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Voter suppression?

Monday, Aug 8, 2016

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Is Illinois the next state to deal with “voter suppression”? Maybe, depending how you look at it.

You may know that a conservative group filed a federal lawsuit last week to stop Illinois’ election-day voter registration law from being carried out this November. The group’s top expert in the case is probably best known for his vigorous defense of Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge last month. Requiring voters to produce identification at the polls has often been ruled as an unconstitutional suppression tactic in numerous recent cases.

M.V. Hood III, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, is consulting on the new case for the Illinois Policy Institute’s legal arm, the Liberty Justice Center. The lawsuit argues that since Illinois only requires in-precinct voter registration on election day in counties with populations over 100,000, it should be struck down for violating the constitutional equal protection rights of people in the other counties. Under state law, counties under 100,000 population must have a same-day voter registration process, but they are allowed to have only one central registration/voting location.

Same-day registration proved crucial on election day two years ago in a super-tight Illinois House race, when state Rep. Kate Cloonen (D-Kankakee) barely defeated Republican Glenn Nixon by a mere 122 votes. Cloonen is near the very top of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s political hit list this year.

Not all, but most of the legislative Democrats targeted for defeat this year are in counties of over 100,000 people where same-day in-precinct registration is mandatory. Same-day registration certainly gives them an advantage in those counties because Democrats generally have a much better “ground game” than the Republicans. They have far more foot soldiers and a system to get people to the polls at the last minute.

But if the entire same-day registration law is enjoined for this cycle, as Hood and the Illinois Policy Institute want, the ruling would undoubtedly have a negative impact on Democrats in every single contested House and Senate race in the state.

Rauner has supported same-day registration in the past, but he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Illinois Policy Institute, although everybody denies any current direct involvement. Even so, the Institute’s director John Tillman maintains very close ties to Rauner, is said by GOP insiders to be assisting Rauner with his messaging and was seen on video walking out of a recent Chicago term limits press conference with the governor.

Hood was a witness for Wisconsin this year as the Republican-controlled state attempted to fend off an attempt to declare its voter ID law unconstitutional. He claimed he knew of no reason why the state’s requirements to provide proof of identification in order to vote “will have a detrimental impact on the ability of Wisconsin voters to cast a ballot, including minority voters,” according to a May 26th Wisconsin State Journal article.

But on July 29, U.S. District Judge James Peterson declared, “To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease” and ordered the state to supply voters with ID cards within 30 days. Earlier this year, the former chief of staff to a Wisconsin GOP state Senator alleged that Republican Senators were “giddy” during a private caucus meeting “and literally singled out the prospects of suppressing minority and college voters” with a voter ID law.

Hood has also defended Georgia’s voter ID requirements, saying that while it did suppress turnout, he could find “no empirical evidence to suggest that there is a racial or ethnic component to this suppression effect.”

The new Illinois lawsuit points out that the same-day law was passed with only Democratic votes and was signed by a Democratic governor. “Not coincidentally,” the group wrote in a statement, “high-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Democratic candidates; low-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Republican candidates.”

But state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) took to Twitter to repeatedly denounce the Illinois Policy Institute’s lawsuit as an attempt at “voter suppression,” similar to what happened in Wisconsin. Mitchell, an African-American legislator who strongly supported the same-day bill, claimed that, after “defending Rauner ‘budgets,’” the conservative think tank is “now doing his dirty work of voter suppression.” The group responded by repeating its legal claim that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

This is, without a doubt, the single most fascinating year for Illinois politics in my lifetime. And it’s only gonna get weirder as every single trick in the book is played—and maybe some that aren’t even in the book.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


38 Comments
  1. - Honeybear - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:41 am:

    –as every single trick in the book is played—and maybe some that aren’t even in the book.–

    There it is right there. It’s a whole different world out there.

    I keep thinking of the Princess Bride guy

    INCONCIEVABLE!!!!


  2. - slow down - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:49 am:

    Rauner is the second coming of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker in both his devotion to stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights and now in his not so hidden efforts to suppress minority turnout. The problem for him is that he’s not Governor of Wisconsin, he’s the Governor of a deeply blue state and he’ll never have the votes that Walker has in his legislature. Not that he seems to have noticed.


  3. - Guy - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:50 am:

    Why was the differences in Early Voting requirements between Election Jurisdictions based on population not included in the lawsuit? The same equal protection argument could in theory be made for these differences. The opt in for counties under 100,000 was specifically asked for by the smaller jurisdictions because of the cost of providing election day registration in every polling place.


  4. - Doug Simpson - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:50 am:

    A solution in search of a problem. It really is.

    But a continuation of Richard Milhous Nixon and the Southern Strategy.


  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:58 am:

    No one is prevented from registering to vote the same day as they vote. No instances of people with the proper identification when registering have been prevented from voting by this law. To paraphase U.S. District Judge James Peterson’s recent decision declaring Wisconson’s Voter ID law invalid, this frivolous lawsuit’s request to suspend the Illinois Same day voter registration law while their joke of a contention is litigated, is “a cure worse than the disease”, assuming there’s anything resembling a malady with the law in the first place.


  6. - Northsider - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 9:59 am:

    Republicans trying to suppress the vote? I’m shocked, Shocked, I tellsya.


  7. - PublicServant - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:03 am:

    9:58 was me, sorry again.


  8. - Anotherretiree - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:03 am:

    I always felt the voter Id laws were sneakily intended to limit minority voting. But it was only recently that it dawned on me that when my mother died at 85, she didn’t have a government ID.She first voted in 1940 (Win With Wilkie WWW !)
    I guess she would have had to be wheeled out of her nursing home to go get a government ID under these laws.


  9. - Norseman - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:04 am:

    It’s sad that the GOP is depending upon exclusion for electoral success. The much maligned party establishment concluded after the 2012 presidential defeat that they had to reach out to more voters. Unfortunately, party elected officials continue to support policies that do the opposite.


  10. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:09 am:

    It’s no surprise that the people who are trying to bust unions are the ones trying to suppress votes of minorities, the poor, college students, etc.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:10 am:

    I checked in to a hotel in Michigan this past weekend. They asked to see a photo ID.

    Just sayin


  12. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:12 am:

    ===It’s sad that the GOP is depending upon exclusion for electoral success.===

    Ball game. Well said.

    The ILGOP isn’t about growth or growing a base outside a traditional core constituency. Nope.

    We don’t want … others… voting.

    Bruce Rauner. Suppressin’ for the Raunerites.

    Sad days for the ILGOP


  13. - Biker - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:13 am:

    An interesting perspective I recently heard from a Republican candidate in another state. Shouldn’t we be working to ensure everyone has ID for their own purposes like holding a job or having a bank account rather than only focusing on that person’s vote or non-vote. Seems like both sides are trying to control the same foot soldiers of democracy while doing little to help change the trajectory of the individual’s life.


  14. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:14 am:

    ===Just sayin ===

    Checking in to a hotel in Michigan is not a constitutional right.

    Just sayin


  15. - GA Watcher - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:21 am:

    Apparently, Rich’s battle with the pressure washer this weekend has not affected his ability to fire off an insightful retort.


  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:23 am:

    Seems to me if you cash a check, board an airplane, open a bank account, check in to a hotel and myriad other things, a person can get/should get a photo ID.

    It is simply making excuses for people who don’t want to be held accountable.

    Just sayin.


  17. - Honeybear - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:28 am:

    – checked in to a hotel in Michigan this past weekend. They asked to see a photo ID.–

    Ummm you are privileged to be able to afford staying in a hotel. I regularly help folks who have tremendous difficulty just getting a few miles to the “Aid Office” to do their redeterminations for foodstamps or medical. It’s a struggle for a lot of folks to go anywhere. Either they don’t have the money or support to get to where they need to go. Many elderly or disabled simply can’t even get out of the house.

    Obtaining a government issued ID is on par with going to the moon.

    But people in their privilege can’t imagine what other people go through. They care only for themselves. They are selfish.


  18. - Gooner - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:30 am:

    The most likely scenario here is that the judge rules that the law should be applied in a “non-discriminatory manner”, i.e. it must apply to all counties.

    I can’t imagine that a judge is going to issue an order making it more difficult to vote.

    That sure is not going to go over well with IL Republicans.


  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:31 am:

    People, the ID stuff is about Wisconsin. Try sticking to Illinois


  20. - Belle - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:35 am:

    I’d like to see more people vote. If we could get more people into the idea of making the decisions and taking the 15 mins out of their busy lives, perhaps it can become a habit. I’m for registering the day-of the election.


  21. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:37 am:

    Honeybear, actually we helped a homeless person obtain ID. It can be done and you don’t need to make reservations for a trip to the moon.

    By the way, I grew up poor, studied and worked hard, and many hours, to move up the ladder. You don’t know my story.


  22. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:40 am:

    ===By the way, I grew up poor, studied and worked hard, and many hours, to move up the ladder. You don’t know my story.===

    Says… “Anonymous”, lol.

    To the Post,

    The only reason you put up hurdles to vote is to suppress a group and make them less, and/or you can’t win their votes with your ideas and platform.

    “Just sayin’… ”

    Ugh.


  23. - Demoralized - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:44 am:

    Anonymous, get over yourself

    To the post -

    We should make it as easy as possible to vote. I see absolutely nothing wrong with same day voter registration. I know there were reasons for exempting certain counties, but we should make this a statewide mandate. The only people who look to put restrictions on voting are those people who want to try and restrict voting and anyone that tells you it’s for any other reason that trying to suppress voting is lying.


  24. - Lester Holt's Mustache - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:45 am:

    This program should really be expanded to all counties regardless of population. You could make the argument that it would be even more helpful in areas where voters have to travel long distances to get to a polling place and public transportation is not available in many rural areas of Illinois.

    That being said, I’m constantly amused at the irony of conservatives fighting very hard to ease restrictions for one constitutional right (gun ownership) while fighting to add restrictions for another (voting).


  25. - Honeybear - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:46 am:

    Well anonymous, that’s wonderful. But when you make comments like the one you did it confirms a privileged bias. You may have been poor, worked hard, but you still display privilege and unconcern for others. Your remark speaks for itself. And….pick a nickname.


  26. - Gooner - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:49 am:

    It is interesting that GOP rural areas opted out.

    When I was sent to some of those areas, it was sort of a joke. We would get a call of a problem in a precinct. I would drive 40 minutes on country roads to get there and usually they had it worked out by the time I arrived.

    It seems easier for people in Chicago to get to the Loop than people downstate to get to the county seat.

    You would think that GOP areas would want to increase their turnout.


  27. - Anon221 - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 10:59 am:

    During the primary there was more potential voter suppression than anything the same-day voter registration law would cause and potentially will cause on the General. IPI could try and make the case that it was the same-day voter registration that caused these problems, but when you have lack of sufficient ballots for registered voters happening across the state, that to me is real voter suppression. Was IPI outraged enough after the primary to file a lawsuit???

    From the WGEM report: “Venvertloh said Tuesday he printed ballots for 30 percent of registered voters. Illinois state statute requires at least 110 percent be printed. But, Menzel said there is no statutory penalty associated with not having the supply required.”

    http://www.wgem.com/story/31485146/2016/03/16/illinois-state-board-of-elections-looking-into-ballot-debacle

    http://fox2now.com/2016/03/15/polling-places-running-out-of-ballots-in-st-clair-and-madison-county-illinois/

    http://www.sj-r.com/article/20160418/NEWS/160419541


  28. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:02 am:

    Honeybear, you are a piece of work.


  29. - Honeybear - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:07 am:

    Okay, that was a clean guilt counter. Sorry, my anti-privilege button got activated. I was being a putz. Sorry Anonymous. (But still pick a name)


  30. - TinyDancer(FKA Sue) - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:09 am:

    Why is this still an issue in 2016?
    Data brokers know what you ate for breakfast, but the government still can’t figure out who’s qualified to vote?


  31. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:29 am:

    Thank you Honeybear. I’ll work on that nickname!!(smile)


  32. - Cheryl - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:30 am:

    ==Liberty Justice Center==

    They forgot Patriot.


  33. - SKI - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 11:39 am:

    “We should make it as easy as possible to vote. I see absolutely nothing wrong with same day voter registration. I know there were reasons for exempting certain counties, but we should make this a statewide mandate. The only people who look to put restrictions on voting are those people who want to try and restrict voting and anyone that tells you it’s for any other reason that trying to suppress voting is lying.”

    Right on point!


  34. - The All Knowing Oz - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 12:19 pm:

    Will somebody please explain how rejection of same day voter registration suppresses minority turn out? Sounds like the liberal progressives think very little of their major voting block. If I was the targeted voting block I would be very insulted.


  35. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 12:32 pm:

    Demoralized and SKI, are all attempts to ensure that votes are cast only by people legally eligible to vote voter suppression? Or do we have voter rolls and election judges for a reason?

    When elections are close, there is more effort to suppress the votes of people you think will vote against you. There is also more incentive to find a way to commit voter fraud.

    I know there are studies showing that voter fraud is very rare (or rarely caught). I also know that roughly one of every 25 people are in this country illegally, that identity theft is a real problem, and that computer systems, including voting systems can be hacked. Do you understand why people are worried?


  36. - Norseman - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 1:04 pm:

    === Do you understand why people are worried? ===

    They’re worried because they are being fed misinformation to justify voter suppression efforts. The facts don’t support the contention that there is a voter fraud problem.

    The suppressors count on people not verifying the rhetoric they are being told. If they can convince the public that people can walk off the streets and get registered to vote, then they’re illegal immigrant voting argument will not be questioned.

    Go read the Illinois Voter Registration Requirements. You have to show evidence to be registered to vote. Then when you vote, except for same day registrants, you have to sign to get a ballot. A signature that is checked against the registration books.

    The problem being addressed is a political one for the GOP. Their shrinking voter base is making it harder to get elected.

    Our goal should be to make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate in our democracy.


  37. - Harry - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 1:13 pm:

    “All arguments about process are dishonest…”
    –Michael Barone


  38. - Mama - Monday, Aug 8, 16 @ 1:16 pm:

    Rauner and his peeps appear to enjoy filing lawsuits.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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