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Voter Suppression Wiki Graphic 300x113

Image by baratunde via Flickr

In my post a few days ago, I described how a 96-year-old woman may not be permitted to go to the polls in 2012 even though she has been voting for 70 years since she was in her 20’s.  I also said that this is not an isolated incident but an effort to disenfranchise certain voters.  A new report by a non-partisan law institute shows that at least 5 million voters will be adversely affected by the new restrictions on the right to vote.  In particular, new legislation will negatively impact seniors, college students, Hispanics, and African Americans, among others.  These findings indicate that the new wave of restrictive voter regulations may be less about fraud and more an effort by conservatives to steer the vote their way by suppressing voting rights of those who tend to vote Democrat.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice:

This year, in every case but one, strict voter ID bills were introduced by Republican legislators.  Newly elected legislators introduced about a quarter of these bills.

The Brennan Center for Justice “is a non-partisan public policy and law institute,” according to the report written by Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden on October 3, 2011.”  The center is located at New York University School of Law and focuses its work on voting rights, campaign finance reform, racial justice in criminal law, and presidential power to fight terrorism.

According to the Brennan Center, 33 states have new regulations.  The  reports says:

This new wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election…

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

States have changes their laws so rapidly that no single analysis has assessed the overall impact of such moves

The Brennan Center cites two major reason for these new changes:

  1. Republican control of state houses with friendly governors, many of these changes taking place as a result of 2010 elections.  “The first is the stark shift in the partisan makeup of the state legislature after 2010…there is typically a sharp partisan divide over the issue of strict voter ID requirements, with Republicans generally pushing more restrictive measures and Democrats generally opposing them.” the Brennan Center report says.  “As a result of Republican electoral success in state houses across the country in 2010, proponents of strict voter ID bills were able to garner much greater legislative support than in the past.”
  2. Priority.  Again, this is more a Republican agenda than Democratic, and is also a result of the 2010 elections.  “Many of the Republican legislators and election administrators swept into office in 2010 made voter ID…a major legislative priority,” according to the Brennan Center report.

The Brennan Center says that there is a possible third reason for the successful wave in 33 states for these new laws suppressing the right to vote and, you guessed it, it comes down to SPECIAL INTERESTS!  The Brennan Center says:

Another new feature of the legislative landscape was the reported involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group made up of state legislators and business and other interests…a powerful conservative group that brings together state legislators and private interests to develop and support state legislation and policy.

And “support” they do!  According to the Brennan report:

ALEC…boasts that each year more than 1,000 bills based on its models are introduced in state legislatures, and that approximately 17% of those bills become law.

Some politicians and others who support these new restrictive laws claim that there has been widespread voter fraud.  But these claims of voter fraud may prove to be false if the state of Kansas is any indication.  Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been using voter fraud to push new voter restrictions through the legislature and has been successful in his efforts to get it through the 83-member Kansas House.

But, according to The Wichita Eagle:

Before the Senate joins the House…senators should demand better evidence of voter fraud than Kobach has turned up so far…the local incidents look more like honest mistakes than voter fraud – ballot applications signed by well-meaning relatives, mail-in ballots with signatures that didn’t match those on file, a parent trying to vote for a student off at college – and, in the end, the ballots went uncounted…Saying voter fraud is rampant doesn’t make it so.

In one case, Kobach claimed that someone who died in 1996 had voted in August, but Kobach’s claim proved false.  The Wichita Eagle reports:

The Eagle found the Wichitan very much alive (“I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” the man said.)

The New York Times isn’t buying voter fraud either, instead calling it a “myth” in its editorial a few days ago.  According to the New York Times:

Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic…In all cases, they are abusing the trust placed in them by twisting Democracy’s machinery to partisan ends.

I agree that something stinks here and it appears as if there is a concerted effort to suppress the vote which is money-backed by special interest.  Even though 33 out of 50 states have currently passed these voters’ rights suppression laws, it is still relatively early in the election process and hopefully voters’ rights groups and other advocates may be successful in overturning them or amending.  I say that they may be successful but that will only be dependent on whether or not the public itself becomes aware of the fraud being committed against them.