Testimony to Indiana Census Data Advisory Committee on voter suppression 8.29.13

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Sets out testimony provided by Ruth Greenwood of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights on voter suppression in Indiana. Held on August 29, 2013
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     Testimony of Ruth Greenwood, Attorney, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for CivilRights Under Law Before the Census Data Advisory Commission August 29, 2013 Good morning, distinguished Committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this very important hearing. My name is Ruth Greenwood, and I am an attorney at theChicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc.   is a non - partisan non - profit organization that aims to promote   and protect civil rights, particularly the rights of  poor, minority, and disadvantaged people in order to facilitate their participation in the social, economic, and political systems of our nation.  We work in Lake County, Indiana on a project called the Initiative for Northwest Indiana(INWIN). INWIN is a community economic development law project engaging community  organizations, entrepreneurs, businesses, attorneys, and civic leaders for the greater good of  the Northwest Indiana regional community.  We al so operate   a  Voting Rights Project   that   works to prevent, reduce, and eliminate barriersto voting for minority and low-income residents throughout the Midwest region.  We partner with area law firms and nonprofit organizations to provide Election Protection during early voting and on Election Day. Election Protection volunteers answer voter questions and respond to issues reported to the 1 - 866 - OUR  -  VOTE hotline. In addit  ion, teams of attorneys volunteer as poll watchers to monitor election s   across the region. For the2012 general election we placed approximately 15 poll monitors in Lake County, fielded over800 calls from Indiana on our election protection hotline, and worked in coalition with Black  Youth Vote an initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Indiana American Civil Liberties Union, Indiana League of Women Voters, and Indiana CommonCause to distribute thousands of “Know Your Rights” cards to voters across the state. We are very pleased that the Committee has chosen to investigate the important issue of  voter suppression in Indiana. In this testimony I set out a summary of the findings of ourelection protection efforts with respect to voter suppression, and then discuss some of thelegal and administrative policies that cause voter suppression and disenfranchisement inIndiana. Election Protection 2012: Findings I set out below a chart showing the breakdown of the types of problems that Indiana voters who contacted the Election Protection Hotline or interacted with our poll monitorsexperienced during early voting and on Election Day in 2012. i   As you can see, what is traditionally considered voter suppression, what we call “voterintimidation” made up 13% of the problems. We believe that the photo ID law in Indianaalso operates as a voter suppressive measure, and as you can see 7% of the problemsidentified to us concerned the photo ID law. Additionally, administrative problems(registration, absentee voting, poll worker, and polling place problems) also suppressed voters, and combined they constituted 61% of the issues identified. I outline below the   2chart how each type of problem caused voter suppression and some specific examples of each of these problems. Voter intimidation   The types of problems that are coded as “voter intimidation” include misleading informationfrom the television, radio, newspapers, phone calls, text messages, emails, and signs placed inthe community, as well as activities at a polling place that discourage someone from voting,perhaps by indicating that they are not eligible to vote or that the date or time of voting isdifferent to the actual information. Some examples from 2012 include: ã    A voter was told by a friend that she received an email instructing voters that if they  wanted to vote a straight Democratic ticket they would need to both select “10” (thestraight ticket operation on the voting machine) and  select Obama in the Presidentcategory. She later found out that doing both would actually invalidated the ballot; ã    A voter explained that she had heard on a talk show that there was a recent law passed in Indiana limiting the voting time at a polling place to only 3 minutes. Thecaller was worried that she would not be able to vote in this short time, though there was no such law passed in Indiana; and Absenteevotingproblem14%   Accessibilityproblem1%   ElectioneeringProblem5%IDproblem7%   Languageproblem0%   Pollworkerproblem9%   Pollingplaceproblem21%   Provisionalballotconcern3%   Registrationproblem17%   Studentvotingproblem4%   Voterintimidationproblem13%   Votingequipmentproblem6% ProblemsbyState:IN   3 ã    A report of a robocall made by a group calling itself “Vote USA” that told votersthat they could vote early over the phone to avoid long lines on Election Day.Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, thankfully took swift action to advise voters to “under no circumstances…vote over the phone.” ii   ID problems   The type of ID problems reported demonstrate the way that the photo ID law causes votersuppression. The calls generally involved the voter having been told that their ID was notable to be used, when in fact it was on the approved list, or calls from voters who had triedto get approved photo ID but were unable to. Some examples are listed below: ã   In Monticello, in White County, a voter was told she could not vote because her USpassport was not acceptable ID; iii   ã   In Hobart, in Lake County, a voter explained that she attempted to obtain a photoID for the voter’s mother from an Indiana DMV but the mother was denied an IDbecause her birth certificate and marriage certificate had slightly different names onthem; and ã   In Marion County, a voter explained that her brother’s driver’s license had recently been taken by a police officer during an arrest and so she was worried that he wouldnot be able to vote. There was another group of Indiana voters who had difficulties meeting the photo IDrequirement in 2012: students. Many of the state universities in Indiana do not issue studentIDs with an expiry date, and so students were unable to use their student IDs as approvedphoto ID to vote. With only 75% of 19 year olds nationally possessing driver’s licenses, iv   many of these state university students were unable to vote at the polls at all. Privateuniversity student IDs are not on the approved list of photo IDs, so no students attending those colleges and universities could use their student ID to vote at the polls. There are over400,000 students in Indiana colleges and universities.  v    Registration problems  Nationally problems with registration account for 5.5% of the reasons why people do not vote,  vi but for African Americans and Latinos, this number increases to 6.7% and 6.1%respectively. Given the disparate impact of registration problems on minority voters, thisissue is something that we are particularly concerned about. The registration problemsidentified through Election Protection were largely due to voters’ attempted registration notappearing in the online Indiana Statewide Registration database and/or on the pollbooks. Insome cases when voters followed up about this with state officials they were told that“sometimes the DMV does not give names to us” after it registers voters when they processtheir driver’s license. In Indiana, 33.3% of all voter registrations are processed at theDMV,  vii meaning mal-administration at the DMV of such applications has the potential toaffect (and possibly suppress the votes of) a large number of Indiana voters.Some examples of the voter registration problems identified during Election Protectioninclude: ã   In Vanderburgh County, a voter explained that she registered to vote in February 2012 when she received her new driver’s license. However, her name did not appear   4on the list at the polls and was told that “sometimes in DMV does not give names tous;” and ã   In LaPorte County, a voter and her son knew that their names had been removedfrom the voting roll in 2009, so they re-registered in 2012 via mail. They neverreceived voter registration cards and when they arrived at the polling place they weretold their name was not on the list. They were not given provisional ballots.  Absentee voting problems  One solution to the problem presented for those unable to obtain a photo ID so they can vote at a polling place during early voting or Election Day, is for them to vote by absenteeballot (if they fit into one of the categories of person who may request one).  viii This has thepotential to reduce the suppressive effect of the Indiana photo ID law, but if absentee ballotrequests are left unanswered then voters are at risk being entirely disenfranchised. Someexamples of how this occurred in Indiana in 2012 are set out below: ã   In Vanderburgh County, a voter faxed in an absentee ballot application on October22, 2012. The voter did not receive an absentee ballot application, and called theIndiana Board of Elections on October 30 to determine why she did not receive it. They told her that her address information was incorrect on her absentee ballotapplication, and that they were planning to send her notice that her ballot application was not accepted. Follow up by an Election Protection volunteer with the Board of Elections confirmed that they were supposed to send notices by mail to votersinforming them of problems with their application and to resubmit their request.Officials told our Election Protection volunteer that “because of capacity issues,many or all of those notices did not go out;” and ã   In Marion County, a voter did not receive her absentee ballot and when shecontacted us the deadline for receipt of completed absentee ballots had passed. The voter was not in Indiana on Election Day and so was unable to vote in the 2012Election. Poll worker problems  Precinct election officers (poll workers) represent the frontline between electionadministration and voters. While many are well trained, enthusiastic and capable, it only takes a few poll workers with incorrect information or practices to disenfranchise thehundreds of voters they come into contact with on Election Day. Some examples of poll worker problems identified to Election Protection were: ã   In Marion County, a voter’s designated polling place was co-located with a numberof other precincts at a single polling place. The poll worker at the outside of thepolling place would not let voters enter the location if they did not know theirprecinct number; and ã   In Marion County, a voter cast a paper ballot, but the ballot machine would notaccept her ballot (and would not accept ballots of some other voters in the polling place). The voter saw the poll worker set these ballots aside and did not put them inthe machine. The voter was not able to confirm whether her vote was counted ornot.
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