Fighting Voter Suppression Initiatives in Swing States
Citizen Action of Wisconsin has organizers traveling to various cities–including Milwaukee, Appleton and Green Bay –educating the public about the new voter ID law as they expect it will be implemented for the November election. During the June gubernatorial recall, CAW worked in the 50 lowest-performing City of Milwaukee wards, predominantly in African American neighborhoods, with through 8 to 10 contacts on mobilization and ID education. As a result, there was a historic 77.4% turnout in these wards, higher than the citywide turnout of 76%. They will repeat this work targeting those 36,677 drop-off voters in Milwaukee, but will be expanding their work into CD 8 in Appleton and Green Bay to educate on voter ID and mobilize another 7,500 key voters in this swing Congressional District.
After working to oppose photo identification (H.B. 9), our 501(c)(3) affiliate Virginia Organizing is continuing to educate the public on the negative impacts of this law. They co-hosted a major forum in Norfolk with local voter registrars to educate local citizens about how to vote with the new ID law, and are planning to hold additional community forums in other parts of the state. VO is incorporating voter ID education into all their non-partisan voter communication efforts around the state this year, but especially in their project to turn out 7,500 voters of color in the Tidewater region. All 17 VO chapters will be involved in their local communities to deal with voter suppression issues. Also, they will be part of a formal challenge on voter ID issues to the Department of Justice with Virginia New Majority and other groups.
Since 2008, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance for Action has mobilized over 33,500 single women and people of color to vote with one of the most effective programs in the state. This year, they plan to educate and mobilize 40,000 women in Keene, Concord and Nashua who registered to vote in 2008 and/or are infrequent voters, since they would be less likely to know about the new voter ID law than other more engaged electorates. These cities are located in the critical 2nd Congressional District, and are key regions for the competitive Governor’s race and for taking back the state legislature.
In response to restrictions passed against third-party voter registration, Florida Consumer Action Network and their allies have held successful protest events. FCAN and Project Vote have challenged these restrictions in the courts and the legislature. As part of the voter protection table, FCAN is helping combat the voter purges, suppression and preparing for election administration challenges from right-wing groups. FCAN is one of the only organizations in the state conducting a voter registration drive under these limitations. They are running the largest voter registration and protection drive in Hillsborough County – targeting 23,656 African Americans – which Politico recently referred to as “the center of the 2012 political universe.” As of July 5, they have registered over 1,500 new African American voters.
Additional Voter Protection Efforts
After photo ID passed the state legislature, PennAction began educating low-income and of-color voters in Bucks County about the new law. Working with groups in Bristol’s African American community, PA petitioned the County Commission to set up a committee to educate voters on the new law. When the committee refused, PA collected 1,800 signatures in protest, forcing the Commission to reverse their position. They are now organizing phone banks to reach out to at least 1,000 African American women voters in Bristol and other parts of CD 8, a competitive swing seat, to educate them about photo ID requirements and ensure that they vote. With additional funds, they could increase their capacity and reach additional voters.
Our affiliate Progress Ohio was one of three organizations leading the effort to quickly collect over 231,000 signatures to delay implementation of H.B. 194 and trigger a Citizens’ Veto 2012 referendum. The General Assembly has since repealed H.B. 194 and passed compromise legislation, although the fate of Sunday voting is still up in the air. Litigation is pending on whether the Citizens’ Veto will go forward. If it does, PO plans to help coordinate coalition communication efforts. PO is planning intensive voter contact with at least 7,500 voters in CD 16, where Rep. Betty Sutton is in a toss-up race with Rep. Jim Renacci. If the Citizens’ Veto moves forward, they will use it to help mobilize under-represented voters who could make a difference in this race.
After Tennessee passed photo ID in 2011, our partner Tennessee Citizen Action launched a public education campaign including the creation of the new coalition, No Barriers to the Ballot Box. TNCAA and their allies have hosted public meetings about the details of this new restrictive law, and have launched ProtectTheVoteTN.org. Since October, TNCA has presented at 11 public meetings in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Tullahoma reaching over 700 people. MSNBC and CBS Evening News have covered this issue. They have gathered over 6,500 signatures on their repeal petition. TNCA helped recruit and film a former Marine who refused to show his ID at the polls during the presidential primary. TNCA’s efforts helped the repeal bill pass in the House committee, although it died in the Senate.
Ocean State Action helped lead efforts to defeat voter ID in the 2011 Rhode Island legislative session. After the law passed, OSA and their allies began a campaign to ensure it is implemented in the least restrictive way possible and to educate the public on the impact. OSAF joined nine organizations in urging the Secretary of State to significantly revise the proposed rules dealing with procedures for the issuance of voter ID cards. They highlighted that the proposed rules do not adequately address the specific needs of groups that will be most in need, including the elderly, people with disabilities, the poor and the transient.
New Jersey Citizen Action has joined with 4 other organizations and six disenfranchised New Jersey residents in a lawsuit this year that challenges current voter registration laws and seeks to implement Election Day registration after over 16,000, or 22%, of provisional ballots were rejected in 2008.
West Virginia Citizen Action Group is leading the effort to pass EDR legislation. They organized testimony by outside experts before a key state House subcommittee and with 12 county clerks, the Secretary of State and her elections manager. They’re also opposing a bill that would make third-party voter registration more difficult.