Voter ID Bills Fail in Committee

By Matthew Reichbach

Three voter ID bills failed in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday on party-line votes.

The Democrats on the committee voted to table the three bills that would have required voters show photo identification, siding with the majority of the crowd at the hearing who said the bill would disenfranchise young, elderly, minority and disabled voters as well as costing significantly more than the Fiscal Impact Report predicted.

The three pieces of legislation, all sponsored by Republicans, were tabled after a lengthy hearing process that included over half an hour of public comment.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Dianne Hamilton (R-Silver City) would have allowed voters to use the last four numbers of their Social Security Number to prove their identity at the polls. The version of ID legislation sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad) would require a government-issued photo ID to vote in person and, to cast an absentee ballot, a copy of the photo ID would be required.

The bill sponsored by Rep. James Smith (R-Sandia Park) was the result of work during the interim by county clerks and Smith. A complex bill, it was one that the county clerks would prefer to the other voter ID approaches, according to the county clerks association lobbyist Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Opponents rallied against the bills

An array of organizations, ranging from the League of Women Voters to Disability Rights New Mexico to the Native American Voters Alliance, opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would disenfranchise voters and would do little to solve purported voter fraud.

The majority of the crowd present in the committee room were in opposition.

Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said he didn’t believe that voter fraud was a problem in the state, comparing it to the “bogeyman.”

“If my constituents want me to introduce legislation to outlaw the bogeyman, I can introduce legislation to outlaw the bogeyman, or I can gently explain to them that the bogeyman does not exist,” Maestas said to laughter from the crowd.

Committee chair Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) opposed the bills and singled out Smith’s bill as overly complicating the absentee ballot, saying, “I find the absentee ballot daunting as it is.”

And Rep. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque) said he the claims of voter fraud all seemed to be based on anecdotes rather than any real evidence.

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Justice Department announces review of voter ID laws: What’s in store for NM?

By Matthew Reichbach

United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that the Department of Justice is reviewing some new laws that could restrict the voting rights of citizens.

The Associated Press reported that the DOJ is investigating the voter identification laws in South Carolina and Texas as well as changes made in Florida which makes it harder for groups such as the League of Women Voters to register voters.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law,” Holder said in a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. “If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Another focus could be reductions in early voting dates in some states.

In addition to South Carolina and Texas, six other states have passed more restrictive voter ID laws which some say will impede some — mostly poor, minorities and the elderly — from voting.

The Brennan Center for Justice found that voter ID laws are not only expensive for citizens but also expensive to state governments. Moreover, it found that a large percentage of Americans do not have government-issued photo ID.

“Studies show that as many as 12% of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID,” the Center wrote. “That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.”

Another Brennan Center of Justice study found that new laws could make it more difficult for up to five million Americans to vote.

A perfect example of this can be found in the case of 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper of Tennessee, which has grabbed national attention. She has missed voting only one presidential election since 1936. But now, thanks to a new voter ID law just passed in her state, she probably will not be able to vote again.

The Texas voter ID law is also controversial for a number of reasons. For example, it allows voters to use a concealed carry permit as a form of valid ID —  but not a college ID.

Could New Mexico be next?

Secretary of State Dianna Duran has made implementing voter identification one of her trademark issues since elected last year.

Duran made headlines when she claimed that 117 foreign nationals were registered to vote in New Mexico and that she had proof that 37 had voted in recent elections in New Mexico. However, when asked to provide evidence, Duran refused and possibly violated the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Duran issued a report in November that,  according to veteran political reporter Heath Haussamen, reads “more like a commentary than an investigative report.” The report, according to Haussamen, “included no supporting documentation. No evidence to back up its claims.”

Last week, Haussamen said on Twitter he had extended an invitation to Duran or her staff to respond to his criticisms.

Three separate voter ID bills were introduced during the 2012 legislative session, but none made it out of committee before the end of the session.

National pushback against voter suppression

Yesterday, the ACLU filed suit against the state of Wisconsin over its newly enacted Voter ID law.

Last week, NAACP issued a call to pushback against attacks on voting rights and the impact of voter suppression attacks on communities of color.

In the rural South, many people of a certain age have no birth certificate because they were born to a midwife, thus for them, the barriers to getting a state issued ID without a birth certificate are especially daunting. In addition, many others are dependent on rides to the polls provided by church-organized Sunday voting drives, which have been shut down in some states.

Here’s a new video produced by the NAACP:

 

Crying Wolf: NM’s Secretary of State and Voter Fraud (VIDEO)

Secretary of State Dianna Duran kicked of the year with great media fanfare by making some very serious fraud allegations involving as many as 64,000 New Mexico voters.

A short time later, she sounded the alarm once again by taking the extraordinary step of bypassing county election officials altogether and instead turning over the voter files in question over to the State Police for investigation and possible criminal prosecution.

And yet today, after all of that initial sound and fury (not to mention public expense), it all seems to have all amounted to a whole bunch of nothin’. Oh never mind!

You can read about it in this excellent post at Democracy for New Mexico. But before you do, watch Sarah Kennedy’s short video on the subject. It’s a real howl!

US Senators seek guidance on legality of voter ID laws

By Matthew Reichbach

A letter by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and fifteen other U.S. Senators including Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., seeks guidance from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on whether or not Voter ID laws violate the Voting Rights Act.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran are both staunch supporters of a controversial change to the law that would require all voters to provide identification before voting.

“These measures have the potential to block millions of eligible American voters without addressing any problem commensurate with this kind of restriction on voting rights,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and we urge you to protect the voting rights of Americans by using the full power of the Department of Justice to review these voter identification laws and scrutinize their implementation.”

“Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act vests significant authority in the Department to review laws before they are implemented in covered jurisdictions,” the letter states. “As you know, the burden of proof in this preclearance process is on those covered jurisdictions, which must be able to show that legal changes will not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 14 states have some sort of voter ID law that requires a photo ID. Seven of these states have “strict” photo ID laws where voters can only cast ballots with photo ID. If the voter does not have a photo ID, they can vote with a provisional ballot but it will not be counted if they do not return with a valid photo ID.

Seven other states have less strict voter ID laws and 15 states have non-photo ID laws.

Three bills in New Mexico that sought to require photo IDs to vote failed in the 2011 session.

In Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler testified before a congressional committee that nearly 5,000 people who were not citizens voted in the 2010 elections. Gessler based the numbers on who voted in 2010 from immigration numbers from five years previous — in which time more then 30,000 non-citizens in Colorado became legal United States citizens.

New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran recently went further and claimed that there could be 64,000 cases of voter fraud. This week, Duran walked back her claims in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican.

“Don’t use the words voter fraud, ” Duran told the New Mexican. “I’m just trying to assure the accuracy of our voter files. … It’s not a fishing expedition. It’s not a witch hunt.”

The Brennan Center for Justice wrote that Duran “doubled down” on “dubious claims of voter fraud.”

All fifteen U.S. Senators that signed onto the letter are Democrats.

“The Silence of the Republicans…”

By Tracy Dingmann

A peek into internal Tea Party communications shows New Mexico Tea Partiers are none too happy with certain Republican legislators for not speaking up more vigorously to defend the doomed Voter ID act.

The bill, HB 308, was heard Tuesday in House Voters and Elections committee and again in that committee today, where it was tabled on a 7-6 party-line vote.

In an email from the East Mountain Tea Party that went out after Tuesday’s meeting and before today’s vote, an organizer lamented that Republicans have not been paying enough attention to Tea Partiers and their complaints:

“Sadly, it appeared that the Republican leadership does not appreciate the Tea Party support they have received, nor their advice. It was a very unsatisfactory meeting, but I suppose it accurately reflects how they do business in the People’s House in Santa Fe. I know that other Republicans greatly value the support of the Tea Party. Perhaps a change of leadership might help to bridge the gap and rectify the unwillingness to hear simple advice about getting vital bills passed.”

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Support for Voter ID Waning?

By Tracy Dingmann

There’s a drumbeat of hysteria from those who think New Mexico desperately needs to force voters to show photo identification at the polls – and supporters of the idea think they might finally be able to get a law passed this year.

Why?

One big reason is that Gov. Susana Martinez is a huge supporter of so-called Voter ID – and so is new Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Martinez called for a Voter ID law in her State of the State speech, and Duran sponsored numerous photo ID laws in her 18 years as a state senator.

Also, the state House has also gained eight Republican seats and is closer to a majority than before.

A bill, HB 308, sponsored by Rep. Dianne Hamilton (R-Silver City), is making its way through committees and is expected to be heard next week in House Voters and Elections.

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