What makes this country truly exceptional, more exceptional than all the jingoistic, flag waving, bombastic rhetoric in any stump speech, is very simple. Americans have the RIGHT to vote. Voting isn’t a privilege earned, it is a right protected. There is no other way to maintain a republic than to protect voting rights.
There is nothing less “American” than seeking to suppress the votes of others. We no longer tolerate abuses like the nefarious Poll Taxes of recent memory. We no longer tolerate night riders “warning off” individuals who might want to exercise their voting rights. We no longer tolerate the fraudulent “literacy tests” for voting in which African Americans were asked exceedingly complicated questions on fine points of Constitutional law and failed for misspelling a word or misapplying punctuation. The night riders, poll taxes, and literacy tests might be part of the recent past, but there are now new ways to accomplish the same insidious ends.
The List Purge Fraud
Florida leads the nation in this vestige of racism and elitism. “Oh, they said, “We must purge our voter rolls of individuals who might not be eligible to vote in our elections, lest the votes of ‘real voters’ be diminished.” Really?
The Orlando Sentinel reported that of 37,000,000 votes cast there were only 178 allegations of voting fraud. [link] Do the math. The percentage of questionable votes? 0.0005%. That’s precious little diminishment using anyone’s calculator.
Further, what’s alleged and what’s prosecutable are two different things:
“David Iglesias, the Republican U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired by the Bush administration, said that he looked at over 100 claims of alleged voter fraud but found not a single prosecutable case. “We cannot prosecute on rumor and innuendo,” Iglesias told the Albuquerque Journal (3/15/07). (His refusal to prosecute cases that he felt were bogus was a central feature in his firing, as it was in the cases of nearly half of the 12 U.S. attorneys ousted by the administration—Washington Post, 5/14/07.) Iglesias’ findings are consistent with national data. Federal records “show that only 24 people were convicted or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005” (Project Vote, 3/5/07). [Bybee]
The Bush Administration’s study should have been the end of the fraudulent allegations of “fraud:”
“You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to find a prosecutable case of voter fraud. An extensive analysis of data from all fifty states by the U.S. Justice Department under President Bush found that incidents of voter fraud are exceedingly rare and would not be solved by state photo ID. It is a solution without a problem.” [TAProj]
The Problem is that Republicans believe that they aren’t getting elected because of “voter fraud.” It has become an article of faith. It has become a clarion call for outrage and action, all predicated upon the simple fears of gullible people. Study after study has found that the newest incarnation of the Poll Tax-Literacy Test voting suppression tactics — the voter ID laws — primarily prevent members of ethnic minorities and the elderly from voting.
And the GOP response: “Better to deny a few women in black the right to vote than to let hundreds of illegals swarm the voting booths and assert their “rights” in America. You liberals need an attitude adjustment.” [TFL]
There it is, the article of faith, faith that “illegals” will “swarm” into voting booths. Note that the commenter doesn’t say that this has happened, there’s far too much proof to the contrary. The commenter fears this “will” happen. It is a blind, irrational, unsubstantiated fear, but for the average xenophobic bigot it is part of their self constructed ‘reality.’
Members of ethnic minority communities have long been the targets of vote suppression, but why target the elderly? Although it has been argued that the elderly are more likely to support popular programs like Social Security and Medicare and are therefore a target of vote suppression activities, they may also be unintended victims. Blithe promises to “get everyone an ID” are hollow when the offices at which the identification cards can be obtained are far from an elderly non-driver’s home, or are not open when an elderly person could get transportation. The promises are even more ludicrous when the forms of identification necessary are impossible or expensive for elderly persons to obtain.
Those who still might remain unconvinced that after elderly nuns being denied their voting rights, and an 86 year old World War II veteran was denied his vote, a former four term member of Congress was denied voting, and an elderly widow in Kansas couldn’t get a voting ID, there isn’t a calculated effort to deliberately restrict voting for partisan advantage, then why not take the word of those doing the suppressing?
There’s Jim Greer, former head of the Florida Republican Party:
“Greer talked about how he was invited into many discussions as the head of the GOP in Florida, so he knows where some particularly rotten bodies are buried. There were discussions that early voting was going against Republicans, and so they should shorten it to prevent African American churches from organizing to bring out the vote for early voting. Greer had even given sworn deposition that there were discussions on suppression, but never once in his 3 1/2 years as GOP Chair of Florida had he seen a meeting on voter fraud; he went so far as to call it a “marketing tool of radical Republicans” in state government.” [HuffPo]
There’s Rep. Mike Turzai in Pennsylvania:
In June, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai listed off a number of legislative accomplishments. “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done,” Turzai said. [DemN] [YouTube]
What To Do?
Stay Informed. ALEC and its Republican allies rushed voter identification bills through state legislatures in preparation for the 2012 elections. However, grass roots organization defeated some onerous measures in New Hampshire and Maine [YDA] and nothing so diminishes the possibility of passing vote suppression bills like a bit of daylight.
Be Prepared. Know what the voting laws are in your state, and be prepared to vote. Bookmark Project Vote for updated information. If you are already registered to vote check your registration status with local election officials. In the immortal words of the flight attendant: Put your own oxygen mask on first (check on your own voting status) and then be prepared to help others around you.
Be Helpful. Check with elderly voters to see if they need assistance gathering the documentation necessary to vote, or who might need transportation to a registration office or polling station. Check on disabled people you know who may have difficulty registering, or might need assistance getting to polling stations. Find out what a disabled person who can no long write well enough for a signature match should do in your election district. Check with young people you know who need information about voting, especially if it is their first time.
We are, indeed, in danger of having elections stolen in this country. However, the danger doesn’t come from imaginary waves of hypothetical swarming aliens all seeking to desecrate our polling stations with fraudulent votes. The danger comes from the bigoted, the fearful, and the ignorant who have drunk the Kool-Aid and accept the right wing talking points as gospel, and who seek to influence elections by insuring that people unlike themselves are denied the RIGHT to vote.