Vote For Change, Vote Coleen Rowley

Local activists blog for congressional candidate Coleen Rowley (D)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Will YOU be able to vote Nov. 7th?

While the news media and the blogosphere have been busy discussing the senate actions on the Geneva Convention and torture, Congressional Republicans have quietly gutted provisions of the Help America Vote Act and thrown up major roadblocks to voting and voter registration under the guise of "preventing voter fraud". THIS is the "October Surprise"!! Unless the Senate votes it down, we can expect major chaos during next month's elections.

The 'Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006' requires proof of citizenship when registering (or re-registering) to vote, and a photo ID at the voting booth. And, it is to take effect this November!

In case you wonder how this will affect you.... Does your driver's license state that you are a US citizen? If you have recently moved, or if your name has been struck from the voter rolls by mistake, you will need to re-register. If your wallet was stolen last week, and you only have a printed receipt for a replacement license--you will be barred from voting.

Even if your records are fine, what about your neighbors? Just think of the chaos and confusion this will cause on Election Day. Long lines. Voters angry about being turned away. Election officials unsure about how to handle particular situations. Do we really need this mess NOW?

Key features of the bill (my emphasis):

To register (or re-register):
"...the applicant [must] provide a photographic copy of any document which provides proof that the applicant is a citizen of the United States, in accordance with guidelines established by the Election Administration Commission in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State." This applies in all situations, including drivers' license and mail-in registrations, registration at the polls, and casting provisional ballots. Note that the guidelines have not yet been written!

To vote:
"...[the] election official may not provide a ballot for an election for Federal office (including a provisional ballot under section 302(a)) to an individual who desires to vote in person unless the individual presents to the official a current and valid photo identification." A photocopy of such identification is required when voting by mail.

AND:
"This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall apply with respect to the regularly scheduled general election for Federal office held in November 2006 and each succeeding election for Federal office."

You can find the complete text of the bill here.

Finally, in addition to the above:
Paragraphs 1-3 in Section 303(b) of the Help America Vote act of 2002 have been removed; these included specific permissions for a voter to use "a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter" to supplement a photo ID with an outdated or missing address. You can find the full text of that law here.

Non-partisan opinions

Here's what the League of Women Voters had to say about it:

Photo ID requirements disproportionately impact those who are least likely to have current photo ID: the elderly, young people, people of color, rural voters, individuals with disabilities and frequent movers. At the polls, acceptance of the ID would be determined by poll workers and election officials. Such tests and devices have historically resulted in discrimination and disenfranchisement of eligible voters....

The proof of citizenship required by H.R. 4844 in 2010 is like a 21st Century poll tax. Obtaining proof of citizenship can be difficult and imposes real costs in both time and money. If H.R. 4844 were enacted, many Americans would have to pay to obtain proof of their citizenship.

Other organizations that oppose the bill include AARP, the NAACP, Common Cause, and Veterans for America.

To find out how your congressman voted, you can start here,or you can go here and select your state for a more limited list of names.

Once you find your congressperson, scroll down the page and look for these two votes on 9/20/06: Vote 459: H R 4844 and Vote 458: H R 4844. Vote 458 was to send the bill back to committee with instructions to make changes; vote 459 was to accept the bill as written.

Take action now!
We're OK if the Senate rejects this. But if it passes, we've got a mess on our hands in November.

Yes, courts have overturned state laws like this. But do we really trust this US Supreme Court? Do we want our local election officials to be unsure of what they should do on November 7th?

Folks, this is the October Surprise. We've got to get busy!