Nel's New Day

October 31, 2016

U.S. Republicans Suppress Votes

The election is rigged, claims Donald Trump, and Iowa made the first arrest in 2016 for voter fraud. Terri Rote, 55, tried to vote for Trump at two separate polling stations in Des Moines and faces up to five years if convicted. She claimed that she was afraid that her first vote would be changed to Clinton. The system worked because she was caught. Investigation into the accusation that dead people were voting showed that some of these voters were mistakenly listed on death rolls, some had the same or similar names to dead people in their districts, and with others poll workers mistakenly scanned the wrong barcode on the voter rolls.

voter-protection-fake-badgeVoter fraud is the GOP excuse for suppressing the vote across the nation because Republicans think they can’t win in a fair contest. Trump  is sending people—including militia members and off-duty law enforcement officials–to take video and still cameras to search for voter fraud in nine cities with high minority populations. Roger Stone’s “Vote Protectors” are to have fake but official-looking ID badges to intimidate voters and livestream their images on the internet. Huffington Post printed off this “badge” from Stone’s website. The “badge” information is gone, but Stone still asks his “protectors” to execute “exit polls” to contest any Trump losses. In Ohio, Steve Webb plans to closely follow any voting minorities “to make them a little bit nervous.”

These actions could cause trouble for the RNC. In 1981, Stone helped the GOP New Jersey gubernatorial candidate win with a “ballot security” force wearing black armbands to intimidate minority voters. A lawsuit led to a Consent Decree on the RNC due to be lifted next year. It could be extended for at least eight years if the DNC wins its lawsuit showing current intimidation, including Stone’s message on social media that “poll watchers” should wear red shirts on Election Day as they supervise minority populations.

GOP-controlled states are also suppressing the vote:

Nevada: Despite orders from federal district Judge Miranda Du to provide early voting and Election Day polling sites on Indian reservations for the Nevada’s largest tribes, the state’s GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske decided that she didn’t need to do this for any tribes not so ordered. Members of the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation must drive 275 miles roundtrip to register and vote, but Cegavske said that their request came 24 hours late. She stated several concerns including not knowing who could “investigate and prosecute potential election law violations occurring on sovereign tribal lands.” Her office has earlier set up extra polling places in fewer than 48 hours if the voters didn’t seem to be largely Democratic. Cegavske belongs to the Koch-owned ALEC.

North Carolina: Several of the nation’s most restrictive voter suppression laws were struck down earlier this year; judges wrote that North Carolina enacted these laws to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The GOP has other ways to continue suppressing the vote, for example long wait times in 18 counties, including the largest four, that have lost most of the early-voting locations and have as little as three percent of the votes in 2012. In the other 82 counties, voting has averaged one-fourth more than 2012. Guilford County, with a population of almost one-half million people, lost 15 of the 16 early-voting locations from 2012. Voters at North Carolina A&T State University, a black college with over 10,000 students, must travel at least a mile away because its campus early-voting location was removed from campus.

north-carolina-voting

Another suppression system in the state is removing voters from the rolls. Grace Harrison, 100, was one of 100 Beaufort County residents—mostly black—who had consistently voted for decades but were forced to attend an in-person hearing to defend their right to vote because one piece of mail was bounced back from their addresses. The NAACP is suing the state because the National Voter Registration Act bans the removal of voters during the last 90 days before the election, and they must have more chances to respond to the mail. Part of the lawsuit also concerns the failure of the state to add tens of thousands of voters to the rolls who registered at a DMV over the past few years.

Gov. Pat McCrory, leader of the state’s “potty police” laws against transgender people and Trump supporter, cheered about the success of his alternate suppression techniques because Democratic voters were “not coming out” to the polls.

Ohio: A federal court order kept Ohio from purging 200,000 voter registrations just last week because they had not cast ballots since 2012. These voters may be disenfranchised, however, because their provisional ballots are frequently thrown out in Republican-controlled states. The state refuses to send these voters absentee ballots. The purge hit twice the number of people living in Democratic-leaning areas and targeted black residents in low socioeconomic neighborhoods and the homeless.

Texas: A court removed some restrictions on voting as a “poll tax” because the state-mandated IDs were more expensive than the sometimes free IDs not permitted for voting. Two years later, the federal appeals court ruled that the law discriminated against minority voters. Yet Texas officials found an easy way to continue voter suppression: they simply lie to the people about the necessary documents for voting. A federal judge ruled that voters can bring documents showing their names and addresses to the polls as identification and sign a statement saying that they had a “reasonable impediment” to getting a photo ID. Voting has started, and polls are still using outdated posters that list only the old rules. Poll workers tell voters in lines to have their photo IDs ready without telling people how to vote without these IDs. In a poll of 1,000 registered voters, only one-fourth of the respondents knew that a photo ID is not necessary to vote with ethnic minorities far more confused than white voters about regulations.

Indiana: Almost 45,000 newly-registered voters, almost all black, may not be able to vote because police raided the Indiana Voter Registration Project and seized documents on October 4—just one week before the end of the state’s early registration period. No one knows why, but the GOP vice-presidential candidate is still governor of Indiana and a close friend of Doug Carter, the superintendent of the Indiana State Police. Prior to the closure of the voter registration, police detectives went to the homes of people registering voters “to interrogate them.”

Wisconsin: Voters at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay asked for an early-voting location on the grounds because of long voting lines during the primary, but Green Bay City Clerk Kris Teske refused, saying it lacked the necessary resources. Privately, however, Teske wrote that student voting would benefit the Democratic Party in an email to David Buerger, counsel at the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Teske was appointed by GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

Georgia: As many as 100,000 voter-registration applications weren’t processed by the state that also refused to extent voter-registration deadlines despite the devastating Hurricane Matthew. GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, election overseer, said that “we can’t sit back and watch the radical left create chaos in our state” after the ACLU asked a court to reopen voter registration for the counties hardest hit by the hurricane. In an effort to intimidate voters, Georgia also moved a polling precinct for mostly black voters from a gymnasium to the sheriff’s office. Gwinnett County in suburban Atlanta has only one early-voting precinct for a population of almost 900,000 people.

Florida: When Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend the time for voter registration because of the hurricane, a judge overturned not only his decision but also the mandate that a signature on absentee ballots exactly match the original one which could be 50 years old.

James Comey, FBI director, may be responsible for the largest vote-rigging in the nation. His letter to legislators—not his responsibility—stated that the discovery of more “Clinton emails” might not be significant but should be investigated. The “existence” of these emails was released almost a month after they were found, and there’s no indication that any of the emails are either from or to Hillary Clinton. Yet Comey has allowed Republican House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz  to state that the FBI has “reopened” the case against Clinton, another falsehood.

The man who cheerfully released what he hoped was damaging information about Clinton said he didn’t tell people that Russia is meddling in the country’s election because he might influence voting. When Comey sat on that information, the DHS made it public. In the Clinton case, Comey found transparency important; in the Trump case, he wanted to hide what he knew.

James O’Keefe, who tried to make highly edited videos to lie about the Clinton campaign “rigging” Trump’s campaign, may be responsible for illegal wiretapping. Earlier O’Keefe videos destroyed ACORN and came close to destroying Planned Parenthood. Now he wants to destroy Clinton.

As people consider their beliefs, they need to know that the more they hear a statement—true or false—the more likely they are to believe it. Voter fraud, lack of trust in Clinton—the lies are embedded into minds in an “illusion of truth.” It’s much easier to believe in generalities than to search for facts.

August 22, 2012

Did You Lose Your Right to Vote?

Over 180 bills that restrict voting have been introduced in 41 states since the beginning of 2011; 34 states successfully passed such restrictions as mandating photo ID and limiting times when people can vote. Nowhere are these new laws more important than in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Although voting should be a constitutional right, the controls in different states limit the abilities of people to vote differently. People have different voting rights depending on where they live.

Initially conservatives tried to justify voter restriction by claiming massive voter fraud. Now, many admit that there’s no problem. An investigation of 2,068 purported cases of fraud during the last decade found only 10 cases of fraud among 146 million voters—one per 15 million voters. James O’Keefe, notorious for video stings, showed two supposed non-citizens voting. Both are actually U.S. citizens. Despite the falsehoods of his video, O’Keefe will be a Republican conference speaker at an exclusive luncheon where he will talk about “the role of the citizen journalist.”

Florida started purging their voting roles weeks ago with no apparent reason other than trying to hoping to keep more liberal voters from participating in the process. This was after Florida passed draconian laws preventing people from registering new voters. Then they moved forward in their attempts to limit students, seniors, and the poor from voting by curtailing the times that people could vote in the last election. A federal appeals court stopped the state from limiting early voting because it was determined racially discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Because this act covers only five of Florida’s 67 counties, Tampa plus four other small counties, there is a question about what the state will do now. If the state fails to file an amended plan for Justice Department approval, the entire election reform bill will be struck down. Gov. Rick Scott persuaded four of the five states that voters would be fine with polls open for 12 hours during eight days of early voting. The fifth election supervisor, a Republican in the Florida Keys, is sticking to his guns, and Scott is threatening to fire him.

The state of Ohio isn’t covered by the Voting Rights Act so the Republicans in charge of county voting and the Republican secretary of state John Husted have limited early voting to 8:00 am-5:pm on weekdays. Doug Preisse, chair of the Franklin County Republican party, said, “We shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban, read African-American, voter-turnout machine.” Because many people who want to vote earlier also work during the day, 82 percent of those who cast their votes in the last election went to the polls during the now-banned times.

Politics got even nastier in Ohio when Husted, who had established the restrictive voting times, removed the two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Because Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr., did not see any written prevention of weekend voting, they brought up the issue at the board meeting. A 2-2 tie along party lines sent the issue to Husted to settle where all the problems with voting times began. Because all county election boards are split 50-50 between Democrats and two Republicans, Republican Husted makes the final decision.

Husted’s letter to the country election board demanded that it rescind Lieberman’s motion and threatened them with being fired if they didn’t. Lieberman, an attorney and former county Democratic Party chair, refused to withdraw his motion, arguing both that his motion did not violate the directive and that it was best for local voters. Both Democrats were suspended; the two Republicans remained on the board.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican state court judge ruled that the new voter ID law is constitutional.  One of the lead plaintiffs, a 93-year-old woman, doesn’t have her birth certificate or any photo ID because her purse was stolen while she was shopping, but the Republican judge didn’t see this as a problem. Also the name on her birth certificate was different from that on other documents, a not unusual situation for any woman who changed her name after she married, but a situation that can keep her from voting. Since the lawsuit, election officials gave her an ID card, an illegal action for them, but she is just one of possibly 600,000 people who would have to go to extremes to gain the ability to vote for the first time in their lives.

Watching the Pennsylvania photo ID court case unfold was black comedy. Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) was very open about his opinion that photo ID would guarantee Mitt Romney’s election:  “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” The commonwealth’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett—the same guy who signed the measure into law—couldn’t remember what IDs he is making his constituents have to vote. During her testimony, Carole Aichele, secretary of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth, didn’t know what the law said but was positive that 99 percent of voters had valid identification. She just couldn’t provide an evidence for her claim.

The pre-hearing filing made all this very clear:

– There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania

– The state is not aware of any in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania

– The state will not offer any evidence that in-person voter fraud has occurred

– The state will not offer any evidence or argument that in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in the absence of the photo ID law

According to the Supreme Court ruling in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, plaintiffs have to show that a law is unconstitutional—extremely difficult until it goes into effect. Gonzales v. Carhart requires the court to make the assumption that legislators make laws in good faith—frequently no longer true and certainly not true with the photo ID laws. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced the day after the ruling to keep photo IDs that he was dumping plans to let voters apply online for absentee ballots and register online to vote. During testimony in the case, the governor’s administration had promised to take these two actions, but, heck, they won. They don’t need to help people register to vote.

Fortunately, the Department of Justice is investigating the effects of the Pennsylvania law.

In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) protested a federal voter registration law. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, sometimes called the Motor Voter bill, mandates that citizens be offered the opportunity to register to vote when they get a driver’s license or apply for social services. Sued for lack of compliance, the Commonwealth settled the case out of court and agreed to contact by mail 477,944 welfare recipients who might have been denied their right to be offered a chance to register to vote. Because the daughter of Elizabeth Warren, Scott’s opponent, is chair of one of the boards that sued, Brown made this statement:

“I want every legal vote to count, but it’s outrageous to use taxpayer dollars to register welfare recipients as part of a special effort to boost one political party over another. This effort to sign up welfare recipients is being aided by Elizabeth Warren’s daughter and it’s clearly designed to benefit her mother’s political campaign. It means that I’m going to have to work that much harder to get out my pro-jobs, pro-free enterprise message.”

One conservative governor deserves praise. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, known for appointing removing democracy from towns and schools in his state by appointing emergency managers, vetoed voter suppression laws. In his veto statement, he wrote that “voting rights are precious.”

Conservatives that lose the voter restrictions might be able to rig the election through computers. The swing states of Pennsylvania and Virginia use paperless systems that cannot do recounts and have no way to recover lost votes. Two large suburban counties around Denver (CO) also have no audit trail. Much of Ohio and Nevada use touchscreen electronic machines that print a cash register-like record of votes; Ohio does require polls to have backup paper ballots. Printouts from these computers, however, may not be the legal equivalent of a paper ballot marked by a voter if a recount is necessary.

Other swing states, such as Florida, North Carolina, and much of New Hampshire, scan paper ballots that may miss votes. Earlier this year, Palm Beach County (FL) scanners identified the wrong winner in two local contests, an error not discovered until a routine audit the next week. In 2010, Humboldt County (CA) officials finally figured out that when they re-scanned batches of mail-in ballots that the previous batch count was erased. The manufacturer knew about that problem but hadn’t told a new local election official. In the recent New York City congressional primary involving Rep. Charlie Rangel, officials failed to record all of the results from optical scan tabulators causing some precincts to report zero votes.

Computers also allow gatekeepers to magically “discover” more votes after an election.. Such was the case with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus who personally got David Prosser his place on the Wisconsin Supreme Court because she was the only person in charge of the computers that “found” 7,582 votes for him, two days after the election, just enough for Prosser to win the election without a recount. Wisconsin’s state’s attorney general announced yesterday that he is filing a petition to the Supreme Court to place a harsh state photo identification law—already ruled unconstitutional by two Wisconsin judges—into effect before the November election.

When he signed the Voting Rights Act 47 years ago, President Johnson called the right to vote “the basic right without which all others are meaningless.” It seems that Republicans beg to differ.

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