Archive for Vote Suppression

May
09

“Huge drop in voter registration of poor NC residents”

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From Progressive Pulse:

A new analysis of voter registration data shows that under the McCrory administration, North Carolina may be systematically failing to provide state residents with the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for public assistance — such as food stamps or welfare — in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

Commonly called the “Motor Voter Law,” the Act requires public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices to provide voter registration services whenever someone applies for benefits, renews or recertifies benefits, or changes an address with the agency, unless the person declines these services in writing.

Affected programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”), the Medicaid program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”).

Go figure.

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Mar
14

A duty and a privilege

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At the Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift explains why Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner’s bipartisan effort to repair the Voting Rights Act is going nowhere. Sensenbrenner’s H.R.885, co-sponsored by Democrat Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and forty others (including eight Republicans), was introduced on February 11. The bill is “going nowhere,” Clift believes, in spite of the observance last weekend of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. John Lewis was among the civil rights marchers famously beaten there by Alabama State troopers.

It is worth noting that H.R.885 specifically exempts laws requiring “photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in a federal, state, or local election” from actions that trigger federal jurisdiction over state efforts to abridge the right to vote. The price of that bipartisanship, no doubt.

Clift quotes David Bositis, formerly with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Asked whether the symbolism of Selma fifty years later might move Congress to act, Bositis said flatly, “It’s not going to happen, nothing’s going to happen…. On balance this is more of a problem for the Republican Party than the Democrats because the people who are being disenfranchised view the Republican Party as hostile to them. It’s hurting the Republican Party.”

The Supreme Court 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in June of 2013 opened the door to a spate of voter ID laws. “Voter suppression, that’s the intent, but so few people vote in the United States,” says Bositis, “so all they’re doing is reinforcing the idea that Republicans are hostile to minority groups.” The GOP did very well in 2010 and 2014, but it had nothing to do with voter suppression, he says. Young people and minority voters typically have low turnout in non-presidential years.

[snip]

No election outcomes will be changed with or without the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, he declares. Still, it’s important. “The fact that one of the two major political parties is hostile to the rights of minority citizens is a very big deal—and a lot of that hostility is in the center of gravity of the party, which is Southern whites.” They’re not wielding clubs and hoses anymore, he says, and they may not say anything overtly racist. They cloak their objections in states’ rights. But Republicans not only have no incentive to update the VRA, they have a disincentive, he explains.

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Mar
07

50 years later, it’s always something

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Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama. (photo, Library of Congress)

President Obama will speak in Selma, AL today to observe the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday voting rights march that began at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It will be streaming live here at noon EST (9 a.m. PST).

Even as civil rights groups gather at the bridge, a Change.org petition started by Student Unite has gathered 150,000 signatures from people who want the name Edmund Pettus removed from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, now a national landmark and part of the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail. It dawned on somebody that the name of a Civil War general and Alabama U.S. senator/Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon is “a symbol of oppression.” Really.

This is happening in Montgomery:

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would prevent clergy, officials and faith-based groups with religious objections to certain marriages from being forced to officiate them, or being sued over their refusal.

Although the legislation does not directly address the issue, same-sex marriage supporters said the bill would effectively give state officials and religiously affiliated organizations, such as hospitals, homeless shelters and food banks broad powers to deny services and benefits to same-sex couples.

This is also happening:

The ACLU of Alabama; the Southern Poverty Law Center; the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Americans United for Separation of Church and State asked U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade to add all Alabama couples seeking same-sex marriage licenses as plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit in Mobile County, and to add all of the state’s probate judges who may enforce orders barring or resist rulings allowing same-sex marriage as defendants.

The groups also want Granade to issue an injunction that the probate judges “refrain from enforcing all Alabama laws and orders that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying or that deny recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples.”

[snip]

On Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing the licenses, saying its powers to interpret the U.S. Constitution were equal to Granade’s. The seven-justice majority said that the bans did not violate the 14th Amendment, arguing that the laws did not target gay and lesbian couples and that the state had a legitimate interest in promoting traditional marriage.

And you thought it was some kind of article of faith that “government shouldn’t pick winners and losers.”

It’s always something.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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It’s a cliche anymore to say that people who get distraught when women they don’t know want an abortion show much less concern for other people’s children once they’re born. But a headline from the inbox yesterday reminds me this is not the only area of public policy where such behavior holds.

One of the state’s GOP websites regularly reproduces in whole press releases from the Voter Integrity Project, North Carolina’s spinoff of True the Vote. This week’s 10-alarm headline? Curbside voting. Did you know that “there is no actual ‘proof’ of disability required” for the disabled or aged to use curbside voting? That you don’t have to show a photo ID at curbside voting? And that George Soros-backed groups will use this “curbside loophole” to help “drive-by voters” circumvent the state’s new voter ID law?

No code-speak there, huh?

But it strikes me that all the alarmism over the integrity of elections by people who devote themselves to undermining public confidence in them dissipates like morning fog once candidates take office. Ensuring only their preferred candidates come to term is what’s important. The integrity of those electeds and the actual legislative process afterwards? Not so much.

People whose only power is at the polls are a threat to democracy. Money wielding unprecedented influence in the halls of government at both the state and national level is much less of a concern.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
26

Maybe night vision goggles?

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The voter fraud frauds are at it again:

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Nebraska voter identification bill packed a public hearing Friday for a fierce debate over the measure.

The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard heated arguments on a bill by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill. The legislation would require voters to show a driver’s license or state identification card at a polling place. Fifteen other states have such a law.

[snip]

Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom testified in support of the measure, saying it protects the sanctity of the system and compared voter ID laws to a vaccination preventing polio.

Because America’s Most Sanctimonious don’t want their elections tainted by diseased Others — infected with too much poor, too much melanin, or too much not-one-of-us.

Talking with a newly minted ex-Republican over the weekend, I recounted attending a 2013 “boot camp” for training T-party sleuths how to purge voter rolls. I wrote at the time that,

… they emphasized the need for getting dead and inactive voters off the rolls because of the possibility of widespread voter fraud — or was it a widespread possibility? — for which they never seem to produce evidence. Basically, T-partiers are convinced that if they lose an election it must be because their opponents cheated. What else could it be? Zombies? Bigfoot?!

Much of the day focused on dead and inactive voters who remain on the rolls (by law) too long for the T-party’s liking. So they employ crowd-sourced data-matching to get voters removed. Two women described perusing the MLS listings for homes for sale and foreclosures. Then they drive by, taking geocoded photos of the properties and any empty houses they find to prove to the local Board of Elections that people registered there no longer live there. They scour the daily obituaries for the freshly dead, then take the notices down to the local Board of Elections and try to have them removed from the voter rolls.

Of course, Board of Elections professionals could do all this with enough manpower and enough money from enough taxes … oh, right.

Not once in seven hours, I told my new friend, did anyone suggest expanding the franchise or registering new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote. It was utterly defensive, aimed at keeping the imagined, invisible hoards of THEM  from casting ballots.

Her eyes grew wide in shock as she said, “That’s so sad.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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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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