VOTER ID LAWS
What’s all the fuss about?
Shouldn’t voters be willing to show identification in order to assure that they are entitled to register and vote? Why does the LWV oppose voter ID laws? Because these laws are unnecessary, burdensome, discriminatory, costly to administer and enforce, and are thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression.
Laws that require would-be voters to produce specific documents to prove their citizenship and identity in order to register and vote purport to be solutions to a problem that does not exist. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud by people who are not eligible to vote, and prosecutions for voting fraud are very rare. Election Day turnout of eligible voters is already at dismally low levels. Legislatures should not be enacting laws to further discourage eligible citizens from voting?
Proposed state laws and those already passed vary in their requirements, but commonly include a photo ID, birth certificate, or some other government-issued verification of citizenship and/or identity. Millions of eligible voters do not possess documents that would meet the requirements. People who lack a government-issued ID are more likely to be poor, minority, or elderly than those who would readily be able to produce one. Requiring one is discriminatory.
· Millions of eligible voters do not have a driver’s license, including senior citizens who no longer drive, urban dwellers who rely on public transportation, and people too poor to own a car.
· Obtaining a state-issued photo-ID may require taking time off work, transportation difficulties for non-drivers, and/or require documents the would-be voter does not possess. There may be fees for the card and for renewing it periodically.
· The majority of Americans do not have a passport. To obtain one costs well over $100.
· Students whose driver’s licenses show their home address but want to vote where they attend college may not be allowed to. College-issued ID cards may not satisfy the law’s requirements.
· Many people do not have a copy of their birth certificate. The process to obtain one may be burdensome and or/costly for them.
· A woman’s birth certificate shows her name at birth, not her married name, which may not satisfy the state’s requirements for voter registration.
· People who want to register to vote at registration drives, at their high school or college, or shortly before an election may not have the necessary documents with them or they may not be readily available.
· People who move or marry shortly before an election may not have had time to update their documents.
· At a time when state budgets are stretched beyond their limits, it is a waste of resources to enforce laws that aren’t needed.
It is sad that legislatures across the country are using their powers to discourage people from participating in democracy rather than on reforms that would enable more people to be active participants in government. We all like the slogan “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” We do not want or need laws that make it harder for eligible voters to enter the arena?
(A bill requiring presentation of a photo ID in order to vote in WV was introduced during the 2011 session. It allowed persons lacking photo ID to vote a provisional ballot. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee and died there. )
In addition to www.lwv.org, copious information about voting rights is online at the website of the Brennan Center for Justice, www.brennancenter.org .
Kathy Stoltz, LWVWV, May 2011
WV Senate Redistricting Task Force Public Comment Meetings
The WV State Senate Redistricting Task Force will hold informational meetings around the state. (http://www.legis.state.wv.us/redistricting.cfm )
The Legislature is expected to hold a special session in August or September to redraw State Senate and House of Delegate districts.
May 4 (Wed) – Berkeley County, Martinsburg, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Berkeley County Courthouse 2nd Floor Courtroom; 100 West King Street, Martinsburg, WV 25401
May 11 (Wed) – Ohio County, Wheeling, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Ohio County Courthouse 2nd Floor, City Council Chamber; 1500 Chapline Street, Wheeling, WV 26003
May 18 (Wed) – Kanawha County, Charleston, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Kanawha County Courthouse, 1st Floor, Commission Courtroom; 409 Virginia Street, East Charleston, WV 25301
May 21 (Sat) – Marion County, Fairmont, WV
10:00-11:30 am; Marion County Courthouse Division #1 Courtroom; 3rd Floor 219 Adams Street, Fairmont, WV 26554
May 25 (Wed) – Mingo County, Williamson, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Williamson City Hall Council Chamber; 107 East 4th Avenue, Williamson, WV 25661
June 1 (Wed) – Raleigh County, Beckley, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Governor Hulett C. Smith Theater; 1 Tamarack Park, Beckley, WV 25801
June 2 (Thu) – Pocahontas County, Marlinton, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Marlinton Town Hall Auditorium, 709 Second Avenue, Marlinton, WV 24954
June 8 (Wed) – Logan County, Chapmanville, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Chapmanville Municipal Building; 329 West Tiger Lane, Chapmanville, WV 25508
June 11 (Sat) – Cabell County, Huntington, WV
4:30-6:00 pm; Cabell County Courthouse, Courtroom #1; 750 5th Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701
June 15 (Wed) – Wood County, Parkersburg, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Parkersburg Municipal Building Second Floor, Council Chamber; 1 Government Square, Parkersburg, WV 26101
June 25 (Sat) – Upshur County, Buckhannon, WV
To be announced…
July 21 (Thu) – Mercer County, Princeton, WV
7:00-8:30 pm; Mercer County Courthouse, Courtroom of Judge Sadler; 1501 W. Main Street, Princeton, WV 24740
(Coal Tattoo, 4.26.11) Well, WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman called it the worst ruling I’ve ever seen out of the EQB as far as a lack of respect for the rule of law, so it probably is no surprise that the agency has appealed the state Environmental Quality Board’s decision in the case over International Coal Group’s New Hill West surface mine in Monongalia County.
I’ve posted a copy of the WVDEP appeal, filed in the circuit court of Kanawha County, here. Among other things, WVDEP lawyers argue in the appeal:
The board’s findings that numerous scientific studies have shown that declines in stream macroinvertebrate communities directly downstream of surface mining operations are caused by the combined effects of heightened concentrations of ions was clearly wrong in the view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence in the record.
CLEAN WATER ACT, GUIDANCE, 4.27.11
(Sustained Outrage. 4.27.11) Big clean water news out today from the Obama administration. As announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Recognizing the importance of clean water and healthy watersheds to our economy, environment and communities, the Obama administration released a national clean water framework today that showcases its comprehensive commitment to protecting the health of America’s waters. The framework emphasizes the importance of partnerships and coordination with states, local communities, stakeholders and the public to protect public health and water quality, and promote the nation’s energy and economic security.
The move was also announced by the White House, and a key part of all of this is major new Clean Water Act guidance by the EPA:
Americans depend on clean and abundant water. However, over the past decade, interpretations of Supreme Court rulings removed some critical waters from Federal protection, and caused confusion about which waters and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. As a result, important waters now lack clear protection under the law, and businesses and regulators face uncertainty and delay. The Obama Administration is committed to protecting waters on which the health of people, the economy and ecosystems depend.
U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance would replace previous guidance to reaffirm protection for critical waters. It also will provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act. The draft guidance will be open for 60 days of public comment to allow all stakeholders to provide input and feedback before it is finalized.
The draft guidance will reaffirm protections for small streams that feed into larger streams, rivers, bays and coastal waters. It will also reaffirm protection for wetlands that filter pollution and help protect communities from flooding. Discharging pollution into protected waters (e.g., dumping sewage, contaminants, or industrial pollution) or filling protected waters and wetlands (e.g., building a housing development or a parking lot) require permits. This guidance will keep safe the streams and wetlands that affect the quality of the water used for drinking, swimming, fishing, farming, manufacturing, tourism and other activities essential to the American economy and quality of life. It also will provide regulatory clarity, predictability, consistency and transparency.
As The Washington Post explained:
It remains unclear what portion of the nation’s waterways will now come under stricter regulation. After the Supreme Court issued rulings that questioned whether the Clean Water Act applies to isolated streams that are not connected to navigable waterways, Bush officials said as many as 20 million acres of wetlands fell under that category.
The EPA has also abandoned more than 1,500 pollution probes in recent years, given the uncertainty surrounding what qualifies as “waters of the United States.”
You can read the proposed guidance here, and EPA has posted some cost-benefit studies on this guidance here and here, and this Sierra Club report has some interesting background, as does this report from the Congressional Research Service.
It’s not surprising that West Virginia’s members of Congress signed onto a letter opposing this action by EPA. Earthjustice, meanwhile, had kind words for the EPA’s move:
For nearly a decade the Clean Water Act has been broken and left thousands of streams, rivers and wetlands exposed to oil spills, fills and destruction, and other industrial discharges from polluters.
This pollution has not only left our waters dirty, it has threatened the millions of Americans who depend on these waters for drinking. The Obama administration’s new guidance reinstates most of the protections of the Clean Water Act, although there are some important water bodies that may still be left unprotected until Congress addresses this issue. This is an important step forward to fix a Bush-era guidance that sacrificed our waters for the sake of special interests.
This new guidance now will be subject to public comment. We know the American people want, expect, and deserve clean water for their families and communities. We hope they will speak up now to support the Obama administration’s efforts to keep our nation’s waters protected from pollution.
The Morgantown-Monongalia County LWV chose to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of International Women’s Day this spring by presenting roses to our women delegates from Monongalia County, Barbara Fleischauer, Charlene Marshall, and Amanda Pasdon, to thank them for their dedicated public service.
Giovanna Deveny, Huntington Area League, shares her League story:
As I lay in a hospital bed after the delivery of our seventh child (of nine), listening to the new President’s inauguration speech, I began to think. His words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” would not leave my mind. When my husband came at evening visitation, I shared the experience with him, adding that we must get involved. His comment: “You do whatever you feel you need to and I will support you.”
I had recently attended a community meeting where LWV presentations had presented the pros and cons of ballot issues. Something clicked in my mind. Here was where I could make a difference — the League studied issues, presented programs and provided non-partisan information to the public. What better way to “do something for my country?” My precious moments spent doing League study would be magnified many times as the information circulated through the public.
I know that the education skill set developed through the League equaled or surpassed any college degree that I earned subsequent to joining the League.
I joined the League over fifty years ago. At various times, I have served as secretary; Chair of Education, Immigration Committees; and as President of the Sarasota County, Florida LWV.
Thank you League of Women Voters for the profound influence that you have had on my life.
story bank. Giovanna Deveny.doc