Voter Suppression…Don’t Let It Happen to You!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday was our nation’s first National Voter Registration Day.With that in mind, this thrust seemed apropos for today’s topic.In the past decade, a wave of new voter laws has been enacted; nearly a thousand have been introduced in 46 states since 2001.More are pending.The pace has escalated sharply in the past two years, since the 2010 takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives and sharps upswing in the number of Governorships held by the GOP.These legislative initiatives are expected to affect voter behavior.The pertinent questions are why, and to what end?

In all fairness, these statutes are viewed differently in different circles.However, with just as much fairness, it must be noted, the default bogeyman, “voter fraud,” while hotly debated, struggles to survive the “test of reasonable man scrutiny.”I will delve more directly into that notion momentarily.

Meanwhile, as you might well imagine, in the shadow of America’s rapidly approaching national election, where the public is thought by most observers to be fairly evenly divided, any scheme or action that has, or is perceived as having, the wherewithal to fundamentally alter the outcome is certain to be controversial.Such is the case with what are commonly referred to as “voter suppression laws.”

The basic nature of these provisions is to do one or more of the following to tighten identification rules for voting:

·Require a government-issued photo ID

·Demand proof of citizenship

·Purge voting rolls of non-citizens

·Shorten timelines for Early Voting

·Eliminate third party (such as the League of Women Voters) registration

·Prohibit Sunday voting

Interestingly, the new laws have been sponsored, almost without exception, by Republicans.Their claim regarding the necessity of such laws harkens back to the aforementioned notion of voter fraud.In five states (Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, and North  Carolina), Democratic Governors have vetoed ID laws passed by Republican Legislatures.OK, right out of the box, we have the fuel to submit this issue is one with clearly differentiated partisan perspectives.In full disclosure, one Republican Governor, Rick Snyder of Michigan, has also vetoed such legislation.

The GOP has frequently used a template from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to argue there is a compelling need for this variety of lawmaking because voting related irregularities are widespread.This argument has been supported by the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), which joined the fray by publishing a list of reported election crimes during a 12-year period endng December, 2011.Furthermore, proponents of these measures insist that invoking such requirements is not an onerous imposition in an era when such documentation is routinely required to board an airplane or enter an office building.Moreover, according to opinion polls, a majority of the public supports the concept of photo IDs.Finally, the Supreme Court has taken a similar view, though it has left open the possibility of reconsidering, should new evidence emerge.

At first blush, given the former paragraph, one may see why individuals could find comfort in the argument for more voter laws.However, I would contrastingly point your to the NRA, the GOP, and gun-toting conservatives, and the idea they put forward, consistently, regarding any effort to expand gun laws.To put it succinctly, their consensus opinion is, there are enough gun laws on the books. Ergo, there is absolutely no need whatsoever for any new gun legislationabsolutelynone!Can you feel me?

Consider that we live in an environment in which during a 16-day period in late July-early August, we experienced both the (Batman) theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado (12 killed; 58 injured), and the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (7 killed including the gunman; 3 injured).Republicans, who have in recent years acted in activist fashion promoting initiatives to amend, augment, and/or enact voterID laws, have contemporaneously and enthusiastically opposed legislation to address gun violence. Let’s just say the present day cyber-abbreviation for my response is SMFH. Really!

There are a number of critics who question the necessity of this proliferation of new voter laws.Count me among them.In addition to the question of whether there is a need for these new laws, questions have arisen regarding their effectiveness.Picture IDs serve only to restrict voter impersonation fraud.By any known measure, such fraud is rare.In 2005, Indiana enacted such a provision on a straight party-line vote.What was the number of “widespread” cases of voter impersonation fraud that prompted this “compelling”action?None, nada, zero; there had been not one single known instance of voter impersonation fraud in the history of the state.That is in forever!

In 2011, Texas enacted a strict new law, even though in 2008 and 2010, only 5 formal complaints of voter impersonation were made…out of 13 million votes cast.  Just so we are clear, that number was not 5,000, not 500, no, not even 50.  It was 5…out 13 million.  I’d say that is the classic definition of a solution in search of a problem.  In fact, backtracking to that RNLA inventory, a balanced assessment of reported voter fraud reveals the inventory to have been flawed and misleading.In general, election experts believe the most significant threat to election integrity actually comes from absentee ballots; a threat, incidentally, not covered by this current spate of laws.

So, what’s the big deal?If one has a driver’s license, or a passport, or (in Texas) a concealed carry permit, there is none.Alternately, if one lacks those forms of ID, he or she will have to assemble some combination of birth certificate, naturalization forms,proof of residence, and transportation (be it public, or someone else’s car) to a government office that issues official photo IDs (for which there may be a cost).

Who are these people?Based upon data assembled in numerous studies, they are disproportionately:

  • Young
  • Elderly
  • Poor
  • Black
  • Hispanic

Put somewhat differently; this list of the “least of these” represents the proverbial heart of the Democratic Party coalition of voters.Of the 5segments listed above, President Obama won 4; all except the elderly, in 2008.Moreover, given the current state of the campaign dialogue on Social Security, Medicare, and Healthcare Reform, chances are the President will do better with older Americans in 2012.

What’s the bottom line?  We know why…and to what end!  The number of potential voters affected by these laws is substantial.The Texas secretary of state estimates that 600,000 already registered voters do not possess the documents they will need to cast votes in November.That is just one state; a big state no doubt, but still just one.  

The Brennan Center for Justice at New  York University’s Law School has estimated that more than five million people may lack the requisite identification documents to vote in states that have passed new ID laws.  That’s literally millions of disenfranchised voters.

Finally, Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection for the Advancement Project, said in a study released Monday, that obstacles stemming from the spate of voter ID laws could deter or prevent more than ten million Latino citizens from registering and voting in the 2012 elections…and that’s just Latinos.  Even if you pick a number between that projected by the Brennan Center and the figure released by the Advancement Project, the level of voter disenfranchisement ment is in the millions.  If Democrats had proposed such a scheme, President Obama, like President Clinton, would have been Impeached.      

There is no doubt this mass action is intended to (the why) drive the outcome of the 2012 elections.  The ultimate goal (to what end) is to retrieve the Presidency and achieve a majority in the Senate.

There are far too many aspects of this story to cover in a single blog post; it’s conceivable that not even Volume 1 of a book would suffice.That notwithstanding, I think I’ve left you with enough to glean the gist of the matter.There are some tainted endeavors afoot; intended to disrupt the will of the people during this election.Over the next six weeks, I urge one and all to solidify and stiffen your commitment and resolve, understand the dynamics that are in play, and see the scourge that is Voter Suppression…Don’t Let It Happen to You!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

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