Nel's New Day

December 20, 2011

Conservatives Fraudulently Disenfranchise Voters

The minute that the Republicans took over a majority of the states in this country, they laid the groundwork to keep a Democrat president from being elected through constrictive laws demanding photo IDS and gerrymandering the House districts. Other laws shorten early voting period, ban in-person early voting on Sundays, and prohibit boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters. Two other states have disenfranchised criminals who have paid their time and are now contributing members of society. All this is in the name of voter fraud. In 38 states.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters as well as on voters with disabilities, sharply tilting the election results in the coming year. The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2011—63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Not having photo IDs has already been a problem for voters. After Indiana passed its law in 2008, a group of retired nuns who had always voted were turned away from the primary election because they lacked proper photo identification.

Getting a photo ID will be either expensive and/or impossible for up to 5 million U.S. citizens who have voted in past elections. An example is the Wisconsin law that requires photo ID from anyone who goes to the polls to vote. Although the state ostensibly offers a “free” photo ID to its residents, a birth certificate is necessary in order to obtain it. Copies of birth certificates cost at least $20—if it’s available.

Ruthelle Frank, an 84-year-old Wisconsin woman who, because of a difficult home birth, doesn’t have an official birth certificate now must pay as much as $200 to get one simply to satisfy the “free” photo ID requirements. To get a birth certificate, she has to have a photo ID. In Tennessee, 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper was refused a voter ID because she didn’t have her marriage certificate.

Republicans virtuously claim voter fraud as the reason for demanding photo IDs. A friend pointed out that Indiana recently discovered this problem, but the case she referenced was someone possibly falsifying names in a petition to put Barack Obama on the ballot for the presidential candidate in 2008. It wasn’t voter fraud.

To support the suspicion of fraud, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) searched for all the cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted over the last decade. They found 311 cases. That’s an average of 31 cases annually out of a vast number of people who voted—131 million in 2008, for example.

Examining the RNLA’s report showed a bit of “fraud” in the results. RNLA citations actually went back to 1997. It claimed fraud in 46 states but cited only 44 states. For two of those 44 states there were no examples since 2000. That lists only 42 states in the past decade, indicating no fraud in the other eight states. After the claim that Florida had at least 17 cases involving prosecutions for non-citizen voting in 2005, RNLA failed to follow up with the information that at least four of those cases were dismissed. And these are Republicans looking for fraud!

The Justice Department shows 86 proven cases over the past decade. That’s 8.6 a years, resulting in punitive laws from almost half the states in the country. In Wisconsin, seven of the approximately 3 million votes cast in 2004 were deemed invalid–all from felons who were unaware of their ineligibility. Comedian Stephen Colbert recently mocked the need for photo ID laws, noting that fraud occurs in “a jaw dropping 44 one-millionths of one percent” of votes.

Paul Schurick, an aide to former Maryland Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has been convicted of attempted voter suppression—which may come under the auspices of voter fraud. During the 2006 gubernatorial election, Schurick tried to use robocalls to suppress the black vote. Calls to 112,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County on Election Day before polls had closed in Baltimore and Prince George’s County told African American residents to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race. Schurick became Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager in the 2010 race and had been his communications director for the four years that he was governor.

Wisconsin also has a record of one particular county clerk magically “discovering” ballots in her computer a few days after a less-than-conservative candidate loses. She is the only person with access to that computer.

The Constitution has only two requirements in the redistricting every ten years after the census to allocate House representatives: roughly equal populations and no discrimination against minority voters. Ohio is an example of how Republicans in the majority party are making sure that the state will send mostly Republicans to the House—and incidentally vote for a Republican president. State legislators drew up new maps that favor Republicans in 12 of Ohio’s congressional districts, strengthening the majority of likely Republican supporters in at least 17 house districts. The president of the state senate, Republican Thomas Niehaus, wrote in an e-mail, “I am still committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports,” even though, as a spokesman said in November, Boehnner “has no official role in the redistricting process.”

Redistricting is expensive because it requires voter data and mapping consultants. It also requires lobbyists to influence state legislators, who are in charge of redistricting in most states, for people like the Koch brothers who want to own theUnited States. Mysterious groups influencing redistricting are cropping up in a number of states such as Minnesota. These groups don’t have to divulge their financing from far-right funders.

Ironically, voting is not a constitutional right; states can keep people from voting if they wish. The restrictions just cannot be by race, color, or previous condition of servitude (thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment); gender (thanks to the Twentieth Amendment); or by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax (thanks to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment). These restrictions were removed in 1868 (Amendment 15); 1920 (Amendment 20); and 1964 (Amendment 24). For over 50 years, the Constitution was even able to require that voters be male, as specified in the Fourteenth Amendment.

So what the states are doing to remove voting rights from their citizens?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder got his state legislature to give him the right to appoint “emergency managers” for any municipality and void the right of the people there to elect their officials. Ostensibly to cure the fiscal problems of whatever place he takes over. The four “emergency managers” who he has already appointed to Michigan cities may be joined by Detroit. If he succeeds in doing this, half the African-American residents of Michigan will no longer be able to elect their city officials. They will have no say in what happens to the places where they live.

Everyday Republicans who aren’t elected officials are working hard to remove the rights of voters. In Wisconsin, where opponents of Gov. Scott Walker are trying to gather enough signatures to impeach him, supporters have been caught on video jumping out of trucks to threaten circulators, even defacing or ripping up petitions. One Milwaukee man admitted he had signed recall petitions approximately 80 times. Walker supporters also posted a website saying that people could quit signing the petitions because there are enough signatures. There aren’t.

Another way that states cut down on voter involvement is to send out postcards. People who don’t return them are then questioned at the polls about whether they are qualified to vote. Ohio and Michigan were taken to court over this practice during the past decade. Other lists to possibly disqualify voters were created from people whose homes were foreclosed.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler ordered Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz to not send ballots to soldiers out of state who are legally registered Pueblo County voters but who failed to cast ballots in 2010. No notification—just no ballot.

Other tactics are reflected by Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate, in his joke about making sure that Ohio’s anti-union law passes in the state’s most recently election. Encouraging supporters to call friends and ask if they’re voting for Issue 2, he joked, “If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don’t go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date,” he said. “That’s up to you how you creatively get the job done.”

Debating the laws in state legislatures demonstrates the rationale for the laws and the attitude that some legislators have toward some of their constituents. New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker, William O’Brien, described college students as “foolish.”  “Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added. They lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.

Tennessee Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, wondered how “all these people” are able to buy beer and cigarettes without driver’s licenses. “Tell me how people are buying beer and cigarettes? They have to have an ID to do that, a photo ID to do that. I have a hard time believing that all these people don’t have an ID. … You have to have a photo ID to get public housing. You have to have a birth certificate to get public housing. … I think there’s more people with a photo ID than they want to admit.”

Some people are fighting back. Retired Tennessee teacher Lee Campbell and his wife spoke to Congress about their fight for a promised free photo ID under a Republican law demanding ID in order to vote. The DMV tried to charge Campbell $8 for his ID. They are only two, however, of a possible 5 million disenfranchised voters.

In a speech to student activists, Bill Clinton said, “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced a bill that would impose tough criminal and civil penalties on individuals who make and distribute campaign literature with false information intended to deceive voters and suppress turnout. Let’s see what the Republicans, so concerned about voter fraud, will have to say about this.

There was a time in American history when only white male property owners could vote. Let’s hope that we’re not returning to that era.

2 Comments »

  1. Hey, Nel, what’s happened to NEL’S NEW DAY look? Is it at your end or mine? Other than that, total pleasure to read as always.

    Like

    Comment by Taylor — December 21, 2011 @ 6:26 AM | Reply

  2. The only way this is going to be stopped is for massive protests and media coverage. This is ridiculous that today, 235 years after America became a free country, that some people who clearly have no love for Americans (at least the ones who aren’t rich and white) could get away with this kind of activity. Scream. Yell. Go to your closest State office and protest. Make sure the Internet is flooded with Youtube videos so everyone knows what’s going on.

    If people sit this out, they’ll find themselves removed from the voter list. If the Republicans are successful and win a majority in both houses, and put their President in then we can all kiss our rights good bye. Because we won’t have any.

    Like

    Comment by gkparker — December 21, 2011 @ 12:23 AM | Reply


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