Voter Suppression efforts could determine the election

As I don’t think I’ve written about voter suppression efforts on the part of Republicans for a few months, I thought that it was time to revisit the subject.

Here’s what’s happening in a nutshell. Like it or not, America is becoming more diverse, and the white males that form the base of the Republican party, despite their virility and ability to attract mates of childbearing age, are fast becoming a minority. Conservatives, as a result, are making somewhat serious attempts to woo Hispanic voters and women. As they know, however, that this is a losing proposition, they’re also doing their best to stop people who, at least statistically speaking, they know are more likely to vote Democratic, from voting. This is called “voter suppression,” and there are innumerable legal battles being fought across the country right now, as Republicans attempt to put legislation in place that would make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote. Here, with more on the demographic shift underway in America, and the underhanded Republican response, is a clip from The Nation.

…Among baby boomers aged 55–64, the South is 72 percent white. Among kids 15 or under, the South is 51 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African-American and 6 percent other (which includes Asian-Americans and Native-Americans). In North Carolina, people of color accounted for 61 percent of the 1.5 million new residents the state gained over the past decade. Since 2008, the black and Hispanic share of eligible voters in North Carolina has grown by 2.5 percent, while the percentage of the white vote has decreased by a similar margin. This increasing diversity allowed Obama to win the Southern states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia in 2008—all of which are competitive again in 2012.

The region’s changing demographics are a “ticking time bomb for Republicans,” said Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. The Southern GOP is 88 percent white. The Southern Democratic Party is 50 percent white, 36 percent African-American, 9 percent Hispanic and 5 percent other. The GOP’s dominance among white voters — who favor Romney over Obama by 26 points in the region — has allowed Republicans to control most of the region politically. But that will only be the case for so long if demographic trends continue to accelerate. Yet instead of courting the growing minority vote, Republicans across the South are actively limiting political representation for minority voters and making it harder for them to vote.

Eight of eleven states in the former Confederacy have passed restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election, as part of a broader war on voting undertaken by the GOP. Some of these changes have been mitigated by recent federal and state court rulings against the GOP, yet it’s still breathtaking to consider the different ways Republicans have sought to suppress the minority vote in the region…

And it’s not just southern states getting in on the action. According to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, “16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia). These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.”

The laws are all different, attacking the “problem” in various ways, but many require that individuals acquire costly state-issued IDs… According to the Brennan Center, “as many as 11 percent of eligible voters — roughly 21 million Americans — lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs,” and that percentage is even higher when it comes to minorities, students, the disabled, and the poor.

The Republicans argue that this is vitally important in order to prevent voter fraud, but the evidence would seem to indicate that such efforts are unwarranted. According to a recent report distributed by Alternet, “The Bush administration spent five years (2002 to 2007) searching for voter fraud and found only 86 cases.” And that’s out of 196,000,000 votes that were cast during that period. That, as was recently pointed out in the HBO series The Newsroom, means that a whopping .00004% of the vote was fraudulent.

Fortunately, the effort here in Michigan failed, when our “one tough nerd” of a Governor, Rick Snyder, vetoed the voter suppression legislation passed by our Republican legislature. I have no way of knowing if he did it because he thought that it was the right thing to do, or because he suspected that, if passed, the legislation would be thrown out by the courts, as it clearly violated the Voting Rights Act. Regardless, though, I think Snyder deserves credit for having stood up to his party, and exercised his veto, unlike the governors of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio… The following comes from the Detroit Free Press.

…Among the bills vetoed was one requiring photo ID for first voter registration or to obtain an absentee ballot, a requirement that African-American activists claimed was an attempt to deter voting by the urban poor.

Snyder said in a statement that “he appreciates the issue of ensuring voters are eligible and U.S. citizens, however this legislation could create voter confusion among absentee voters”…

And it wasn’t just the Voter ID provision that Snyder struck down. Here’s a clip from our friends at ThinkProgress on the other elements included in the package that Snyder vetoed.

…Snyder also invalidated a requirement that voters check a box on an electoral ballot or application affirming they are citizens — which could have intimidated voters who didn’t understand the question or weren’t native English speakers — as well as new restrictions and requirements on the operations of third party groups registering voters in the state. The latter measure bears a resemblance to laws passed in Florida, which were blocked by a federal judge, who ruled that restricting registration in common areas that voters frequent imposes an unconstitutional burden on voter registration efforts…

While they claim that it’s about protecting the integrity of the vote, there’s a great deal of evidence to the contrary. A few days ago, for instance, a Pennsylvania Republican was heard telling members of their Republican State Committee, that, thanks to their Voter ID law, they were “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (According to a report by Bloomberg, the Pennsylvania law referenced above, “may disqualify 186,830 potential voters in Philadelphia, almost 25 percent the adult residents of the state’s largest city.” And that’s just in one city.) I don’t suppose it’s any wonder that, during the primaries, Romney said that he “liked” Voter ID laws, and wanted “more of them.”

So, now I guess we wait and see whether or not these laws are struck down before Election Day. It seems pretty clear to me that requiring someone to buy a new ID card in order to vote is a violation of the 24th Amendment, which states that no one’s voting rights should be denied or abridged due to a failure to pay a poll tax… but one never knows, these days.

For what it’s worth, I think that Election Day should be a federal holiday, and that state identification should be free to those who would like it, and relatively easy to acquire. But, then again, I believe in representative democracy, apparently unlike many of today’s Republicans.

Also, here’s just a little observation… When your strategy for winning requires not only that you lie to the electorate, but that you keep elderly people from voting, you might be one of the baddies.

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  1. Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    And I know this post doesn’t shed a lot of new light on the issue. I just thought that some might find the links/background useful. And I’ve been meaning to publicly thank Snyder for some time now, and I keep putting it off.

  2. SparkleMotion
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    This isn’t a new effort, and it goes all the way back to the poll taxes of yesteryear (which were actually declared constitutional in the 30s before being invalidated in…. 1966!). The current effort reminds me of the fighting over the Motor Voter Act, which didn’t become mandatory until…. 1995!

  3. Alexis
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Shelley Salant has been bringing a clipboard and registering voters at every gig. I will be having a handful of of gigs at my house before the deadline on Oct 9 and hopefully I can also get some people registered, too.

  4. Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    we’ve had voter id laws on the books since the 90’s and if you vote, you know that they have started demanding photo id the last 3 elections cycles, ie. since the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 07 that they could enforce the law—tried using my voter id card which the sec. of state issues–no photo no ballot.

  5. John Galt
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    We just need to find a way to have black and hispanic women give birth to sparkling white, male babies.

  6. Eel
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I think they’re tightening those laws, Wobblie, so that even people with expired licenses, military IDs, etc, cannot vote.

  7. Meta
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    It’s not new. They tried to remove people who lost their homes from the voting rolls in 2008.

    From Wikipedia:

    Michigan: Prior to the 2008 United States Presidential Election, on September 16, 2008, Obama legal counsel announced that they would be seeking an injunction to stop an alleged caging scheme in Michigan wherein the state Republican party would use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters still using their foreclosed home as a primary address at the polls. Michigan GOP officials called the suit “desperate.” A Federal Appeals court ordered the reinstatement of 5,500 voters wrongly purged from the voter rolls by the State.

  8. Meta
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    According to this, Wobblie, Michigan currently “requests” photo ID. It does not require it.

  9. mark k
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Alexis great job registering voters, voting to me is a responsibility. My grandmother is in a retirement home and you wouldn’t believe how few of them vote because they can’t get to the poles. I’ve spent countless hours helping a lot of them with absentee balots, just so they could continue to be part of the process. Lets not forget our elderly, they’ve given us so much.

  10. Edward
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Woblie, I followed your link and it says, “As of the November 6, 2007 election, every Michigan voter who offers to vote at the polls must show picture identification or sign an affidavit attesting that he or she is not in possession of picture identification.” So photo ID is not required.

  11. Jeff Irwin
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I have to give Gov. Snyder credit for vetoing the voter suppression bills. It was a surprise to me and I’m still not sure why he did it.

    The best news is that the Legislature reconvened after the veto with the expectation that we would send the voter suppression language back to the Governor’s desk with some negotiated changes. That didn’t happen.

    Instead, perhaps because of the Roy Schmidt/Speak Jase Bolger scandal, we passed election reform bills that will make it much harder for incumbents to switch parties at the 11th hour when filing for re-election.

    In the meantime, I’m still trying to get no-reason absentee voting and early voting approved for Michigan.

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