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General News    H3'ed 3/14/12

"The real impetus of voter ID laws is partisan"

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A. The average citizen has no idea of the corporate motives or the partisan forces behind these proposals. One way, we've attempted to educate the public is through a video we did with Brave New Foundation as part of the Koch Brothers Exposed series which has been viewed over 35,000 times. We are partnering with them in the release of the full-length film, which will expose the Koch Brothers' influence on a variety of policies, including voter ID.

We are also developing a portal on our website dedicated to voter protection and democracy where there will be an interactive map showing viewers what's happening in each state, ways to report voter intimidation, fact sheets and video that educate voters about the issue and, in cases where there are voter suppression laws we were unable to successfully challenge legally or overturn, how to get your voter ID. There will also be links to local and national organizations where people can get involved.

We have hosted one discussion around these laws on Twitter and plan to host more. Meanwhile, we urge people to spread the word through social and traditional media, at churches and in barbershops. It is urgent; our democracy and our voice is under unprecedented assault.


Q. With your emphasis on expanding voter opportunity, does fighting voter ID laws put you on the defensive, just trying to get us back to square one?

A. Voter ID laws do present a challenge, as they threaten to take us back to a time when people, particularly people of color, did not enjoy free and equal access to the ballot box. They are a huge step backwards. But we are fighting them as hard as we can and we are hopeful.  

Last year voter ID laws were proposed in 35 states, we defeated them in all but eight. We petitioned the Justice Department with over 120,000 signatures to use its authority to block these laws a week before they stopped South Carolina 's law from going into effect. And, we have filed lawsuits -- one challenging Wisconsin 's voter ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and one in Missouri challenging a ballot initiative which would add a voter ID clause to the state's constitution. We've also filed suit in Pennsylvania just to get access to data on how many voters lack a state ID.

Editor's Note: On March 12, 2012, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess found that the Wisconsin Photo ID restriction on voters is in strict violation of the state Constitution and issued a permanent injunction arguing that legally registered voters would be unconstitutionally barred from exercising their guaranteed right to vote under the Republican's new restrictive law.


Q. What keeps you hopeful -- both short term and long term -- regarding trying to stem the rise in voter suppression such as these ID laws?

A. We know that when ordinary people come together and raise their voice in unison, there is social change. We have already stopped scores of voter ID bills in over 25 states through grassroots coalitions unifying to protect our democracy. MSNBC has made it a major issue as have others, and the truth about the real motives behind these voter suppression laws is being exposed. The DOJ took the right stance in South Carolina and we are hopeful they will do the same in other states. And we have a number of strong legal challenges underway.  

Editor's Note: On March 12, 2012 , the DOJ blocked a Texas law similar to that of South Carolina .


Q. Can the significant cost of implementing voter ID laws -- at a time when state budgets are stretched -- be used as an effective tool to fight the trend?

A. Yes. Implementing photo ID laws could cost cash-strapped states $20 million or more to cover costs of providing ID to those who lack one, notifying all voters who lack ID, educating voters, training staff and poll workers, and increased administrative costs associated with implementation and processing the increase in provisional ballots cast by voters without the requisite ID. After it passed its photo ID law, Indiana spent more than $10 million just in provision of identification to needy voters. Taxpayers are being asked to support laws that are unnecessary and only serve to disenfranchise the most vulnerable in their communities.


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Joanne Boyer is founder and editor of Wisdom Voices Press and Her first book is "Wisdom of Progressive Voices." Joanne has worked in professional communications for more than 30 years. Her career includes being the first (more...)
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