This started out as a comment last night in an open thread. At MB's suggestion, I'm re-posting it in expanded form in the diary.
If you've been watching cable news the past few days, you must have noticed that voter suppression laws and tactics initiated by Republican-controlled state legislatures in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio are being widely discussed and criticized.
If you are not alarmed by some of these below-the-radar developments, you ought to be. As someone mentioned in a comment I read yesterday, voting should be as easy as breathing air. It is decidedly not so at all.
As Dan Rather recently explained it on CNN, these restrictive measures are reminiscent of an earlier era when many African-Americans were denied the right to vote in Southern states
I will say that having covered civil rights and voter intimidation in the deep south in the early 1960s, I've seen up close and personal the reality of turning people away from the polls, discouraging people, primarily minorities and poor people, from coming to the polls.
Now you have a much more subtle, much more sophisticated version of that. But let's call it what it is. It's an effort at getting fewer people to vote, voter suppression. You saw the results in Ohio, where the Republicans tried to make some rules for voting favor Republicans in strong Republican districts, and then do the opposite in Democratic districts. It just got reversed this afternoon because of public pressure.
- UPDATE #1
There have been a lot of excellent and very constructive comments made in the diary. As several of you have suggested - legal actions in Pennsylvania and Ohio notwithstanding - the best revenge is beating the Republicans at GOTV and getting our voters to the polls. Organize, organize, organize!
I'd like to highlight this comment by fugwb who works for the United Auto Workers in Ohio. This is precisely the kind of activism needed in the next 2+ months to publicize this travesty. If you are located in Columbus, OH or in a nearby city or state, please support this rally any way you can. Thank you.
RALLY in COLUMBUS, OHIO
There is going to be a rally in Columbus this Monday, 8/20 at 9:00AM. It will be located at the Secretary of State's office 180 E Broad St. Columbus. We Are Ohio is the sponsor. It's called The Voters Rally and will be addressing voter suppression and will be showing solidarity for the two Montgomery County BOE members who were suspended by the SOS for voting to expand voting hours to include weekends in Dayton and Montgomery County.
- UPDATE #2
I wanted to also highlight this excellent suggestion made in the diary by JayC. There are a lot of very smart lawyers on Daily Kos (perhaps several in states like PA and OH) who may very well be familiar with the legal issues involved and could provide the appropriate legal guidance.
Maybe we need a DK GroupRemember to follow the latest developments here - This week in the War on Voting: Three court decisions on voting—good, half-good, and hmmmmph by Meteor Blades. It was posted earlier this morning on the front page.
Would it help to have a Daily Kos Group on Voter Suppression?
This is going to be a significant issue. It already is.
Evidence of Republican Dirty Tricks
The two videos below from the "Rachel Maddow Show" and "Hardball" on MSNBC explain in detail what's really taking place behind the scenes and how Democrats are fighting back.
Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez, director of Voter Protection for the Advancement Project, talks with Rachel Maddow about a court ruling allowing one of the strictest new voter restrictions in the country to be put in place in Pennsylvania, one of the country's most significant swing states, despite the fact that the policy only exists to give Republicans a partisan advantage in the upcoming election.
Summary: President Obama lost the nationwide seniors vote to John McCain in 2008 by 53%-45% in 2008. With Mitt Romney choosing a running mate whose draconian "Kill Medicare" Plan is politically toxic for many senior citizens, Democrats see an opportunity to cut into that lead - particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania, which has voted Democratic at the Presidential level in every election since 1992. However, the passage of a new restrictive voting law after the 2010 Election mandated government-issued photo ID's. This will impact hundreds of thousands of voters (perhaps 1%-9% of all voters) who currently do not have such an ID. Most elderly African-American PA residents are alarmed that they will not be able to get photo ID's in time to vote in the 2012 Election. An estimated 750,000 voters - mostly in urban areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - don't have a government-issued ID. This number is greater than President Obama's 2008 winning margin in the state.
In upholding the validity of this law, a PA state judge recently decreed that the state will be able to issue these ID's in time to all in need. This sounds disingenuous because PA has the fewest state government workers of any state in the country proportional to its population. Moreover, many counties do not even have offices to process such applications. Others are open only one day a week. The judge's political assertions are blatant lies. The case is being appealed to the PA Supreme Court but its outcome is uncertain. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed to eliminate poll taxes, literacy tests, and other barriers to voting. The US Department of Justice is investigating if the 2010 PA law is discriminatory.
As shown in the video - and with no prior evidence of large-scale voting fraud in the state - it is crystal clear as to the real purpose of the law. Addressing the Republican State Committee meeting last month, the Pennsylvania Republican House Majority Leader Michael Turzai boastedVoter ID which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the State of Pennsylvania... Done!
Chris Matthews talks to former Ohio governor Ted Strickland and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Barry Horstman about voter suppression in Ohio, and the attempt to disenfranchise minority voters.
Summary: The key issue is that early voting hours have been curtailed and crucial weekend hours eliminated by the Republican Secretary of State, John Husted. This limits voting opportunities for poor people. Under public pressure, Husted made a few meaningless concessions. In 2008, 93,000 people statewide cast their ballots on the weekend before that election. For a variety of reasons, African-American voters prefer to vote in person - unlike many Republicans who send in absentee ballots. A lawsuit to restore weekend voting hours is pending.
Former Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) offered this scathing critique of Republican shenanigans in his home stateI have concluded that the Republican Party has decided that they are afraid of the American voter. And so they are doing everything they can and as I said, they are without shame. They are blatant about this. Fortunately, we are not requiring photo ID's in Ohio but in states where photo ID's are required, I think they are the equivalent of a poll tax - taking us back to a time we all would all like to forget in this country where there was a systematic effort to keep minorities and poor people from having the access to the ballot. I think we are seeing it in subtle ways and in not-so-subtle ways. This is blatant and the Republican Party leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves.
In his own unique way of analyzing political news, Comedy Central's John Stewart mocked Republican efforts to suppress the vote in Pennsylvania and Ohio
The bottom line: hundreds of thousands of (mostly) Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio are in real danger of not having their votes counted in 2012. Could this adversely affect President Obama's chances of re-election and impact races in the US Senate and US House of Representatives? Absolutely.
Read much more in this diary by BruinKid - Watch Jon Stewart blast GOP voter suppression in OH and PA.
In a segment titled "Cockblock the Vote" Thursday night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart tore into Republican-backed voter identification laws in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which he branded as two different attempts at "suppressing Democratic turnout."
"Voter fraud is an enormous issue with more than exactly 10 documented cases of it in the entire country alone," Stewart deadpanned, "just since the beginning of the millennium. That’s .000000284% of all votes. So you can see why Pennsylvania would want to enact a voter ID law that one study claims could potentially disenfranchise around 9% of the entire Pennsylvanian electorate. But that’s the price you pay to prevent something that doesn’t happen."
"Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections," Stewart pointed out, "leaning toward Obama in this election. It’s not like voter ID law is blatantly designed to skew that result. Right, State House Republican majority leader that designed it?"
Here's How You Can Help
This is a serious issue facing the Democratic Party and here's how you can help between now and Election Day in early November
- Spread the word amongst family, friends, and acquaintances.
- Write letters to the editor not only to national newspapers and publications but also to your local newspapers.
- Write about it as often as you can on Daily Kos and other blogs. Important: I urge all of you who are prolific writers - and whose diaries often end up on the Recommended List - to focus on this issue like a laser beam and blog regularly about the injustices involved. This country had a turbulent Civil Right Movement many decades ago and most people thought that the Jim Crow era was behind us. We are better than these slimy Republicans!
- Call your political representatives and raise hell. Demand that they publicly raise awareness of this issue.
- Volunteer for the Pennsylvania Obama-Biden Campaign (35 offices in the state) and the Ohio Obama-Biden Campaign (60 offices in the state).
- Contact the ACLU, labor unions, local Democratic Party, churches, and other organizations engaged in correcting this injustice.
Above all, do something about it as the Republican Party is counting on Democratic apathy in 2012. In the past decade or so, the list of extra-constitutional Republican dirty tricks is long: Florida Recount, California Gubernatorial Recall Election, Texas Redistricting, and on and on. Democrats often "wake up" after the fact. Not this time. Show some fight.
Don't let the bastards steal the 2012 Election!