On June 25, the Supreme Court struck down the key provision of the Voting Rights Act that designated which states were required to have their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court due to a history of voting discrimination.
Not two hours after the Supreme Court's decision was announced, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared that a voter identification law would go into effect that was blocked last year by the Justice Department after a panel of federal judges ruled it would impose "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor."
Bustle spoke with Kathleen Unger, the president of VoteRiders, the non-partisan, non-profit organization that is holding its first Voter ID Clinic on September 21 in Houston to combat the suppressive laws. The clinics aim to help potentially disenfranchised voters obtain the documentation necessary to ensure they are able to vote in primary and general elections. VoteRiders and its partner organizations will hold the first clinics in Texas, but will expand next year to other states where government-issued photo ID laws are either currently in place or likely to be within the next few years.
VoteRiders Launches Voter ID Clinic Campaign in Houston, TX
National effort to assure that no American citizen is disenfranchised for lack of proper ID
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VoteRiders, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, announces the launch of the national VoteRiders Voter ID Clinic Campaign on September 21 in Houston, TX. Voter ID Clinics in other locations with government-issued photo ID laws throughout the U.S. start in January of next year.
Knowing that millions of potential voters may be disenfranchised by the increasing number of stringent voter ID laws, VoteRiders Founder and President, Kathleen Unger, decided to create the resources to organize and train local volunteers to help citizens secure the documents their state requires. “Rarely is it ‘simple’ for anyone to get legal records,” Unger explains. “Who among us hasn’t had a frustrating experience with bureaucracy?”
VoteRiders provides to its partners, free-of-charge, a downloadable Clinic-in-a-Box™ - Training Documents, Training Videos, Marketing Tools and Guidelines for navigating the bureaucratic thicket - as well as marketing support.
The Supreme Court decision in June that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act unleashed a series of restrictive legislation in multiple states. Texas’ attorney general declared the immediate enforcement of his state’s voter ID law two hours after the Court’s ruling was announced.
VoteRiders’ local non-partisan non-profit partners are hosting the Houston Voter ID Clinic to assist voters in time to cast their ballots in the November municipal and constitutional elections there. "We encourage voters to register for the Voter ID Clinic by calling 888-557-5150 or completing our online registration form at www.etvtedfund.org,” said Sondra Haltom, Executive Director of Empower The Vote Texas Education Fund. Texas Civic Engagement Table, which supports collaborative civic participation in traditionally disenfranchised communities, "is grateful that VoteRiders has provided a complete template that enables us to bypass an enormous learning curve with efficient, effective help to voters," said Lesley Ramsey, Executive Director.
Unger expressed her appreciation that "VoteRiders' Texas partners are so knowledgeable, committed and rooted in the community. I am confident that our Voter ID Clinics will be a huge relief to voters who need to track down birth certificates, change-of-name certificates (such as marriage records) and replacement social security cards,” said Unger. “This can be complicated, time consuming and expensive – especially for those with no official birth certificate because their vital papers were destroyed or they were delivered by midwife. Importantly, VoteRiders will also track the real costs of these laws.”
VoteRiders Voter ID Clinics are being planned to start next year in other states with government-issued photo ID laws in place now or very likely within the next few years: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Please visit www.voteriders.com for more information.
Contact: Kathleen Unger, Founder/President: VoteRiders, [email protected], 310-467-5518
Houston Voter ID Clinic Contact: Sondra Haltom, Empower the Vote Texas, [email protected], 888-557-5150
As the legal battle runs its (long) course, another effort is happening in Texas that will help citizens meet their state’s Voter ID requirements by helping to get the documents needed at VoteRiders Voter ID Clinics. The first one will occur in Houston, TX, on September 21st, so stay tuned, Houston! I have written before on VoteRider Voter ID Clinics and refer you to my earlier posts on the national VoteRiders effort to assist local organizations in their effort to help their fellow citizens to obtain their voter ID. e.g., “Elections 2013 and beyond – VoteRiders mobilizes national effort to deal with voter ID laws” August 5, 2013, by Wayne Parsons. Please look for VoteRiders in your community if your state has a strict government-issued photo ID law. I hope you and interested on-the-ground organizations will check out and support VoteRiders Voter ID Clinics. In addition to Texas, VoteRiders is working to set up Voter ID Clinics early next year in at least Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
Others are addressing these issues at the local level in about thirteen states where conservatives have decided to attack the right to vote in order to win elections. I just became aware of a grassroots group called Adopt a Voter which will be partnering with VoteRiders to assist citizens with their voter ID documents in many other local communities.
Why is a trial lawyer who lives in Hawaii spending time on voter suppression in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere? It is because the right to vote is the basic value that holds a democracy together. I am looking for other trial lawyers across the country who want to join this effort to protect the ballot box and the right to vote. Who wants to join this effort?
I participated in a discussion the other day about the GOP war on voting, and one of the issues that came up was voter ID. There is quite literally no need for voter ID at the polls -- impersonation of a voter at the polls is virtually non-existent -- but the conservative media entertainment complex has won the propaganda war on this issue with the simple message that "you have to show ID for just about everything else." (Your right to vote is a constitutional right, it is not on par with commercial transactions).
My recommendation was that having lost the propaganda war on this issue, while continuing to litigate this issue in court, political parties, civil rights advocacy organizations, voting rights advocacy organizations, the League of Women Voters, etc. should begin a program now to help individuals who lack the proper documents they need to obtain a state-sanctioned voter ID to get the documents they need to vote. Time is of the essence.
Rick Hasen posts at his electionlawblog.com about VoteRiders:
I’ve been hearing from a lot of people asking me for suggestions on what to do to counter some of the new strict voting rules that are being enacted into law in North Carolina, Texas, and elsewhere. I’ve been sending folks to check out VoteRiders and their Voter ID clinics.
Government-issued photo ID laws in the following states will deny US citizens the right to vote: AR, GA, IN, KS, ND, NH, PA, SC, TN and WI. When the United States Supreme Court effectively overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act they also gave the green light to AL, MS, NC, TX and VA to impose new voting requirements that would make it difficult or impossible for voting eligible United States citizens to participate in public elections....A new organization VoteRiders led by Kathleen Unger, a Los Angeles attorney, is addressing this problem on a national basis. VoteRiders has created a Voter ID Clinic-in-a-box™ – training documents and videos, marketing tools and guidelines – to assist local organizations that help citizens to secure the documents (e.g., birth certificate) required by their state’s voter ID law. VoteRiders then provides media exposure for such Voter ID Clinics.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kathleen Unger
Today’s Supreme Court decision will fundamentally change the face of voting in the United States. Ruling on the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Court struck down the list of states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting practices, alleviating those jurisdictions from having to seek pre-approval to enact laws or regulations that could essentially disenfranchise voters on account of race or color, including modern-day voter ID legislation.
"Today's Supreme Court ruling effectively takes the brakes off efforts to impose highly restrictive voter ID requirements on registered voters in states with a long history of disenfranchisement," said Kathleen Unger, Founder and CEO of VoteRiders, a non-partisan organization that helps registered voters to secure the documents required to meet stringent voter ID regulations. "VoteRiders focuses on preserving every American's fundamental right to vote. Our work has never been more important than it is today."
To ensure that no eligible citizen is disenfranchised, VoteRiders is responding by launching its Voter ID Clinics with training materials needed by on-the-ground organizations along with media support.
VoteRiders will provide, free-of-charge, a downloadable Clinic-in-a-Box™ -- training documents, training videos and marketing tools -- for Partner Organizations conducting Voter ID Clinics. Partners will work with pro bono counsel to help voters who need an amended or delayed birth certificate. Delayed birth certificates are required by citizens, usually born by midwife or who have been adopted, who do not have a proper birth certificate at all.
VoteRiders’ Voter ID Clinics will be especially important in those states that require a government-issued photo ID. Securing the underlying documents required to obtain a photo ID - including legal copies of birth certificates, change-of-name certificates (such as adoption or marriage records) and replacement social security cards - is complicated, time-consuming and expensive.
In addition, VoteRiders will support its Partners, Voter Advocates (trained volunteers) and Citizen Voters with a national and local media and marketing campaign. As a result, VoteRiders hopes that communities hosting Voter ID Clinics will respond both with their time and their donations to Voter ID Clinic Partners.
"Political and legal pushback to overly restrictive rules won't always arrive in time for individual citizens who do not have the right kind of ID," said Professor Justin Levitt, an election law expert engaged in voter protection efforts nationwide. "Organizations like VoteRiders are working to help make sure that eligible voters aren't unfairly locked out of the polls in the meantime."
VoteRiders is creating Partnerships and building an advisory Coalition to support Voter ID Clinics in the following initial states that have, or are expected to pass, government-issued photo ID laws by the 2014 national election cycle: AR, GA, IN, KS, ND, NH, PA, SC, TN and WI. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has now overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the following states are also likely to need Voter ID Clinics: AL, MS, NC, TX and VA.
Please visit VoteRiders for more information.
As the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court prepares to hear another challenge to the state’s voter ID requirement, a new study reveals that across the country, voter ID laws disproportionately affected young minority voters in the 2012 elections.
While just over half of white youth were asked for identification, election officials asked 60.8 percent of Latino and 72.9 percent of black youth voters for ID in November. Similar disparities existed for photo ID, which is required by law to vote in many states, and in states with no voter ID law.
“Race should never play a role in who gets to vote, or who is asked for ID in order to vote,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania associate director Sara Mullen in an email.
Posted in Daily Kos on 1/28/2013.
When New Hampshire voters went to the polls this year they were asked to show an ID due to the new Voter photo ID bill. On September 1, 2013, that law changes and becomes more restrictive by limiting the list of ID’s that will be accepted in order to cast your vote. The law removes the ability to use most forms of photo ID including those issued by a state, county or municipal government, a valid student ID, an ID determined to be legitimate by local election officials, and simple identity verification by local town officials. Voters without acceptable ID’s will not only have to sign an affidavit but will be required to have a poll worker take their photo before being allowed to vote. The poll workers will then have to print a color copy of the photo in real time and affix it to the voter’s signed affidavit. Not only will the number of individuals who get caught up in the process increase but so will state expenditures to implement the changes. How much more will this cost the state? Roughly a quarter million dollars was requested by the Secretary of State’s office for FY14 & FY15.
America was founded on the principle that we’re all created equal. Inside the voting booth, all Americans have an equal and unencumbered voice in our democracy. But instead, some want you to believe it’s a privilege to vote and not a right and those people are willing to make it harder for some to cast their ballot. That’s the real reason why they want to limit the number of ID’s that are acceptable. They will try to convince you that voter impersonation is rampant in New Hampshire, but we know from thorough investigations that this just is not the case. There have only been three cases of voter fraud according to fraud reports issued by the SOS and AG’s office since 2006. The most recent case at the polls in NH was that of James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who was attempting to make a point that voter impersonation is possible, but fell short of proving anything about actual voter impersonation; instead all he proved was his unfamiliarity with New Hampshire voting law, landing himself in hot water. We all agree that protecting the integrity of our elections is vitally important—that’s why we already have strict laws and protections in place.