February 18, 2008
Eliminating unnecessary barriers for young voters
Word came recently from Maryland that one barrier to voting by young citizens had been removed — at least in that state. The Washington Post headline says it all: “One Teen’s Campaign to Restore Voting Rights.”
Last month, Boltuck, along with her father and a sympathetic state senator, persuaded Maryland‘s top legal minds to restore the right of suffrage to at least 50,000 teens who will turn 18 between the Feb. 12 primary and the Nov. 4 election. http://tinyurl.com/2pp3fl
Sarah Boltuck fought all the way to the state election board and then the attorney general’s office to attain the right to vote in the February Maryland primary. The problem that caused all the controversy was that the high school senior had not yet attained the age of 18 by the February primary date. But Boltuck would be 18 in time to vote in November and felt she should be able to participate in the process of selecting the candidates whose names would appear on the general election ballot come November.
“I thought that was one of my rights as a citizen of Maryland,” said Boltuck, who will be 18 in July. “I had assumed that when I registered to vote, it’d be no problem.”
She called attention to a little-noticed change in interpretation of state law. Maryland was one of nine states, including Virginia, that allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they reached 18 by the general election. (The District does not.) But the Maryland State Board of Elections quietly halted the practice in December 2006 in response to a state court ruling. http://tinyurl.com/2pp3fl Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2008
The internet has been abuzz since Tuesday night with wild claims that Hillary Clinton “hacked” the NH Primary — or that someone else perpetrated the dirty deed to help Clinton and McCain triumph in the Granite State. Some point to differences between the margins in hand-counted precincts vs. optical scan precincts. Others claim that the pre-election polling could not be so far off from reported results.
Both of these cries of “fraud”, and “hacking” are based on flawed logic — and stunning ignorance or basic misunderstanding of statistics. They also fail to look at the demographic make-up of precincts that produced different margins for the candidates. On the other hand, there has been an almost universal failure to consider whether well-documented problems with the type of optical scan machine used in New Hampshire offers at least a partial explanation of how this happened. Read the rest of this entry »
November 7, 2007
The headline says: Tarrant County investigates bogus election flyers. But the ugly backstory is that the official-looking but phony flyers were found in a heavily Hispanic area and were aimed at suppressing minority votes. They had an official-looking seal and stated that election day had been changed to Saturday (instead of Tuesday). If a voter acted on this mis-direction they would find out that the election was over and they were out of luck.
Read all about it here in the Dallas Morning News: http://tinyurl.com/yrz6jz
There is an investigation underway but my prediction is that the culprit(s) will never be found, much less found guilty in a court of law.
Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said there’s no way to know how many fliers, which were in English and Spanish, were distributed.
“It’s discouraging if someone is trying to suppress the vote rather than encouraging people to vote,” Mr. Raborn said.
He said he was particularly disturbed that someone designed the flier to make them appear as if they came from his office. Mr. Raborn said the fliers were found in the heavily minority Rosemont and Worth Heights neighborhoods in Fort Worth. Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2007
It is rare that another writer ties everything up in such a neat package such that I want to quote the entire thing. But today’s NYT editorial links several newsworthy items in a very cogent way so I will include the entire piece here.
A House Judiciary subcommittee was the site of a sad spectacle the other day: John Tanner, who heads of the Justice Department’s voting section, trying to explain offensive, bigoted comments he made about minority voters. It was a shameful moment that crystallized the need for immediate steps to fight for the rights that Mr. Tanner has been working so hard to undermine.
The administration should, of course, fire Mr. Tanner. Congress should pass a bill to criminalize deceptive campaign practices. And it should reject a pending nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky.
The Justice Department has a long history of protecting the voting rights of minorities. In the Bush administration, the department’s voting rights section has been taken over by ideologues most interested in denying the ballot to minorities, poor people and other groups likely to vote Democratic.
The Justice Department endorsed a Georgia law that would have required many voters to pay for voter IDs, a requirement that a federal judge rightly likened to a poll tax. Mr. Tanner said publicly that blacks are not hurt by ID requirements as much as whites because “they die first.” He was assuming that ID laws disadvantage elderly voters, because they are less likely to have driver’s licenses. And in Mr. Tanner’s world, blacks are likely to die before they become elderly.
As Representative Artur Davis, Democrat of Alabama, made clear in pointed questions, Mr. Tanner had no factual basis for making this claim. Mr. Davis noted that in Alabama, data from the 2004 election showed that blacks over 60 voted at a higher rate than whites over 60.
Mr. Tanner also suggested that black people are likely to have an ID because they need it when they go to check-cashing stores. Again, Mr. Davis showed that Mr. Tanner relied on stereotypes. Then a former employee of the voting section testified that Mr. Tanner regularly used “broad generalizations” and misused statistics.
There have been calls for Mr. Tanner to be removed, and he should be, but that is not enough. The Senate must refuse to confirm Mr. von Spakovsky, an anti-voting-rights advocate cut from the same cloth as Mr. Tanner, to the F.E.C. Based on his record, Mr. von Spakovsky would use the job to undermine the right to vote.
Congress should also pass the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator Barack Obama, which would criminalize misleading and intimidating actions used to prevent voters, particularly minority voters, from casting ballots.
This administration seems to believe that the right to vote is something only Democrats should care about. It is too important to be reduced to a partisan issue.
The only comment to make at the end of this is a resounding “AMEN!” Let the Hallelujah Chorus begin …
October 21, 2007
Von Spakovsky should be in jail for his crimes against voting rights — I agree with Obama that this guy has done nothing to earn a 6-year appointment to the FEC. After turning the concepts of voting rights protection on its head while working in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and after being sneaked into his current position via a “recess appointment”, the Senate Dems should show some spine and send him back to whatever rock he crawled out from under. Note what Barack Obama has to say about why he is putting a Senate “hold” on this appointment.
Bush’s FEC nominee undermined voting rights
More than 40 years ago, John Lewis and Hosea Williams, along with hundreds of everyday Americans, left their homes and churches to brave the blows of Billy clubs and join a march for freedom across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Thousands of anonymous foot soldiers – Blacks and Whites, the young and the elderly – summoned the courage to march for justice and demand freedom. A few months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
It’s because of the sacrifice of these American heroes that we’ve come so far today. But there’s more work to be done. Recent elections have shown unprecedented intimidation of African-American, Native American, low income and elderly voters at the polls. We’ve seen political operatives purge voters from registration rolls for no legitimate reason, distribute polling equipment unevenly, and deceive voters about the time, location and rules of elections.