The New York Times this morning has an important article titled New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth. It focuses on a study being released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which came up with the total of possibly 5 million voters finding it more difficult to vote. As one can read in the executive summary at the website for the report:
These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:
* These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
* The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
* Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.
Apologies for formatting problems - not quite identical to the executive summary.
And a few more comments below the squiggle..
The key paragraph from the article is the dueling political arguments from the two political parties:
Republicans, who have passed almost all of the new election laws, say they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, and question why photo identification should be routinely required at airports but not at polling sites. Democrats counter that the new laws are a solution in search of a problem, since voter fraud is rare. They worry that the laws will discourage, or even block, eligible voters — especially poor voters, young voters and African-American voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.
Perhaps I can be blunt, or if you wish cynical.
In the minds of too many Republicans, if a Democrat wins an election it must be because of fraud. Never mind that the real history of interference with people's right to vote is far heavier on Republican attempts to prevent Democrats from voting - William Rehnquist doing voting intimidation in Arizona, people working for "moderate" Tom Kean in NJ challenging African American voters in Camden and other black areas in his first election for Governor. Yes, when the old-fashion Dems were in charge in the South they suppressed the black vote, but we need to remember that those Dems almost all became Republicans as a result of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts under Lyndon Johnson.
The article notes Republican claims that voter participation increased in Georgia after it required photo identification, but offers no details to say which groups within the state increased their participation.
Key factors of new laws often require photo identification. Except some state have worded their laws to require a government issued photo identification that includes an address, thereby preventing students from voting at colleges and universities whose ids do not contain an address, and preventing students at private colleges and universities from using their ids.
Of equal importance is the elimination of early voting, something that had greatly increased participation by poor people, students, and senior citizens who might otherwise have difficulty voting on election day, especially when lines were artificially long at precincts where they were concentrate - you may remember that was one tactic used under Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in Ohio in 2004: some lines were 12 hours long, and clearly intended to discourage people at the affected (heavily Democratic) precincts from voting.
In Texas your permit to carry a concealed handgun is an acceptable photo id, a college or university ID is not.
And the infamous Hans von Spakovsky, now a fellow at Heritage but who was 'responsible" in the last administration for the (lack of oversight) of elections at Justice weighs in arguing that numbers of those being excluded are too high, even as he does not dispute that some people are being excluded.
The article gives details of the laws being imposed in states where the Republicans have complete control of the legislative process. It is worth reading, as is the report on which the article is based.
These laws represent a contradiction to the history of voting as addressed in Constitutional Amendments, which moved to increase voter participation and make the nation more of a democracy. Think of Amendments 15 (blacks), 17 (direct election of Senators), 19 (women), 24 (no poll tax), and 26 (18 year olds). The laws are attempts to undo by legislation what we thought we had addressed by fixing holes in the Constitution.
Even the Bush administration could find few examples of voting fraud to document.
It is ironic - or if you will, horrifying - to see the "logic" in Republican thinking.
They are willing to execute when there might be doubt about guilt, even going so far as to attempt to prevent examination of evidence that might clear those already executed. Similarly, Cheney's idea of the 1% approach to striking at those who MIGHT (1% chance) represent a threat to US interests regardless of the large number who might be killed as "collateral damage."
Some Americans would argue that it is better that 10 guilty men go free rather than let one innocent be executed.
Republicans seem to reject that. And then they would seemingly add "better that 5 million be denied the right to vote rather than 10 people vote fraudulently."
Let's be clear. The Republicans seemingly do not believe in small-d democracy, not if it means they lose elections.
Corporations can spend all they want to distort the election process.
Poor people shouldn't even have the basic right of voting if they might vote Democratic.
Laws like these are one reason we need to ensure that never again do Democratic voters stay home on any election day - even for dog catcher or school board.
Today I head to the Washington Hilton where I will be on a panel at Campaign for America's Future's Taking Back the American Dream conference. If we do not fix our election process quickly, we may need to rename the conference to Escaping from the American Nightmare.
Just some not so pleasant thoughts on a Monday Morning.