June 4, 2008
The GOP war on (Democrats) voting
As previously noted on this blog, the Republican party has a long history of voter suppression, dating back at least as far as William Rehnquist’s activities in Arizona, long before he ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court. We have chronicled the effort by the Bush administration to foist Hans von Spakovsky on the Federal Election commission, an effort that, fortunately for American democracy, has come to an inglorious end with von Spakovsky’s withdrawal from consideration for the post.
One of the recent GOP tactics has been to push for legislation requiring voters to show ID in order to vote. To listen to many Republicans the greatest danger to the country is voter fraud, i.e., folks casting ballots they are not entitled to. Most often the boogie man is the specter of illegal aliens voting but no proof is ever offered.
As a result of this unfounded fear of voter fraud, several states have actually enacted voter ID laws and unfortunately for Hoosier voters, the U.S .Supreme court recently upheld the stringent Indiana law, despite there being no evidence of voter fraud occurring in the state and substantial proof that legitimate voters would be denied the right to be vote due to lack of ID.
In the recent Indiana primary, the predictions of legitimate voters being denied the right to vote were proved right. 10 elderly nuns living in a convent across the street from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend were denied a ballot. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/staff/greg_gordon/story/36034.html
John Borkowski, a South Bend lawyer volunteering as an election watchdog for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said several of the retired nuns had been voting all of their lives but were told they lacked the required identification cards and could only file provisional ballots.
Since 2005, Indiana’s toughest-in-the-nation law requires every voter to produce a state or federal photo ID card. The Supreme Court, after weighing scores of legal briefs from conservatives who backed the statute and liberals who opposed it, upheld the law by a 6-3 vote, saying there was little evidence that it was unduly burdensome for voters.
Borkowski said Sister Julie McGuire, one of several nuns on poll duty, wasn’t pleased to turn away the nuns, some of whom were in their 80s and 90s and no longer had driver’s licenses.
Now we know that the law is indeed unduly burdensome on voters, at least if one is an elderly nun in a wheelchair with no drivers license. Now we have proof that the law disenfranchises legitimate voters. In frustration Borkowski says:
“Here’s the supreme irony,” Borkowski said. “This law was passed supposedly to prevent and deter voter fraud, even though there was no real record of serious voter fraud in Indiana. Here you have a bunch of nuns whose votes can’t be accepted by a bunch of nuns … who live with them in the polling place in their convent because they don’t have an ID.”
At least six other voters (including an 18-year-old co-ed from California) besides the nuns were relegated to filing provisional ballots (AKA placebo ballots) in that one polling place in South Bend.
“The nuns and this young woman are the face of the Supreme Court case,” said Jonah Goldman, who directs the Lawyers Committee’s Campaign for Fair Elections. He said his group, which has bird-dogged polling places in primaries across the country over the last three months, also has found widespread confusion in other states over voter identification requirements.
“We’ve seen people in every contest that we’ve covered being disenfranchised by a perceived, incorrect or illegal restrictive identification requirement,” partly because some poll workers have demanded more identification than was required by law, Goldman said.
So now that we know that voter ID laws produce disenfranchisement of legitimate voters. Does this mean that Republicans are planning to roll back voter ID laws? No, that’s not the plan. Now they squander taxpayer dollars looking for voter fraud — $1.4 million to be exact to produce evidence of possibly 8 cases of voter fraud in Texas. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/195725.php
Two years ago Texas’ Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott declared war on what he claimed was rampant vote fraud in Texas. He set up a special vote fraud unit and got a $1.4 million grant from the feds for the work.
Now, two years on, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News, we have a run-down of what Abbot came up with — 26 cases.
The details tell the story: All 26 cases involved Democrats, and almost all were either blacks or Hispanics.
Of the 26, 8 appear to have been genuine cases of fraud, two of which were cases of people actually casting fraudulent ballots, as opposed to bogus registrations.
So Democrats are targeted, mostly minorities or elderly, and isolated cases of voter fraud are found, not enough to change the results of an election, no widespread conspiracy, no hordes of illegals taking over the country by voting. But lots of taxpayer money gets spent in a fruitless endeavor. Josh Marshall at TPM concludes that this search for voter fraud is a witch hunt. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/195725.php
No one denies there are isolated cases of vote fraud. The question is how organized and widespread it is, whether it’s affecting the outcomes of any actual elections, and whether (depending on the answers to those questions) whether the extent of the problem justifies measures which also have the effect of making it either more difficult or more perilous for eligible voters to exercise their rights at the ballot box. The fact that these politicized and morally corrupt prosecutors offices can’t come up with more than a trivial number of actual cases makes the answer to the question pretty straightforward.
Marshall also reminds us of the larger context of the politicization of the DOJ and the firings of U.S. attorneys who refused to use their positions on behalf of the agenda of the Republican party rather than serving the greater public good and enforcing the rule of law.
Remember the larger context too. In the case of the US Attorney firings, most of the dismissals targeted prosecutors who refused to use the power of their office to advance the interests of the Republican party by engaging in these kinds of witch hunts.
Not surprisingly, Abbot is also pushing for a new law in Texas to require photo IDs to be allowed to vote — the latest gambit to try to shave a few percentage points off voter participation among the targeted groups.
Unless there is pushback, Texas may soon join Indiana in enacting a voter ID law. And more legitimate voters like the elderly nuns in South Bend will be disenfranchised. All part of the GOP war on Democrats voting.