How Many Lawyers Does it Take to Screw an Election?

Minnesota lawmakers claim ignorance over violating ethics in the voter ID suit that stands to discriminate against voters of color.

By Aura Bogado Jul 02, 2012

Those pushing voter ID laws around the country have insisted their intentions are as nonpartisan as they are colorblind. But evidence to the contrary just keeps trickling out. Last week, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board scolded two lawmakers for receiving free legal services in connection to a voter ID lawsuit*. Representatives Robin Vos and Bob Ziegelbauer said they were unaware the Republican National Committee was funding the legal work–which is a violation of the ethics of their office.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, is mounting a massive squad of lawyers to fight voter suppression this election season. With partisan organizations like True the Vote planning to train one million vigilante poll watchers who will do away with the imaginary problem of voter fraud, the administration hopes to train lawyers to protect against voter intimidation this fall.

Florida’s Next Target: Voter Registration Group

Marginalized voters lost when a federal judge ruled against blocking Florida’s voter purge last week. But it might get even worse in the Sunshine State. The Secretary of State’s office has contacted the Voter Participation Center and is "evaluating" whether to stop the group from registering voters. The Center has sent out nearly half-a-million registration letters to potential voters–but the state seems to have an interest in keeping new voters off the rolls. Check out Brentin Mock’s reporting from Florida on how dramatically the state’s conversation about voting has changed in the past two years. 

DOJ Claims Georgia Not so Peachy to Service Member Voters

For the first time ever, Congress voted last week to hold the attorney general (or any serving cabinet member, for that matter) in contempt, prompting some lawmakers, led by the Congressional Black Caucus to walk out in protest. The House found Eric Holder in criminal and civil contempt in connection to the gun-walking program known as Fast and Furious. But some argue that the charges are not much more than political persecution to undermine Holder’s defense of voting rights–for instance, his department’s new voting rights lawsuit against another state in the South.

The Department of Justice filed suit against Georgia last Wednesday to ensure the rights of service members and other overseas voters are protected. Congress made changes to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 2009, requiring states to make absentee ballots available at least 45 days before a federal election. The DOJ filed for an injunction to compel Georgia to allow those service members and other overseas voters the allotted time required to cast their ballot.

Lost in Translation

New York Rep. Nydia Velázquez kept her seat despite opposition in last week’s primary election–and despite the fact that her name was misspelled on the Chinese-language ballot. Velázquez was the first Boriqua elected to Congress, but had to distinguish herself from a local economist who is fluent in Mandarin and Chinese. It’s hoped the misspelling does not represent a harbinger of what’s to come as nearly 250 counties in 25 states are preparing to offer multi-lingual ballots this fall.

New Hampshire override

Legislators in New Hampshire were successful in overriding the governor’s veto against a restrictive voter ID bill last week. As I previously noted, this is the second time lawmakers have attempted to override such a veto. New Hampshire touts a high voter torn-out–we’ll see what kind of effect the law yields on future participation, especially for marginalized voters.

*This post erroneously cited Vos and Ziegelbauer as representatives in Minnesota; both are in Wisconsin.