WASHINGTON -- Voters in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin don't need to show photo ID when going to the polls for the November elections, despite Republicans' best efforts to institute laws requiring it. In all those states, courts have blocked voter ID laws from going into effect this year. Yet in state after state, citizens are being told that they can't cast a ballot without showing photo ID, creating confusion that could deter some people from voting.
Dallas Morning News columnist Wayne Slater attempted to vote over the weekend using his utility bill, which is considered an acceptable form of ID. The poll worker, however, demanded that he show her his driver's license.
"We prefer a voter-registration card or a driver’s license," said Peggy, the poll worker. "There’s a list of identifications starting with registration card, driver’s license, picture ID -- we prefer to go in that order.”
Although Peggy's supervisor eventually signed off on the utility bill, Peggy then told Slater that he was not a registered voter. This time, the supervisor had to inform Peggy that she had misspelled Slater's name.
The Texas legislature passed a strict photo ID law last year, but it was struck down by a federal court in August and is therefore not in effect for the November election. The three-judge panel ruled it would hurt turnout among minority voters and impose "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" by charging fees for those who lack documentation to obtain a photo ID. Texas plans to appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Currently, Texas voters do need to present some form of ID, but it does not need to have a photo on it. Current utility bills, government checks and paychecks with the person's name and address are all acceptable.
Pennsylvania is another state where voters are being told they need photo ID, even though they actually don't. Nearly a month after a court struck down the state's voter ID law, there are still radio and television ads, billboards and websites giving residents misleading information about what they need to bring to the polls.
And in Wisconsin, ThinkProgress reports that training documents distributed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign to poll watchers include inaccurate information about who is eligible to vote.
Confusion at the polls has the potential to be a serious problem on Election Day -- and as people head out to vote early. In nearly every case, courts have halted attempts by Republican governors, legislators and secretaries of state to change long-established voting procedures -- whether by requiring photo ID at the polls or shortening registration timelines -- ahead of the 2012 elections.
Yet all the attempts to change the rules have created confusion among both poll workers and voters, and many Democrats -- whose base tends to be disproportionately affected by these moves -- worry that it may discourage their voters from turning out.
As Slater wrote on Monday of his voting experience, "I voted, but you have to wonder: What if an elderly person or a citizen with English as a second language had done the same thing? Would they have been turned away? Would they have been intimidated and left?"
Related on HuffPost:
At the CNBC debate on November 9, Perry <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/rick-perry-oops-video_n_1085336.html" target="_hplink">famously forgot</a> one of the government agencies he would eliminate if elected: <blockquote>"It's three government agencies when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the um, what's the third one there. Let's see," Perry said. He turned to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, looking for some help, but got nothing but a remark from Paul that he would eliminate five agencies. "Oh five," Perry said. "So Commerce, Education, and, uh, the uh, um, um." "EPA?" offered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "EPA, there ya go," Perry said as the room exploded in laughter. CNBC moderator John Harwood honed in and pressed Perry: "Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking about?" "No sir. No sir. We were talking about the, um, agencies of government," Perry said. "The EPA needs to be rebuilt." "But you can't name the third one?" Harwood persisted. "The third agency of government," Perry said. "I would do away with the education, the um, Commerce, and let's see. I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops."</blockquote>
Voting Age Flub
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/rick-perry-gets-voting-ag_n_1119126.html" target="_hplink">During a campaign stop</a> at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Perry got both the voting age and the date of the 2012 presidential election wrong. "Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote," he said to the students. The legal voting age has been 18 since the 26th Amendment was adopted in 1971. The general election is scheduled for November 6, 2012.
New Hampshire... Caucus?
During a November <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/30/rick-perry-new-hampshire-caucus_n_1120304.html" target="_hplink">interview </a>with Fox News, Perry mistakenly referred to the New Hampshire "caucuses." When asked about the emergence of front runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Perry responded, "Americans haven't decided yet at all who they want to lead the Republican nomination, and we're going to be talking about that and we're going to be talking about it in harsh and strong terms over the course of the next four to five weeks as we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses." New Hampshire holds primaries, not caucuses.
Minimum Age To Run For President
While speaking to Catcher Jones, a seven-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina in December, Perry flubbed the minimum age to run for president. "I'm glad you're not 21," Perry told Jones, who was wearing a t-shirt that said "Future President: Accepting Campaign Donations Now." Perry realized his mistake and added, "Or actually 35."
War With Iran
After a woman in South Carolina asked Perry what he thought about current United States military operations, Perry mistakenly started talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iran. When an audience member alerted Perry to his error, he joked that his comment "will be on the front page."
Following a debate in New Hampshire, Perry met with fraternity brothers at Dartmouth College. When someone asked him about the issue of states' rights, Perry said that one of the "reasons we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown." The Revolutionary War occurred in the 18th century.
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OMK7La2721Y" target="_hplink">In an interview</a> with CNN last year, Perry got stuck in a time warp. "Washington has abused the Constitution. You go back to the, a decade ago, with Woodrow Wilson..." Wilson was president from 1913 to 1921.
Bizarre Campaign Speech
In October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/29/video-rick-perrys-unusual-speech-performance_n_1065571.html" target="_hplink">an unusual performance</a> at a speech in Manchester led many to question the candidate's sobriety. Perry later made a statement to dispel rumors that he was drinking or using painkillers during the speech.
Bush Was Good At "Defending Us From Freedom"
During an interview with the <em>Today Show</em> last November, Perry told host Meredith Viera that "Bush did an incredible job, in the presidency, defending us from freedom."
While speaking with the editorial board of the <em>Des Moines Register</em>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/rick-perry-gaffe-sonia-sotomayor_n_1139541.html?1323463939" target="_hplink">Perry struggled</a> to remember Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's name: <blockquote>"Do you really think he [President Barack Obama] is waging a war on religion?" asked an editorial board member, referring to Perry's recent ad pledging to "end Obama's war on religion" and "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage" as president. "I do because when you see his appointment of two -- from my perspective, inarguably -- activist judges, whether it was," he said, then trailing off for about six seconds trying to recall her name. "Montomayor," he said. Someone on the editorial board said Sotomayor's name. "Sotomayor and [Elena] Kagan, who are both activist judges," he continued.</blockquote>