This special edition of “Noted” features highlights from our Voting Rights blog, a collaboration with Colorlines. Visit TheNation.com for more.
THE THREAT: Right now, there are only five states with strict photo ID laws for voters. Six more have flexible photo ID laws that allow a broader range of acceptable identification, while nineteen states require some non-photo form of ID to vote.
But if you live in, say, Illinois, where there is no voter ID law at all, you might be alarmed to find on election day that you still have to produce ID to vote. Why? Because it is one of twenty-four states where your voting rights can be challenged by a poll watcher—any registered voter, really, representing a broad range of groups—even if the watcher has no evidence that you should be challenged. And if you are challenged in Illinois, you have to produce two forms of ID to prove you’re eligible to vote.
Such practices are innocuous only when divorced from their racial history. A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, “Voter Challengers,” details that troublesome history while spelling out just how insidious such poll-watching activities can be. For more details on this study, visit TheNation.com. BRENTIN MOCK
FIGHT BACK: THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT A growing number of digital tools are being rolled out to encourage maximum voter participation by the very groups the right is trying to disenfranchise. A sampling:
Native Vote: In the 2008 presidential election, 34 percent of the total Native American population over 18 was eligible but not registered to vote. Native Vote, an initiative of the National Congress of American Indians, is hosting training sessions and webinars focused on using phone banks and social networking to get out the vote in Native communities. Users can register to vote on its website and access a toolkit, including an election observer guide.
18 Million Rising: Founded to promote the civic engagement of the approximately 18 million Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, 18MR wants to change the fact that only 55 percent of Asian-Americans are registered to vote—the lowest rate of all demographic groups. People can register on its website and also sign a pledge to vote.
Nuestra Elección: A collaboration among groups like Southwest Organizing Project’s Campaign for a Better New Mexico, New Mexico Vote Matters, Progress New Mexico Education Fund and Presente.org, Nuestra Elección informs Latinos about voter suppression efforts in New Mexico and allows users to print a voter registration form to mail in. Those already registered can fill out an online form and receive e-mail reminders before election day.
Rock the Vote: Beyond registering people online, Rock the Vote is inviting them to become Voter Registration Partners, enabling them to create customizable registration tools to share on their websites, blogs and Facebook pages. Rock the Vote has also launched a #WeWill hashtag on Twitter to urge young people to vote.
866 Our Vote: People of color are the fastest-growing demographic of smartphone adopters, so an app designed to fight efforts to undermine their vote makes perfect sense. The Election Protection Smartphone App, deployed by a coalition that includes the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Verified Voting Foundation, provides resources in English and Spanish for users to register, find their polling place, review state voting rules and see what type of machine they’ll vote on. MAEGAN E. ORTIZ