Monday, April 28, 2008

Fact-checking Voter ID

"It's especially worrisome that the court has sent a signal making it easier to put up barriers to people voting," said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school. "There's a real risk that people will see this as a green light to pass restrictive voter ID laws in other states."

Uh, yeah ...

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hailed Monday's Supreme Court ruling that approves states' efforts to pass a voter identification law and said he looks forward to passing such a measure when the legislature meets again next year.

The ruling galvanizes a Republican-inspired effort that Democrats say will keep some poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

"With this legal challenge now behind us, I look forward to passing a fair voter ID law in Texas next year that fully protects the voting rights of all U.S. citizens registered to vote in Texas," Dewhurst said.

Except that Voter ID is legislation to fix a problem which only exists in the minds of Republican conspiracy theorists:

Republican Claim: Voter Fraud is an "Epidemic" in Texas

FACT CHECK: Even fiercely partisan Republican Attorney General Abbott has admitted that after spending millions of Texas and federal taxpayer dollars investigating, "there have been few [voter fraud] prosecutions in Texas." The Austin American Statesman editorialized: "Voter fraud is not an issue because Texas is not being flooded with unregistered voters and illegal immigrants flocking to the polls. That just isn't happening." (Source: Austin American-Statesman, April 26, 2007)

Republican Claim: Non-citizens voting is a major problem throughout the U.S.

FACT CHECK: The Department of Justice’s Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative has resulted in just 14 convictions of non-citizens voting in the entire United States between 2002 and 2005. That is less then 5 noncitizens voting a year. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, Election Fraud Prosecutions & Convictions, Ballot Access & Voting Integrity Initiative, October 2002 – September 2005; The Politics of Voter Fraud, Minnite, Ph.D. Columbia University)

Republican Claim: Everyone has an ID

FACT CHECK: Even the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute admitted that 37% of Texas residents over the age of 80 did not have a driver's license. (TCCRI Commentary, May 1, 2007)

Republican Claim: Democratic operatives are pushing the opposition to the Voter Suppression Bill

FACT CHECK: The objections to the voter ID legislation are broad and bipartisan. The bill is opposed by non-partisan groups like the AARP and League of Women Voters, as well as every major Texas newspaper and many local newspapers. (Source: Associated Press, April 23, 2007) Former Republican Party Political Director Royal Massett has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill saying: "Anyone who says all legal voters under this bill can vote doesn't know what he is talking about." (Source: The Houston Chronicle, April 26, 2007)

So back to the point ...

Across the country, as many as 20 million people lack such identification, most of them minorities and the elderly who don't have drivers' licenses or passports and are unable to afford the cost of obtaining documentation to apply for such identification, advocacy groups say.

In Indiana, more than 20 percent of black voters do not have access to a valid photo ID, according to an October 2007 study by the University of Washington.

In Marion County, 34 Indiana voters without the proper identification were forced to file provisional ballots in an offseason local election. According to Indiana's photo law, voters have 10 days to return to the county courthouse with the proper identification. They can also file an affidavit claiming poverty.

"Who's going to do that?" asked Bob Brandon, president of Fair Elections Legal Network, a nonpartisan network of election lawyers. "Who's going to show up and sign an affidavit saying 'I'm poor'?"

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