Local Obama allies help fund fight against voter ID

Even as a Pennsylvania judge ruled today to block that state’s new voter ID law from taking effect before next month’s election, some major Bay Area supporters of President Obama’s announced they’ll fund efforts to stop other, similar laws.

The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund announced it’ll give half a million dollars to combat what it calls voter disenfranchisement efforts in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote will receive $125,000 each.

Douglas Goldman“Our response to voter suppression is strategic,” Douglas Goldman said in a news release. “By supporting these distinct projects, we want to bring a coordinated approach to ensure that voting rights are protected.”

Douglas Goldman – a retired emergency physician, software company founder/chairman, and prominent philanthropist – is the son of Levi Strauss heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman. He and his wife, Lisa, hosted a $35,800-per-person fundraising dinner for President Obama in May at their Atherton home. In thanking them for their hospitality, Obama said, “They have had my back from the get-go, at a time when not many people knew who I was.”

Goldman’s news release today cited a study recently published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which said voter suppression tactics have multiplied since the 2010 mid-term election. Since then, about 38 states have instituted changes in voting procedures and requirements that include: proof of citizenship to register, shortened early voting timeframes, making it more difficult for third-party organizations to register people to vote, and photo ID requirements.

Republicans have claimed the laws aim to curb in-person voter impersonation fraud, but instances of that are extremely rare. Democrats say Republicans are passing the laws to keep young, minority, elderly and low-income voters away from the polls.

“Voter suppression is a wrong that must be righted,” Goldman said. “It is particularly sad to see special interests trying to encroach on America’s historical achievements in voting rights. Every grade-school student can recite the American maxim of ‘one person, one vote.’ Regretfully, however, these efforts direct us towards ‘one affluent, highly educated, longtime citizen; one vote.’ That is wrong! It is not the American way.”

As I’d written in last week’s story about California’s new Election Day voter registration law, Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said Democrats have a partisan motivation, too. “Those voters who are least attached to the system — who move the most, who are poor, who are students — are the groups that have the most problems registering but are also the groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.”

Hasen said “the ideals of equality” suggest letting as many eligible voters as possible cast ballots, but “over history we’ve fought over how broad the franchise would be.” It took constitutional amendments, the Civil War, litigation and legislation to get where we are today, he noted.

Recipients of the Goldman Fund grants intend to use the money to monitor polling places, manage voter hotlines, fund legal strategies, provide public education, and support other activities related to ensuring systematic and accessible voter registration, according to the fund’s news release.

The Goldmans created their foundation in 1992, and it has awarded nearly $60 million to more than 500 nonprofits in seven areas: democracy and civil liberties, education and literacy, environment, health and recreation, the Jewish community, reproductive health and rights, and San Francisco Bay Area institutions. The fund’s assets now total about $170 million.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Truthclubber

    Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ — watch those states a’rollin,
    Rollin’ down to Obama’s way, his way!

    So Twit Romney and Paul Lyin thought they had Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes all sewn up thanks to that joke of a Governor and that putrid Voter ID push, huh?

    Shake that Mitt-a-Sketch again, boys — and beware, cuz you just lost New hampshire as a toss-up, and Missouri is now in play, and Real Clear Politics is clearly too afraid of pissing off Team Romney ahead of tomorrow’s “Obama takes Romney’s face off” debate to count Nevada as Obama’s, ignoring their own “if the margin is over 5.0%, it’s not a toss-up any more” rule.

    If they weren’t, it would be Obama 275, Romney 181, and tossups (all but North Carolina going to Obama) 82.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    How fortunate are the 49 other states that wise Californians are watching over their interests.

  • Steve Weir

    Actually, vote-by-mail is a West Coast thing. And, Jay Patterson, former Registrar in San Francisco, introduced provisional ballots some 20 years ago and now provisional voting is a national requirement.

    California has been less progressive about on-line registration (newly introduced, and a huge success), and election day registration (mandated to start in 2014).

    I and several of my colleagues (not all) are concerned about implementing same day registration. It will be a challenge in a Presidential Year (2016).

  • Elwood

    Why not just forget registration entirely? It’s becoming more and more of a joke. Just walk in and vote.

    And early voting? Election day is passe’. Let’s vote 365 days a year!

  • Truthclubber

    @2 —

    Yes, indeed — how fortunate they are: Thanks to we smarties here in the great state of fruits and nuts, they have cleaner air, cleaner water, better car MPG, and cleaner food, and that’s just for starters.

    @4 —

    Could not agree more: Let’s implement the Iraqi process — just walk in, dip your thumb in indelible ink, vote, and off you go. As for voting 24/7, we already have that; it’s called the recall process.

  • JohnW

    Elwood raises a fair point about early voting. How early is “too early.” People are voting for president before the first debate takes place.

    However, the recent efforts to curtail early voting had nothing to do with the merits of the process. They are designed to curtail voting by the groups most likely to participate in early voting.

  • Steve Weir

    I have a business necessity to know who is claiming the franchise (right to vote). I must order ballots, send out sample ballots (not all states do this, but it is nice for the vote to know what they will be voting on…), arrange for poll sites, etc.

    You have a business necessity to know who is claiming the franchise; to keep the process honest, and for campaigns to know who to approach.

    Canada uses many databases to create registrations (proactive). Perhaps that merits attention.

    On early voting, we have 46.4% of our rolls that are now permanent vote by mail (ballots go out early next week, for the Presidential Elections). In Nov. 2008, 56% came back during the last 9 days (19% on election). In Nov. 2004, 62.3% came back during the last 9 days (20% on election day).

    So, for our typical Presidential General Election, 70% of the ballots are being voted (or are turned in) on election day. The majority of those ballots cast before election day are arriving on or after Monday, the week before election day.

  • JAFO

    @ #6

    “Johnny One Note:” Efforts to curtail fraudulent voting are de facto racism. How tiresome. As the lawyers might say, “Sorry counselor, but your argument assumes facts not in evidence.” Just because you say it’s so doesn’t make it so. As you have correctly suggested in earlier posts, readers should be on guard for such intellectual laziness.

  • JohnW

    Re: 7 Steve Weir


    Your stats on early voting are pretty convincing that there probably is not an issue of people voting before they have a chance to digest all the available information (or misinformation) that might influence their vote. Thanks.

  • JohnW

    Re #6 JAFO

    You’re right. Just because I say it’s so doesn’t make it so. To borrow from you, what does make it so, “as the lawyers might say,” is the abundance of circumstantial evidence.

    Let’s leave the fighting “R” word out for the moment and just consider the politics. To be fair, the laws aren’t aimed exclusively at reducing turnout among blacks. They are also aimed at restricting turnout by college students. Wonder why?

    When a bunch of battleground states controlled by one party rush through a bunch of election initiatives (Voter ID laws, voter registration purges, restricting early voting) prior to an important national election, it is circumstantially reasonable to conclude that they would not do so unless they see political gain in doing it.

    Exhibit A: Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennslyvania – Done!” And just how is the PA Voter ID law supposed to accomplish that? Obviously by creating a circumstance in which people who otherwise would have voted, and who have voted in the past, won’t this time, on the assumption that those who won’t would have voted for the other party. The Pennsylvania courts did not throw out the law, but they did stop it from being enforced this election cycle once they reached the obvious conclusion that PennDOT could not possibly process everybody who might need to get special ID in time for the election.

    Early voting in Ohio. Why would Republicans want to reverse a practice that has proven successful at making it more convenient to vote and increasing voter turnout? Why would they initially try to limit early voting only in counties that tend to vote for the other party while keeping it in mostly GOP counties?

    I won’t get into the voter registration purge shenanigans, except to point out that the most recent scandal involving voter registration irregularities involves a company with a tainted history employed at the behest of the Republican National Committee.

    Experts will tell you that, to the extent we have voting fraud problems, those problems have nothing to do with somebody showing up at a polling place falsely claiming to be somebody who is registered to vote at that location. Why would anybody bother to do that? You have to have some motive. You have to know who is registered to vote at that precinct. And you have to assume that the person you want to impersonate has not already voted and had their name and number checked off by the precinct workers. And, if you’re trying to orchestrate large scale fraud that could change the outcome of elections, that would be an insanely inefficient and ineffective way to go about it — recruiting all those people to show up and impersonate registered voters at specific precincts.

    We occasionally have election “irregularities” conducted by people running elections (“losing” boxes of ballots etc.) and voter registration fraud. But Voter ID does nothing about those. So, why the emphasis on Voter ID and not the other issues? Because, it you are not a licensed driver, it is damned inconvenient to gather up the documents to go apply for special ID, costs time and money to order a birth certificate if you don’t have one, takes hours of filling out multiple forms and waiting in line etc. Would you go to all that trouble to vote? All most of us ever had to do was just sign up at the DMV when we got your licenses. No muss, no fuss! No extra effort required to sign up to vote.

    California law limits the circumstances under which a voter has to show ID. But that ID can be just about anything that would give precinct workers reasonable confidence that the voter is the person he or she says she is: driver’s license from any state; passport; employee ID card, credit card, military ID, student ID, insurance ID, utility bill, bank statement etc. In other words, you don’t have to go to a bunch of time and expense to go wait in line at DMV to get a specific type of ID just so you can exercise your constitutional right to vote. You are not presumed to be pulling a fast one. Under Texas law, University of Texas student ID doesn’t qualify; but a concealed carry permit does! Hmmm. I wonder why. Under California law, “any doubt as to the sufficiency of proof or a document presented shall be resolved in favor of permitting the voter or new registrant to cast a regular ballot.”

    Now, for the ugly “R” word. And back to “lawyer talk.” In civil rights law, there is the doctrine of disparate impact. When a practice or policy has a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a minority group, it can be considered discriminatory, even if that is not the intent. Of course, if it IS the intent, that’s much worse.

    In Pennsylvania, up to 9% (758,000) of registered voters who have regularly voted in past elections (often for many years at the same precinct polling place in the presence of polling place workers who know them personally) lack ID that would meet the specifications of the new Voter ID law. In Philadelphia, it’s up to 18%. Among those are the mother or mother-in-law of CNBC host Jim Cramer and MSNBC host, Chris Matthews. But, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out the demographics of the people most likely to be affected. The Pennsylvania House majority leader certainly had it figured out. Can you imagine showing up at your regular precinct voting location in some Philadelphia inner city church, greeting the same precinct workers who have checked you in in many previous elections and be told you can’t vote this time because you didn’t go stand in line at a PennDot location 12 miles from your home to get a special ID that you didn’t have to have before?

    I can’t imagine anything more fundamental to civil rights than the right to vote. Trying to make it more difficult for some people is a shameful part of our nation’s history. Why anybody, regardless of party affiliation, would want to do anything that would even be perceived as returning to those days is beyond me.

  • Truthclubber

    Yo, yo, Elwood!

    Yo boy, Twitty, he be doin’ bad — but don’t ya worry, word!

    I gottas ya plane ticket outta dis country, right here!

    Wat? Can’t afford da chedda for da ticket? It’s free, y’all — word!

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Re 11: What dialect is that supposed to be?

  • Elwood

    @ #12 RR

    It’s idiot.

  • Elwood

    I believe that Romney handed the boy wonder his head tonight.

    Anyone else?

  • JohnW

    Re: #14

    The CNN panel of pundits seemed to agree, although their argument in support of that conclusion was along the lines of “Romney held his own” (like that’s a surprise), and punched harder. One said the Obama was listless and that he was out of practice.

    I was looking at it more in terms of the substantive policy differences, arguments made on behalf of those policies, and fact checking. On that basis, I thought it was pretty much a draw; although I obviously agree with Obama more than Romney.

    No matter what Romney says, you can’t cut tax rates 20% across the board and make it revenue neutral by limiting itemized deductions and credits. But Romney is right when he says his proposal would not net out to $5 trillion in tax cuts. That’s the gross reduction from cutting rates 20%. Limiting deductions would offset some of that. But much of that offset would be eaten up by Romney’s proposal to increase defense spending by $2 trillion. How many here are in favor of that?

  • JAFO

    @ #15

    “I thought it (the debate) was pretty much a draw.” Really? On that basis, presumably you also think The Alamo was a draw? BO’s spinners are on high speed tonight. I suspect BO will bounce back in future debates, but he got his clock cleaned tonight.

  • Truthclubber

    The “squiggly lines” on CNN told the tale:

    O’bammy the Hafrican Muslim Communist scores FAR better with women than with men — so the polling a week from now…


    O’bammy/Bid-a-wee 332, Twit/Lyin 206.

    In large part because O’bammy actually knows HOW and WHEN and WHY to look directly into the camera and…tell the truth…unlike the used car salesman that is Twit.