Saturday, July 30, 2016

N.C.'s voter-ID law struck down as biased; judge strips much of similar Wis. law for same reason

Election workers checked voters' ID in Asheville in March.
(Photo by George Etheredge for The New York Times)
"Courts dealt setbacks to Republican efforts in three states to restrict voting, blocking a North Carolina law requiring photo identification, loosening a similar measure in Wisconsin and halting strict citizenship requirements in Kansas," The Associated Press reports. Wisconsin and North Carolina are major swing states in the presidential election.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said the district court judge had “ignore[d] critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina. . . . We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

The voter-ID law "also abolished same-day voter registration and ended pre-registration, which had permitted some teenagers to sign up for the voting rolls before they turned 18," Alan Blinder reports for The New York Times. "Republicans argued the law protected against fraud, but critics said it was an effort to disenfranchise certain voters, particularly black and Hispanic ones."

"One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States since the year 2000," reports Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post. "The court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state." The three appellate judges wrote, "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles." Ingraham concludes, "So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people."

In Wisconsin, a federal district judge "threw out a host of election laws, while allowing the state's voter ID law to remain in place with substantial limitations," AP reports. "Judge James Peterson ordered the state to quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone trying to obtain a free photo ID but lacking underlying documents such as birth certificates. He struck down restrictions on absentee and early voting, saying they discriminated against blacks. He also struck down an increase in residency requirements from 10 to 28 days, a prohibition on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to vote and a prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email."

"In the Kansas ruling, a county judge said the state must count thousands of votes in local and state elections from people who did not provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they registered," AP reports. "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national leader in Republican voter restriction efforts, had pushed through a rule that would have set those votes aside, perhaps up to 50,000 by the November election." The ruling, four days before a primary election. "means that about 17,000 voters will have their ballots counted in races for the state Legislature and other local contests," AP reports.

North Carolina had one of the largest rural populations among the states in the 2010 census: 3,233,727, or 34 percent of its total. The only state with more rural residents was Texas, with 3.8 million, but they were only 15 percent of its population. A federal appeals court threw out key parts of a voter-ID law in Texas last week, saying they were racially discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act. Wisconsin had almost 1.7 million rural residents in 2010, nearly 30 percent of the total.

No comments: