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electionlineWeekly — April 5, 2012

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

A snapshot of photo ID laws and legislation
Legislation met with varying degrees of success, usually along partisan lines

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This is the first in a two-part series on voter identification legislation and laws. Next week’s story will profile the implementation costs from state sources provided by the National Conference of State Legislators.

This week, we take a look at some of the voter ID legal and legislative action around the country.

Once again this year lawmakers in the Centennial State debated requiring photo ID to cast a ballot and once again, Democratic lawmakers defeated the House Bill 1111 by a 3-2 vote in Senate committee.

Two bills
introduced by Republican lawmakers (SB 4750 and SB 2496) would have required Illini to show a photo ID in order to vote, however both bills remain in the Senate Executive Subcommittee on Elections which is controlled by Democrats.

In January, Maine lawmakers introduced LD199 that would have required voters in the Pine Tree State to show a photo ID to vote. However, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee initially tabled the bill and then replaced the photo ID language with a resolution requiring the secretary of state’s office to conduct a study of the state’s voter participation and registration issues.

Every year since 2005, the Maryland General Assembly has considered voter photo ID legislation and every year since 2005, the Democratically-controlled General Assembly has shot down the proposed legislation. This year was no different. This year’s bill was sponsored by Del. Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County. Kipke also co-sponsored a bill that would have required the Motor Vehicle Administration to transmit physical information, including photos, to polling stations. Neither bill advanced before the end of the legislative session.

This week, the Minnesota House and Senate approved a constitutional amendment proposal that would require voters in the North Star State to show photo ID when voting. The amendment now goes before the voters on the November 6 general election ballot. Both Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Governor Mark Dayton oppose the measure.

In November 2011 voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly approved (62 percent to 38 percent) a ballot measure that would require voters in the Magnolia State to show a photo ID at the polls. However, because under the Voting Rights Act Mississippi must obtain pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any changes to election laws, the law is not yet in place while department officials review it.

While awaiting the Justice Dept. decision, lawmakers are at work as well and the House recently approved House Bill 921 that expands the options for types of identification that voters may use to include everything from a passport to a Medicaid card.

Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters in the Show Me state to show photo ID. The proposed amendment was scheduled to appear on the November 6 general election ballot, but a Cole County judge struck down the amendment saying that the summary scheduled to appear on the ballot was “insufficient and unfair.”

This week, a House committee introduced and approved new wording for the ballot measure. The new language, which still must be approved by the full House and the Senate, removed references to the “Voter Protection Act.”

The debate over proposed photo ID legislation was long and contentious in the Cornhusker State, but a filibuster ultimately ended movement on photo ID legislation for the 2012 session. Despite the failure this time around, some lawmakers vowed to bring a proposal back again next session.

New Hampshire
You can live free and die in New Hampshire, but soon you will no longer be able to vote without showing a photo ID. Both the House and Senate approved voter photo ID legislation that was backed by the secretary of state and town clerks. In the Senate version of the bill, which still must be approved by the House, moderators and city clerks could verify a persons identity if they did not have photo ID.

Because New Hampshire falls under jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act, the state must get final sign-off on a new photo ID law by the Department of Justice.

New Mexico
Like Maryland, introducing voter photo ID legislation in New Mexico seems to be a rite of passage. And just like legislators in the Old Line State, legislators in the Land of Enchantment didn’t seem so enchanted with the proposed photo ID legislation and they killed it in committee again this year. This year, three different pieces of legislation were introduced and all three failed.

North Carolina
Although Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a voter photo ID law last year, counties throughout the state continue to pass resolutions in support of voter photo ID and calling on the state legislature to revisit the idea

The Pennsylvania legislature recently approved legislation that would require voters in the Keystone State to show photo ID and Gov. Tom Corbett signed the legislation into the law the night it was approved. Although the law will not take effect until the November 6 general election, county election administrators are scrambling to implement a test run of the law during the upcoming primary.

South Carolina
In 2011, the South Carolina legislature passed a strict voter photo ID law, which was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley. However, because South Carolina falls under jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act, the law has yet to be implemented and the Justice Department denied the preclearance saying the law was discriminatory because of the state’s large minority population. The state has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice seeking reconsideration.

The battle over voter photo ID in the Lone Star state is, needless to say, a Texas-sized battle. Like South Carolina, the state required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before being able to implement its voter photo ID law and like South Carolina, the Justice Department has barred the state from implementing the law. While the focus of the DOJ objection in South Carolina’s case was the disenfranchisement of the state’s black population, in Texas, it was the potential disenfranchise of the Hispanic population.

State Attorney General Greg filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Justice Department’s decision. A trial before three federal judges in Washington, D.C. is set to begin on July 9.

The Virginia legislature, which now includes a GOP-controlled Senate, approve legislation that would require voters to show some form of identification at the polls, although the legislation would not require voters to show a photo ID. Although Virginia needs DOJ pre-clearance as well, the proposed Virginia law, because it does not require a photo ID, is expected to meet less opposition. Gov. Bob McDonnell has yet to sign the legislation into law.

Wisconsin’s on-again, off-again voter photo ID legislation is currently in the off position after two separate judges ruled the law unconstitutional. The law was in place for local elections earlier this year, but was not in effect for the April 3 presidential primary. Currently there are four lawsuits pending against the state’s voter ID law. Whether or not the law will be in place for the upcoming statewide recall elections remains to be seen, but county and local election officials are preparing for anything and everything.