Nel's New Day

September 26, 2014

Voter Suppression, Solutions

A new form of voter suppression has appeared in North Carolina where Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the Koch brothers, sent incorrect voter registration information to voters in the state and one cat. Hundreds of recipients have called the State Board of Elections about the form that they received with the wrong information:

  • At the top, the form states voter registrations are due 30 days before an election to the State Board of Elections’ office. Below, in smaller type, it states the deadline is 25 days before the election. The information must be sent to the county elections board, not the state board.
  • The first page also states people should return the registration to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, though the envelope is addressed to the State Board of Elections.
  • It states the Secretary of State’s office has an elections division and can answer questions about registration. The North Carolina Secretary of State does not handle elections. The phone number for the Secretary of State’s office is actually for the State Board of Elections.
  • The form states that after voters mail in their information, they will be notified of their precinct by their local county clerk. Notification comes from the county board of elections or the elections director, not the county clerk.
  • The registration form also includes the wrong ZIP code for the State Board of Elections. The ZIP code associated with the board’s post office box is 27611, and the board’s office ZIP code is 27603.

A form sent to Alison Beal of Wake Forest was addressed to her brother-in-law who lives in Caldwell. Neither one belongs to Americans for Prosperity.

Adam C. Nicholson, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, refused to say how many people were sent the forms, how the group obtained the voter lists, or how the mistakes occurred. Another spokesman, Levi Russell, said that people need to look at the forms in context with an otherwise “highly successful” voter registration drive. North Carolina is the same state where Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) was forced to change his television commercials because it gave misleading information about a new identification requirement that doesn’t go into effect until 2016.

Conservative lawmakers claimed that their new voting laws, the most restrictive and suppressive in the nation, would reduce fraud. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on a lawsuit yesterday. Thomas Farr, one of the lawyers representing the state, justified the repressive laws because nothing “horrible” happened in the May primary. said the provisions didn’t hinder minority voting in the May primary, saying nothing “horrible” had happened. Another argument against allowing people to vote is that it would be a burden for the state because it had already mailed a 30-page pamphlet to households and would have to “re-educate” voters and “let them know the new rules with the election underway.”

Judge Henry Floyd asked, “Does an administrative burden trump a constitutional right?” Judge James Wynn also questioned the seriousness of long lines at polling places, people going to wrong precincts, and the need to count same-day voter registrations by hand if they reinstated the former procedures. “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” Wynn asked.

Last Monday, a U.S. District Court heard closing arguments in the case that challenges voter suppression of 600,000 people in Texas because of the narrow number of photo IDs that can be used to vote. There is no indication of when the court will issue its ruling.

Ohio has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a federal judge’s order that expands the state’s early voting schedule this fall. Without help from SCOTUS, people can start casting early ballots next week.

One solution for voting problems is to modernize registration at the state level. Voters are told they aren’t registered in the right place, that their address hasn’t been updated, and that their name is misspelled. Some of them have been wrongly removed from the rolls.

A uniform early voting period would remove states’ abilities to restrict the time to vote and reduce long voting lines. Another way to reduce waiting time at the polls is to establish standards for voting machines per capita. During the last election, some states saw almost no waiting time in predominantly white precincts and many hours in precincts with mostly black voters.

The federal government could also research problems with computers for voting and perhaps the owners. For example, Karl Rove had a deep involvement with the voting computers used in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, which coincidentally had abnormalities bringing the state in for George W. Bush. In 2012, Rove guaranteed that Ohio would go for Mitt Romney, resulting in rumors that hackers changed the rigged computer software that would have provided this. Certainly, Rove’s face on Election Night showed his disbelief that Ohio went for President Obama in 2012.

The Election Assistance Commission needs to be strengthened. Without commissioners or a permanent executive director, the EAC had long been dysfunctional. Currently all four commissioner positions are vacant.

To give voters greater freedom for voting personal choice, employers need to be stopped from controlling political activity outside the job. Only four states--California, Colorado, New York and North Dakota–protect workers from being fired for legal activity outside of work. Federal law makes it illegal to “intimidate, threaten or coerce” anyone against voting as they wish, but the connection between possible coercion or intimidation and “worker education” is rather fuzzy in the eyes of the law. The federal government has mostly chosen to let states, including the ones that promote voter suppression, to decide questions of employee free speech. About half of people in the United States live in states that do not provide any worker protection for political speech or from pressure, such as threat of job loss, to vote in a specific way.

In New Mexico, a signed letter saying that a person was fired because of carrying an Obama tote bag is no protection without litigation. The Supreme Court has strongly expanded “employer free speech,” giving them the rights to pay millions and millions of dollars to elect a specific candidate. Employees need the same right.

In their goal of suppressing the votes for the poor, the elderly, and minorities, Republicans will undoubtedly oppose any such moves, but these are ways to move the country toward the concept of one person, one vote.

Update in Georgia: After Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to process 51,000 voter registrations from the New Georgia Project, black lawmakers in the state are demanding answers about the status of these registrations. NGP has reportedly submitted about 85,000 applications to county election officials in the state. Kemp staffers said they would “move expeditiously” to process the registrations before the October 6 deadline. That’s ten days. The office, however, was unable to provide adequate details about how the process would be carried out, according to state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler. Kemp claimed that they had found several dozen suspicious applications after they sent letters to 159 counties in a concern for fraud.

The excuse for refusing to let people register or vote is always a concern that changing the rules so close to the election would cause voter confusion. This is the excuse from Alexander Peters, North Carolina’s senior deputy attorney general, who noted in arguments before the 4th Circuit Court yesterday that absentee ballots were mailed Sept. 5. Thanks to television ads from conservatives, voters in at least that state are already confused. So are voters in Wisconsin just increased voter suppression, thanks to a GOP three-judge panel.

North Carolina resident Rosanell Eaton, 93, remembers her registering to vote in 1939 when she turned 18. Three white officials told her that she had to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution before she could vote. She did it perfectly. Seventy-five years later, she and many others are once again facing obstacles to voting because of white conservatives. As Wynn asked, “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” That’s a question that could be asked in the majority of states in the United States of America.

1 Comment »

  1. Republicans have forgotten what a democracy is.

    Like

    Comment by Lee Lynch — September 27, 2014 @ 1:00 AM | Reply


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