Earlier this week, I wrote about last month's election and voter turnout. I mentioned that there has been a concerted effort by conservatives to suppress the vote in order to "game" future elections. Let's look at what has been done and what has been attempted.
Republicans have introduced "Photo ID" bills modeled by ALEC in almost every legislature where they have a majority and some where they don't. I'm a Minnesotan and I can be proud of my state for defeating a Photo ID constitutional amendment. Actually, courts have been an even better resource for defeating these bills and make no mistake, the goal of Photo ID bills is not "voting integrity", but rather to suppress the vote amongst Democratic constituencies. Courts in PA and WI stopped Photo ID from being enacted and more cases are pending.
The ALEC plan would disenfranchise some people and, more damaging, would present a big hassle which would convince more of the infrequent, mobile voters to just stay home. Of particular interest to the conservatives is to disenfranchise or suppress college students--not accepting college IDs as valid proof that they "are who they say they are". The other prong of this push is to cast doubt on elections. In my state, there is all of this plus sour grapes over recount losses of both a Senate seat and the governor's chair. Vague accusations of people voting who can't speak English, aliens arriving at polling places by bus and seeing people vote using dead people's names serves to de-legitimize results and fire up the conservative base. These complaints were lacking in 2010 when Republicans won just about everything, but they are back now wherever a close election was won by a Democrat, with or without a Photo ID law.
A second plan to "put the thumb on the scale" is the imbalance in convenience of voting. We've seen long lines, a lack of voting machines, and limited hours in heavily-Democratic districts. Early voting, thought of as a cure to the long lines, was limited by Republican administrations in Florida and Ohio (Pennsylvania too?). In my mind, this is all part of the plan to keep Democratic-leaning constituencies away from the polls. Yet another tool in this voter suppression is limiting registration--Wisconsin's Walker is talking about doing away with same-day registration and Republicans in Florida worked to negate voter registration drives. All of this needs to be reversed. This country is better off when as many as possible exercise their franchise.
Finally, the clincher for Republicans, is redistricting. It has been widely reported that Democrats got more votes for the US House than Republicans this year, something in excess of a million more votes. Due to the happy accident for the GOP of sweeping the election immediately preceding the 2010 census, they had the power to redistrict several swing states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and North Carolina which won them nearly 75% of seats when Democratic votes outnumbered Republican votes in all of those states. Further down the ballot, there are Republican majorities in the legislatures of most of these states that have done the same thing to state legislatures. Daily Beast's Hedrick Smith has an excellent article about how an overrepresented Republican House is causing major problems in the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Throw in nearly unlimited money on this plan and there is a situation where the liberal/moderate (sane) majority of this country continues to have to struggle to get it's voice heard. Reforms must be made--first of all, redistricting needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians, secondly, in every state, voting needs to be really free and as easy as possible. Fair redistricting and easy voting should also lift turnout. Our country would be better off for that.