Archive for Vote Suppression

Nov
12

A gated democracy

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Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco. Image by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years the New York Times declares this morning, condemning continued efforts to suppress turnout among poor, minority and younger voters. They don’t even bother to add qualifiers anymore when calling out Republicans for voter suppression.

Sean McElwee at Huffington Post runs down some preliminary analysis of new voting restrictions. Photo ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, and felon disenfranchisement were contributing factors in the low turnout.

More than 600,000 in Texas could not vote this year because they lacked the newly required documents. How many tried and were turned away? The nonpartisan Election Protection Voter help line received over 2,000 calls in Texas, according to the Brennan Center’s director of its Democracy Program, Wendy Weiser. A federal judge had determined that the Texas law was purposely designed to suppress minority votes.

As Ari Berman wrote last week, “Since Republican legislatures across the country implemented new voting restrictions after 2010 and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s become easier to buy an election and harder to vote in one.”

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Nov
09

Underground railroading

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On Friday, we were in Greensboro, NC when the International Civil Rights Center & Museum was open. We’d been meaning to stop in for years. We even managed to get through the tour of the old F. W. Woolworth lunch counter without crying. (OK, barely.) The word unequal kept coming up in the tour. That and the funeral earlier of a black friend had me mulling over how many white people still resent sharing the country with Others they consider unequal. Demographic shifts are bringing them kicking and screaming to the realization that they must.

Losing power is very personal for people on the right. Both left and right talk about taking “their country” back, but it seems much more personal for conservatives. In their America, it seems, there is no we, just i and me.

One place you hear it is in their rhetoric about voter fraud. It is a very personal affront to them that the power of their votes might be diminished by the Other. Every time someone ineligible casts a fraudulent ballot, they insist, it “steals your vote.” Your vote. They have convinced themselves that there are thousands and thousands of invisible felons stealing their votes every election. Passing more restrictive voting laws is a matter of justice and voting integrity, of course. What other motivation could there be for railroading eligible poor, minority, and college-age voters?

The Others they suspect of this heinous activity are people who do not believe as they do nor vote as they do. Voter fraud itself is a code word, the way Lee Atwater used “forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” It’s “much more abstract,” as Atwater said. The issue is not really whether the invisible “those people” are voting illegally or not. It is that they are voting at all. Sharing in governance, sharing power, is a privilege for deserving, Real Americans, not for the unwashed Irresponsibles. That Others do so legally is just as much an affront. Right now they’re targeting the invisible Others. Restricting voting to Real Americans comes later, I guess.

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Nov
02

Election Day wild cards

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Hagan-ObamacareSpent some quality time yesterday in the wind and snow and cold electioneering outside a couple of North Carolina early voting locations. It was the last day of early voting and it snowed all day. My wife got a push-poll on Friday knocking Barack Obama and asking if the info would make her more or less likely to vote this year, etc. Republicans here are still running against Obama.

Turnout in North Carolina is way up over 2010. In a blog post considering the impact of the Moral Monday Movement, FishOutofWater writes, “Democratic votes are crushing Republican votes 48.5% to 31.2% with over one million votes accepted.” That’s statewide. Where I live, Democrats are outperforming the GOP and independents in early voting in our county by about 2:1. It’s 49-25-26.

Here’s the catch, according to Michael Bitzer, from the political science department at Catawba College:

One of the key things to consider is the division between urban and rural Democrats: urban Democrats tend to be more liberal than their rural counterparts (in fact, there is still the generation of rural North Carolina Democrats who are generally more conservative and, in all actuality, vote Republican in the voting booth).

Politicos around here know not to trust that all registered Democrats vote for Democrats. Nobody seems to have a good handle on how the independents will break. Still:

Democratic turnout, measured against the same day in 2010, is 24 percent higher, while Republicans have voted slightly above the same level. Of those who have voted early, 49 percent were registered Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.

There has been a stronger showing of African-American voters, 25 percent of the early voting, compared to 20 percent in 2010, which is expected to benefit Hagan.

Unaffiliated and Libertarian voters appear motivated this year. They have cast 1 in 5 of the early ballots, 42 percent more than they did over the same period in 2010. Thirty-two percent of these voters didn’t participate in the 2010 election in the state, Bitzer’s analysis shows.

Another wild card for North Carolina: the GOP eliminated straight-ticket voting this year for the first time since 1925. This will, no doubt, add to lines at the polls:

Black and Democratic voters have long cast more straight-ticket ballots than white and Republicans have. In 2008, Democrats racked up a 401,000-vote cushion among the 2.2 million voters who voted a straight ticket. Elizabeth Dole beat Kay Hagan among those voters who didn’t pull the straight-ticket lever, but that wasn’t enough to dig out of the hole.

In 2012, straight-ticket voters gave Democrats a 308,000-vote lead, including a 78,000-vote edge in Mecklenburg County. Trevor Fuller, now the chairman of the county board of commissioners, actually lost to Michael Hobbs (who?) among voters who assessed each race individually.

Those kinds of numbers surely prompted Republicans to kill the practice, and it seems likely to help the GOP. In Mecklenburg, Democrats in down-ballot races like clerk of court appear to have the most at risk. That will hinge, though, on whether past straight-ticket voters walk out or brave the rest of the ballot.

But another catch. A friend reported that a Republican woman this week sniffed, “I only vote on Election Day.” My friend concluded why: Her voting early would only prove early voting is useful.

The first day of early voting here in North Carolina there were lines at the polls, as there were yesterday. Without straight-ticket voting, people were taking longer in the booths. But with the Democrats’ nominal lead in early turnout numbers, Republicans have to make up a significant difference on Election Day to win. And their older, whiter voters will have to stand in the same lines their party created to do it.

Should the NCGOP lose seats in the legislature on Tuesday and should Kay Hagan keep her seat in the U.S. Senate, count on the NCGOP to attempt to eliminate early voting altogether.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
31

The politics of misdirection

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There is a scene early in Die Hard With a Vengeance where Jeremy Irons’ character, Simon, posing as a crazy revolutionary, gives the Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson characters a riddle over the phone:

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

After fumbling for a moment trying to do multiplication in their heads, the two realize it’s a trick question. There’s only one guy. The rest is misdirection.

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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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Oct
27

Hypothetical support for a hypothetical

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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.)

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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.)

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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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