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In case you haven't noticed, several states controlled by Republicans have been aggressively paring the voter rolls and passing laws making it much more difficult for groups that tend to support the Democrats to vote.  One official in Pennsylvaniamade the mistake of actually saying the real reason for these moves out loud in front of an open mic.  Those who support these laws claim they are needed to prevent "voter fraud," a crime that's about as common as shark attacks and spontaneous combustion.

Since there are so few cases out there of voters pretending to be someone they aren't, supporters of voter suppression reach back into the historical record for precedent.  One example they keep going back to is the 1960 presidential election, when JFK narrowly defeated Nixon.  It has been an article of faith in conservative circles for years that mayor Richard J. Daley's political machine stuffed the ballot boxes with the names of the dead in order to secure the state of Illinois for Kennedy, which put him over the top in the electoral college.

Leaving aside the fact that this accusation has never been proven true, it misses the real electoral manipulation in that election.  In 1960, African Americans supported Kennedy by a wide margin, but throughout the South, due to discriminatory laws and intimidation, the vast majority of African Americans did not get to vote.  Imagine such a situation today, if say in the Egyptian elections Coptic Christians were kept from voting by the Egyptian government.  International observers from the UN and elsewhere would have attacked the election as invalid for purposefully targeting a minority group for exclusion from the polls.  The American election of 1960, if held today, would not be considered legitimate in the eyes of the international community because of its overt racism.

Of course, after five years of tireless protest and sacrifice by the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act would be passed in 1965, effectively destroying the old methods of official voter suppression in the South.  Those practices had a long history.  Before the Civil War, most states -North as well as South- had laws banning blacks from voting.  Afterwards, in the midst of Reconstruction, the Fifteenth Amendment forbid the denial of the vote on the basis of race, color, or "prior servitude."  When the so-called "Redeemers" came to power in the South on a wave of racist vigilante violence and overturned Reconstruction, they found ways around the Constitution.  Poll taxes, violent intimidation, literacy tests, whites-only Democratic primaries, and the infamous "grandfather clause" all contributed to the suppression of the black vote.

What many people don't know is that not all of these tactics survived until 1965, and that the system of voter suppression proved itself very skilled at adapting itself to having some of its favorite mechanisms declared unconstitutional.  Way back in 1915, in a case brought through the courts by the fledgling NAACP, the Supreme Court struck down the grandfather clause, and in 1962 the Twenty-Fourth Amendment invalidated the poll tax.  Despite these changes, in 1964 only 6.7% of African Americans in Mississippi were registered to vote.  Not until the Voting Rights Act, which the federal, rather than state government enforced, would real change occur.

While a lot has changed since 1965, voter suppression has not gone away.  In some cases this is the result of legislation making voting contingent on forms of ID that many Americans do not have.  In other cases, the racism of the justice system leads to voter suppression.  As Michelle Alexander has demonstrated in The New Jim Crow, the imbalanced waging of the war on drug has led to a disproportionate number of African Americans being convicted of drug felonies and then losing the right to vote.  Many states that prevent convicted felons from voting not only replicate the racism of a criminal justice system that targets blacks more than whites,but have also prevented citizens from voting who share the same name as a felon.

Beyond the legal system, there have been well-documented cases of deliberate misinformation about voting spread with the intent of suppressing the vote, often in predominately African American neighborhoods.  During the Wisconsin recall election of Scott Walker, people who signed the petition to get him out of office received robocalls telling them they didn't need to vote.   A similar thing happened in 2010 in Maryland.  In Massachusetts two GOP operatives put up signs in a polling place demanding photo ID to vote, even though that was not a requirement for voting in the Bay State.  It's become de rigeur for Republicans to hand out flyers intentionally misleading voters about what day the election will take place.

As you can see, this nation has a long history of suppressing the vote -especially the votes of African Americans- which continues to this day.  Despite this obvious fact, somehow our politicians are allowed to continue this suppression in the most aggressive fashion since Jim Crow while justifying their actions as a response to chimerical "voter fraud."  It's time to change the public discourse, and part of that is using history to show that voter suppression has always been a much more significant problem in this nation's life than voter fraud.

Originally posted to Werner Herzogs Bear on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 07:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  sidebar: DOJ challenges PA voter ID today! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob B, ParkRanger, outragedinSF, indres

    States that Have Enacted Voter ID Laws

    Not all of the laws listed below have taken effect.

    Please see the footnotes for detailed information.

    W. Mitt Romney is the pioneer of creating "economic - sacrifice - zones"

    by anyname on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 08:47:00 PM PDT

    •  PA Stipulation is a key to the case (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ParkRanger, never forget 2000

      The stipulation filed in the Applewhite case is really important -- moreso than just the, "those rat-bastards" reaction to the admission.

      Before the government can restrict a fundamental Constitutional right, it must pass the "strict scrutiny" test.  The govermnet must have a compelling interest in the restriction and the restriction must go no further than necessary to address the compelling interest.  The stipulation says that the only interest the government has is in their answer to Interrogatory 1 (which I haven't seen).  It specifically disavowed "voter fraud" as being an interest the government had when it passed the legislation.  I just don't see any compelling governmental interest.

      I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use -- Galileo Galilei

      by ccyd on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 06:57:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Isn't that the basis (0+ / 0-)

        Of the SCOTUS decision in the Indiana ID decision? Just goes to show you how much these folks live in ivory towers.

        "I feel like I'm still waiting to meet my true self. I'm assuming it's gonna be in a dark alley and there's gonna be a fight." ---Rachel Maddow

        by never forget 2000 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 01:16:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  shark attacks and human combustion actually happen (0+ / 0-)

    freedom isn't free, but it isn't dumb either.

    by astro on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 02:08:30 AM PDT

    •  it's a pretty good analogy (4+ / 0-)
      Indeed, evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often.

      Brennan Center policy brief

      Most people already don't worry very much about voter fraud; arguing about just how rare it is doesn't have much impact, on its own. The key is how many people would be disenfranchised in implementing the "precaution" of ID requirements. People who carry driver licenses everywhere tend to be surprised to learn how many people don't. But both sides of the argument are important.
  •  Thank you for beginning that discussion. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, indres

    I feel as though it were more critical than ever.  

  •  Not just 1960 but EVERY election from 1876-1964 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    would not be considered legitimate in the eyes of the international community because of its overt racism.
    I include 1964 because, although LBJ won overwhelmingly, there is no way Goldwater would have gotten such big margins in the Deep South without vote suppression.

    To repeat from a recent post of mine:

    Such shenannigans historically were not confined just to the South.  My own Massachusetts had poll taxes in the 1890's, which of course hindered those from the low-income laboring classes who were mainly immigrants, and seats in the legislature were apportioned by number of legal voters, not total population.  This last was not changed until the 1960's.
  •  None of our elections, in fact (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Well, maybe some held between 1965 and 2000, but really. Universal white male suffrage in this country didn't happen until the 1830s, and women didn't get the vote until 1919, by which time all the Jim Crow voting restrictions for African Americans were in place.

    Maybe if people remembered this they could link today's voter suppression measures to the older ones. It's all about white privilege.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:26:03 AM PDT

  •  If only voting were as easy as buying a gun. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    Tax and Spend I can understand. I can even understand Borrow and Spend. But Borrow and give Billionaires tax cuts? That I have a problem with.

    by LiberalCanuck on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 12:41:34 PM PDT

  •  excellent diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black Max

    Too bad this couldn't be a part of the amicus brief when the Roberts Court finally get the VRA preclearance case. Roberts has signaled that he is sympathetic to the states that are "suffering" under 50 years of DOJ scrutiny. What Roberts and other conveniently ignore is just how difficult it was to disrupt insidious suppression schema by states and governments. It obviously has not died (indeed has been revived) with the election of a black president.

    "I feel like I'm still waiting to meet my true self. I'm assuming it's gonna be in a dark alley and there's gonna be a fight." ---Rachel Maddow

    by never forget 2000 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 01:14:10 PM PDT

  •  Werner (Bear?), if you're interested (0+ / 0-)

    in documenting this for the History Commons, an info outlet with a very large readership in academic and media circles, drop me a line: purplesage23 AT yahoo DOT com .

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