Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law requiring nine states to submit voting law changes to the federal government for pre-clearance, five* are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had already been rejected as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the law requiring federal approval of voting changes “humiliates Arizona by making it say ‘Mother may I’ to the federal government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws.” (The state’s own law requiring voters to submit proof of citizenship was struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court last week.)
It only took a few hours for TEXAS to move forward on its voter ID law, considered the strictest in the nation.
A court blocked the law in 2012 because it discriminated against Latino and black voters.
Ah, the “humiliation” of the State of Arizona-tough luck, citizens. Your rights came in a distant second to the emotional needs and hurt feelings of… your state. Is this loony, or what? Just crazy. Anyway. I’ll give you the rundown of what we do in Ohio to protect the rights of voters. I’ve never worried all that much about the feelings of the State of Ohio in all this, because I’m mean like that.
An election lawyer in Columbus runs the program. She is paid by the state Party. She then recruits 88 volunteer lawyers to head up the program in each county on the ground. In a rural county like mine it would stop there with one lawyer in a county, but in a more populous county the lead lawyer then recruits other lawyers. She sends us basic information on the Ohio statutes and rules that govern voting. Ohio Republicans often change voting rules in the weeks immediately prior to an election, so we get frequent updates. The lead lawyer will then offer training for the 88 county leads. There will be two or three training days offered, usually on a Saturday. I have been at this a while so I usually attend only the last training prior to the election.
The lead lawyer puts together a packet of the documents we have to file to act as observers. In the past we filed the “entries” individually in our respective counties, but now they’re all filed in Columbus, so we just print them out. We submit a paper copy in each polling place we enter on Election Day and then take an oath that is similar to the oath poll workers take. This is all pursuant to Ohio rules that govern polling places.
We start observation early in Ohio because we have early voting. I just pick days and blocks of time and go to the Board of Elections and observe. I listen to the poll workers and voters interact and if I observe that a poll worker is not following the rules I go and tell the supervisory staff at the Board of Elections. The staff member then corrects the poll worker. I never approach a voter or interact with voters in any way inside a polling place.
Sometime before Election Day, I determine which polling places I will visit. Again, I have been at this a while, so I know which polling places consistently have problems either interpreting the rules or following them. People here also call me with questions or problems they’ve observed or experienced. If I can’t solve a problem by appealing to the lead poll worker or the Board of Elections staff, I would then call the Board of Elections members. If they were no help and we needed a court to intervene I would then contact the lead lawyer in Columbus and she’d direct it from there. On election day, we’re in periodic contact with the lead lawyer using a “boiler room” set up that is separate and apart from the GOTV boiler room candidates and campaigns have running.
I know we’re not the only state that has a voter protection plan in place. It’s not that difficult to set up. Voting enthusiasts here put a lot of work into this after the 2004 election and we get better and more organized every cycle, because the volunteers return year after year. Ideally, we’d have a two-pronged legal approach to voter suppression in the states no longer protected by those VRA section(s) recklessly discarded by the Supreme Court. Laws and rule changes can be challenged pre-election through litigation, but we also need a comprehensive ground effort to respond quickly to individual voter and polling place issues and anything that has to be filed in a hurry. One does that by relying on local lawyers in each county or city.