Monday, August 08, 2016

VOTE 2016 - Voter ID Decisions

"What do recent court decisions on identification requirements mean for voters?" PBS NewsHour 8/3/2016


SUMMARY:  Voting rights supporters in North Carolina, North Dakota and Texas have triumphed this summer over what they consider discriminatory voter-identification laws.  Since 2008, ten state legislatures have tightened such requirements or otherwise restricted how votes may be cast.  William Brangham discusses the recent rulings with Rick Hasen, professor of law at University of California, Irvine.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Voting rights supporters have won a series of remarkable victories in the last few weeks, what they contend is a much-needed pushback against what they say are discriminatory voter-I.D. laws.

Since 2008, 10 states, almost all governed by Republican legislatures, have passed laws tightening the requirements for the kinds of I.D. you need in order to vote, or made other changes to when and how votes get cast.

But several federal courts have now ruled that some of those laws are discriminatory.  On Monday, a federal judge blocked North Dakota's voter I.D. law, saying it impinged on the rights of Native Americans.

The judge wrote — quote — “No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote.”

Last Friday, a federal court ruled that North Carolina's new voting laws had intentionally been designed to discriminate against minorities, saying — quote — “These new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

And then, in July, another court ruled that Texas' voter-I.D. laws also hurt minority voters, and they ordered the laws be changed before November, saying — quote — “It would be untenable to permit a law with a discriminatory effect to remain in operation for that election.”

Joining me now to wade through these changes is U.C. Irvine law Professor Richard Hasen.  He writes what's called The Election Law Blog.

So, Professor, help me understand this.  The courts have been saying, not so fast, states.

Generally speaking, what have the states been doing with their voting laws in recent years?

RICK HASEN, University of California, Irvine:  Well, most of these, but not all of these challenges involve new strict voter identification laws.

Every state has some way of identifying voters, but if you narrow the number of identifications that are acceptable, and a lot of people don't have those I.D.s, you run the risk of disenfranchising people who are otherwise eligible to vote.

And so in cases out of Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Texas, just in the last few weeks, we have seen those laws struck down, in the case of North Carolina, or, in the case of these other states, softened so that people who lack one of these narrow forms of I.D. can find a work-around, a different way to be able to prove their identity and cast a ballot.

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