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President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr., August 6, 1965
President Lyndon Johnson greets Martin Luther King Jr. for the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, 1965, forty-seven years ago.

We thought we won.

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States on the wave of a massive voter turnout. New voters, students, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and women put him over the top.

It is safe to assume that while the President-elect was addressing the nation from Grant Park that evening, Republicans were already planning how to prevent a recurrence of the nightmare he represented. It has taken them the full four years, but they are on their way to successfully rigging a national election with the most powerful set of new voting laws, requirements and purges since Jim Crow reigned supreme.

 


 

The summer of hate in 2010, ginned up by the false claims of death panels and the forced euthanasia of grandma, by the paid astroturf operation Americans for Prosperity and its Tea Party cohorts, resulted in a massive electoral rejection of the existing political class in D.C. and state capitals. That was the planned result of the screaming matches at the townhall meetings that summer. Not to repeal Obamacare, but to retake the House of Representatives, control the Senate and claim as many statehouses as possible. There never was and never will be a repeal of Obamacare; too many of the corporate interests will profit from it to allow its repeal.

The 2010 elections gave them exactly what they needed to move ahead with their plans.
Republicans took control of 25 state legislatures and 29 state governorships. They also gained a majority in the U.S. House, but that wasn’t nearly as important since they could block all Democratic legislation in the Senate through use of the filibuster.

But the states, those were the prizes. The states determine who gets to vote and how they are allowed to cast their ballots. So the first order of business, after union busting and restricting a woman’s control of her own body, was to institute laws and procedures to suppress the votes of those who dared to put an African-American in the White House.

Now I don't know that Karl Rove called a meeting of his cronies, or if it was decided at a Koch financed meeting in some luxurious resort, but it doesn't really matter how it came about that all of the states that they now controlled took the same path.

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) was a big help to all of the freshly-elected Republican neophytes, force-feeding them legislation that was surely designed to enrich the wealthy by bleeding dry the wage earners of America. Longtime advocates of private school vouchers, they received their funding from Koch brothers and other corporate interests. They were behind the notorious Stand Your Ground law in Florida and voter suppression acts throughout the nation.

Once Color of Change and other activist groups began publicizing ALEC’s operations and applying pressure to its corporate sponsors, ALEC was forced to disband its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which provided model bills for voter suppression and “stand your ground” gun laws. The announcement was made on April 17, 2012. The very next day, April 18, 2012, the National Center for Public Policy Research, another right-wing group, announced the creation of a voter ID task force to replace the one discontinued by ALEC.

By then, much of the damage had already been done, and now GOP-controlled state governments had the tools to suppress the vote. Those tools made use of five main methods to make sure that the combination of minorities, women, and students that gave a relative unknown the Presidency would never have the power to do it again.

And like the other shoe dropping, the naming of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate makes it clear why elderly voters are also being targeted.

Voter ID Laws

This is where they start. Very similar to the banned poll taxes, 33 states have now passed laws requiring voter IDs. It sounds so reasonable to insure the integrity of our ballot system. The only problem is that there is no threat to our elections from fraudulent votes. BruinKid quotes Jon Stewart who summarized the testimony of the State of Pennsylvania, in defense of its ID law,  

"I rest my case, your Honor. It doesn't happen, this won't stop it, I think you can see why we have to do it now. Next up, leash laws for unicorns!"
According to a report released by the Brennan Center for Justice, the following
Photo ID laws.

At least 34 states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, and an additional four states introduced legislation requesting that voters show photo identification to register or to vote. Photo ID bills were signed into law in eight states — Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania— and passed by referendum in Mississippi. In addition, Minnesota's legislature has passed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require government issued photo ID to vote in person. The amendment will be voted on by referendum at the 2012 general election. By contrast, before the 2011 legislative session, only two states had ever imposed strict photo ID requirements. The number of states with laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification quadrupled in 2011. To put this into context, 11 percent of American citizens do not possess a government-issued photo ID; that is over 21 million citizens.

Voter ID laws.

Virginia has passed a law changing its voter ID requirements by eliminating the option of executing an affidavit of identity when voting at the polls or applying for an absentee ballot in person, while expanding the list of acceptable IDs. New Hampshire’s new voter ID requirements require a voter to produce documentary ID or submit an affidavit of identity. After September 2013, a voter must produce a New Hampshire or US government photo ID or execute an affidavit of identity, no other form of identification will be accepted.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
What voter ID laws are useful for is reducing voter participation by you know who. Requiring an unexpired government ID, a bank statement or a utility bill works well. Requiring an unexpired government photo ID, such as a driver's license or a passport, is better, because about 25 percent of African-Americans and 16 percent of Latinos don't have any -- as against 11 percent of the general population.

The nine states with the strictest photo ID requirements are mostly rural, which means the government offices where such ID can be obtained are likelier to be far away and to keep irregular hours. The Woodville, Miss., office is open only on the second Thursday of every month. Wisconsin's Sauk City office is open only on the fifth Wednesday of every month, and since eight months in 2012 don't even have a fifth Wednesday, the office will open its doors only four days this year.

That is step No. 1: Institute burdensome, expensive requirements that will disproportionately affect those who supported Barack Obama in 2008 to make sure they can’t do it again in 2012.

Registration Requirements

Next, restrict the ability of many to register to vote. This is a two-pronged attack. Five states have already passed laws requiring proof of citizenship in order to register. This proof can be a passport (which only a third of Americans possess -- and guess who many of them are) or a birth certificate, which 7% of Americans lack access to. If you are a woman who changed her name upon marriage, there are additional hoops for you to leap through as you present additional evidence that you are you, in spite of the different name on your birth certificate.

Texas and Florida have gone farther, placing obstacles in the path of any organization like The League of Women Voters to register their citizens. It should be no surprise that the proportion of Latino and African-American voters who register with the assistance of these groups is almost twice what it is for whites.

Sixteen states have introduced laws to eliminate Election Day or same day voter registration. Or reduce registration opportunities through mobilization efforts or restricted hours. Registered voters in Florida and Wisconsin who move may find it difficult to retain their registered status.

For those who have managed to navigate these steps to vote, there are still ways that those votes can be suppressed.

Restriction of Polling Hours

Restrict the early voting privileges of working people who vote with the Democratic Party to 8 am to 6 pm on Monday through Friday and 8 am to noon on Saturday. We have seen this at its most blatant in the state of Ohio, as reported by Meteor Blades, quoting Ari Berman of The Nation, on Thursday:

Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it’s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans.

‘I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,” Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends.

To repeat: Republicans in wealthier suburban districts will be able to vote at night, on weekends and other off-hours during those 11 early balloting days. Working-class Ohioans, Democrats or leaning that way, will find that early-voting hours in their counties are more likely to be available when they're on the job and can't get away. Which, of course, goes counter to the purpose of early voting.
Rachel Maddow has done an outstanding job covering the Ohio issues on her show, including this interview with Ted Strickland, last night:

The GOP does not want any Democrat to vote, and will use any means, fair or foul to try to prevent that vote from being cast. And they don't seem to care who knows it.

Purge the Lists

The federal government requires the states to maintain current voter lists. Some states are using that requirement to clear out all undesirables (you know, the poor, minorities, women, Democrats) from their voting registers. There are supposed to be safeguards to protect those who rightfully belong on the rolls, but when the purging is done close enough to an election, sometimes those are overlooked or shortchanged.

According to The Nation, New Mexico, under Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, just started their purge this week. The same state has run out of registration forms in six counties.

Apparently, the secretary of state’s office had enough resources to conduct a purge, but not enough resources to provide registration forms. And the purge doesn’t stop there. Duran is demanding the Department of Homeland Security turn over a federal database that identifies non-citizens who are eligible for public assistance, to cross reference to the voter list. The flawed approach may mean that eligible voters, who are mostly Latino, will be scrubbed from the rolls. [Editor’s note: As we’ve reported previously, this is a tactic pioneered in Florida and that is spreading across states doing purges.]
If you are a New Mexico resident, check to be sure you are still registered in September. And October. And November.

In Colorado it is ongoing, as reported by Im a frayed knot. In “Attention Colorado Voters,” she told how she was visited by Obama campaign workers who let her know that she and her son had been purged by the Colorado Secretary of State. It is an unpublicized move to get rid of voters.

Glendaw271 reported on the quiet Iowa purge undertaken by the Iowa SoS Matt Schultz (Republican, of course), and cited an AP report:.

Schultz issued emergency rules on July 20 — without any public notice or input — giving his office authority to compare Iowa's list of 2.1 million registered voters against lists of foreign nationals living in Iowa obtained from unspecified state and federal agencies. The rules say any matches should be turned over to investigators to determine whether they are the same person and whether they are still non-U.S. citizens who should be ineligible to vote.

If they are thought to be ineligible voters, Schultz's office will send notice telling them they may be illegally registered, a class D felony, and should cancel their registrations immediately. They would be given 14 days to dispute the notice; if they fail to do so, Schultz's office would take steps to remove them from the list. The rules instruct local elections officials to challenge any absentee ballots filed by such voters and to send in their prior voting histories to Schultz's office.

Meteor Blades has a front page article on the Iowa purge today.

In Arizona Late Again found that although her husband was legally registered to vote, she wasn’t, even though

We both just received our new voter ID cards updated with our new districts so I assumed our registrations were active. Why wouldn't I?
So, she has a current ID card but is not actively registered. Coincidence? Weird. Late Again thoughtfully provided a list with links to state Secretary of State offices and recommended that everyone verify their status.

Davidkc explained how the Florida state Republican Chairman, currently charged with six felonies, has admitted that the voter purges were intended to suppress youth and minority votes.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes a derivative of purging:

A variation on purging is caging, wherein nonforwardable letters are sent to voters in African-American neighborhoods. Whichever letters get returned unopened occasion instant purges. The Republican National Committee got caught doing this in the 1980s, and now the party is not allowed to under a consent decree. But considerable evidence suggests the GOP has quietly resumed the practice anyway.
I think they have just changed it up a little bit. See Nomi Rene's diary of last night for an example of how "Right-Wing Groups Send Mailers to Thwart WI Voter Registration."

Perhaps the worst offenders of all are those that belong to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Korbach’s 15-state consortium known as the Interstate Cross Check Project.

Ruth Johnson, the Michigan Republican Secretary of State, is a member, and after Gov Rick Snyder vetoed the Secure and Fair Elections Act (SAFE -- see how harmless and good it would be?) initiative she went ahead and put the citizenship check box on the ballot for last Tuesday’s election anyway. The result was massive confusion at the polls, where some voters were turned away for refusing to check the box. Around noon, she sent a clarifying message that refusal to state one’s citizenship should not deprive a voter of a ballot.

From the ColorLines.com article, “A Case Study in How Kris Kobach’s Cabal Aims to Remake Election Law” comes this:

Kansas has the most restrictive, active photo voter ID law in the nation. That law, which is also called the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, is the model for what Kobach would like to see happen around the country, where state cabinet officials are sent on missions looking for dead people, dogs and “illegals” attempting to vote. The project claims it has discovered people who are registered in multiple states, and who may have even voted in multiple states during one election.

“Double voting is a real common form of voter fraud,” Kobach told The Washington Times, despite every shred of evidence that exists establishing the opposite to be true. Kobach and his colleagues happily ignore the fact that a voter could be registered in one state, move to another state, and the prior state only fail to update its records in time; that doesn’t add up to “double voting.” But as the engineer of some of the most arcane anti-immigrant laws in the nation, it’s not a far leap to say Kobach’s Cross Check Project is fueled primarily by the desire to harass immigrants.

Who are the fifteen member states?
It’s difficult to assess Kobach’s Cross Check Project operations or efficacy because it doesn’t even have a website. But if the reports are true then there are 15 states—Michigan, Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee—inside Kobach’s web, representing 132 electoral college votes. Six more states were waiting in the wings as of reports in May.
And if that doesn’t work there are always

Robocalls

These are calls made to discourage voter turnout, like those made during the election to recall Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, advising that if one signed the recall petition one needn’t actually vote in the recall. Another common gambit is to tell people that the election is on the day after the actual date, or that their polling location has been changed.


Campus Progress.com has an interactive map showing students what they need to know to have their votes count. In Texas, for example, a concealed handgun license is acceptable ID, a student ID card is not.

The Brennan Center for Justice of the New York University just released the 2012 Summary of Voting Law Changes, which is available online here, as well as “Citizens Without Proof: A survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification,” available as a pdf.

The authors of the study were interviewed by Bill Moyers for his series Moyers and Company on August 3, 2012:

Two years ago we were brutally beaten at the polls. This time around things appear to be looking much better for our team. On a front-page article, kos claimed that we were winning.

We need to embrace reality and shove reality down the GOP's throats. Because yeah, we are ahead, objectively so. We're winning and we've got to own it. They can whine about biased polls and biased media and biased everything that doesn't conform to their little Fox News bubble world, all the while we do the work necessary to seal the deal.
It is all about sealing the deal. Or so it appears. Using national and state polling data, a strong argument can be made for President Obama winning more than 270 electoral college votes. He shows margins of victory in states like Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Mexico.

That would all be reassuring if we knew that every pollster was able to confirm that every individual they spoke with would be able to vote in November. That each respondent was registered and eligible with the proper paperwork to cast a ballot on election day.

The Obama campaign appears to be aware of the difficulties that their constituency will face this fall, and as evidenced by the experience of Im a frayed knot, is taking steps to counteract it. But we all have to be aware of what is going on in our states, districts and precincts. Not only must we confirm our eligibility to vote, but we must ensure we have all the documents that will be needed in November. Not just our own, but that of our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Originally posted to Susan Grigsby on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 03:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project, Barriers and Bridges, and Community Spotlight.

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