Voting, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is a fundamental right of every citizen. It is, or should be, our biggest protection against non-representative government. Ideally, voting is the most important vehicle we the people have to voice our pleasure or displeasure on issues that are important to us, to vote for those we hope will represent us to the best of their abilities or, if we don't like the scoundrels, to vote them out. Without the right to vote, a democracy is doomed and the success of all the other characteristics Britt describes is virtually guaranteed.
Republicans are using the specter of "voter fraud" as an excuse to make voting for certain groups as cumbersome as possible, if not downright impossible. It is no mere coincidence that the disabled, the poor, seniors, minorities and college students are among the targeted groups - they voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 and mostly vote Democratic in local and state elections. These laws are a cold, calculating attempt to disenfranchise the opposition; it is a well organized and substantially financed effort, not a mere coincidence.
The Brennan Center for Justice, in A Policy Brief on the Truth About "Voter Fraud," argues: 1) Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare; 2) Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud; 3) Voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct; 4) Raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda; 5) Claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.
The paper was last updated in September 2006, long before the days of Scott Walker and his Gang of Thieves. Not only are dead men signing petitions to recall Democrats, thousands of votes that went missing in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race mysteriously appeared after the election went for a Democrat by a mere 125 votes. It was erroneously reported here that the Democrat was in the lead. She lost and warns that the recount should serve as a wake-up call to improve Wisconsin’s election process.
Wisconsin Republicans are an angry and vindictive bunch. How dare Democrats recall their brothers in crime? In fact, how dare anyone vote for a Democrat? Come to think of it, how come Democrats are even allowed to vote? The audacity of it all. This threat to "our" democracy has to be stopped, now, before those pesky recall primaries and certainly before that black man runs for re-election in 2012.
So, the Wisconsin neo-fascists put their pointy little noggins together and passed a bill that severely restricts those undesirable elements from exercising their right to vote. It was passed by the General Assembly last week, approved by the Senate yesterday, and is sure to be signed into law by their illustrious governor next Wednesday. Not only is the bill an outrage and very possibly unconstitutional, the whole dog and pony show in the Assembly and in the Senate (more HERE) was a mockery of parliamentary procedure.
The measure, which will cost more than $5.7 million to implement, requires voters to show a driver's license, state ID, military ID, passport, naturalization papers or tribal ID to cast a ballot. Student IDs are allowed but have to include a current address, birth date, signature and expiration date. As of now, no college or student ID meet these standards.
Also yesterday, and not to be outdone by his northern ally, Florida's governor Rick Scott signed a 128 page bill that - you guessed it - completely rewrites the state's election laws and disenfranchises millions of voters. If anything, the Florida law makes Wisconsin's read like the Bill of Rights and thus requires serious scrutiny. According to Think Progress, it:
Forces Provisional Ballots: The bill eliminates a long-standing provision that allows people to change their address or name at the polls. For four decades, Florida allowed those with proper photo ID whose name or address had changed due to marriage, or divorce, or a move by a military family to update that information on Election Day. . . . As one Florida supervisor of elections told the Florida Independent, the provision is “disturbing” as provisional ballots are often reserved for close races and thus “go uncounted.”Just last March, Rick Scott rescinded a bill to restore voting rights to non-violent felons that had been restored by former governor Charlie Crist.
Cuts Early Voting: HB 1355 also cuts the time for early voting from 14 days to eight. The early voting reform was among former Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R-FL) election reforms to “prevent embarrassments like the 2000 election.” As the Miami Herald’s Joy-Ann Reid notes, “It was a hard-won victory for working people who sometimes can’t get to the polls if they work odd hours, or run out of time to resolve a problem at the polls.” According to Reid, in 2008, black churches and college students “took full advantage of the extra time” — two groups that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.
Invalidates Absentee Ballots: The bill severely undercuts the absentee ballot. Under this bill, absentee ballots are determined illegal if the voter’s signature on the certificate does not match the signature on record.” As the Herald-Tribune notes, this will affect “voters who suffer from arthritis, strokes and other ailments that affect their handwriting. Those who fail to update their signatures in time would be out of luck.” The bill states that, if elections results are contested, a court cannot “consider any evidence other than the signatures on the voter’s certificate and the signature of the elector in the registration records” in determining the ballots validity.
Fines Third Party Voting Groups: Third-party voter registration groups, such as the non-partisan League of Women voters, the NAACP, and the Boy Scouts are also targeted by HB 1355 by requiring these groups to turn in registration cards within 48 hours of signature or face fines. Voter groups note that “the requirement would be difficult to meet if they are registering thousands of voters at a time.” Because of the “undue burden” this provision places on “thousands of volunteers,” the League of Women Voters — an organization with a “91-year history of registering and educating voters” — announced today that it will “cease [its] voter registration efforts in this state” should HB 1355 become law.
Wisconsin and Florida, however, aren't the only states threatened with fascism. According to a New York Times editorial from April, eight states already have photo ID laws and 30 other states are now joining the "bandwagon of disenfranchisement, as Republicans try to outdo each other to propose bills with new voting barriers."
Think Progress, in a rather poorly edited article but from which I've liberally quoted, examines these efforts in several states. Following are a few:
NEW HAMPSHIRE: State Rep. Gregory Sorg (R) has introduced a bill that would bar thousands of college students and service members from voting in the communities where they live and attend school. According to New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien (R) the legislation is necessary because there “are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.” (emphasis mine)
MINNESOTA: Two separate bills in the statehouse would require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The more expansive of the bills would end same-day voter registration and create a large electronic database which would scan voter’s IDs. So, what's a few bucks?
NORTH CAROLINA: Republican legislators have introduced a photo ID bill that the Institute for Southern Studies estimates will cost taxpayers more than $20 million. Once again, the legislation’s target is phantom “voter fraud” — even though in 2008 authorities reported only 40 voting irregularities out of 4.3 million votes cast. The real targets of the bill would be the state’s elderly, disabled and college-aged voters. One state senator has called the legislation a “slap in the face” to the more than 35 percent of registered voters who live in isolated, rural counties. (emphasis mine)
TEXAS: Despite facing a $10-11 billion budget shortfall, Gov. Rick Perry pushed a voter ID bill as an “emergency item” last month — forcing the Texas legislature to act on the bill before dealing with the state’s budget crisis. Since then the Senate has passed a voter ID law that would be one of the most restrictive in the nation and almost certainly depress turnout among low-income Texans. The bill also allows anyone with a handgun license to vote.
Other states trying to pass voter ID requirements, according to Think Progress, include South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Iowa, Montana, Connecticut, Maine, Alaska, Maryland, Virginia, New Mexico, Illinois. And in several states conservatives have introduced bills requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote - Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Times editorial ends with this:
Many of these bills were inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-backed conservative group, which has circulated voter ID proposals in scores of state legislatures. The Supreme Court, unfortunately, has already upheld Indiana’s voter ID requirement, in a 2008 decision that helped unleash the stampede of new bills. Most of the bills have yet to pass, and many may not meet the various balancing tests required by the Supreme Court. There is still time for voters who care about democracy in their states to speak out against lawmakers who do not.Still think it's all just a coincidence? With these laws, we the people can't even vote the bastards out.
FURTHER READING - thanks to BJ and Tiny:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has hired two more lawyers and is planning to add another to help handle an expected workload increase resulting from the Republican-led Legislature’s recently ended session, reports Bill Kaczor of the Associated Press.THINKPROGRESS on the history of the conservative's anti-voter agenda. Very revealing.
THE REAL COST OF VOTER ID LAWS - an unnecessary, expensive and intrusive voter restriction in a time of financial crises.