administration involving bribery, improper influence or abuse of office, or a felony sexual offense, remain permanently disqualified from voting.
- July 27, 2017 – Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) signs bipartisan legislation making it easier for Delawareans to vote absentee, especially helpful to students studying at out-of-state universities. Voters will no longer have to get their absentee ballot notarized. “We should always look for ways to make it easier for qualified Delaware voters to participate in the democratic process — not more difficult,” Carney said. “This legislation … takes the common sense step of removing a barrier.”
District of Columbia:
- DC permits registration on Election Day, and by mail or email. Mail applications must be postmarked at least 30 days prior to an election, and email must be received 30 days before an election.
- Voters are not required to show proof of residence to vote, but some polling places require ID to enter. The District permits no-excuse absentee voting. Most ex-felons automatically gain the right to vote upon the completion of their sentence.
- District residents may pre-register at 16, but will not be eligible to vote until they are at least 17 with a birth certificate indicating they will be 18 by the time of the next general election.
- November 2000 – In the contested presidential election of 2000, the margin of victory between Al Gore and George W. Bush in the deciding state of Florida is only 537 votes, but an estimated 600,000 former felons are barred from voting even though they have completed their prison sentences and rejoined their home communities. Florida has one of the harshest laws on convicted felons – a lifetime ban on voting rights, except for individual appeals. In Florida, a stunning ten percent of the adult electorate is barred from voting because of these restrictions. “These are felonies and we want to make sure people have turned their life around,” says Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott.
- 2003 – The Florida legislature adopts a Voter ID law with 12 acceptable forms of photo ID, three of which have since been eliminated. Acceptable ID includes a state driver’s license, state ID, U.S. passport, debit or credit card, military ID, student ID, retirement center ID, neighborhood association ID and public assistance ID.
- Floridians who show up on Election Day without photo ID are given a provisional ballot, which they must sign, and if the signature matches the one on their voter registration form, their ballot is counted.
- 2011 – Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passes several laws, signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott (R), making it harder to vote. First, lawmakers reduced the early voting period from 14 days to eight days, although they kept the maximum number of hours at 96, and they eliminated voting the Sunday before the election. The changes led to long lines in the 2012 election. Second, Florida passed new restrictions on voter registration drives, requiring voter registration groups to sign up with the state and report on their activity within 48 hours or risk penalties. “I’m going to call this bill for what it is: good old-fashioned suppression,” said Ben Wilcox of the League of Women Voters, testifying on the legislation. Because of the law’s onerous rules, Wilcox said the league would suspend its trademark voter registration drives.
- August 2012 – In a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters and the National Council of La Raza, a federal appeals court rules that the early-voting rules were discriminatory and could not be applied in five counties requiring pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.
- September 2012 – the U.S. Department of Justice approves the early-voting schedule for the counties as long as they offered 96 hours of voting between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. over eight days.
- 2013 –The legislature restored the number of early voting days to 14, permitted counties to hold early voting on the Sunday before the election and expanded the kinds of venues that could serve as polling places. Finally, Gov. Scott reversed a prior executive action that had made it easier to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions. In effect, the state now permanently disenfranchises most citizens with past felony convictions – an estimated 1.5 million persons.
- 2015 – After more than a decade of periodically tightening restrictions on voting and registration to vote, Florida reverses that trend with a new form of online voter registration that will took effect in 2017.
- November 2018 – In a move that will alter the political landscape in this hotly contested swing state, more than five million Floridians vote to restore voting rights to roughly 1.5 million felons who have served their terms, excluding those convicted of murder and sex crimes. As an amendment to the Florida constitution, this measure had to win a super-majority vote – 60%-plus, but it readily cleared that hurdle – 5,097,761 in favor, or 64.5% versus 2,808,846 against. A broad political coalition mobilized support for this measure, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, Catholic bishops and a political action committee connected to the conservative Koch brothersPrior to that vote, Florida had been one of just four states to permanently prohibit felons from voting. Under previous law, felons had to apply to the governor for clemency on an individual basis. During the eight-year tenure of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, only 3,000 people successfully completed that process.
- April 2005 – Georgia becomes the first state in the South to approve a strict voter photo ID law. Signed by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue the law is given approval by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But a legal challenge brought by civil rights groups forced the state to alter the law after federal district Judge Harold Murphy of Rome, Ga., ruled that the law amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax because it required a $20 fee for a state-issued ID card.
January 2006 – Georgia enacts a new law that eliminates the $20 fee for a state ID card and allows voters to cast absentee ballots without having to explain why. In 2007, Judge Murphy approves the revised version, praising state officials’ “exceptional efforts to contact voters who potentially lacked a valid form of photo ID.”
- 2008 – Georgia’s 2005 ID law is amended to stipulate that acceptable photo ID to vote includes state or federal government-issued ID, state driver’s license, government employee ID, U.S. passport, military ID and tribal ID.
- 2009 – The Republican-controlled legislature passes a law requiring voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register, using either the state or federal form.
- March 2011 – Georgia Supreme Court upholds the photo ID law, ruling that the requirements of the law did not deprive residents of their voting rights.
- 2011 – Republican-controlled legislature reduces early voting period from 45 to 21 days, and eliminates early voting the weekend before Election Day. Both laws were signed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
- 2013 – U.S. Supreme Court rules that a law in Arizona similar to one in Georgia requiring would-be voters to prove U.S. citizenship is unconstitutional. Court says Arizona lawias pre-empted by federal law.
- Jan. 29, 2016 – Georgia, along with with Alabama and Kansas, is granted authority by executive director of U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to require documentary proof of citizenship for those using the federal vote registration form – a decision that is quickly challenged by voting watchdog groups.
- June 29, 2016 – Federal District Judge Richard J. Leon rejects a request for a preliminary injunction to block action by Alabama, Georgia and Kansas and allows them to enforce their requirements for proof-of-citizenship for people using a federal form to register to vote. A lawsuit challenging that requirement is filed by League of Women Voters, Georgia NAACP and other civil rights groups.
- Sept. 9, 2016 – Federal appeals court orders Georgia, Kansas and Alabama to remove requirement that state residents show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Court sides with lawsuit by League of Women Voters, NAACP and civil rights groups, that contended the citizenship requirement imposes unfair burdens on some residents, usually elderly, poor or minority, who lack a U.S. passport and have trouble getting official birth certificate because of poorly kept local court records.
May 4, 2017 – Federal District Judge Timothy Batten orders Georgia to reopen voter registration ahead of a hotly contested runoff in the Sixth Congressional District ,a suburban area north of Atlanta. Georgia had shut down voter registration on March 20, 90 days ahead of runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. In a non-partisan primary on April 18, Ossoff led a field of 18 candidates with 48% of the vote, but his failure to get 50% forced the runoff. Judge Batten, responding to suit filed by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of five civil rights and voting rights organizations, ordered that voter registration be kept open until May 21.
- Since 1970, Hawaii’s voter ID requirement has allowed both photo and non-photo documents, such as valid state photo ID or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows name and address. Hawaii law allows qualified individuals to pre-register at 16 years of age, then automatically become registered at 18.
- Registered voters may request a mail ballot or cast their vote at an early walk-in location within their county. The early voting period for an election begins 10 working days before an election and ends the Saturday before the election. The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- June 2014 – Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs legislation allowing voter registration at absentee polling places during an election as well as on Election Day at polling places.
- In 2010, Idaho’s legislature approved a flexible photo ID law. To register to vote, an Idaho resident must either present a valid photo ID or sign a personal identification affidavit, swearing to his or her identity. Acceptable forms of photo ID are a driver’s license, state ID card, passport, government ID, tribal ID and student ID issued by a school within the state.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting. Voting rights are automatically restored to felons upon completion of their sentence and any probation or parole period.
- Illinois permits voter registration with multiple forms of ID including driver’s license, Social Security number, government check or document with applicant’s name and address or such commercial documents as a bank statement, utility bill, student ID with proof of home address, or personal paycheck issued within the past year.
- For voting, similar forms of identification meet state requirements.
- 2011 – A Democratic-controlled legislature imposes more restrictive rules on voter registration drives. They require that registration forms be returned by first-class mail within two business days, or by personal delivery within seven days, replacing a law that allowed seven days to return the forms in any manner. This rule does not apply to groups using only the federal mail-in voter registration form. The measure was signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
- 2014 – Voters overwhelming approved the Illinois Right to Vote Amendment, which prohibits any law that disproportionately affects the rights of eligible state citizens to register to vote or cast a ballot based on the voter’s race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income. The amendment’s principal sponsor, Democratic House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, said its purpose is “to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter-suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures.”
- May 31, 2016 – House approves automatic voter registration measure previously passed by the Senate. Although Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he is a “big fan of simplifying the voter registration process,” he ends by vetoing the legislation, killing the reform effort.
May 29, 2017 – The Illinois House unanimously (115-0) passes new motor voter registration program that will automatically register an eligible Illinois resident to vote or update his or her voter registration whenever that person applies for, updates or renews a driver’s license or state ID, unless they opt out. The legislation creates similar programs for other state agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and Department of Natural Resources. The state senate also passed the measure with a 48-0 vote on May 5. Given the sharp partisan tensions in the Illinois government, the bipartisan agreement was considered remarkable.
- 2005 – Indiana, along with Georgia, passed the nation’s first “strict” Voter ID laws, requiring photo ID for registration to vote. Acceptable ID includes military ID, state driver’s license, state photo ID and U.S. passport. Student ID from an Indiana state school is acceptable but student ID from a private institution is not.
- Voters who lack photo ID may cast a provisional ballot, then appear at their county courthouse within 10 days to show identification. Persons who register by mail are required to present documents at the polls confirming their current address. Acceptable documents include a driver’s license, bank statement, paycheck with name and address and utility bill. Indiana requires an excuse for people mailing in an absentee ballot.
- April 2008 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s Voter ID law, ruling that the requirement to produce photo ID is not unconstitutional, affirming lower court decisions.
- Iowa does not require identification to vote but it does require identification to register, either online – driver’s license or Social Security number – or in person on Election Day, when photo ID must be shown. Acceptable identification includes a state ID card, state or out-of-state driver’s license, U.S. passport, military ID, employer ID or student ID. If the address is not current, additional documentation, such as a utility bill, must be presented.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- 2011 – Gov. Terry Branstad (R) reversed a prior executive action that had made it easier to restore voting rights to people with criminal convictions. In effect, the state now permanently disenfranchises most citizens with felony convictions.
- March 30, 2016 – Iowa Supreme court hears the case of a woman challenging the law that all but permanently prohibits felons from regaining voting rights, which could affect the voting rights of more than 20,000 Iowa felons.
- June 30, 2016 – Iowa Supreme Court upholds state policy preventing felons form voting unless their rights are restored by the governor.
- 2011 – Kansas enacts a Voter ID law, requiring photo ID when voting in person, in the form either of a driver’s license, non-driver ID card, concealed carry handgun license, U.S. passport, government employee ID, military ID, Kansas college ID, government public assistance ID or tribal ID.
- Jan. 1, 2013 – The Republican-controlled legislature enacts law requiring proof of citizenship for registration to vote by producing a document from a list that includes birth certificates, passports and naturalization records.
- Jan. 29, 2016 – Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia are granted authority by Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to require documentary proof of citizenship for voter applicants using the federal registration form.
- February 2016 – The American Civil Liberties Union sues in federal court in Washington, D.C. to overturn the proof of citizenship requirement. The case was brought by the ACLU and League of Women Voters on behalf of six Kansas residents who said they were left off voter rolls after registering at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
- June 29, 2016 – Federal District Judge Richard J. Leon issues ruling that allows Alabama, Georgia and Kansas to enforce their requirements for proof-of-citizenship for people using a federal form to register to vote. Judge rejected request for preliminary injunction to block this requirement filed by American Civil Liberties Union and others.
- July 25, 2016 –American Civil Liberties Union sues Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, charging that he has created a dual voter registration system that will unlawfully deny thousands the right to vote. New rule adopted earlier this month by Kansas election board creates a two-tiered system: People who register to vote with Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles but do not provide proof of citizenship are allowed to vote in federal races but not local and state contests. Those who offer proof of citizenship can vote on all races. ACLU argues that new rule denies full voting rights to about 17,000 people and violates state law, citing a decision by Shawnee County District Court in January.
- July 29, 2016 – Shawnee Country District Judge Larry Hendricks orders Kansas election officials to count votes of 17,500 Kansans in upcoming August 2nd state primary. Their voter registration was questioned by Secretary of State Kris Kovach who said they must provide documentary proof of their U.S. citizenship in order to register. Judge issued temporary order blocking state from enforcing that requirement.
- Sept. 9, 2016 – Federal appeals court orders Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to remove requirement that state residents must show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. A lawsuit challenging brought by League of Women Voters, NAACP in Georgia and other civil rights groups contended that this requirement imposes an unfair burden on some residents, usually elderly, poor or minority, who lack a U.S. passport and have trouble getting official birth certificate because of poorly kept local court records. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kovach, an outspoken advocate of the citizenship requirement, is known as nation’s most vigorous enforcer of that requirement.
- Kentucky permits residents to register by mail or in person. They are required to provide their Social Security number. All voters must produce identification or be known by a precinct officer prior to voting. Acceptable types of ID include personal acquaintance of precinct officer, driver’s license, Social Security card, credit card, or another form of ID containing both picture and signature.
- December 2015 – Kentucky’s new Republican governor, Matt Bevin, rescinds an executive order that had restored voting rights to as many as 140,000 non-violent felons. “While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights,” Bevin said, “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”
- Voters are asked to produce a photo ID at the polls, but in the absence of one, they can vote if they sign a voter identification affidavit. Acceptable forms of ID include a driver’s license, state ID, or other generally recognized picture identification card that contains the name and signature of the voter.
- Residents must give a reason in order to vote by mail. The early voting period is from 14 days to seven days before each election.
- Voters are not required to show ID to vote in Maine unless they are registering and voting on Election Day, when they are required to show ID and proof of residence.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting. Felons never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated.
To register to vote, residents must provide either the number of a driver’s license or state ID card, or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Identification at polling places for first-time voters needing to verify their identity may also provide student, employee, or military ID, U.S. passport, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document with name and current address of the voter. Residents may register by mail, online or in person, and may preregister if they are at least 16 years old. The state allows same-day registration during early voting, which was expanded from six to eight days in 2013; otherwise, the deadline to register to vote is 21 days before an election.
- Anyone may vote by absentee ballot.
- February 2016 – The Democratic-controlled legislature overrides a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons. The measure gives an estimated 44,000 former felons who are on probation the right to register and vote.
- March 28, 2018 – Maryland becomes 11th state to pass legislation that provides for automatically registering state residents to vote when they deal with certain state agencies. People could opt out of the system, but those who do register could decide whether to join a political party or register as an unaffiliated voter. The agencies that would have automatic voter registration include the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local social service agencies and the Maryland Transit Administration’s mobility office. The House of Delegates voted 93-46 today to approve the Secure and Accessible Registration Act, which had already cleared the state Senate on a 31-13 vote earlier this month. The measure became law without Gov.Larry Hogan’s signature.
- Massachusetts has a flexible list of documents to prove identification for voter registration. It does not require photo ID but accepts a range of documents, including a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, utility bill, rent receipt, lease, a copy of a voter registration affidavit, or any other printed identification which contains the voter’s name and address.
- For first-time voters or inactive voters casting a provisional or challenged ballot, or if a poll worker has reasonable suspicion about a person’s identity, the person must provide acceptable ID, which must include the person’s name and address.
- Persons can register to vote by mail or in person. First-time registrants using the mail must provide a driver’s license or state ID number, or a photocopy of a paycheck, utility bill, bank documents or government document. Any document must show the applicant’s name and address.
- In 1996, the Michigan legislature approved a voter ID law that was not implemented for more than a decade because the attorney general, Frank Kelly, said it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to vote. The law went into effect after the state Supreme Court upheld the law in 2007.
- For voting, a photo ID is required, either a state driver’s license, state ID card, driver’s license or ID card issued by another state, federal or state government-issued photo ID, U.S. passport, military ID, student ID and tribal ID. But if voters do not have a photo ID, the law also permits voters to sign an affidavit giving their name and address.
- 2012 – Gov. Rick Snyder becomes the first Republican governor to veto a bill passed by a GOP majority legislature that would have expanded the state’s photo ID law to require photo ID for absentee voting. The governor also vetoed proposals that would have required voters to affirm their U.S. citizenship before receiving ballots and would have required voter registration groups to undergo training by the secretary of state or local clerks. Snyder said the vetoed ID bills “could create voter confusion among absentee voters” and that verification of a person’s citizenship should be done only once – at the time of registration.
- July 21, 2016 – Federal District Judge Gershwin Drain issues a temporary injunction suspending law passed by Republican-led legislature and signed in January by Gov. Rick Snyder that bars straight-ticket voting – using one mark to vote for all candidates from one party. In his opinion, Drain cited a study by Kurt Metzger of the U.S. Census Bureau that found that African-American voters are more likely to use straight party-line voting than white voters. “An injunction would protect the public against burdens on the right to vote,” the judge wrote. the court rulings means that straight-ticket voting will be allowed this November but voting rights groups must still go to trial to seek a permanent injunction.
July 9, 2018- Frustrated with inaction by the state legislature, a coalition of civil rights groups move forward on their drive for a popular vote this fall on a reform that would dramatically expand access to voting in Michigan. Organizers of the campaign, which include the League of Women Voters, NAACP and the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, submit petitions with 430.000 signatures to state officials to put their reform on November ballot. To qualify, state law requires at least 315,654 signatures. The proposed constitutional reform would make voter registration easier by requiring automatic voter registration when people get a driver’s license or a personal ID card and by letting people register to vote on Election Day. Under current law, people must register at least 30 days before an election. A separate ballot measure would also reform Michigan’s system for drawing election district boundaries, by taking that task away from elected politicians in the state legislature and turning it over to an independent bipartisan commission.
- Minnesota does not require voters to show documentary ID, but it does require voters to sign an affidavit of eligibility. If requested at the polling place, voters must provide their name, address and date of birth.
- The state permits early voting and non-excuse absentee voting.
- The legislature is under pressure from some groups to restore the voting rights of convicted felons after their prison terms have been completed but at present an estimated 47,000 felons who have served their sentences but who remain on parole or probation are ineligible to vote.
- 2011 – A voter referendum approves a state law requiring a photo ID, but the law did not take effect until 2014, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision nullifying Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Acceptable forms of photo ID include a driver’s license, U.S. passport, government employee ID, firearms license, student ID issued by an accredited Mississippi institution of higher learning, military ID, tribal ID, government ID or state ID.
- Even after serving their prison sentences, felons are prohibited from voting if they were convicted of certain crimes, including murder, rape, bribery, extortion, robbery, larceny, armed robbery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, bigamy, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, receiving stolen property, timber larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.
- May 4, 2006 – Missouri legislature passes SB 1014, which imposes a “strict photo ID requirement,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This law limited valid ID to forms issued by federal or state governments, such as driver’s license, passport or military ID.
- October 2006 – The Missouri Supreme Court rules that the state’s newly passed Voter ID law was an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote.
- Today, Missouri requires some form of ID for voter registration but the list of acceptable documents is long and does not require photo ID. Acceptable forms are state or federal ID, such as a passport, local election authority ID; student ID issued by a state institution, public or private; copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document that contains the name and address of the voter; as well as a state driver’s license or state ID card issued by another state.
- May 2016 – The state House approves a referendum on whether the state constitution should be amended to require that photo ID be shown to vote. The step is necessary in order for companion legislation, which spells out how the requirement would be implemented, to become law. Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, estimates 220,000 of the state’s registered voters lack a photo ID.
- Montana requires identification for voters, but forms of ID are flexible. They include a driver’s license, state ID number, Social Security number and other unspecified identification.
- November 2014 – Voters reject a law passed by Republican majorities in the state legislature that would have repealed Election Day registration. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock had vetoed a previous effort to repeal Election Day registration.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- Multiple forms of ID are available for Nebraska residents registering for the first time. Those include valid photo ID, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document dated 60 days prior to date of registration. There is no waiting period to register.
- First-time voters are asked for ID if they registered by mail and did not provide ID at the time.
- 2013 – Nebraska’s unicameral legislature reduces the early voting period from a minimum of 35 days to no more than 30 days, effective in 2014. The measure was signed by Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.
- 2014 – The legislature approves same-day registration for voters at polling sites during the early voting period until the second Friday before Election Day. The state permits registration by mail and requires a voter to re-register upon change of name, address or political party affiliation.
- The state allows no-excuse absentee voting.
- Residents may register in person at the county clerk’s office or a Department of Motor Vehicles office, by mail or online. When registering by mail or online, persons are asked to provide either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
- A 14-day early voting period ending the Friday before Election Day was scheduled for 2016. Most voters are not asked for ID at a polling place, but those voting for the first time who did not register in person are asked for an acceptable form of ID, which includes a driver’s license, state ID card, government ID, utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- Nov. 4, 2016 – Federal district judge declines Democratic Party request for court order against aggressive poll watching by Trump campaign or Nevada Republican Party, though judge says that on Nov 7, he will consider issuing such an order against pro-Trump group called “Stop the Steal” led by outspoken Trump ally Roger Stone who has threatened aggressive questioning and potential harassment of voters.
- Feb. 22, 2017 – Democratic majority iN Nevada legislature, joined by independent, pass bill for automatic voter registration when state residents obtain or renew driver’s licenses. Legislature;s action came after national group iVote gathered 125,000 signatures appealing for automatic voter registration. Nevada bill is modeled after pioneering legislation used in Oregon.
- March 21, 2017- Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoes democratic-backed “motor-voter” registration bill, automatically putting measure on November 2018 ballot for a popular vote, up or down. Advocates say this protects voter rights and makes registration more efficient. Sandoval said automatic voter registration increases “the possibility of improper registration” by green-card holders and other foreign residents who are not eligible to vote.
- Under a law passed in 2012 by a Republican-controlled legislature that overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch (D), a photo ID is required to vote. The state previously required no form of ID to vote. Acceptable forms include driver’s license, military ID, state ID, U.S. passport and student ID. The law requires voters without acceptable ID to sign an affidavit and let poll workers photograph them.
- In April 2018, New Jersey becomes the 12th state to pass automatic voter registration whenever state residents interact with major state agencies, such as obtaining a driver’s license, welfare assistance or get a state ID..
“In New Jersey, we recognize our democracy is stronger when more people are given the opportunity to participate and when the residents of our state are empowered to be part of the democratic process,” Gov. Phil Murphy (d) said in signing the bill into law. After legislative majorities enacted the broad motor voter legislation th governor said that New Jersey’s invincible is that “registering to vote should be simple and seamless and there “should be no barriers to register to vote. ”
Some Republicans, opposing the bill, said it would lead to voter fraud. Others accused Democrats of trying to “exploit” registration trends that tend to lean Democratic.
- New Jersey allows multiple forms of identification for registration to vote, including photo ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, student or job ID and military ID, as well as non-photo ID, such as a bank statement, car registration, rent receipt and utility bill.
- The state does not require ID to vote unless the voter did not provide identification information when registering, or the voter is a first-time registrant by mail and the identification provided could not be verified.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- In order to register to vote in New Mexico, a person’s Social Security number, driver’s license or state ID number and date of birth must match with information on file with the state Motor Vehicle Division. Acceptable are a valid photo ID, bank statement, utility bill, government check, paycheck or other government document with name and address.
- Anyone who did not provide identification while registering is asked to provide ID at the polling place.
- A number of state offices and universities are required to provide residents with voter registration services. Among the state offices are the Department of Motor Vehicles, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office for the Aging, Department of Labor and Department of Social Services. Universities include the City Universities of New York (CUNY) and State Universities of New York (SUNY). Registration forms require either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number. First-time voters must provide ID at their polling place if their identity is not verified before Election Day.
- A person with a felony conviction is entitled to vote after being discharged from parole
- August 2013 – The Republican-led North Carolina legislature adopts a restrictive voting law that requires photo ID to register, reduces early voting from 17 to 10 days, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Acceptable forms of ID include a state driver’s license, an unexpired out-of-state driver’s license (for registration within 90 days of an election), a state-issued ID card, valid U.S. passport, military or veterans IDs and tribal ID. Voters over 70 may present expired ID as long as it was valid on their 70th birthday. The law explicitly bars public employee IDs and student IDs.
- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, anticipating a legal fight as he signed the measure into law, declared: “While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common-sense idea. This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common-sense safeguard is commonplace.”
- September 2013 – The Justice Department files a lawsuit to block parts of the Voter ID law, asking for a federal court ruling that North Carolina needed federal pre-approval for certain changes under a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act still in effect. The suit challenged the new law’s photo ID requirement, the shortening of the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, the elimination of same-day voter registration during early voting, and restrictions on counting some provisional ballots.
- Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan organization that advocates increasing voter participation, estimates that 2013 voting restrictions reduced turnout in 2014 by at least 30,000 voters.
June 18, 2015 – A three-week trial of the Justice Department’s challenge to North Carolina’s Photo ID law prompts legislature to modify the law to allow NC residents to vote by signing an affidavit explaining why they lack Photo ID and presenting alternative ID. The state estimated that 300,000 registered voters lacked acceptable forms of ID. Under the new modifications, voters can swear that they were unable to obtain required photo ID due to lack of transportation, work schedules and family responsibilities. Also, no photo ID is required for absentee voting, and ballots are available on line. After the new modifications, the Justice Department decided to defer its challenges. But other critics were not satisfied. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice said that while the modificiations were “a step in the right direction, obstacles to voting remain” that would still “disenfranchise qualified North Carolina voters.”
- January 2016 – Federal court trial begins on a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups against North Carolina’s 2013 restrictions on voting. The lead plaintiff is Rosanell Eaton, 94-year-old granddaughter of a slave. In order to fulfill the photo ID requirement, Eaton said she had to drive more than 200 miles and make more than 10 trips to correct her identification because the name on her driver’s license, Rosanell Eaton, is not an exact match of the name on her voter registration card, Rosanell Johnson Eaton.
- April 25, 2016 – Federal District Judge Thomas Schroeder of Winston Salem, N C, rules in favor of election law changes enacted by North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature, imposing strict Voter ID requirements, canceling Election Day voter registration, reducing early voting by 7 days, barring voters from casting ballots outside their home precincts, and ending pre-registration for high school students. “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirements and electoral system,” wrote Judge Schroeder, an appointee of President George W. Bush. Despite what he called the state’s “shameful” historic racial discrimination, Judge Schroeder found that “certainly for the last quarter century, there is little official discrimination to consider.” The Justice Department and other plaintiffs appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond.
- July 29, 2016 – A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down North Carolina’s voter photo ID law as constitutional on grounds that it was enacted with discriminatory intent against blacks. “We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” the court declared. “Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.” The appeals court decision permanently bars the application of the 2013 North Carolina law that required certain photo IDs to vote, limited early voting, eliminated same-day registration, blocked out-of-precinct voting and halted pre-registration of high-school students approaching age 18, which it found were all disproportionately used by blacks. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-dominated legislature asserted that the photo ID law was needed to protect against voter fraud. But the Justice Department, League of Women Voters, and the North Carolina NAACP, challenging the photo ID law, argued that its true aim was to disenfranchise mostly black and Hispanic voters. The court agreed. The judges found that the photo ID law’s restrictions “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” for partisan Republican advantage by “targeting voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority (Republican) party,” thus violating U.S. constitutional mandates for equal rights and protections for all citizens. By annulling the 2013 law, the court restored North Carolina’s voting rules prior to the 2013 law.
- Aug. 30, 2016 – Amidst hotly competitive presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial races in North Carolina, Democrats accuse Republican-controlled county election boards of once again curbing the black vote in defiance of federal court rulings that struck down changes in election laws enacted by Republican-led legislature in 2013. “It is equal to voter suppression in its worst way,” says Courtney Patterson, sole Democrat i\on Lenoir County’s elections board. In wake of federal court ruling striking down Republican restrictions on voting, Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of North Carolina Republican Party, sent out email to Republicans on county election boards telling them that they “can and should make party-line changes” to rules to GOP’s advantage. “Does anybody think that Democrats did not select early voting sites and set hours to advantage their voters over Republicans?” Woodhouse asserted. “We are just attempting to rebalance the scales.”
- Sept. 1, 2016 – U.S. Supreme Court rejects North Carolina’s appeal to reinstate the state’s strict photo ID law and overturn an appeals court ruling that struck down that law as discriminating unconstitutionally against black voters and minorities. By deadlocking 4-4, the high court justices leave standing the appeals court decision that had ordered North Carolina to restore more early voting days, same-day voter registration, out-of-precinct voting, and most importantly, to allow the use of multiple forms of non-photo ID for voting. North Carolina’s attorneys had contended that the appeals court ruling would “threaten voter ID laws throughout the nation.” The Court’s four more liberal justices disagree and take issue with the partisan intent of North Carolina’s Republican legislature and governor in enacting the voter ID law. “This is a case about the use of race to achieve partisan ends,” assert Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The court’s four conservative justices disagree. Justice Clarence Thomas favored restoring all of the law’s provisions, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito would have reinstated the voter ID and early voting provisions. Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights project, said the Supreme Court ruling “means that thousands of voters who would have been disenfranchised will now be able to participate in the presidential election.”
- Nov. 4, 2016- Just four days before election, federal judge bars three North Carolina counties from revoking the voting rights of 4,500 disproportionately African-American voters whose eligibility faced 11th hour challenge from Republican political operatives. In case that NAACP has cast as an attempt at voter suppression, Federal District Judge C. Loretta Biggs issues preliminary injunction blocking county election officials from purging targeted voters pending a later trial. She rules that election officials in the three counties had ignored a 23-year-old federal law that lays out specific rules about when and how voters’ registrations can be canceled.
- Dec. 16, 2016 – Republican majority in state legislature passes bill that strips power of incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to appoint majority of North Carolina Election Board, which appoints county election boards, some of which were accused in 2016 elections of defying federal court orders on voter eligibility and registration. Bill replacing current five-member state elections board with an evenly balanced bipartisan board is signed into law by outgoing Republican Gov Pat McGrory, who lost to Cooper in tight gubernatorial race on Nov. 8.
- Dec. 30, 2016 – A Wake County Superior Court judge issues restraining order temporarily blocking sweeping overhaul of state elections board enacted by Republican-led legislature, pending a hearing on Democratic charges of a GOP “power grab.” Case must be heard by three-judge panel.
- May 15, 2017- U.S. Supreme Court delivers setback to strict voter-ID movement by refusing to hear an appeal by Republicans that challenged an appeals court ruling striking down North Carolina’s strict voter Photo-ID law. In July 2016, a three-judge appeals panel ruled that state law enacted in 2013 violated the U.S. Constitution because its provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The appeals panel overturned and barred the law’s reduction of early voting days, it cancellation of Election Day voter registration, its denial of pre-registration of teenagers, and its requiring forms of photo identification more difficult for minority voters than white voters to obtain. In a brief statement, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the high court was not deciding the merits of the case but that “a blizzard of filings” had left confusion over the source of the appeal, whether it was the legislature or an outgoing Republican governor whose Democratic successor annulled his appeal.
- June 7, 2018 – Despite rejection by federal court, Republican lawmakers led by House Speaker Tim Moore file a bill calling for a popular vote this fall on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require a photo ID to vote in North Carolina. The bill must first pass both legislative houses by 60% majorities, which is within the Republican super-majorities – provided GOP lawmakers remain united.
- June 15 – North Carolina Senate Republicans unveil a bill to eliminate early voting on the final Saturday before the Tuesday election. That Saturday typically draws heavy voting from black voters. Critics like former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen say the Republican leaders fear losing their supermajorities in the 2018 elections, “So they’re trying to pass as much (deterrence to voting) as they can before December 31.”
- North Dakota is the only state without voter registration, but since 2004 it has required voters to provide some identification when they cast ballots. In both 2013 and 2015, the Republican-controlled legislature passed voter ID laws. The 2015 law requires Photo ID, allowing only four types of ID: a current North Dakota driver’s license, state photo ID, tribal ID, or a long-term care certificate, which must give not only the person’s name and age but residential address, often lacking on tribal ID documents. One study found that 72,000 voting age North Dakotans would not qualify under these restrictions, which were signed into law by Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Lawmakers said they had enacted the new law to combat voter fraud but Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger reported that in 14 years in office he had never seen evidence of a single case of voter fraud.
- A North Dakota State University study found that about 3 percent of college students were unable to vote in November 2014 because of confusion over residency requirements. The 2015 law hinders student voting because it denies their use of identification certificates issued by their university.
- In January 2016, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas sued the state, alleging that voter ID laws approved in 2013 and 2015 “disproportionately burden and disenfranchise Native Americans.” The suit charges that the North Dakota law violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, asserting that some tribal members were denied the right to vote in 2014 because their tribal ID did not list a current residential street address, as is normal with many tribal IDs. The suit says that some tribal members cannot afford a new tribal ID or the documentation needed to obtain a state driver’s license or a state ID card.
- Aug. 1, 2016 – Federal District Judge Daniel Hovland issues a restraining order blocking North Dakota from enforcing its strict voter photo ID law after a group of American Indians said it unfairly burdens them. “The record is replete with concrete evidence of significant burdens imposed on Native American voters attempting to exercise their right to vote,” Judge Hovland wrote.”There are a multitude of easy remedies that most states have adopted in some form to alleviate this burden.” Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger said the state would not appeal the decision and that November’s election would revert to using less restrictive voter ID rules in force before the 2013 law was enacted. Voters were then allowed to present a broad range of documents as proof of identity or simply sign an oath affirming their identity.
- April 24, 2017 – Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signs new voter ID law that legislative leaders say will cure deficiencies of 2015 law, by allowing provisional balloting by residents who lack specified voter ID on Election Day. But critics say that law is still legally defective because voters must produce required documents within six days of elections and Indian ID documents do not show voter’s street address, as the new ID law still requires.
- April 4, 2018 – Federal District Judge Daniel Hovland, finding legal fault with North Dakota’s restrictive 2016 voter ID law, adds other tribal documents to the state’s list of valid forms of voter ID and removes state requirement that ID documents include residential street addresses. “No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote,” Hovland asserts in 17-page ruling.Several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa challenged the state’s voter ID laws, saying they constituted a form of voter suppression.
May 1, 2018- In a ruling that could affect the outcome of a potentially close U.S. Senate race this November, Federal Judge Daniel Hovland rejects what he calls a “litany of embellished concerns” raised by state officials about the dangers of voter fraud under his ruling last month to expand the range of documents that Native Americans can use for proof of identity in North Dakota elections.“The reality is (the state) has failed to demonstrate any evidence of voter fraud in the past or present,” Hovland asserts, affirming his order that broader forms of ID be used in 2018 elections. Tom Dickson, attorney for tribal members, contends the law passed by the GOP-dominated legislature was aimed at reducing voter turnout among American Indians, who tend to vote Democratic. “They want to limit the right of people to vote,” Dickson said. “This isn’t a law with unintended consequences, it’s a law with intended consequences.” The Native American vote is seen as vital to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election race against Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer that could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
- Sept 24,2018 -Eight Circuit Court of Appeals issues a stay, blocking district court decision against a key provision of North Dakota’s strict voter ID law and upholding the state’s requirement that mID documents show a voter’s street address.
- Oct. 8, 2018 -U.S. Supreme Court upholds a strictly worded North Dakota voter ID law that could affect the outcome of a pivotal U.S.Senate race and which party controls the Senate.High court rejects emergency appeal from Native American Rights Fund and a district court’s finding that 70,000 state residents lack a qualifying ID and about 18,000 residents also lack other documents that would enable them to vote in 2018. The case centers on the state’s legal requirement that voter ID documents provide a street address, whereas many tribal ID documents list only a post box and no street address. Federal district judge Daniel Hovland threw out the street address requirement as an unfair and unconstitutional burden on Native Americans. Even though Hovland’s ruling applied during primary elections, the Supreme Court struck it down, leaving applicants with less than a month until Election Day to try to obtain new documents.
- Oct. 31, 2018-Tribal leaders and Native American voting rights advocates scramble to issue new tribal ID documents with street addresses to qualify 30,000 or more Native American would-be voters under 11th hour court rulings. Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office says that tribal members can have a street address assigned “in an hour or less” by calling their county’s 911 coordinator, but practice varies widely by county. At Standing Rock, in Sioux County, the 911 coordinator is Sheriff Frank Landeis, who is repeatedly unavailable. So tribal officials, working with Four Directions, a Native American voting rights group, begin assigning street addresses to tribal members whose tribal ID shows a post office box address, rejected as invalid by state officials and the U.S. Supreme Court. The tribes also plan to issue street addresses on tribal letterhead paper on Election Day. But no one is certain how many of those votes will be counted in the tight election race between incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp and her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer.
- Ohio permits voter registration on the basis of a driver’s license, Social Security number, military identification, or, if residents lack those forms of ID, they can offer a recent utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck dated within the last 12 months showing name and current address. Ohio’s residency requirement is fairly limited – 30 days prior to Election Day.
- In order to vote, Ohioans must bring some documentation to verify their ID to the polls but the same easily accessible documents required for registration are acceptable for proving ID at the polls.
- August 2012 – A fight over early voting hours erupted after a top adviser to Republican Gov. John Kasich made a remark that Democrats called racist. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, which includes the state capital, Columbus, was quoted in The Columbus Dispatch as saying, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.” Also, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended two officials who voted to extend early voting to weekends in Montgomery County, the state’s fifth largest county and home to Dayton.
- 2014 – The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature passes a series of voting restrictions, which are then signed by Gov. Kasich. Lawmakers cut six days of early voting – eliminating “Golden Week,” during which voters could register and cast a ballot all in one trip – and changed absentee and provisional ballot rules. Secretary of State Husted also issued a directive reducing early voting on weekday evenings and weekends. These cuts went into effect in 2014.
- April 2015 – The state and the Ohio chapter of the NAACP and other plaintiffs settled a lawsuit that had alleged that the cutback in voting hours disproportionately hurt low-income black voters. Their agreement added weekend and evening voting hours; however, Golden Week was not restored.
- August 2015 – An updated federal lawsuit filing contends that new voting laws create hurdles for minority voters casting absentee and provisional ballots. The suit, brought by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party, argues that the laws unconstitutionally permit absentee votes to be thrown out for ID errors.
- May 24, 2016 – Federal District Judge Michael Watson rules that cutbacks in Ohio’s early voting days signed into law by Gov. John Kasich (R) are “unconstitutional and …accordingly unenforceable.” The Ohio Democratic Party had sued the state after Republican lawmakers voted to eliminate the days and times of early voting that were most convenient for those working full time: the weekend before election day, weekday evenings, and “Golden Week,” the time about a month before election day when the registration period and the early voting period overlap. Judge Watson wrote that restricting voting time “results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters.”
- June 29, 2016 – Federal District Judge George C. Smith affirmed authority of Ohio’s secretary of state to strip thousands of inactive voters from Ohio voter rolls, rejecting legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed that the purge disenfranchised minorities and the poor. The judge disagreed, noting that voters were a> being removed from the polls only after they failed to vote and then did not respond to requests for information on change of address.
- Sept 23, 2016 – Three-Judge federal appeals court orders halt to purging of voter rolls in key swing state of Ohio, dealing severe setback to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and delivering legal victory to voting rights advocates. A 2-1 majority of 6th Circuit. Court of Appeals overruled a U.S. district court judge’s decision and ordered Ohio to let tens of thousands cast ballots in November election. Obama Administration Justice Department filed friend of court brief calling voter roll purges unlawful. Legal conflict arose over Ohio’s plans to remove several hundred thousands voters from registration lists because they had failed to cast a ballot since 2008 and did not respond to letters seeking to confirm their addresses.
- Nov. 4, 2016 – Federal district issues injunction barring political workers from harassing, aggressively questioning or intimidating voters with 100 feet of polling sites in Ohio. Judge James Gwin rules in response to Democratic Party request for court order against pro-Trump groups, including “Stop the Steal” led by Trump ally Roger Stone name=”Ohiotrump” a>who announced plans to carry out aggressive questioning and poll-monitoring including conducting so-called “exit poll” asking voters how voted.
- Aug 8, 2017 – Trump Justice Department, reversing Obama Administration, throws its weight behind efforts to purge voter rolls by Ohio’s Republican secretary of state. Before 2016 election, federal appeals court found the voter purge illegal and blockeeded the removal of hundreds of thousands of resident from voter rolls because they had voted infrequently and failed to answer a mail-out asking for c9nfirmation of their addresses. Now, in pursuit of Trump’s unproven claims of fraudulent voting in 2016, name=”Ohiopurge”his Justice Department has appealed to U.S. Supreme Court to overturn 2016 appeals court decision and to allow Ohio to proceed with purge of voter rolls.
- June 11, 2018 – U.S. Supreme Court, responding to push from Trump administration, affirmed Ohio’s aggressive purging of voter rolls. In 5-4 decision written buy Justice Samuel Alito, Court said that a state may remove people form voter rolls if they skip two elections and fail to respond to a notice from state election officials asking them to confirm their residential address. Case was brought by Navy veteran larry Harmon who sat out three federal elections from 2010 to 2014 and when he went to vote on ballot initiative, he found his name had been stricken from, the voter rolls. Federal laws prohibit states form removing people form, voter rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote” but they allow election official to seek confirmation that the person ha sm=not moved away or died, by asking for confirmation of address. Harmon said he did not remember receiving such a notice. Court’s decision was sharply criticized by voter rights advocates, and praised by Ohio’s Republican secretary of state.
- 2010 – Oklahoma voters approve a ballot referendum requiring voter photo ID, issued by the U.S. government, state of Oklahoma or a federally recognized tribal government. Persons also may use a voter ID card received by mail after registering to vote, even though it doesn’t have a photo. A provisional ballot may be cast without photo ID and will be counted if county elections officials are satisfied with the identity of the voter following an investigation.
- Persons registering to vote must submit either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Voter registration is closed for 24 days before an election.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- Traditional means of registering to vote remain available to Oregon citizens, including online, by mail and in person at county clerk offices, libraries and universities. The deadline to register is 21 days before an election.
- 1998 – Oregon becomes the first state in the nation to adopt mail-in voting.
- 2015 – Oregon becomes the first to pioneer a “new motor voter” law that requires the state automatically to register to vote anyone applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other identification card. The law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2016, also provides for the transfer of voter registration if a state resident moves and changes his driver’s license address. Persons moving into Oregon have to register to vote, either by obtaining a driver’s license or interact with the stage government by other means to become covered by Oregon’s automatic voter registration system.
- 2015 – State officials estimated that 800,000 Oregon residents were eligible to vote but not registered.
- Nov 2016 – Thanks in large measure to Oregon’s motor voter program, which added 226.094 people to the voter rolls since Jan 1, 2016, the state hits a record for total voter turnout of 2,051,452. This is also the highest percentage of votes cast among the eligible voter-age population in Oregon history -70.4%.
- March 15, 2012 – Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed tough new voter law requiring photo ID for voter registration. A limited list of acceptable photo ID includes a driver’s license, passport, student ID from an in-state college, or ID from a nursing home or assisted living facility. The law was passed by solid Republican majorities in the state legislature. “This is a law of prevention,” Corbett said. “It is to prevent voter fraud. And I believe it needs to be prevented.”
- Jan. 17, 2014 – Judge Bernard L. McGinley of Commonwealth Court struck down Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. In a strongly worded opinion, the judge ruled that the law was burdensome for voters, especially the elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law, that it was needed to combat voter fraud, was not supported by the facts. “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election,” the judge wrote. “The voter ID law does not further this goal.”
- Today, Pennsylvanians may register to vote in person, online or by mail. A driver’s license or state ID card number, or the last four digits of a Social Security number are required for registration. The deadline for registration is 30 days before an election.
- 2011 – A Democratic-controlled legislature approves a Voter ID law signed by then Republican Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, that requires poll workers on Election Day to ask for identification, but allows for a long list of acceptable documents including state driver’s license, state voter ID card, U.S. passport, ID card issued by an educational institution in the U.S., military ID, state or government ID, and government-issued medical card, as well as more than two dozen documents in order to issue a voter ID card to residents who do not have acceptable photo ID.
- Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, a Democrat, told the New Republic that he introduced the bill not in response to specific charges of impersonation but to “address the perception of voter fraud.”
- 2011 – A Republican-controlled legislature approves a Voter ID law that was signed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. Because the state had a history of voter discrimination, it needed federal approval under the Voting Rights Act.
- October 2012 – A federal court puts the law on hold until after the 2012 election, ruling that the law was not discriminatory but that it would cause too much confusion if it were implemented immediately. The law went into effect in 2013.
- During litigation, the state won federal approval after officials described their interpretation of the law’s “reasonable impediment” exception. If a person is unable to obtain one of five forms of accepted photo ID, he or she can sign an affidavit explaining why – possible reasons include lack of a birth certificate, work schedule and lack of transportation – and bring a voter registration card without a photo. The ballot will automatically count unless someone can prove the person is lying.
- 2003 – The state legislature approves a flexible ID requirement.
- When voting, residents must either show photo ID or sign an affidavit attesting to the person’s identity. Acceptable forms of photo ID are a state driver’s license or state ID, a passport or other photo ID issued by the U.S. government, tribal ID and student ID.
- 2012 – A Republican-controlled legislature passes a law that takes away the voting rights of convicted felons who had not been sent to prison but were either placed on probation or given parole. It is signed by a Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Voting rights of felons can be restored once they’ve served their prison terms and/or completed the terms of probation or parole.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- 2011 – Tennessee’s Republican-controlled legislature enacts restrictive law requiring photo ID to vote.
- 2011 – Lawmakers reduced the early voting period and passed a law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote. All were signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Proof of citizenship applies only to individuals flagged by state officials as potential non-citizens based on a database check.
- 2014 – Legislature makes Tennessee’s 2011 photo ID law even more restrictive by limiting acceptable IDs to those issued by the state or federal government. A handgun carry permit can be used as ID but a student ID card cannot. Legislation that would have added student ID was defeated in both 2012 and 2013. Other acceptable photo IDs are a state driver’s license, U.S. passport, state Department of Safety and Homeland security ID, federal or state government ID and military ID. Tennessee not only rejects student ID cards but also photo IDs issued by counties or cities, such as library cards, and photo IDs issued by other states. Exemptions are granted to those who live in a nursing home, the indigent and voters with a religious objection to being photographed.
- 2013 – Within hours of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Texas begins implementing a strict 2011 voter ID law that requires Texans to prove their citizenship and their state residency with forms of ID that are expensive and difficult to obtain for some low-income Americans. The list of approved identification includes a concealed carry gun license but not a college student’s university ID; a U.S. passport and a state-issued ID card but not voter registration cards and utility bills. The law poses difficulties for women who have married or divorced and whose voter IDs and driver’s licenses reflect maiden or married names that do not exactly match. Similar obstacles confront Mexican-Americans who use combinations of mothers’ and fathers’ names.
Fall 2014 – Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi rules that the Texas Voter ID law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” The judge ruled that the Texas legislature had intentionally adopted a discriminatory law, noting the lack of evidence that voter fraud was a threat and citing expert testimony that about 600,000 Texans, mainly poor, black and Hispanic, lacked the newly required IDs and often faced obstacles in obtaining them. Texas took issue with her conclusion that the law in effect imposed a poll tax, because it required potential voters to pay for documents in order to acquire a photo ID. Texas appealed to a higher federal court.
- August 2015 – A three-judge federal appeals panel ruled that the Texas Voter ID law discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The appeals court stayed enforcement of the lower court order against the law but also ordered the lower court to consider ways of changing the law without overturning it entirely, possibly reinstating certain forms of more readily available IDs. “It does show the continuing relevance of the Voting Rights Act even in its weakened form,” said Wendy Weiser, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which helped represent plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
- April 29, 2016 – U.S. Supreme Court temporarily leaves standing strict voter identification law in Texas, but leaves open possibility that it would intervene if the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals fails to act promptly. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, asserts that leaving the Texas law intact “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting for lack of compliant identification,” of whom “a sharply disproportionate percentage” are black or Hispanic. Ginsburg cites difficulties of travel and cost confronting voters required to get state ID.
- May 24, 2016 – The full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in the Texas photo ID law that in 2015 had been ruled discriminatory by a three-judge panel. The court appeared to be fishing for some other solutions, such as expanding the list of acceptable IDs. Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart observed that Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia and other states had enacted similar voter-ID laws but provide “infinitely more options” for voter ID proof. The Texas law, he said, was “the strictest of all the laws enacted.”
- July 20, 2016 – The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the Texas Voter Photo ID law, asserting that it has a racially discriminatory effect against ethnic minorities and the poor. By a 9-6 majority, the 5th Circuit affirms an earlier decision of Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi and instructs Judge Ramos to create a temporary, non-discriminatory ID system for the November 2016 elections. In its ruling, the court’s majority asserts that the discriminatory impact of the Texas Photo ID law (SB14), passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 and signed by former Gov. Rick Perry, violates Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “The record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact,” Judge Catharina Haynes writes for the court majority.
- Noting that it would be “untenable” to allow the discriminatory law to be used in the 2016 elections, the court majority says “it becomes the ‘unwelcome obligation’ of the federal district court to devise and impose a [remedy] pending later legislative action.” That task falls to federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos who had previously found that the law was discriminatory and that expert testimony showed that the law was preventing an estimated 600,000 potential voters from registering this year.
- Aug. 4, 2016 –Lawyers for Texas, civil rights groups and U.S. Justice Department, agree on plan that sets aside strict photo ID requirements for voter registration and allows residents to vote with many other forms of ID – a voter registration certificate, birth certificate, utility bill or bank statement, government check, or any other government document with their name and address. Those voters would also have to sign an affidavit stating that they were unable to easily procure any of the seven IDs required by a state law. On Aug. 11, the settlement was approved by a federal district judge.
- Sept 8, 2016 – In new court motions, Justice Department and voter advocacy groups accuse Texas officials of misleading voters about requirements for voting, undermining federal court order intended to overturn earlier Texas mandate for photo IDs and allow more varied forms of ID. “This is part and parcel of an ongoing state effort to discourage and prevent citizens from voting,” said Chad Dunn, lawyer representing voter groups in Houston and surrounding Harris County, which has heavy black and Hispanic population. “The state lost the litigation, and …what it’s trying to do now is…scaring some people away from voting.”
- Feb. 10, 2017 –Texas judge imposes eight-year prison sentence on Rosa Maria Ortega, 37-year-old mother of four teenagers, who voted illegally in 2012 and 2014 elections as a registered Republican, thinking she qualified as permanent resident brought to U.S. from Mexico by her mother in her infancy, though she never gained U.S. citizenship. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, for whom Ortega voted in 2014, declared that heavy prison sentence “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure.” Her lawyer calls sentence an egregious overreaction made to score political points against someone who wrongly believed she was eligible to vote. “She has a sixth-grade education. She didn’t know she wasn’t legal,” said her lawyer, Clark Birdsall. “She can own property. She can serve in the military. She can get a job. She can pay taxes. But she can’t vote and she didn’t know that.”
Feb. 27, 2017 – In dramatic reversal of federal policy on protecting voting rights, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions drops charges by Obama Administration that Texas voter photo ID law was enacted with intentional and illegal prejudice against minority voters. Federal district judge hearing the case had previously found that the law had blocked 600,000 minority would-be voters from registering and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned the disputed law and ordered Texas to revise its standards for registration. But in a telltale harbinger of a new federal policy, Trump Justice Department asks federal judge to “dismiss the discriminatory purpose claim.” Critics object that the Texas law sanctions photo IDs likely to be used by whites, such as military ID and licenses to carry concealed handguns, but excludes government employee IDs and public university IDs, to which blacks, Hispanics and younger voters have ready access.
- April 10, 2017 – A federal district judge in Houston, rejecting the arguments of Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. rules that the Texas voter photo ID law was enacted by the Texas legislature with the unconstitutional intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos made a similar ruling in 2014 and when Texas appealed, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Judge Ramos for a second look, saying her first opinion relied too heavily on past practices in Texas. Citing new grounds, Judge Romas once again found that the Texas bill was unfairly restrictive and discriminatory toward minority voters, noting that “many categories of acceptable ph9to IDs permitted by other states were omitted from the Texas bill.” While Texas may once again appeal, Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented some minority voters, said the latest decision “should sound the death knell for burdensome voter ID requirements in Texas and across the country.”
- June 1, 2017 – Texas Legislature passes SB-5, a revision of the state’s legally challenged 2011 voter photo ID law, to broaden its provisions and ease its restrictions in line with federal court decisions. The revised law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, allows Texans without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining the proper ID. To confirm their identification, those voters could present documents such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks. But lawmakers added a provision that anyone found to have lied about being unable to obtain the proper photo ID could be charged with a state felony, subject to jail.
- Aug. 23, 2017 – Federal judge blocks Texas from applying its revised voter ID law on grounds that even with legislative fixes, it still imposes unfair burdens on blacks and Latinos who want to register to vote. Previously ordered by court to fix the controversial law, GOP controlled legislature softened its tough photo ID law to allow potential voters to sign an affidavit and show more widely available types of ID, such as a utility bill or bank statement. But Federal District judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled this was an inadequate fix because the revised law still bars would-be voters from showing state or federal ID cards, meaning that minority residents were still being “subjected to separate voting obstacles and procedures.”
- April 27, 2018- A three-judge panel of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns lower court ruling and approves implementation by Texas of revised voter ID rules passed by the Texas legislature in June 2017. A federal district judge had ruled last August that the voter ID law did not go far enough in removing unfair burdens of voter registration for minority residents. Writing for a 2-1 majority, Judge Edith Jones asserted that the Texas legislature had “succeeded in its goal” of adjusting the harsher 2011 version of the photo ID law to comply with federal court orders. In a biting dissent, Judge James Graves Jr. contended that the new law was still too much like the old law. “A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog,” he wrote, contending that there was still an “unconstitutional disenfranchisement of duly qualified voters.” Minority plaintiffs signaled that they may appeal to the full 5th Circuit Court. “Our view today is the same as it has been since the first day of this litigation — Texas’s voter ID law is discriminatory,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
- March 2018 – After a two-year test period, Utah moved to make voting easier by legally adopting same-day registration for voters on Election Day. It also set up a procedure for voters to register when they obtain or a renew a state driver’s license. But the Utah system stops short of automatic Motor-Voter registration.
- 2009 – The Utah legislature adopts a flexible voter ID law, requiring the name and address of the voter proven by two documents from a list of 17 that includes a driver’s license, state or federal ID, state permit to carry a concealed weapon, U.S. passport and tribal ID, as well as utility bills, bank statement, certified birth certificate, Social Security card and hunting or fishing license.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.
- April 28, 2016 – Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signs legislation to automatically register eligible voters who apply for a driver’s license or state ID. “While states across the country are making it harder for voters to get to the polls, Vermont is making it easier by moving forward with commonsense polices that remove unnecessary barriers and increase participation in our democracy,” Shumlin said.
- The state does not require a document to vote. Persons registering by mail to vote for the first time in Vermont must include a photocopy of acceptable forms of ID. They are a driver’s license, passport, current utility bill, current bank statement or another government document.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting. Felons never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated.
- 2013 – Republican-controlled Virginia legislature passes a photo ID law that went into effect in 2014. Lawmakers also pass a bill restricting third-party voter registration, which requires groups receiving 25 or more registration forms to register with the state and reduces the amount of time from 15 to 10 days to deliver the applications. Both measures were signed by Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell.
- 2015 – A Republican-controlled legislature passes a bill to amend the photo ID law to add student IDs issued by private schools, as well as public universities, to the list of acceptable IDs. Other acceptable forms of photo ID include a driver’s license or state ID, veteran ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, U.S. passport, other state of federal government-issued ID, tribal ID issued by a state-recognized tribe, student ID from a public or private school in Virginia, and employee ID.
- 2014 – Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe reclassifies violent drug crimes as nonviolent, allowing felons who had been convicted of drug crimes to automatically receive their right to vote upon the completion of their sentence. He also reduced the mandatory waiting period for felons convicted of violent crimes from five years to three for people completing sentences.
- 2015 – Gov. Terry McAuliffe removes the requirement that citizens fully repay court costs and fees in order to have their voting rights restored.
- April 2016 – Gov. Terry McAuliffe invokes his executive power to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons, broadening his earlier proclamations that restored voting rights to some ex-felons. His action effectively overturns a Civil War-era provision in Virginia’s Constitution that Mcauliffe said was aimed at disenfranchising African-American. Prior to McAuliffe’s action, more than 620,000 people in Virginia (7.8% of the state’s population) were barred from voting because of prior felony convictions. Virginia has one of the nation’s harshest laws on felons – a lifetime ban on voting, except for individual pardons.
July 22, 2016 – In 4-3 ruling, Virginia Supreme Court overturns executive orders by Gov. Terry McAuliffe that had restored the voting rights for more than 200,000 convicted felons. Court’s majority disputed the governor’s assertion that the state constitution gives him blanket authority to issue collective clemencies to ex-felons who have serve out their prison time. “The clemency power may be broad, but it is not absolute,” the court asserted. Its opinion ordered Virginia’s Elections Department to delete from voter rolls more than 11,000 felons who were registered to vote under McAuliffe’s executive orders this spring.
- July 22, 2016 -Responding to the Virginia Supreme Court’s determination that clemency must be granted individually, Governor McAuliffe vowed to sign thousands of individual clemency orders. “I will expeditiously sign nearly 13,000 individual orders to restore the fundamental rights” of ex-felons already registered,” McAuliffe declared, “and I will continue to sign orders until I have completed restoration for all 200,000 Virginians.”
- March 18, 2018 –Washington becomes 15th state to legalize same-day voter registration on Election Day and the 13th state to allow preregistration of 16 and 17-tear-olds so that they will be ready to vote when they turn 18. “I’m proud of our state for making it easier to vote, not harder,” Governor Jay Inslee told students at Foster High School in Tukwila, where the bill-signing ceremony was held.Foster senior Maria Alvarez told the crowd: “Young people should be the ones to shape the future, because it’s our future that we are all voting for. We are the change.”
- Washington requests a photo ID for voter registration but it allows a wide variety – driver’s license, state ID card, student ID, tribal ID or employer ID. To register online, residents are asked to submit either some form of photo ID; mail-in or in-person registrants are given the additional option of providing the last four digits of their Social Security number.
- On Election Day, residents who choose to vote in person but lack the prescribed forms of photo ID are allowed to cast their ballots if they can establish their ID from a current bank statement, current utility bill, current paycheck or a government document shows current name and address.
- To qualify as Washington voters, people must have lived at their current address at least 30 days before an election. The deadline for online and mail-in registration is 29 days before an election. Felons who no longer are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections may register to vote.
- 2011 – In order to encourage greater voter participation, Washington state adopts a universal mail-in voting system. The non-partisan Top Two primary system is also designed to increase voter participation, by giving independent voters as well as Democrats and Republicans maximum choice among all candidates, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Washington voters do not register as members of any particular party.
- 2011 – A Democratic-controlled legislature reduced the early voting period by a week, starting 13 days before an election instead of 20, but it added early voting on Saturdays, thereby providing 10 early voting days. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the law.
- March-April 2016 – In an unusual move for a Republican-dominated legislature, West Virginia lawmakers join those in California and Oregon by adopting a new voting law that provides for automatic voter registration for any resident obtaining or renewing a state driver’s license.
- April 1, 2016 – Democratic Gov. Earl Tomblin signs a bipartisan legislative compromise that authorizes a wide range of documents from government photo IDs to student ID cards, gun registration permits, bank statements and utility bills without any photo ID, as well as permitting friends and poll-workers to vouch for voter applicants.
- May 19, 2011 – After bitterly fought late-night sessions, the Republican majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature push through a bill requiring state voters to show photo ID at the polls. “Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud,” declared Gov. Scott Walker, who quickly signed the bill into law.
- April 2014 – U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee rules that Wisconsin’s photo ID law for voters would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting.” The judge siding with the American Civil Liberties Union and civil rights groups, stayed the application of the law, concluding that it violated the Voting Rights Act because it was racially discriminatory against black and Hispanic voters.
- September 2014 – A three-judge federal appeals court panel upholds Wisconsin’s Voter ID law and authorizes its immediate application. The appeals panel overturns the district court ruling that had sided with a legal challenge by the ACLU and other plaintiffs, while they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- 2014 – The state legislature reduces early voting hours on weekdays and eliminates voting entirely on weekends.
- March 23, 2015 – In a political victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP majority of the Wisconsin legislature, the U.S. Supreme Court allows Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, one of the strictest in the nation, to go into effect. Since 2012, not long after its passage in 2011, the Wisconsin law had been blocked by lawsuits and court appeals. While the law was being adjudicated, the Supreme Court prevented its use during the 2014 elections. But in 2015, the nation’s highest court gave the Wisconsin law the green light by refusing to hear a legal challenge to the law.
- In the 2016 elections, Wisconsin state officials are enforcing the Voter ID law. Forms of acceptable ID include a state driver’s license, a state non-driver ID, a military ID, a U.S. passport, a certificate of naturalization issued no more than two years before the election, a tribal ID, and a student ID card with signature, issue date, and expiration no more than two years after the election. Voters must also present proof of residence.
- May 2016 – In a federal court trial in Madison, a former Republican legislative aide testifies that GOP state senators were “giddy” over the prospect that Wisconsin’s strict 2011 voter photo ID law could prevent some people from voting on college campuses and among minority districts in the Milwaukee area. “Hey, we’ve got to think about what this would mean for neighborhoods around Milwaukee and college campuses,” Todd Allbaugh quoted state Senator Mary Lazich as telling skeptics during a private meeting among Republican legislators. Then, Allbaugh said, Sen. Glenn Grothman chimed in: “What I’m concerned about here is winning, and that’s what really matters here. … We better get this done quickly while we have the opportunity.” Allbaugh said two other senators, Leah Vukmir and Randy Hopper, were gleeful over the likely impact of the bill. “They were politically frothing at the mouth,” he said. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit – One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund – contend that the law was intended to disenfranchise students, minorities and other groups who traditionally vote for Democrats.
- July 20, 2016 – Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman blocks enforcement of Wisconsin tough Voter Photo ID requirement, allowing a loophole for voters unable to obtain the required documents. In preliminary ruling, Judge Adelman orders state to allow voters lacking specified photo IDs to cast a ballot provided they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity and listing a reason why they were unable to obtain an ID document, such as lacking a birth certificate, disability, illness or heavy work schedule. In 44-page opinion, Adelman writes that thousands of qualified Wisconsin voters were likely to lack an ID document and for many, it would be “impossible or nearly impossible” to obtain a free ID card offered under Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law.
- July 29, 2016 -In a sweeping setback for Gov. Scott Walker, Federal District Judge James Peterson strikes down a succession of voting restrictions passed by Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature and orders the state to revamp its voter photo ID law before the November election. Decision declares that photo ID law unfairly burdens and disenfranchises minority voters. “To put it bluntly,” judge asserts, “Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.” Finding that the legislature had passed voting laws for partisan Republican advantage and had enacted unconstitutional restrictions, Judge Peterson annuls cutbacks in early voting days, restriction in number of early voting sites, limitations on absentee voting, longer residency requirements and a ban on using expired student identification. Peterson says he could not overturn the entire voter photo ID law because a federal appeals court had split 5-5 on whether the law was constitutional.
- Aug. 11, 2016 – Federal appeals court blocks a ruling by Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman that would have allowed Wisconsin residents to vote even if they lacked state-required photo ID by signing an affidavit stating that they faced “a reasonable impediment” in obtaining photo ID. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals barred Adelman’s order from taking effect pending an appeal, cautioning that it “is likely to be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury.”
- Wyoming does not have a photo ID requirement. Persons may resister in person, by mail or at the polls on Election Day. Wyoming is exempt from the federal Motor Voter law, which means a person cannot register to vote at a local Wyoming Department of Motor Vehicles office. A driver’s license or the last four digits of a Social Security card are the primary identification means for registration of voters; if residents have neither, other acceptable forms of identification are certificate of U.S. citizenship or naturalization, draft record, voter registration card from another state or county, original or certified copy of birth certificate, certificate of birth abroad issued by U.S. State Department and any other form of ID issued by an official agency.
- The state permits no-excuse absentee voting.