How Libraries Count in the 2012 Election

Article excerpt

As icons of civic engagement in America, libraries are perfectly positioned to host voter registration drives and, as local statutes permit, be venues for early voting and Election Day polls. In this particularly spirited election year, libraries may be playing their largest role yet in such efforts. Consequently, they have also been drawn into the national debate over how best to protect voter rights and election integrity.

The stage was set this past summer at the ALA Annual Conference, when the Association's governing Council passed a resolution that "opposes voter ID laws, restrictions on voter registration, cuts to early voting, and any other laws resulting in the restriction of lawful access to voting."

Libraries stepped into the breach in states where voter ID laws were recently enacted to clarify the new requirements. A voter clinic at the Northern Tier Regional Library in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, took place October 2, the day before a state court halted enforcement of the new law for the 2012 election.

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But Memphis (Tenn.) Public Library and Information Center continues to find itself embroiled in the implementation of Tennessee's year-old voter ID law. Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton Jr. declared in early July that Shelby County residents who had opted to obtain a photo ID library card could use it as valid voter ID in the county's August 2 primary. Although US District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled July 31 against Wharton's interpretation, the city of Memphis continued pursuing the matter at the state level and, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported October 12, will argue the validity of photo library cards as voter ID to the Tennessee Court of Appeals on October 14--a few days before early voting was scheduled to begin in that state. …

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