Monday, May 05, 2008

The republican war on voting rights

It’s long past time to talk about this whole “election integrity/voter fraud/voter ID/election fraud/ballot fraud” matter in a very different way. Consider the following hurdles that have not been overcome when talking about the need for wholesale election reform:

  • Talking about the hackability of voting machines doesn’t work because you can’t prove that they were, in fact, hacked in a manner that would show not just beyond-a-reasonable doubt but beyond-any-doubt-whatsoever (not fair, but true);

  • Talking about “voter ID”, actually, more like anti-voter laws isn’t working because, well, for starters, the SCOTUS just affirmed this, despite there being no documented case of this type of fraud occurring;

  • Talking about stolen elections hasn’t worked because either “it always happens anyway”, or the same “you can’t prove it” rebuttal;
  • Talking about the US Attorney firings or the redistricting or the stacking of the DOJ with partisan hacks is too complicated to put on a bumper sticker;

  • Talking about the thousands of anecdotes of vote machine flipping went nowhere either; and

  • Talking about exit poll discrepancies has led to the amazing argument that exit polls are not reliable, even though they are used pretty much everywhere else in the entire world as a measure of whether elections were fixed and they have never been as far off as they have so consistently been the past 8 years.

It seems like the whole “War On [insert boogyman here]” theme works well, and the fact is, all of the above - not to mention the few other matters that have come to light over the past few years with respect to election-related issues and questionable vote suppression laws and actions.

And the fact is, the Indiana voter ID anti-voter law is just one of many, many pieces to the bigger picture, all done in the name of “protecting voters” but are really intended to legally give republicans an Election Day headstart of at least 10 million potential votes.

Don’t believe me? OK, fair enough.

According to the National Council of State Legislators, half of the states have voter ID anti-voter laws more strict than the federal requirements:

Twenty-five states have broader voter identification requirements than what HAVA mandates. In these states, all voters are asked to show identification prior to voting. Seven of these states specify that voters must show a photo ID; the other eighteen states accept additional forms of identification that do not necessarily include a photo.

Oh, wait - my mistake. Kansas legislators just agreed on provisions for a voter ID anti-voter law, so make that 26 states by the 2010 elections.

So, now that this is out of the way, I’ll refer to a 2006 DOJ memo that I discussed over the weekend:

the US Department of Justice put out a release regarding the “massive” voter fraud that they have uncovered and investigated. And there was lots to be “proud” of:
As a result of the Initiative, nationwide enforcement of election crimes has increased dramatically. At present, 195 investigations are pending throughout the country. Moreover, since the start of the Initiative in 2002 over 300 investigations of possible election crime have been opened, and over 125 election crime matters have been closed after investigation; 119 individuals have been charged with ballot fraud offenses and 86 individuals have been convicted of these crimes; and 48 individuals have been charged with campaign financing fraud and 42 individuals have been convicted of these offenses.

In over four years, only 42 individuals have been convicted, and under 50 have been charged with campaign finance fraud - now if we think of those who have been heavily lined to campaign finance fraud, one party comes to mind in a big way - and that isn’t the one who keeps pushing “voter fraud” laws. Only 86 people were convicted of “ballot fraud” (of course, Ann Coulter was cleared after calling in a favor from her well connected boyfriend), out of 300 investigations.

The issue of the voter going to the polling place in order to personally cast a vote that is fraudulent is, based on the DOJ’s own numbers - basically nonexistent. And the one high profile case was that of Ann Coulter, someone who conveniently wasn’t charged.

But the issue of voters without proper ID is one that is potential gold for the party that (1) wouldn’t likely get these votes anyway and (2) can eliminate a possible 10 million plus registered voter (or vote) advantage.

Still don’t believe me? OK, fine. Let’s just look at the tens of thousands of Floridians who were disenfranchised in 2000, or the hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters in 2004 who were disenfranchised for a contrast to the 150 or so individuals who the DOJ is touting.

So how am I getting the 10 million plus number that is central to the republican war on voting rights? Well, let’s just forget the 2002 NH phone jamming, or the voter roll purges in Florida that I mention above, or the illegal TX redistricting or the voter roll management lawsuits in New Jersey, Missouri, Maine and Pennsylvania for a minute.

According to The League of Women Voters, close to 11% of Americans (21 million) have no photo identification. They break this down a bit further:

he following statistics reflect those individuals who do not have photo identification:

  • 11% or as many as 21 million Americans

  • 36% of voters in Georgia over the age of 75;

  • 18% of Americans over 65 (6 million);

  • 25% of African Americans;

  • 10% or 40 million people with disabilities;

  • 15% of low income voters

Here are a few more numbers:

  • 650,000 registered voters in Georgia have no photo-ID (law recently passed);

  • 200,000 Missourians of voting age, including 16% of seniors, have no photo-id;

  • 5.5 million African American voting age citizens have no photo-ID;

  • 6 million senior citizens have no photo-id

And just for good measure, here are a few other breakdowns:
People with disabilities:

According to disability advocates, nearly ten percent of the 40 million Americans with disabilities do not have any form of state-issued photo identification. Source: Center for Policy Alternatives

Low income people:

Citizens earning less than $35,000 per year are more than twice as likely to lack current government-issued photo identification as those earning more than $35,000. Indeed, the survey indicates that at least 15 percent of voting-age American citizens earning less than $35,000 per year do not have a valid government-issued photo ID. Source: NYU and Brennen Center Survey

Other than the “we know that older Americans, African Americans, low income Americans are more likely to vote Democratic”, let’s look at a few stats on these demographics. All of these were derived from the tables at the University of Berkeley’s “Quick Tables”.

For Americans between the ages of 56-89, there is a roughly 47% - 39% advantage of “Near Dem - Strong Dem” over “Near rep - Strong rep”. If we break down the numbers by race, even independents outnumber “Near rep - Strong rep” by an amount of 18% - 9% for African Americans. And by the way, “Near Dem - Strong Dem” gets a whopping 73%. If we look at “Other race”, then the “Near Dem - Strong Dem”/”Independent”/”Near rep - Strong rep” breakdown is 52%/27%/20%.

And what about the families earning less than $25,000? Their average breakdown is 47% for “Near Dem - Strong Dem”, 23% independent and 26% for “Near rep” - “Strong rep”.

One more “obvious statistic” can be found to show the disparity. 88% of African Americans voted for Kerry, and 90% voted for Gore.

The real basic take away here is that if you are going to tip elections, you aren’t going to be able to do it “one vote at a time” as these voter id, anti-voter laws purport to combat.

You do it by rigging the system from the inside - by massive voter roll purges that are designed to purge the very demographics that are most likely to hurt the other party, by challenging districting in order to “make it more fair for people’s votes to be reflective of the district”, by implementing laws that are meant to keep millions of people who are likely to vote for the other party from voting and by stacking the deck in the positions where the voting machines are selected and monitored, where the federal and state election laws are “interpreted”, where the decisions are made with respect to voter registration and how the elections are run and even having cousins in the very media outlets who are calling the races for their candidate-cousins.

Make no mistake - this is a more than just a major partisan initiative. This is an all out assault on the voting rights of millions of potential Democratic voters and therefore, votes. This is a premeditated, long term, wide ranging attack against millions of Americans’ voting rights. But it isn’t just an assault on Democratic voters. It is an assault on the most basic right that a democracy affords.

And it should be referred to accordingly.


JollyRoger said...

The Klanservatives have been looking for ways to disenfranchise minority voters ever since 1964. If by some miracle we manage to get this way overturned, they'll come up with a new one.

You don't pass laws for things that aren't happening. That's Nazi stuff.

Anonymous said...

I see several different issues in your post; some I agree with, but others not so much.

The reliability of voting machines is a major issue. The integrity of the voting process is of paramount importance for all of us. We must be able to have confidence that our votes are accurately counted and reported. It is a major benefit of our federal system that voting is handled by local officials. I know my precinct captain personally and I'm confident that she's not engaged in any funny business. I think that it's important to keep the process as local as possible. Anything that nationalizes the voting process or puts control in the hands of a few companies (especially when they have close ties to a political party) should be of great concern to all of us. The lack of an audit trail on electronic machines is horrible and should not be permitted.

On voted ID laws however, I cannot agree with you. Expecting people to show a picture ID is not a very high burden in my opinion. I do not believe that these laws have been motivated by legislators looking to disadvantage one particular party. We have to show our ID for so much stuff today, and voting is one of the most important things that we do, so I think it's a very reasonable requirement.

JollyRoger said...

I do not believe that these laws have been motivated by legislators looking to disadvantage one particular party.

Must be a winger. Only a winger can disbelieve the heat of the sun, or the darkness of the night.

Anonymous said...

What is a winger? And what is the heart of the sun? Sorry, I must be a little slow.

clammyc said...

"heat" of the sun. Not "heart"....

As for the burden of a picture ID, well, there is much documented that shows how high of a hurdle this is for a few million people.

Think poor, old, disabled, and very rural areas.

If you don't think it is a big deal, then I assume you haven't done much research (especially since the "conventional wisdom" is that this isn't too difficult).

But it is very difficult for many - look at the dozen nuns who couldn't vote in Indiana. Or the military veteran who rides his bike and doesn't have a photo ID and therefore couldn't vote - even though he was in the military.

This is a major deal and mainly impacts those who are likely to vote for Democrats.