In 2011, The Brennan Center for Justice released a report that depending on your political perspective either angered you because it exposed how the Republican push for stringent new voter I.D. laws would lead to suppression of the Black vote or scared the hell out of you if you were planning to vote Democratic in 2012. I downloaded and read the report and I was left with this conclusion:
Even if you want to vote in November, you may not be able to. And it might make all the difference in determining who the next president is.
State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws that could make it significantly harder for as many as 5 million eligible Americans to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting.
These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, elderly, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election and beyond.
Republicans have railed against the Brennan Center’s report on voter disenfranchisement. They have sneered that the report was underwritten by George Soros, their favorite wealthy boogeyman on the Left. What they can’t do is debunk the findings that widespread, systematic voter fraud is a myth, right between Bigfoot and Narnia.
Disenfranchising Black voters is a plan of the Republican Party to little-by-little and bit-by-bit, stand the concept of voting as a right on its head and turn it into a burden of proof for minorities in a way not seen since the bad old days of poll taxes and literacy tests.
Proponents of reforming the voting process seem blind to the fact that all of these seemingly neutral reforms hit poor and minority voters out of all proportion. (The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that while about 12 percent of Americans don’t have a government-issued photo ID, the figure for African-Americans is closer to 25 percent, and in some Southern states perhaps higher.) The reason minorities are so much harder hit by these seemingly benign laws has its roots in the tragic legacy of race in this country. They still work because that old black man, born into Jim Crow in 1940, may have had no birth certificate because he was not born in a hospital because of poverty or discrimination. Names may have been misspelled on African-American birth certificates because illiterate midwives sometimes gave erroneous names.
It’s true that the most egregious methods of minority vote suppression from the 19th century—the poll tax, the literacy test, the white primary—have disappeared. And we know (and can take some solace in the knowledge) that the worst of these indignities have not been recycled in the 21st century, in part because of the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But a look at the history of voting rights in this country shows that the current state efforts to suppress minority voting—from erecting barriers to registration and early voting to voter ID laws—look an awful lot like methods pioneered by the white supremacists from another era that achieved the similar results.
The battle between the GOP and the Obama campaign is being waged in key places such as my home state:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against Ohio’s top elections official in a dispute over the battleground state’s law that restricts early, in-person voting during the three days before Election Day.
The lawsuit filed in Columbus comes after a series of election law changes cleared the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature and were signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Obama’s campaign and Democrats argue that the law unfairly ends early, in-person voting for most Ohioans on the Friday evening before the Tuesday election, while allowing military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday.
The state doesn’t track its early voters by party, so the stats don’t show exactly how much Obama might have benefited from early voting in Ohio. But both parties are sure he did.
An extended voting period is perceived as benefiting Democrats because it increases voting opportunities for those harder to reach for an Election Day turnout — Hispanics, blacks, new citizens and poor people.
Is it a coincidence that most of these new voter i.d. laws are in states with concentrations of Black and Latino voters and those states went for Obama in 2008? Like hell it is!
“It’s tragic that in the 21st century, 2012, we have voter suppression going on,” Sen. Nina Turner (D-OH) said. “Jim Crow has been resurrected, making repeat performances in the south and has packed his bags and moved north, in Ohio, in particular.”
Before state legislatures start enacting laws to cut the chances of someone trying to commit voter fraud, shouldn’t they prove how wide-spread the problem actually is?
The Republicans are building bridges where there’s no rivers. They are committing a fraud against Black, Latino, the elderly and the young because they aren’t voting “the right way.” It’s a throwback to Jim Crow disenfranchisement and it’s voter suppression and it’s led by and masterminded by Republicans trying to deny American citizens their right to vote.
Voter fraud IS a fraud. It is a mirage.
Voter fraud—the foundational premise for controversial new voter-ID laws—is far more rare in the U.S. than ID proponents would have us believe. The Department of Justice doesn’t even compile figures of how many people have been convicted of fraud in the last decade, and says prosecutions have focused on tampering by election officials and local politicians, not on voters themselves. A New York Times investigation found that between 2002 and 2005 only 96 people were indicted for federal election-related crimes, and 70 of them were convicted. Of those, 41 were campaign employees and government officials, and just five were voters who cast multiple ballots.
The Republican Party has declared war on the Black vote and they aren’t being subtle in their attempt to suppress and disenfranchise Blacks. I find this contemptible. Requiring people to go out and buy I.D. to vote is nothing but a modern-day poll tax. Nobody has claimed there is no voter fraud. Only that there is no measurable impact of it swinging an election and the burden of proof is on those who support restrictive voter I.D. laws to show that it has. They haven’t. They can’t.
It’s important to establish in the debate of voter suppression vs. voter fraud there is not an equal preponderance of evidence. The research and the facts are firmly on the side of systematic voter suppression. There is far more ammunition for that side of the argument.
We are less than 90 days away from the election and there will be thousands of eligible voters in 2008 who will find they are ineligible in 2012 due to the unnecessarily partisan actions of Republicans officials.
They say they want a clean election. They never said anything about it being a fair election.
Republicans don’t want to win on the merits of their candidates. They want to rig the game to give them an unfair advantage. They have the power to do so and they’re doing it. If they have to screw over millions of Americans in the process, they’d better bend over and crack a smile, because they are going to get screwed and they’re get it good and hard.
- Stewart Rips Voter ID Laws As ‘The Price You Pay For Something That Doesn’t Happen’ (mediaite.com)
- Republican Voter Suppression Efforts Designed to Shave Off Votes at the Margins (news.firedoglake.com)
- Rev. Sharpton Exhorts Cleveland Crowd to Fight Ohio Voter ID Laws (atlantablackstar.com)