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Week of 9.1.06

State by State: Voting Rules and Restrictions

In his 2006 book "Stealing Democracy," Spencer Overton illustrates historical and current flaws related to America's voting system, including an overview of most states. Check the status of your home state below.

Also, find the latest rules in your state regarding:

   State By Letter: ACGHIKLMNOPRSTUVW   

Alabama

  • 2004: Residents of Asian ancestry account for one-third of the population of Bayou La Batre, and despite intimidation of Asian Americans at the voting polls, Phuong Tan Huynh becomes the first Asian American councilman in Bayou La Batre by fewer than 100 votes.

  • 1996: In Bayou La Batre, despite a sizeable Asian American community, only 15 of the town's 800 votes were cast by Asian Americans.

  • 1995-2004: Alabama is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

  • 1960s: Dallas County has a voting-age population estimated at 29,500, just over half of whom are black. However, politicians ensure that the rolls include only one percent of its black residents by requiring that applicants for registration pass and oral exam about the U.S. Constitution and possess "good character."

Alaska

  • 1995-2004: Alaska is among the top 15 states with the largest low-English proficient populations.

Arizona

  • 1995-2004: Arizona ranks among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, largest minority group, and largest low-English-proficient population.

Arkansas

  • 1995-2004: Arkansas is among the top 15 states for largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, the least competition for voters of color, and the largest minority group.

California

  • 2004: All of the incumbent state legislators or U.S. House members who run retain their seats.

  • 2004: Ventura County, where 33 percent of the population is Latino and where 26,000 Spanish speaking U.S. citizens have limited English skills, is charged with failing to provide enough bilingual poll workers and voting materials. In response, the county agrees to provide its first Spanish-language ballot and offers bilingual county employees the day off with pay plus a stipend to ensure that 300 of the county's 1,300 poll workers could speak both Spanish and English.

  • 2004: Los Angeles County provides ballots in more languages than any other area in the nation - including English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Of the 22,000 poll workers in the county leading up to the 2004 election, almost 5,000 said they were bilingual.

  • 2002: Democrat Michael Case decides not to make another run against Republican U.S. House incumbent Elton Gallegly where redistricting inflated registered Republicans from 39 to 46 percent and deflated registered Democrats from 40 to 35 percent of the district's voters.

  • 2002: As a result of redistricting, only one of the fifty-three California U.S. House races is competitive.

  • 2002: No more than 17 of the 153 U.S. House, State Senate, and State Assembly seats at stake in California in 2002 are considered competitive, compared with 44 competitive seats following the 1991 redistricting.

  • 2002: Following the new U.S. house map, which removes Latino voters from Berman's district and puts them in an adjacent district represented by another white Democrat, Berman's voting constituency is reduced from 45 percent Latino to 31 percent.

  • 2002: In the November election, 100 percent of the incumbents who run win reelection. The padding of districts ensures that most races are not close. The average incumbent wins with 69 percent of the vote.

  • 2001: The California state legislature draws three new maps that assign a total of 173 districts: fifty-three U.S. House seats, forty State Senate seats, and eighty State Assembly seats. State Democrats effectively control the process and pay a consultant $1.36 million to draw the State Senate districts, and incumbent Democratic members of Congress collectively pay the consultant about $600,000 ($20,000 each) to draw the U.S. House map. The new maps protect almost all Republican and Democratic incumbents.

  • 1998: In the Democratic primary election, the Latino mayor of San Fernando, Raul Godinez, challenges Congressman Berman. Although three out of four Latinos votes for Godinez, Berman wins handily by receiving nine out of ten white votes.

  • 1996: Los Angeles County reports costs of $1.1 million to provide language assistance in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Tagalog at more than 5,600 polling places ($196 per poll).

  • 1995-2004: California is among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, , largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and officials of color in all elected positions, largest disparities in voter turnout, largest minority group, and largest low-English-proficient population.

Colorado

  • 1995-2004: Colorado is among the top 15 states with the largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and the largest low-English-proficient populations.

Connecticut

  • 1995-2004: Connecticut is among the top 15 states with the largest disparities between citizens of color and officials of color in all elected positions, the largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and the largest low-English-proficient population.

Florida

  • 2004: In anticipation of the 2004 election, the office of Florida Republican Secretary of State Glenda Hood compiled a list of "felons" to be omitted from voting rolls and refused to disclose the list to the public. After a court ordered the list's release, journalists discovered that it improperly included 2,100 former prisoners who had successfully applied for a restoration of their voting rights. Due to another "computer error" about 22,000 African Americans were incorrectly included on the list.

  • 1995-2004: Florida is among the top 15 states with the largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and largest low-English-proficient populations.

  • Florida is one of only four democratic systems in the world that ban voting by all former offenders for life.

  • 2000: Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore tires to design a ballot with large type so that it can be read by her county's large senior population. The confusing ballot is never tested on sample voters, and in the real election it causes thousands in Palm Beach County to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan, costing Al Gore an estimated 6,607 Florida votes and the presidency.

  • 2000: Had former felons who had completed their sentences been allowed to vote, Al Gore would have won Florida (and thus the presidency) by about 31,000 votes.

Georgia

  • 2006: A photo ID requirement would exclude Americans of all backgrounds, but the elderly are some who would bear the greatest burden. According to the Georgia chapter of the AARP, 36 percent of Georgians over age seventy-five do not have a driver's license.

  • 2005: A photo ID requirement would exclude Americans of all backgrounds, but people of color are some who would bear the greatest burden. Only one of the ten Georgia counties with the highest percentage of blacks had an office that issued state IDs, and no such office existed in Atlanta.

  • 2005: Secretary of State Cathy Cox states that she cannot recall one documented case of voter fraud relating to the impersonation of a registered voter at the polls during her ten-year tenure as secretary of state or assistant secretary of state.

  • 2005: Georgia reduces its list of acceptable identification from seventeen (including non-photo ID such a bank statement, utility bill, or government paycheck) to six forms of state-issued photo ID in an attempt to prevent "fraud." But at the same time, Georgia scrapped its old law that limited absentee voting to people who met narrow requirements (such as being older than 75 or disabled) anyone who applies. The double standard is particularly disturbing because absentee ballots are widely acknowledged to be more susceptible to fraud than ballots cast at the polls. Further, whites are much more likely than African Americans to vote absentee.

  • 1995-2004: Georgia is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

  • 1996-2006: Within the last ten years, politicians in Georgia have used Confederate-flag debates to polarize voters along racial lines.

Hawaii

  • 1995-2004: Hawaii is among the top 15 states with the largest minority group, and the largest low-English-proficient populations.

Idaho

  • 1995-2004: Idaho is among the top 15 states with the largest low-English-proficient populations.

Illinois

  • 1995-2004: Illinois is among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, and largest disparities between citizens of color and officials of color in all elected positions.

Indiana

  • 1995-2004: Indiana ranks among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, and largest racial disparities in voter turnout.

Kentucky

  • 1998: Because former felons are denied their right to vote, U.S. Republican Senator Jim Bunning ekes out a narrow victory, winning by only 6,766 votes (Kentucky banned 94,584 former offenders from voting).

  • Kentucky is one of only four democratic systems in the world that ban voting by all former offenders for life.

  • 1984: Had former felons who had completed their sentences been allowed to vote, U.S. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell would likely have lost the tightly contested Senate race.

Louisiana

  • 1995-2004: Louisiana is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers received to monitor elections, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

  • 2002: Despite attempts at voter suppression, black turnout jumps to 27.1% of the electorate, effectively ensuring that Democrat Mary Landrieu beats Republican Suzanne Terrell for U.S. Senate.

  • 2003: whites who voted against Democrat Landrieu cross party lines to vote for white Democrat Kathleen Blanco over South Asian Bobby Jindal.

  • 2003: The African-American population in Ville Platte jumped from about 25 percent of the town's population in 1980 to 56.6 percent in 2000. In 2003, city officials suggest a redistricting plan that reduces the African-American population in one of its six council districts from 55.1 to 38.1 percent, shifting many African Americans within this district to another district that was already 78.8 percent African American, thereby reducing the number of predominantly African-American council districts from four to three.

  • 1888-1910: The 1888 voter registration rolls contained the names of 127,923 African Americans and 126,884 whites, but by 1910 only 730 African Americans remained registered.

Maryland

  • 1995-2004: Maryland is ranks among top 15 states in largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and officials of color in all elected positions, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

Massachusetts

  • 2005: Latinos hold two of the seven school-committee seats and four of the nine city-council seats.

  • 1995-2004: Massachusetts is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, the largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and the largest low-English-proficient population.

  • 2001: As a result of the voting-rights lawsuit, grassroots registration efforts, and more convenient voter-registration requirements, Latinos, who comprise more than 60 percent of Lawrence residents, make up 43.7 percent of the city's registered voters.

  • 1999: Following settlement of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice for violation of the Voting Rights Act, city officials agree to provide bilingual voting information, ballots and poll workers, and to disseminate election information through local Spanish-language media and community groups.

  • 1990: Though approximately 70 percent of the students in Lawrence Public Schools are Latino, no one on the seven-member school committee is Latino.

  • 1990: Latinos increase to 25 percent of Lawrence's voting-age-citizen population, but they comprise only 11 percent of registered voters.

Michigan

  • 1995-2004: Michigan is among the top 15 states in most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, and least competition for voters of color.

  • 2001: Republicans control all three branches of Michigan's government and draft legislative maps that expand their party's power in both chambers.

Mississippi

  • 1996-2006: Within the last ten years, politicians in Mississippi have used Confederate-flag debates to polarize voters along racial lines.

  • 1995-2004: Mississippi is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers received to monitor elections, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

  • 2003: African Americans cast 94 percent of their votes for incumbent Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove, but their turnout is not large enough to offset the 77 percent of white voters who favor former National Republican Party Chair Haley Barbour, who Musgrove by fewer than 61,000 votes.

  • 2001: In the town of Kilmichael, where the number of African-Americans has grown to over 52 percent of the town's population, there were several African-American candidates qualified for the mayoral and board races and a very strong possibility that African-American candidates would win most of the municipal offices. However, three weeks before the general election, the incumbent, all-white board of alderman voted unanimously to cancel the election.

  • 1965: Following passage of the Voting Rights Act, African American registration increased from less than 6.7 percent in 1965 to 60 percent in 1968.

Minnesota

  • 1998: Minnesota's same-day registration allowed 250,000 new voters to mobilize around and elect as governor political newcomer Jesse Ventura, who won by under 57,000 votes.

Montana

  • 1995-2004: Montana is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita.

Nebraska

  • 2006: As a result of grass roots efforts promoting campaign finance reform, almost all of Nebraska's state legislative candidates voluntarily agree to limit their spending to $75,000 in order to receive public funds.

New Jersey

  • 1995-2004: New Jersey is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and largest low-English-proficient population.

New Mexico

  • 1995-2004: New Mexico is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, largest minority group, and largest low-English-proficient populations.

New York

  • 1990-2003: In the early 1990s, up to 70 percent of residents in New York's Chinatown spoke little English and only about 30 percent of eligible Chinatown voters were registered. In 1996, after the city added Chinese voting materials and oral assistance, an estimated 30 percent of the Chinese-American voters in the city relied on the Chinese ballots, the cost of which accounted for under 4 percent of the city's total $16 million election budget.

  • In New York City, which has no photo-ID requirement, a study showed that poll workers illegally asked one in six Asian Americans for identification at the polls.

  • 1995-2004: New York is among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and officials of color in all elected positions, least party competition for voters of color, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, largest low-English-proficient populations.

North Dakota

  • 1995-2004: North Dakota ranks among the top 15 states in voting objections and claims per capita.

  • 1995-2004: North Carolina is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

Ohio

  • 2004: Voters at the polls wait in for as long as 5 hours due to large voter turnout and too few voting machines.

  • 2004: In Franklin County, 102,000 new voters were added to the registration rolls, but because too few voting machines are provided, there are 170 voters per machine and up to a five-hour wait to cast a ballot.

  • 2004: Four years after Florida's hanging-chad fiasco, only 13.1 percent of American voters use punch-card machines, but more than 70 percent of Ohio voters use such machines.

  • 2004: Ohio punch-card machines produce more than 76,000 spoiled ballots in the November presidential election (a smaller number than President Bush's 118,600-vote margin of victory over Senator Kerry).

  • 2004: A federal court in Ohio found that during the 2004 presidential election, Republicans deployed their poll monitors so that only 14 percent of new voters in predominantly white precincts would face a Republican challenger, while fully 97 percent of new voters in African-American precincts would face one.

  • 2002 and 2004: A statewide survey found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004, out of 9,078,728 votes cast - a rate of 0.00004%.

Oklahoma

  • 1995-2004: Oklahoma is among the top 15 states with the largest racial disparities in voter turnout.

Pennsylvania

  • 1995-2004: Pennsylvania is among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita, and least party competition for voters of color.

Rhode Island

  • 1995-2004: Rhode Island is among the top 15 states with the largest low-English-proficient populations.

  • 1996: Central Falls, Rhode Island reports that it spent $100 in printing costs for Spanish materials used at nine polling places (just over $11 per poll).

South Dakota

  • 2003: Though many American Indians in South Dakota do not drive cars and lack driver's licenses, and though several tribes do not issue photo-identification cards, the Republican-controlled South Dakota legislature instigates a photo-identification provision, requiring voters to now show poll workers a South Dakota driver's license, a state-issued photo ID, a tribal photo ID, or a state university ID.

  • 1995-2005: South Dakota ranks among the top 15 states in the most voting objections and claims per capita.

  • 2004: Data from the first election covered by the photo ID law indicate that a disproportionately large number of American Indian voters did not bring photo IDs to the polls.

  • 2004: In lieu of photo ID, affidavits were signed by under 2 percent of voters statewide, but in each of the predominantly American Indian counties, 5.3 percent to 16 percent of voters signed affidavits.

South Carolina

  • 1996-2006: Within the last ten years, politicians in South Carolina have used Confederate-flag debates to polarize voters along racial lines.

  • 2005: Based on government pay scales, the state annually pays out less than $18,300 in salaries devoted to compliance with Section 5, averaging under $458 per submission in a year with forty submissions. By contrast, incumbent politicians on the Charleston County Council spent more than $1.5 million of taxpayer funds fighting a single voting rights lawsuit against the Justice Department.

  • 1995-2004: South Carolina is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, most federal observers received to monitor elections, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, least party competition for voters of color, and largest minority group.

  • 2003: In the early 1990s a number of African Americans living southeast of the town of North's boundary petition to become a part of North, but officials reject the petition with no explanation. If officials had accepted the petition, African Americans would have become the majority of the town's population. Curiously, in September 2003, the town of North approves a petition to annex a small group of white voters into their town.

Tennessee

  • 1995-2004: Tennessee is among the top 15 states with the least party competition for voters of color.

Texas

  • 2004: By redrawing districts that snake hundreds of miles across various counties, Republicans inflate their power so that following the 2004 election they control 66 percent of the Texas congressional seats.

  • 1995-2004: Texas is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, largest disparities between citizens of color and statewide elected officials of color, largest disparities between citizens of color and all elected officials of color, largest racial disparities in voter turnout, and largest low-English-proficient population.

  • 2003: Enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act prevents Waller County district attorney, Republican Oliver KItzman, from denying students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college, the right to register or to vote.

  • 2002: 53 percent of Texas voters cast their ballots for Republican congressional candidates, but Republicans control only 47 percent of the Texas congressional seats.

  • 2001: Incumbent Democrat Lee Brown, Houston's first African-American mayor, increases African-American turnout by 30 percent to narrowly defeat Republican Orlando Sanchez by one percentage point.

  • 1974: Vilma Martinez, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, testifies before Congress that election officials in Uvalde County, Texas, refused to name Latinos as deputy registrars, removed registered Latino voters from voting polls, and refused to aid Spanish speakers who spoke little English.

Utah

  • 1995-2004: Utah ranks among the top 15 states in most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita.

Virginia

  • 1995-2004: Virginia is among the top 15 states in voting rights objections and claims per capita, largest disparities in voter turnout, and largest minority group.

  • Virginia is one of only four democratic systems in the world that ban voting by all former offenders for life. P.

Washington

  • 2004: Though seventy percent of the state turns out to vote in the election for governor, only 57 percent of the Asian Americans, who largely support the democratic candidate Christine Gregoire, go to the polls. As a result, Gregoire wins by a mere 128 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast.

  • 1995-2004: Washington is among the top 15 states for most federal observers sent to monitor elections per capita.

  • 2004: An extensive investigation following the 2004 election uncovered less than one case of double voting or voting in the name of another for every 100,000 ballots cast.

Wisconsin

  • 2004: In Milwaukee, half the city's residents are white and more than a third are African-American. In a non-partisan mayoral race featuring two democratic candidates, white candidate Tom Barrett beats African-American candidate Marvin Pratt. Polls show that 92 percent of African-Americans voted for Pratt, while 83 percent of white voters cast ballots for Barrett.