This Week in the Fight to Vote — September 28 – October 4

By Chris deLaubenfels, Director of Policy and Communications, Let America Vote

Let America Vote releases 2019 state-by-state voting legislation report

This week, Let America Vote released a comprehensive report compiling voting-related legislation introduced at the state level during the 2019 session. It can be hard to follow all of the voting legislation being proposed across the country; our resource can help you stay up to date. We hope this tool will help you fight back against elected officials who are trying to suppress the vote and celebrate the voting rights champions. Check it out!

Mixed decision in challenge to Iowa voter ID law

On Tuesday, an Iowa state judge issued a decision allowing the state’s voter ID law to remain in place. Although restrictive voter ID laws have been shown to disproportionately impact minority and low-income voters, Judge Joseph Seidlin ruled there wasn’t evidence to demonstrate that disadvantaged communities were more greatly impacted by the Iowa law. GOP Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (a first-ballot Voter Suppression Hall of Shame inductee) celebrated the decision as a major victory for Republicans.

Nevertheless, the decision was not a total defeat. Judge Siedlin struck down a portion of the voter ID law that prohibited election officials from issuing a voter ID to voters with a valid ID: “All eligible, registered voters should be able to ask for and receive a Voter ID Card from their county auditor so that every voter can cast a ballot as easily as every other voter.” Judge Siedlin also struck down the law’s signature match provision, which previously allowed county auditors to throw out absentee ballots if they believed the signature on the ballot did not match the voter’s signature. Even though the decision was a partial win for voting rights, too many Iowa voters will continue to have their votes suppressed due to the state’s voter ID law.

The Purge: Ohio

Over 182,000 Ohio voter’s registrations were cancelled in Ohio’s most recent voting roll purge. While Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has said that voters were purged due to duplicate registration or moving out of Ohio, the vast majority of voters had their registration cancelled because they had not voted in recent elections. Let’s be clear, this purge disenfranchised eligible voters.

Hillary Clinton criticized the voter purge and urged voters to double check their registration status. Across the board voter purges are voter suppression, plain and simple, and we need to work to prevent future purges and to re-register purged voters.

Inequality at the polls

A study released this week shows that black voters had to wait significantly longer to vote than white voters: “voters in predominantly black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer, on average, than those in white neighborhoods. They were also about 74 percent more likely to wait for more than half an hour.” An estimated 500,000 to 700,000 voters were deterred from casting their ballot in 2012 due to long lines at the polls. President Obama created the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2014, which put forth the standard that no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. We are still a long way off from that goal.

This week’s must read

It turns out that Republicans are not only experts at extreme partisan gerrymandering, they are also experts at covering it up. Leaked audio of a meeting organized by ALEC, a shady conservative group that pushes far right wing policies at the state level, reveals the covert GOP strategy to steal elections through gerrymandering. After providing guidance on gerrymandering best practices, the gerrymandering gurus told the lawmakers that they should expect to be sued for their voter suppression, and that they should throw away any notes taken during redistricting to cover-up their wrong doing.

The gerrymandering instructors suggested that if Republicans don’t gerrymander to give the GOP an advantage, then the Democrats will. This is not true. “The idea that Republicans are simply fighting similarly skewed Democratic gerrymanders has been debunked. According to a University of Southern California study, 59 million Americans live in states where at least one chamber of the state legislature is controlled by the party that won fewer votes in 2018. In every case, Republicans drew the lines, and hold minority control,” writes David Daley. 

This story should be shocking, but we’ve long known that Republicans experience no shame in their efforts to cheat to win elections. The importance of fighting for fair maps has never been more vital. We need to push for independent redistricting commissions across the country.

In other gerrymandering news

A lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s congressional district map as a partisan gerrymander was filed in state court. Last month, the same state court struck down North Carolina’s state legislative maps as an unconstitutional gerrymander. If plaintiffs are victorious again, North Carolinians will finally vote under fair congressional maps in 2020.