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Battles Over Voter ID Requirements Loom Large in 2009 Sessions

Georgia Voter IDLast year we saw the incredible wave of voter ID legislation promoted nationwide by rightwing activists seem to peter out. High profile campaigns for restrictive photo ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements, which limit the voting of many legal citizens (see here and here), were met with defeat. But the proponents of voter ID have apparently not been deterred. The good people at Project Vote, who have been monitoring voter ID legislation across the country, are finding that rightwing lawmakers in key states continue to place voter ID at the top of their to-do list. This is despite the passing of another election without any evidence of the type of fraud that voter ID requirements would help prevent - someone attempting to register and vote twice in the same state.

From Texas to Missouri to Virginia, conservative legislators are promising to push the issue as hard as ever. But, despite their determination and earlier successes in some states, progressive legislators and voting rights advocates have proven that passage of such measures is not guaranteed. Missouri is perhaps the most important example, as voter ID proponents were basically declaring victory at the end of last session only to see their efforts fall short. That victory for voters was made possible by strong coordinated action by legislators, local advocates and national groups. Similar efforts and coordination will likely be required to defeat these measures again this year.

Regular readers of our Dispatch are aware that evidence of voter fraud is thin at best. Yet, time and again conservatives raise this red herring to justify suppressive voting laws. Progressive legislators in states with voter ID battles brewing can bolster their position by vigorously refuting these false claims of fraud, and highlighting the impact that voter ID requirements have on the ability of elderly, disabled, young, and married female voters to cast their ballots. Additionally, strong voter protection legislation that sanctions intimidation, deception and voter caging can be introduced to deal with the very real problems of voter suppression, which unlike fraud, we see in every election.

Resources

Project Vote - Voter ID Still a Looming Threat for 2009
Progressive States Network - Resist Vote Suppression by the Right Wing
Demos - Voter ID Issue Brief
Brennan Center for Justice - Alternatives to Voter ID Policy Brief
Project Vote - The Politics of Voter Fraud
Model Voter Protection Legislation