Greg Nash

Liberal and conservative groups are mobilizing armies of poll watchers to battle over the enforcement of voter ID laws on Election Day.

The Democratic Party has more to lose if turnout is low on Nov. 4. Liberals want to ensure that the young, black and Latino voters who form a key part of the party’s electoral base are not kept from the polls.

{mosads}Conservatives insist that they just want to uphold the integrity of the electoral process by making sure that all votes cast are legitimate.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has state directors stationed across the country for its Voter Expansion Project. They help train poll workers, and work with local election officials to clarify how laws will be implemented. 

“This has been a really big effort,” DNC spokesman Michael Czin said.

In addition, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will position trained members at polling locations to provide assistance and ensure no one is turned away in error.

“They can make sure any funny business at the polls can be addressed as soon as possible,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary Shelton. 

Voter ID laws have been pushed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in recent years, with the argument that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. 

True the Vote, a group that supports voter ID laws, provides training to “election observers” to monitor implementation of those statutes.

The organization’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht, said it also receives notifications from voters “if they feel ID laws were not properly enforced in their personal experience voting.” True the Vote will then send any complaints to local authorities.

Controversies over voter ID laws have made headlines in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas could enforce its photo identification law at the polls in the midterm elections.

North Carolina’s voter ID requirements are undergoing a “soft” rollout, meaning voters will not be forced to present photo identification at the polls in November. But this year, for the first time, voters will only be able to cast ballots in their assigned precincts instead of at any polling location of their choice.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court prevented Wisconsin from enacting its new voter ID law for the 2014 elections. And in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court struck down a 2013 voter ID law.

Wisconsin Democrats are still concerned about the potential for voter suppression in the state on Election Day, even though the voter ID law won’t be in effect.

Democratic members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation have requested that the Justice Department provide election monitors at the polls on Election Day, “especially in light of calls for individuals to challenge eligible voters at the polls.”

“While we are pleased the Court decided to temporarily block this onerous law, we are concerned that widespread confusion regarding the law prevails,” they wrote in a Friday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Vanita Gupta, the acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.  

Election experts say that laws requiring photo identification do not necessarily target the most common types of voter fraud.

At least one absentee-ballot fraud scandal tends to occur each election year, according to Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine and an expert in the area.

But, Hasen noted, “these voter ID laws are not geared to that kind of fraud.” Photo ID requirements are geared more toward voter impersonation fraud, which occurs at a frequency Hasen said is “negligible.”

Moreover, a Government Accountability Office report this month found that voter ID laws helped contribute to lower turnout in Kansas and Tennessee in 2012. The study found that the declines were most pronounced among African-American and young voters.

“They have a disproportionate impact on minorities in any election,” said Sean Young, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project.

For its part, the ACLU has launched a campaign with comedian Lewis Black called “F*** Voter Suppression” to galvanize opponents of voter ID laws.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect for opponents of voter ID laws is convincing voters to cast their ballots despite confusion or difficulty of obtaining official identification. 

“The mantra is, you need to vote regardless of obstacles put in front of you,” Shelton said.


Tags 2014 midterm election Eric Holder Voter ID laws

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