Archive for Vote Suppression

Oct
28

You can’t say poll tax

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The 1981 recording of Lee Atwater explaining the Southern Strategy finally made it onto the Net a couple of years ago. You know the one. It’s the interview where he says:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. … “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It’s the decades-old racial strategy that RNC chief Ken Mehlman apologized for to the NAACP in 2005. For what that was worth.

Jeffrey Toobin muses this morning in the New Yorker about recent court rulings on photo ID laws and what voting rights activists might do to counteract them. He includes quotes from federal district court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’ opinion — struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — that the Texas photo ID statute, SB 14, “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax” with an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans.” But reading the words this time recalled the Atwater quote.

Maybe it was the photos Dante Atkins shared from a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center last week. Afterwards, newly minted citizens crowded the Democrats’ voter registration tent. At the Republican table nearby? Crickets.

Just as in the heyday of “forced busing” debates, Republicans have gone abstract. The dog whistles are pitched so high, many among their base don’t recognize them for what they are. They insist that photo ID laws are not discriminatory (as Ramos ruled), and they get quite testy if you suggest it. If photo ID laws hurt “a bunch of college kids” or “a bunch of lazy blacks” more than older, white Republicans, “so be it.” That is, as Atwater said, a byproduct.

So poll taxes are back, targeted not just at blacks and Hispanics, but at other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Only in 2014 you can’t say “poll tax.” That backfires. So now it’s “election integrity,” “ballot security,” “restoring confidence,” etc. A hell of a lot more abstract than “poll tax.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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The headline from the Colorado Independent caught my attention more than the story (which I already knew): O’Keefe uncovers hypothetical support for hypothetical voter fraud.

The story itself is a week old. The Project Veritas filmmaker (no longer on probation), baited staffers from lefty organizations in Colorado with hypotheticals about committing voter fraud. The object? To get them to say something embarrassing enough on video to prove … something about voter fraud:

Left out of the reel are the many accounts reported by Mother Jones of campaign folks shutting down O’Keefe’s hypothetical voting-fraud schemes or even calling the police when his team refused to disengage. Ultimately, in fact, nearly all of the fraud in the video is hypothetical.

All of it, in fact, except for O’Keefe.

The object of these propaganda efforts is to lead viewers to infer that in-person voter fraud is being committed undetected somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. The same way Bush-Cheney spokesmen repeatedly juxtaposed Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in public statements until over two-thirds of Americans falsely believed Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attacks.

One of O’Keefe’s most celebrated cases of hypothetical voter fraud took place at a Washington, D.C. polling place on Primary Day in 2012. A Veritas operative presented himself as Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, but ran out of the place before signing the roll book. That is, he walked right up to the line — put his toes on the line, figuratively — but for reasons unknown would not demonstrate how easy it is for anyone to get away with committing an actual felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Go figure.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
20

Guns and voter fraud vigilantes

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As early voting gets started here this week, more thoughts about new voting restrictions.

Call a gun rights advocate’s AR-15 an assault rifle and he’ll think you’re a dumbass liberal who a) doesn’t know the first thing about weapons, and b) has no business anywhere near laws affecting his right to bear arms. What should voting rights advocates think of voter fraud vigilantes who call any and every form of election irregularity voter fraud?

Imposing new gun laws is counterproductive, many Republicans believe, because most criminals get guns illegally. More regulation just infringes upon honest Americans’ rights. But more regulations passed to prevent voting illegally? A nonissue.

The University of Texas-Austin’s Daily Texan weighed in on that last week:

The fact that over half a million Texans do not have the proper form of ID in order to comply with the law and will thus be disenfranchised this November is apparently a nonissue. That these Texans belong to groups that historically vote Democratic is also a coincidence.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker this month:

“I was at a town hall meeting yesterday in Appleton, and took questions from the crowd, and one person asked me how many cases of fraud there have been in the state. I said, does not matter if it was one or a hundred or a thousand. I ask amongst us, who would be that one person who would want to have our vote canceled out by a vote cast illegally?”

How many married couples who “cancel out” each others’ votes each election advocate laws preventing spouses from “stealing” their votes? Who amongst the tens of millions of real Americans without photo IDs would want to be kept from voting because of vigilantes’ “downright goofy, if not paranoid” fears about what they insist might be a “widespread problem“?

Mark Fiore takes on the Voter Fraud Vigilantes here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
16

Gaming Democracy

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Last night, judges once again struck down another state’s photo ID law. This time in Arkansas:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ highest court on Wednesday struck down a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, ruling the requirement unconstitutional just days before early voting begins.

In a decision that could have major implications in the Nov. 4 election, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that determined the law unconstitutionally added a requirement for voting.

The high court noted the Arkansas Constitution lists specific requirements to vote: that a person be a citizen of both the U.S. and Arkansas, be at least 18 years old and be lawfully registered. Anything beyond that amounts to a new requirement and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled.

Similar rulings have occurred with Republican voting laws in Pennsylvania (January), Wisconsin, and Texas, although the Texas ruling by the U.S. District Court was overturned yesterday by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The day before the Wisconsin ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed North Carolina to implement its ban on same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The state’s sweeping voting bill goes to trial next summer. The mixed rulings may have more to do more with timing than principle:

Despite the flurry of high court rulings, many legal analysts and some judges say the Supreme Court’s actions are less about broad voting rights principles than telling federal judges to butt out, particularly so close to Election Day. In each of the cases where the justices acted, lower federal courts had issued orders that would have changed the rules for elections just weeks away, potentially causing confusion among voters and election officials.

You have to wonder when (and if) the light bulb will come on in the public consciousness. Our moneyed lords and their Republican vassals oppose the very idea of democracy for fear of the peasants peeing on the furniture. The succession of court challenges overturning photo ID laws and marriage equality bans follows a pattern seen in Republican-led states across the country, certainly here in North Carolina. GOP legislatures feel empowered (and directed) to push the constitution and established rules to the limits and beyond, and they dare anyone to stop them. As president-elect George W. Bush quipped, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” Was that a Kinsley gaffe?

Charlie Pierce in Esquire on the GOP mining democracy [emphasis mine]:

Simply put, the Republican party deliberately has transformed itself from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of I’ve Got Mine, Jack. And it rarely, if ever, gets called to account for that. As a result, and without substantial notice or paying a substantial price, and on many issues, individual Republicans have been able to justify the benefits they’ve received from government activity that they now oppose in theory and in practice. This is not “hypocrisy.” That is too mild a word. This is the regulatory capture of the government for personal benefit. That it makes a lie, again and again, of the basic principles of modern conservatism — indeed, that it shows those principles to be a sham — is certainly worthy of notice and debate. It is certainly worthy of notice and debate that the conservative idea of the benefits of a political commonwealth means those benefits run only one way. Modern conservatism is not about making the government smaller. It’s about making the government exclusive.

They are bent on gaming democracy the way they game capitalism.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
10

What a difference a day makes

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The U.S. Supreme Court last night blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s photo ID law for next month’s election:

By a 6-3 vote, the justices granted an emergency appeal from civil rights lawyers, who argued it was too late to put the rule into effect this year.

Lawyers for the ACLU noted that the state had already sent out thousands of absentee ballots without mentioning the need for voters to return a copy of their photo identification.

It would be “chaos,” they said, for Wisconsin to have to decide whether to count such ballots now because voters had failed to comply with the new law.

Meanwhile in Texas, a federal district judge ruled the state’s photo ID card law unconstitutional:

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Oct
10

Friday Open Thread

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Nothing happened this week, amiright?

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Oct
09

SCOTUS: Weird with a beard

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We’re going to discuss photo IDs and vote suppression in just a minute.

But first, God and beards were before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case of Holt v. Hobbs. At issue: Whether a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas should be allowed to wear a beard in accordance with his religious faith. Per federal statute, prisons should allow such accomodation. As a compromise, the plaintiff, Holt, had agreed that a half-inch beard would satisfy his obligation to God.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock testified for the plaintiff.

Inside the court chamber, Laycock told the justices that 40 prison systems allow beards of any length, yet Arkansas still will not allow a short, half-inch beard. That policy, he argued, is “seeking absolute deference to anything they say, just because they say it.”

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In a folder labeled “Spam – Right wing” dating from 2005 on, I have 200 or so examples of the kind of right-wing, pass-it-on spam you get from friends and relatives. (And yes, I have a “Spam – Left wing” folder, too, with fewer than ten. Pass-it-on spam is a phenomenon of the right.)

For awhile I even got right-wing chain-mail from a Republican elected official in Oxford, MS on whose personal list I landed somehow. They kept coming even after I responded and told her, no, I wasn’t who she thought I was so, no, I couldn’t send her that chicken recipe she liked so much.

But we’ll come back to that.

A week or so ago, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity came under fire for “hundreds of thousands of mailers with false information” that appeared in mailboxes across North Carolina, prompting hundreds of complaints from voters and drawing fire from state Democrats:

Casey M. Mann, N.C. Democratic Party executive director, filed the complaint Monday over the Americans for Prosperity Foundation voter registration mailers that included incorrect information on where to send applications, an incorrect registration deadline, and inaccurate information about getting answers to questions.

Addressees included a dead child and a cat.

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During a recount here in November 2012, I was at the local Board of Elections when a T-party member flashed a handwritten sign at a young woman from Warren Wilson College: “You are a law breaker.” A redistricting error by the GOP-controlled legislature — a precinct line drawn down the middle of the campus — allowed a handful of students’ votes to decide control of the county commission in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Democrats held the majority by 17 votes.

So it was no real surprise to see this the other day:

The head of the College Republicans at one North Carolina college is determined to stop voter registration drives on her campus, whether they’re being sponsored by conservative or liberal groups.

According to MSNBC, Chairwoman Leigh Thomas of the High Point University College Republicans was caught on camera on Wednesday telling a conservative group that it could not register voters on campus because she wasn’t comfortable with it.

[...]

“I don’t approve of it whatsoever—on a campus like High Point University,” she said. ”I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus, with students.”

During the 2012 recount, T-party members argued that students legally registered at their school should not have their votes counted. It didn’t matter what the law said. (The Board chair quoted it to them.) The T-party charged voter fraud (naturally) and argued, essentially, that the law should be what what they wanted it to be. Ironically, they would lose because the GOP’s high-paid mapmakers failed to safely sequester all of the campus in the liberal ghetto created for the city of Asheville, a.k.a. The Cesspool of Sin.

As the High Point University incident this week demonstrates, Republicans don’t want people voting. Paul Weyrich admitted as much in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” What they want to ensure is that only the right people vote.

So North Carolina holds its breath this weekend as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to enforce a stay on implementing two key provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive, new voting law.

In North Carolina, the Oct. 1 decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals restores same-day registration for early voters and out-of-precinct voting in the upcoming election. The panel overturned a U.S. District Court decision that found implementing the controversial 2013 law would not cause “irreparable harm” to voters. Voting rights advocates requested a preliminary injunction blocking the law for this year’s election as the broader lawsuit on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s law will be tried next July.

In his job as N.C. Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper has asked the Supreme Court to block the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts oversees the Fourth Circuit and could rule any day.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
02

Back to the elections board

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Local Boards of Elections in North Carolina were scrambling yesterday to rework election instruction documents after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order blocking enforcement of two provisions of the state’s new election law in this November’s election.

But for NC Governor Pat McCrory and Republican colleagues, that’s not the end of it:

The Republicans plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving questions about whether North Carolinians will be allowed to vote the same day that they register during the early voting period this year as well as whether provisional ballots cast outside a voter’s proper precinct will be counted.

The NAACP, the ACLU, and other groups have sued to have the law ruled unconstitutional. That case will not be heard until July. The photo identity card requirement in the law does not got into effect until 2016.

The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) had been a 15-page voter ID bill winding its way through the GOP-controlled legislature last year. Then in June, the Shelby v. Holder decision by the U.S. Court set aside of two preclearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Winston-Salem’s Camel City Dispatch explains:

Once that happened, the North Carolina State Senate dumped in a laundry list of voter suppression provisions that ballooned HB 589 into a 57 page collection of the most restrictive voter suppression regulations since the Jim Crow era. All of this while at the same loosening campaign finance restrictions on politicians. Apparently the Republican Supermajority felt that the voters of North Carolina needed to be regulated, but for politicians to be kept under the government thumb was just too much.

Millions of voter guides have already gone out with information contradicted by yesterday’s court ruling. It’s going to be a wild ride.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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