Republicans Mess with Votes and Voting Rights: An Update on Stealing Our VotesPosted: September 22, 2012
My political activism has been shaped by two very disturbing events as well as the women’s rights movement. I watched Watergate unfold on TV as a kid. I watch the Supreme Court Select a President in 2000. It’s one thing for a political party to rig votes within the confines of its apparatus. It’s a completely different thing when your elected government tries to rig the way you can vote or puts up deliberate obstacles to voting. I’ve been watching Rachel Maddow hammer home all the attempts around the country by Republican Secretaries of State to disenfranchise voters. I’ve written about this before. I want to give you some updated information on how the Republican Party actively works to take away your right to vote.
First, the voter ID laws have been shown to not get at the kind of election fraud that we usually experience. THIS is the kind of fraud that’s an issue: Republican Staffers Charged With 36 Counts of Election Fraud.
Four former staffers for resigned House Rep. Thaddeus McCotter have been charged with 36 counts of misdemeanor and felony election fraud. Yesterday one of those staffers, Lorianne O’Brady, pled not guilty to five misdemeanor counts of submitting fraudulent signatures on a ballot petition. O’Brady is the last of the four staffers to be arraigned; the other three, Don Yowchuang, Mary Melissa Turnbull, and Paul Seewald, were arraigned on similar charges on August 10th.
This incident perfectly highlights the dirty little secret about election fraud. Election fraud overwhelmingly happens on the campaign side, not the voter side. It’s far easier – and more rewarding – to cheat while working from within the system than it is to commit in-person voter fraud. The GOP is legislating against cases of voter fraud in which a person would have to give someone else’s name at the correct polling place in order to falsely vote once; meanwhile a Republican Congressman and his staff fabricated 1,756 signatures so that he could run illegally.
Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead.
“My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning.
Her name was one of nearly 30,000 across the state that volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project identified two weeks ago as potentially being dead but still registered to vote. The Voter Integrity Project is a North Carolina offshoot of True the Vote, a national movement that purports to combat election fraud by challenging the voter registration of those they believe should not be on voter lists.
“We’re not really interested in partisan politics,” said Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force officer and director of Voter Integrity Project. “As an organization, we try to eliminate those kinds of biases in our research.”
However, the subject of voter fraud is inextricably linked to the current political conversation. Republicans in many states, including North Carolina, have led efforts to pass laws that would require people to present picture identification when they go to the polls. That effort failed in North Carolina, but DeLancy recently appeared on a Fox News Channel show calling such laws “common sense”. Democrats have generally pushed back against such laws, saying they would disproportionately affect elderly and minority voters.
The Republicans’ plan is that if they can’t buy the 2012 election they will steal it.
The plan, long in the making and now well into its execution, is to raise great gobs of money—in newly limitless amounts—so that they and their allies could outspend the president’s forces; and they would also place obstacles in the way of large swaths of citizens who traditionally support the Democrats and want to exercise their right to vote. The plan would disproportionately affect blacks, who were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment; but then that right was negated by southern state legislatures; and after people marched, were beaten, and died in the civil rights movement, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now various state legislatures are coming up with new ways to try once again to nullify that right.
In a close election, the Republican plan could call into question the legitimacy of the next president. An election conducted on this basis could lead to turbulence on election day and possibly an extended period of lawsuits contesting the outcome in various states. Bush v. Gore would seem to have been a pleasant summer afternoon. The fact that their party’s nominee is currently stumbling about, his candidacy widely deemed to be in crisis mode, hasn’t lessened their determination to prevent as many Democratic supporters as they can from voting in November.
This national effort to tilt the 2012 election is being carried out on the pretext that the country’s voting system is under threat from widespread “voter fraud.” the fact that no significant fraud has been found doesn’t deter the people pursuing this plan. Myths are convenient in politics. Want to fix an election? No problem. Just make up a story that the other side is trying to rig the election—and meanwhile try to rig the election. (Jon Stewart recently concluded a searing segment about the imagined voter fraud by saying: “Next, leashes for leprechauns.”)
There’s states that have been challenged in court, yelled out by voters and organizations like the League of Women Voter’s, and by Good Government Groups. They’re on a mission. They’re targeting groups that traditionally vote Democrat. For example, if you live in the South, chances are that you know that the Sunday before Election Day is the day that most black churches use their church buses to take their elderly and their poor, transportationless parishioners to the polls to vote. Guess how many states are now closing down access to voting on the Sunday before the election? Nothing is stopping this steam roller.
Iowa, Florida, and Colorado tried to purge the voting rolls of suspected unqualified voters, but their lists turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Florida officials compiled a list of 180,000 people whose qualifications were questioned, but after voting registrars checked (some protesting the unfairness of the purge) only 207, or .0002 percent of the state’s registered voters, were found to be unqualified to vote. Nearly sixty percent of the 180,000 names had Hispanic surnames, another 14 percent were blacks. Officials said that whites or republicans were unlikely to be on the list.
While a combination of outraged citizens and legal challenges led all three states to ostensibly give up on the idea of purging voters, Florida and Iowa officials have said that they intend to pursue those who haven’t been proven innocent. As a result, hundreds of thousands of citizens don’t know if they’ll be allowed to vote—which, like a number of the restrictions, could be a disincentive to even subjecting oneself to what could be a hassle or humiliation at the polling place. Florida also enacted a voter ID law, which was struck down by a federal court. Ever on the lookout for ways to keep Democratic supporters from the polling places, the state cut short the number of days for early voting, and established rules that in effect barred outside groups such as the League of Women Voters from conducting registration drives. Though this restriction was later overturned by a federal court, voter registration groups said that important time had been lost while they contested the new restrictions on their activities.
You can learn more about this from Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel. Melissa explains why women, minorities, the elderly and college students are at highest risk of losing their vote. Here’s how Voter ID laws suppress voting by college students.
In Tennessee, a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls explicitly excludes student IDs.
In Wisconsin, college students are newly disallowed from using university-provided housing lists or corroboration from other students to verify their residence.
Florida’s reduction in early voting days is expected to reduce the number of young and first-time voters there.
And Pennsylvania’s voter identification bill, still on the books for now, disallows many student IDs and non-Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, which means out-of-state students may be turned away at the polls.
In 2008, youth voter turnout was higher that it had been since Vietnam, and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. This time around, the GOP isn’t counting solely on disillusionment to keep the student vote down.
In the last two years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed dozens of bills that erect new barriers to voting, all targeting Democratic-leaning groups, many specifically aimed at students. The GOP’s stated rationale is to fight voter fraud. But voter fraud — and especially in-person fraud which many of these measures address — is essentially nonexistent.
Here’s a guide on Voter Suppression efforts put out by the National Women’s Law Center. Women often require at least twice the documentation that men do to get Voter IDs because of name changes due to marriage, divorce and remarriage.
Because women’s names often change in marriage, many women lack state-issued photo ID in their current legal names. Although 1 in 10 Americans do not have a valid state-issued photo ID,
ten states have recently passed “no-photo, no-vote” laws that will disproportionately impact women because of these name changes.4 As a result of these new laws, women who do not have a valid state-issued photo ID in their current name may need to first get an official copy of their marriage license before they can get a photo ID—a cumbersome process that may be prohibitively expensive for women hard hit in this economy
Also, women make up a majority of the black voting base, of college students, and the elderly. Any effort to suppress any of these groups disproportionately impacts women. All of these groups–and Hispanic voters–are more likely to be the targets of voter suppression laws and are more likely to vote for liberal causes and democratic candidates.
I want to give a shout out to all Sky Dancers and their friends to please check around your family and neighborhood to see if any folks you know could possibly need a voter ID, a ride to the Polls, or some help to meet the requirements of laws if you live in one of the states that has passed one of these laws. I’ve already gotten on the case of my youngest daughter who could potentially get trapped into this mess. Be prepared to stand up for any one at the polls who is being harassed. Help them get provisional ballots, if necessary. Be especially careful if you have a Hispanic surname. Florida and some other states appear to be targeting Hispanic surnames. Make sure no one has this essential right and privilege of citizenship taken from them!!! Also, check with the League of Women Voters. They’re working actively on this issue in many states.