The GOP vote suppression machine
by Kelvin Wade
Elements in the Republican Party are attempting to hijack your democracy. That’s not partisan rhetoric. It’s not hyperbole. Elements within an American political party are attempting to block Democratic voters from voting in an effort to steal the 2012 election. It’s not much different than what Southern Democrats did after the Compromise of 1877 which ended Reconstruction and ushered in a wave of Jim Crow laws throughout the South, erecting poll taxes and tests to prevent blacks from voting.
Since 2011, 11 states have passed seemingly innocuous voter ID laws. Sixteen more are considering such laws. An ID law may seem innocent but the reality is this is a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud isn’t the problem in American elections. Voter access and participation is.
Between October 2002 and the 2005 release of a bipartisan commission on election reform headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former president Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Department of Justice convicted 52 people of federal election fraud. That’s 52 out of 196,139,871 ballots cast in federal elections, or 0.000003 percent. That’s a problem?
And when George W. Bush’s Justice Department completed its five-year investigation into vote fraud in 2007, they’d prosecuted a grand total of 86 people. How do 86 people constitute such a threat to democracy that the Republicans feel new security measures must be erected?
The problem with voter ID laws is that not everyone has photo identification. Those most likely to not have proper IDs are minorities, the elderly and students. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that 11 percent of eligible voters do not have photo identification. Extrapolated nationally, we’re talking about millions of people.
So can’t they just get ID? People without drivers licenses aren’t likely to have vehicles. In some states, voters may live more than two hours from the nearest DMV. In the words of Attorney General Eric Holder, requiring people to pay to get documentation to complete their constitutional right amounts to a poll tax.
If it’s not about voter suppression, then why, after Pennsylvania passed its voter ID law, did House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) say the new law was going to allow Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania? Why wouldn’t he say it would allow Pennsylvania to have fair elections? He knows it’s about suppressing minority and Democratic votes.
The state of Pennsylvania has not been able to produce a single case of voter impersonation fraud. Not one. And for that, we risk excluding the 9.2 percent of Pennsylvanians who don’t have proper ID?
And it isn’t just about ID. These laws are creatively designed to prevent Democrats from voting. North Carolina passed a law making it illegal to register to vote on Sundays. Many black churches often held voter registration drives after church services. Which party do you think those new black voters were likely to support?
Florida’s law HB 1355, currently blocked by a federal judge and being fought by the Justice Department, requires those who register voters to be registered with the state first. It also requires them to submit all new registrations within 48 hours or be subject to fines and potential felony fraud charges. The rules are so strict and complex that groups like the League of Women Voters have opted out of registering new voters.
Also, Florida used to permanently bar felons from voting. Former Governor, Charlie Crist changed it so that non-violent ex-cons could have their voting rights restored. The new governor, Rick Scott, rescinded the change. He knows this will disproportionately affect minority voters.
Florida also cut the number of days of early voting in half and eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day, traditionally a day black churches encourage their members to vote.
Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist identifies what’s happening in Florida as vote suppression. And to his credit, current Michigan Gov. Richard Snyder, a Republican, vetoed some vote suppression laws in that state.
Texas has its own proposed voter suppression law called SB-14 that requires voters to show I.D. to vote. It’s not surprising that Texas wants to suppress the Hispanic vote. Texas, a reliably red state, is on the verge of turning purple and following California with its large Hispanic population. The evidence that Texas SB-14 is a Democratic voter suppression law is the fact that Social Security, Medicaid and student ID cards are not acceptable identification but gun licenses are. Give me a break.
Any serious study of vote fraud has found that voter impersonation is the least likely way fraud would be carried out. Yet that is where Republicans choose to focus.
We should be making it easier to register to vote. We should be extending the amount of days people can vote. We should want more participation, not less.
The cynical thing is that the powers behind this vote suppression movement in the Republican Party recognize the party is in trouble with minorities but instead of reaching out to them or moderating their positions to attract them, they’ve elected to invalidate their votes. Instead of reaching out like some in the Republican Party want to, the Party has opted to embrace cynicism.
This is an attack on American democracy. The short-sighted politicians who have pushed these cynical laws must understand that a President elected through this kind of state-sponsored fraud will never achieve legitimacy.