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America Votes - New Hampshire

SCOTUS Decision Great, But Battle Isn't Over

While the Supreme Court's decision on Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council is a step in the right direction, but it's not time to stop voter expansion efforts.

This week the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not require additional proof of citizenship for people to register to vote. Under the 1993 "motor voter" law, the federal government has a form that outlines that people only need an oath of citizenship to register to vote. This decision said that this federal form overpowers a state's choice to require additional documents or validation of citizenship.

So, what does this mean? This decision means that, in a federal election, a state cannot all of the sudden ask people to provide "X" and "Y" and "Z" as part of voter registration.

This is great news for Arizona, but the battle to expand voter rights isn't over. Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council opened up a whole new debate. People must not see this decision as reason to slow or stop the effort to protect voters' rights.

What are the potential problems? While the ruling said that the states could not demand proof of citizenship not listed on the federal form, it said nothing about the states' ability to change the form. Theoretically, Arizona could go to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission work to revise the federal form to include a proof-of-citizenship section. Scalia stated in his opinion that even though Congress can regulate the "times, places, and manner" of federal elections, states have the authority to determine qualifications for who votes.

What does that mean? It means states are still very capable of restricting voters, such as the 21 million eligible voters in our nation who do not have a government-issued photo ID. New Hampshire can still begin their second phase of restrictive voter ID law that will force voters without a valid photo ID to have their picture taken and attached to their affidavit (note: as of yesterday, many New Hampshire students will at least catch a break at the polls). And while we're waiting to hear the decision on Shelby County v. Holder, who knows what else we could be up against if SCOTUS rules that Congress did not have the authority to reauthorize the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The fight is not over. The Battles of Lexington and Concord did not singlehandedly win the American Revolution. The progressive community cannot back down on educating lawmakers and the public about the consequences of adding red tape between voters and the ballot. That's why efforts like the voter modernization law in Colorado are invaluable and necessary. We need to continue to work together to ensure that these politically driven ideas do not become a costly policy to taxpayers and to American's ensured rights.

- KT


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The following is a blog post from Evan Kost, who works in America
Votes' D.C. office, but is in New Hampshire through the election as a
field volunteer:

Greetings from New Hampshire!  What a whirlwind thus far.  Having not visited the state until this GOTV adventure, I have to say I’ve found it inviting, but not without its challenges. For example, it may be a beautiful site to canvass along the remote coast line, but I truly long for the days of row houses and suburban developments!

Levity aside, I have been continually inspired by the enthusiasm of the Granite State’s citizens, even those located outside of the political epicenter. This enthusiasm was seen no more clearly than at today’s presidential rally held in Concord, where the crowd’s passion was palpable over the course of the 5+ hour event. I certainly hope New Hampshirites carry this excitement into Tuesday’s elections.

With that said, what has struck me the most during my trip is the strength of the America Votes-New Hampshire coalition. Led by AV-NH State Director Josiette White, it is a highly collaborative, efficient, and dynamic operation. The way in which our state partners work together to reach common goals is both a testament to the America Votes model, as well as the sharp leadership provided by Josiette and the rest of the AV-NH team.

Over the past few days, I’ve been sent out on a variety of GOTV-related assignments, all of which have placed me in close contact with our state partners. Whether labeling literature for Planned Parenthood, cutting turf for CREDO, or canvassing for NH Citizens Alliance for Action, I’ve come to the realization that this truly is a team sport, so to speak.  And after spending time with AV-NH, I can’t imagine it any other way.

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The Republican Party wants to suppress your vote

Pennsylvania’s new voter-ID law seems to be creating more than a few headaches lately.

When a person has to stand in numerous lines, fill out multiple forms, and spend over four hours of their day to receive an ID that is only good for the sole-purpose of voting, there is a problem within our democracy.

Voter-ID laws are a trend occurring all over the nation in states controlled by Republican legislatures; including swing-states such as Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Wisconsin. They say that the new law will help protect against voter fraud. However, when allegations of voter fraud have been investigated, the numbers just do not seem to add up. In a major attempt by the Bush Administration to crack down on voter fraud between the years of 2002 to 2007, only 86 people were convicted of voter fraud out of the 300 million votes cast during that time. In the meantime, while Republicans beat their war drums against “big government spending,” the states that have implemented such laws will be spending a combined total of as much as $828 million over the next four years to have these laws implemented. This argument just lacks pure logical sense.

The reality is that state Republican legislatures are enacting a new form of “poll tax” on to groups who generally do not need or have a difficult time obtaining a new photo-ID. These groups (young voters, minorities, the poor, and the elderly) coincidentally enough, were what helped push Obama to victory in 2008. How odd that now these are the voices that Republicans seem to be attempting to suppress for the upcoming 2012 Election.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." This put an end to that era’s Jim Crowe Laws that dominated the polls within the Southern states and reinforced the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

These new laws are nothing more than a replacement to the laws that civil rights activists worked so hard to overthrow. They are taking away people’s rights to vote and suppressing the voices of the people. These states should be taken to court where, hopefully, these laws will be found unconstitutional.

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NH Presidential Primary: An important reminder about voter rights

New Hampshire voters are finding all kinds of barriers to voting this election season. So far, America Votes and the League of Women Voters have had reports of already registered voters being told they can't have an absentee ballot unless they produce a government-issued photo ID, and other voters are being told there is no Democratic Primary Election this year, only a Republican Primary Election.

Here are the facts: you do not need a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, a ballot on Election Day or, even to register to vote (see below). If you are a Republican, you can vote in the Republican Primary Election on January 10.  If you are a Democrat, you can vote in the Democratic Primary Election on January 10. If you are undeclared (independent), you may choose to vote in either Primary Election and then, usually, change your registration back to undeclared before you leave the polls.

In New Hampshire you may register to vote at the Town Clerk's Office or with the Supervisors of the Checklist up to 10 days before the Election, or at the polling place on Election Day.  You should bring the best identification information you have but, if you don't own a driver's license, passport or other photo ID, you can request a waiver (“affidavit”) to sign for your identification and for your address.

You may vote with an absentee ballot up to the day before an election. No Town or City Clerk should ask you for a photo ID before giving you an absentee ballot. If you're asked for a photo ID, refuse the request, and tell the clerk to check your registration signature if he or she questions your identity. The law clearly states they are supposed to check your signature when they receive your absentee ballot.

There is no requirement to show a photo ID to register to vote or before receiving a ballot. As long as you are at least 18 years old and a citizen who lives in the voting district, you have the right to vote under the U.S. and N.H. Constitutions. There are 30,000 to 50,000 voting age citizens in New Hampshire -- mostly the elderly and young people -- who do not possess a N.H. driver's license or other government ID. They deserve to have their votes count.

For a fuller explanation of voters’ rights, you can check the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire website.


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New Hampshire Deals With Voting Rights Confusion as Primary Approaches

Below is a guest blog post from Joan Flood Ashwell, an election law expert for the League of Women Voters in New Hampshire:
New Hampshire has had a proud tradition of hosting the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary Election but this year's election may be remembered more for voter confusion and a not-so-subtle attempt to deny the vote to targeted groups of New Hampshire voters.

There's been a full scale war against voters going on in New Hampshire for the past year. America Votes and the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire have taken the lead in fighting back against every attempt to pass voter suppression legislation.

So far, the current leadership of the New Hampshire Legislature has been unsuccessful when it comes to actually passing legislation but their obsessive efforts to suppress the vote are taking a toll on New Hampshire's voters.

Bills that would have barred college students from the voting booth, ended same-day voter registration in New Hampshire and required already registered voters to show a photo ID to get a ballot on Election Day have all been defeated.

Voters, understandably, have become confused by the constant barrage of bills (another half-dozen have been introduced this session). And it's not just the voters. The League has surveyed the websites of 330 cities and towns and found a dismaying amount of misinformation or lack of information to help voters know their rights. This was brought to the Secretary of State's attention last fall and also for the Presidential Primary Election on January 10. If towns have incorrect information on their websites, what are voters being told at local polling places?

Last fall, one town decided to ask for photo IDs before handing out ballots in a special election because they heard that there would probably be a photo ID law in the future. In the past week, America Votes has received reports from a different city of voters being told they can't get an absentee ballot without a photo ID. Another voter was told that there is no Democratic Presidential Primary this year, only a Republican Primary! These are examples of election officials who are also confused about voting in New Hampshire. And, it really didn't help when earlier this week, NBC Nightly News incorrectly stated that voters have to show photo ID to obtain their ballots on Tuesday. 

Correct information about registering to vote can be found on the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire website:

America Votes will be in the Legislature on Presidential Primary Day to hear another bill on voting being introduced in the Transportation Committee. Not only is it a break with tradition to hold Legislative sessions on Election Day, but a hearing on a bill about votin
rights in the Transportation Committee.

All of this hardly seems to be the way for New Hampshire to celebrate its tradition of holding the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary.


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Making Voting Harder: The Conservative M.O.

College students are young and according to New Hampshire Speaker William O'Brien they tend to vote for liberals because they lack life experience. At a Tea Party gathering in March he admitted that one of the benefits of the new laws requiring photo IDs to votes is that it would hurt turnout amount young, reliably liberal, voters. He claimed that he was specifically with out of state college students claiming residency in small towns and dramatically skewing election results. Such laws are becoming increasingly common and have faced significant public outcry in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, where voters are now required to show a valid photo ID at the polls. However, most university issued student ID cards do not meet state standards.

Neither students nor universities are simply accepting the new restrictions that would disenfranchise a large number of young people. University of Wisconsin students are either receiving new ID cards that comply with state law, or they can request a supplemental ID to bring to the polls. Students in Pennsylvania are using baked goods to protest a house bill that would instate similar restrictions. The University of Pennsylvania College Democrats recently gave out free baked goods to only those students who could present a valid ID. Those who could not were instead given a box of raisins plastered with a sticker protesting HB 934.

Not all college students are treated fairly, either. In Wisconsin, 400,000 students attend technical colleges, and the student IDs issued by these schools are not acceptable as voting ID. These students make up 10% of the state's voting age population. State officials have oscillated between policies allowing the use of technical IDs, and those disallowing the same cards. A final decision should be reached by mid-December.

Unfortunately college students are not the only population facing disenfranchisement. About 25% of African American voters and 18% of elderly voters may lack appropriate ID. One 84 year-old woman provides a particularly compelling case against the hardships that this new law may cause. When Ruthelle Frank was born in Wisconsin in 1927 she was not issued a birth certificate. She is a citizen, has a social security card, and has voted regularly since 1948, but she lacks a proper ID card. To further complicate matters, while her local register of deeds has an official record of her birth; her name is misspelled on the record. She now faces a lengthy battle and a potential cost of $200 to correct this clerical error and receive a valid ID so that she may vote.

Ruthelle is one of many. 177,399 Wisconsinites, or 23% of those over age 65, do not have proper ID and now need to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to vote. Minorities, of any age, are also disproportionately more likely to lack proper ID.

Whether a newly minted 18 year old attending college, or an 80 year old who has been voting for years, everyone deserves the right to vote. However new laws requiring strict adherence to showing a photo ID prior to voting, put this right in jeopardy.


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A Great Day in New Hampshire

Labor and progressive partners scored a huge victory in New Hampshire today, as the state House voted to uphold Governor Lynch's veto of the Right to Work bill. America Votes congratulates Labor, who worked so hard for months on this bill - and we thank the hundreds of volunteers who helped in this important effort.The AV office in Concord became an impromptu campaign headquarters this morning, as volunteers streamed in once they got word that today might be the day the Speaker would call for a vote.

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New Hampshire Senate Votes to Uphold Governor's Veto of Voter ID Bill

The Senate sided with Gov. John Lynch Wednesday in supporting his veto of SB129, the Voter ID bill.

From the Union Leader story:

The Senate voted 17-7 to sustain Lynch in his stance against Senate Bill 129. Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, were among those voting to sustain the veto.

Bragdon and Bradley both voted to pass the bill three months ago, when it passed 14-9 in the Senate.

Some Republicans said they support the idea of requiring photo ID from voters, but that they oppose the system of provisional ballots that the House added to their bill. A provisional ballot would have been required of anyone who could not present a valid state or federally-issued photo ID card.

Town clerks said the provisional ballots would force extra work on their offices, with longer hours, additional staff, late counting and less ballot secrecy for voters...

America Votes, a coalition of groups opposed to SB 129, said the veto "reinforces the integrity of elections in New Hampshire and ensures fair and equal access to the ballot."


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New Hampshire Redistricting

The Public News Service put out a story today about the lack of transparancy in the redrawing of congressional lines in New Hampshire.

You can read and listen to the full piece here.

Related Partner: 
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