Relentlessly, professionally, candidly, she has revealed to the world the utter lack of sense behind the new law -- the lack of foresight on the part of the legislators, the Tea Partyers, and the conservative radicals, who scrambled to enact the odious measure in the face of reasonable, bipartisan, biracial alternatives. Under cross-examination by Garrard Beeney, Andino has delivered a river of evidence proving that the state's minorities -- and its poor, and its ill -- will effectively be disenfranchised by the new law.
Here, for example, is the transcript from Wednesday morning's session of the federal court trial now underway before three (largely baffled) judges. Take a few moments to read for yourself how unprepared South Carolina is to ensure, come November, that registered voters -- men and women who have voted without incident before -- will have their votes counted this election season. Below is my favorite passage from the morning session -- but first here is a little bit of background for it.
On Wednesday morning, Beeney questioned Andino about the status of registered voters who come to vote on Election Day without the new form of photo identification required by the new law. Those registered voters may be permitted -- the emphasis is on the word "may" because local officials seem to have a great deal of discretion to make that call -- to cast a provisional ballot if they state they had a "reasonable impediment" to getting the new identification cards.
Those provisional ballots, in turn, may then be challenged (by anyone) on the basis that the provisional voter didn't have a "reasonable impediment" after all. The challenges are heard and resolved on the Friday following the election -- one day in advance of the "certification" of the election results that occurs on Saturday. Andino testified that South Carolina notifies provisional voters of this hearing by mail between Tuesday's election and Friday (which doesn't leave much time for the postman, does it?).
A provisional voter isn't told that his or her vote has been challenged. The provisional voter is simply told there will be a hearing. So if that voter wants to defend his or her "reasonable impediment" declaration, the voter has to go to the county seat on the Friday following the election to make sure that his or her vote will be counted. Of course, a lack of transportation, public or otherwise, is likely to have been one of the biggest reasons why that voter could not get his or her new identification in the first place.
Okay, that's the background. Now let's go to the transcript. The questions below are from U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, one of the three judges hearing the matter. The answers are from elections official Andino, First, there is this exchange between judge and witness:
Kollar-Kotelly: So you cast a provisional ballot and you get notice of
this hearing. You don't know whether your reasonable impediment affidavit is
challenged or not, but you're expected to check somehow to find out? How would
you know whether it's worth showing up?
There's not a way in place that they would know.
Kollar-Kotelly: Okay. So you get the provisional ballot, you're told
that there is a hearing and somebody could or could not come and challenge your -- you
know. So if you want to make sure that it gets counted, maybe you should show
up. Is that the theory?
Yeah, that's the current process with provisional ballots.
Kollar-Kotelly: Okay. Is that true of any provisional ballot?
Kollar-Kotelly: Under the current law.
Kollar Kotelly: So if you get a provisional ballot, they give you a
notice that they are going to have a hearing, and so if you want to make sure
your vote counts, you'd show up at that as well, in essence?
Kollar Kotelly: Okay.
But the voter is not required to be there.
Kollar Kotelly: But if somebody decides to knock it out, you're not
there, right, so you have no way of responding?
And then, shortly thereafter, there was this exchange between Beeney, the civil rights lawyer, and Andino, the witness.
Ms. Andino, just to follow up a little bit on some of the Court's questions. If
my reasonable impediment is I have no transportation to the county seat, I have
to get to the county seat to defend that, right?
Not unless it's challenged.
Well, if it's challenged, the only way I can defend it is to get to the county
seat, which might suggest to a county commissioner that a lack of transportation
reasonable impediment is false, since you're standing in front of me trying to
defend your ballot.
Now, again, just to follow up on a couple of the Court's questions. At the
polls there are people representing the candidates, right?
Yes, we have poll watchers.
Beeney: And so if I was a poll watcher, I get to
watch what goes on at the table, the check-in table where all this is
Beeney: And if I wanted to, for whatever reason I may
have, I could write down the name of every African American who voted by
reasonable impediment and show up on Friday and challenge every one of those if
I wanted to, right?
And there's no way that our hypothetical
African American voter who's getting challenged would have any idea in the
world that that's what's happening, is that correct?
Kollar-Kotelly: So the poll watchers have access to the names?
The poll watchers are there to watch the process, and they can come over and
look at the voter registration list and the poll list.
Got all that? Registered voters who cannot travel to get their new identification cards in the first place, and who, when voting, declare they could not do so, then have to try to travel to the county seat to defend their vote after receiving notice in the mail between Tuesday and Thursday that their votes may or may not be challenged. Judge Kollar-Kotelly's point about these restrictions being in place today is instructive -- there will be far more "provisional ballots" under the new law than there are now.