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State ID Laws Restrict Older Americans

The battle against state photo ID laws that are obstacles to older voters

Minnesota. The Gopher State might have the most convoluted voter ID situation. After the Republican-controlled legislature passed a strict photo ID law and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it, the legislature moved to put the question to voters as a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.

The League of Women Voters Minnesota filed suit to block the referendum, arguing that the summary of the amendment that would appear on the ballot was highly misleading. AARP supported the challenge in a friend of the court brief.

Then Minnesota’s secretary of state reworded the title of the referendum, to the dismay of its sponsors.

The state Supreme Court needs to sort out all of this by Aug. 27, say state election officials, to leave time to prepare the November ballot.

Wisconsin. Two decisions in separate suits filed in state court — one by the Milwaukee NAACP, the other by the League of Women Voters — both invalidated the state’s voter photo ID law, enacted last year.

The state attorney general has appealed one decision and is expected to appeal the second. AARP is weighing its legal options. In any case, no ruling is expected until after Nov. 6, meaning a photo ID won’t be required to vote.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee estimated in 2005 that nearly 180,000 state residents 65 and older lacked a driver’s license or official photo ID.

Virginia. After considering several voter ID bills that AARP Virginia testified against, the state legislature passed a law that allows a greater variety of ID to vote, including a current utility bill. But there’s a catch: If you come to the polls without acceptable ID, you can sign a provisional ballot and if you return with an approved ID within three days your vote will count.

Texas. A federal court ruled against a lawsuit that Texas filed after the U.S. Justice Department blocked the state’s voter ID law on the grounds that it discriminates against Hispanics. The case may wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

AARP Texas lobbied against the 2011 law, which requires voters to show certain forms of government-issued photo IDs. AARP hasn’t joined in the suit.

Next: Expect efforts to pass these laws to continue. »

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