Killing Democracy Harshly

It isn’t just coincidence that Republicans in swing states are scrambling to disenfranchise voters.  This is the first punch in a one-two punch that could dismantle our democratic process.  The second punch will come in October when billionaires and their SuperPacs drop ads that the Romney campaign will not be able to afford.  The longest lasting legacy of republican desperation to keep the electorate white male will definitely be their voter suppression efforts.  You need to be aware of the tactics and how this could impact your right to vote.

The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law says that since the start of 2011, 16 states — which account for 214 electoral votes—have passedrestrictive voting laws. Each law is different: some curb voter registration drives; others require new and costly forms of identification; and still others insist that voters produce government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The Brennan Center also points out that:

“[T]he scope of the suppression movement and its potential impact are staggering … as many as 11 percent of eligible voters — roughly 21 million Americans—lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs. The percentages are even higher among seniors, African Americans and other minorities, the working poor, the disabled and students — constituencies that traditionally skew Democratic and whose disenfranchisement could prove decisive in any close election.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups have been trying to gain injunctions against laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures, but with mixed success.

The Republicans argue they are preventing voter fraud. But is there a significant amount of voter fraud? Or is this a partisan effort to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist? The Bush administration spent five years (2002 to 2007) searching for voter fraud and found only 86 cases. The Brennan Center for Justice, as well as the ACLU, have also found infinitesimal instances of voter fraud.

The sudden need for unexpired passports, the demand for government-issued photo identification, is simply a flagrant way of suppressing the votes of those who are more likely to vote Obama. The new identification requirements make it difficult, if not impossible, for some citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. In some states poll hours have been expanded for likely Republican voters and decreased for probable Democratic voters. Many elderly people no longer have their birth certificates. Many minorities and young people don’t own cars and therefore don’t have driving licenses. Young people often don’t have access to any of these records when they live far away from their parents. But those who vote by absentee ballot — suburban voters who tend to be independents or Republicans — are not required to have photo IDs. Ironically, this from a country that has consistently — in the name of liberty and freedom — refused to force its citizens to carry identifications cards.

What few critics seem to realize is that women — who constitute at least half of all these targeted groups and who vote more often than men — will be even more disenfranchised. Ever since 1980, African American women have been decisive in creating a gender gap that has helped elect Democratic presidents. And in 2012, these women — in addition to single and elderly women — may be prevented from protecting Obama’s signature health care program, women’s reproductive rights, the right to abortion, funds for Planned Parenthood, and Social Security and Medicare — the very safety net that the Romney/Ryan Republican ticket has campaigned to eliminate or change in fundamental ways.

Maddow covered the attempts in Iowa to declare a ‘state’ emergency so that voter rolls there could be purged.  She also pointed to a lawyer that appears to be travelling around the country helping with the effort.

Maddow interviewed the lawyer who has written what sounds like a fascinating book on Voting Wars.

Rick Hasen, professor of Law and Political Science at UC Irvine, and author of “The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown,” talks with Rachel Maddow about Republican tactics to make voting more difficult, particularly in the few states who will most likely determine the outcome of the presidential election.

Five of the nine states targeted by Romney have Republican Secretaries of State who are purging voting rolls, cutting hours of voting, and stopping most forms of flexible voting.

Here’s some information from Iowa on the sudden urge to purge.

The revelation this week of Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s move to drop ineligible names from the state’s voter rolls and change the process for voter-fraud investigations ushers Iowa into a national debate over ballot security and voter suppression.

The rules enacted by Schultz, a Republican, lay out a process for his office to compare the names of Iowa’s 2.1 million registered voters to state and federal lists of foreign nationals who live in Iowa, with the goal of singling out those ineligible to vote. They also add procedures for filing voter fraud complaints that critics say remove a requirement in Iowa law that the person complaining must file a sworn statement.

In a statement, Schultz said the new rules would strengthen ballot integrity in Iowa and improve due process for voters suspected of being ineligible.

Still, his actions move Iowa into the latest battle of what election law expert Richard L. Hasen calls the “Voting Wars.” Republicans and Democrats have been fighting for the last several years over changes to election law requiring more scrutiny on registration and more stringent proof of identity at the ballot box.

“This fits into a broader struggle that has accelerated since the contested 2000 election, where the rules for our elections are … up for grabs and being implemented along party lines,” said Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.

Republicans — who are generally driving the changes — say they’re all about ensuring integrity and battling fraud. Democrats, meanwhile, contend the efforts are intended to curtail access and suppress turnout among groups more likely to vote for Democrats.

The debate has long played out in state legislative debates over photo-identification requirements for voting. Thirty states in recent years have added ID requirements in one form or another, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. (Iowa isn’t among them, although the Republican-controlled House approved a voter-ID bill in 2011, and Schultz proposed another earlier this year.

Any one that lives in any of these states should be come very aware of how this could impact your right to vote.  This should especially concern you if you have elderly relatives.

Here’s one new story from Colorado which is another key state.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) has decided not to pursue a voter purge he initiated by sending letters asking almost 4,000 voters to prove their citizenship. After 482 people responded with proof and almost 90 percent of the suspected non-citizens were verified through a federal database, Gessler planned to challenge 141 names still in question, but does not have enough time to handle the hearings before Election Day. Instead, he is handing over the names to county clerks who may challenge them at the polls or when they receive absentee ballots. So far, one person has voluntarily come forward as a non-citizen in Larimer County.

Be prepared to be challenged if you live in a highly republican area of a swing state.


13 Comments on “Killing Democracy Harshly”

  1. pdgrey says:

    I wish i had put my last comment and my links in this thread about the Fl.ballot. Great round up, dak. I have to go to work and don’t have time to move the links up here.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The PA voter ID law goes to the state supreme court on Thursday.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    I think I just heard Rachel say that Jim Cramer is coming on her show next.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Nope. She’s reporting that after Cramer’s tweet the state suddenly decided to let his father vote even though he doesn’t have proof of his citizenship.

      • RalphB says:

        Maddow is becoming indispensable. With Michael Lewis and the guy who wrote the intelligence piece today on there, it was one great show!

      • HT says:

        Squeaky wheel and all that. I hope more people will follow Mr Cramer’s example and raise the roof.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t think it’s fair that they make exceptions for celebrities who get publicity. Voting is a right–not something people should get or lose at the whim of someone at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.

        Plenty of people have made noise. But they won’t get official favors. Rachel also reported on one man who spent hours going to the DMV, had to miss work and spent more than $60.00 to get the ID so he could exercise his right to vote. An elderly person would not be able to handle traveling a long distance and standing in line that long, and maybe having to come back again with more documentation, as that younger man did.

  4. Eric Pleim says:

    What few critics seem to realize is that women — who constitute at least half of all these targeted groups and who vote more often than men — will be even more disenfranchised.

    Maybe I missed it, but I can’t find the evidence that women will be more affected than men by these voter suppression efforts. Can anybody help?

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Late to the party. If getting a photo ID is anything like replacing a stolen DL in FL, then it’s MUCH harder for women. Why? Because, as property, women change their name to their owner/husband’s name. Women also need to bring their marriage license and if divorced, the divorce decree, and their next marriage license & so on & so on.

      Florida also requires recent bills – like power, water, cable – to prove you live at your address. What if utilities are included in rent? What if the landlord doesn’t send you a monthly bill? The poor generally pay their bills in cash or with money order. Just how many “proofs” of residence, in the form of a bill, will they have.

      All of this is why having an out of touch person in a position of power simply screws over the poor & working poor & elderly. But, cynic that I am, that’s the point isn’t it?