Monday, July 16, 2012

Feds make voter purging information available

Activists cry foul over last minute change

Washington – Minority advocates decry a sudden federal reversal of earlier refusals to make immigration databases available to election judges nationwide.
Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security who notified officials in Florida last week that the rolls that will show if a non-citizen has wound up on the voting rolls suddenly announced on Monday that all other states will be able to get the information.
Elections leaders in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah signed onto a request by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Five of the states - Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio - are expected to be competitive in the 2012 presidential race. Each of the election chiefs in those states is Republican.
The data work is supposed to help states identify people who may be legal residents but not citizens. Since states can't monitor whether someone has become a citizen, the federal database will allow them to check the immigration status of those people.
Colorado has identified some 5,000 people that it wants to check.
The Obama administration had denied Florida's request for database access amid an escalating legal battle with Florida about how it was handling its voter list. A U.S. judge blocked federal attempts to stop Florida's voter review, and the federal government then relented on the database question.
Washington state has been requesting the data since back to the Bush administration. Shane Hamlin, the co-director of elections in Washington, said state officials aren't getting full access to the database that they had sought but that they were pleased with the development.
To check against the database, states will have to provide a "unique identifier," such as an "alien number," for each person in question. Alien numbers generally are assigned to foreigners living in the country legally, often with visas or other permits such as green cards.
The database isn't likely to catch illegal immigrants who may have managed to get on the voter rolls, since those individuals likely wouldn't have an alien number.
Voting rights groups are concerned that the erroneous voter purges right now could make it difficult to correct mistakes in time for the election.
Meanwhile, both Hispanic and black activists as well as white conservatives eagerly await the ruling expected in August of a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., regarding the legality of the new Texas Voter ID law.
Both sides accuse the other of using deeply "flawed" data to show whether minorities would be unfairly hurt by a photo ID requirement.
The Justice Department said in court that about 1.5 million registered Texas voters don't have state-issued photo IDs, and that a disproportionate share of those voters are Hispanic or black. But Texas attorneys noted that the Justice Department didn't take into account whether those voters might have passports or citizenship papers, which are also acceptable ID.
Texas officials also argued that the federal government's numbers were inflated because the state's voter registration database is filled with errors. They said it includes the names of tens of thousands of voters who have either died or moved out of state.
And lawyers for Texas argued that it's difficult to match names on the registration lists with motor vehicle records — which the Justice Department did — because people use different versions of their names.
To make the point, the Texas lawyers noted that former President George W. Bush and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are both on the DOJ's list of those who could be affected by the law, even though both presumably have photo ID. In this case, the burden of proof is on Texas to show that its law would not be discriminatory. 

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