August 28, 2009
Amidst all the eulogies for the “liberal lion” of the Senate — Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts — one important part of his legacy is often mentioned in passing, if it gets mentioned at all. That legacy is Senator Kennedy’s role in expanding and protecting voting rights for all Americans.
Because of Ted Kennedy’s work, millions of American voters are able to participate in the most basic function of a citizen in a democracy: they are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box and vote for the candidate of their choosing. Read the rest of this entry »
August 25, 2009
Instead of hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop, why not hire him to give advice on chicken coop security? That seems to be the attitude behind the appointment of voter suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky to an advisory position in Virginia. http://www.virginiafreepress.org/2009/07/11/vote-suppression-expert-spakovsky-about-to-be-confirmed-in-volunteer-civil-rights-post/
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission apparently couldn’t find another way to keep Von Spakovsky involved in his favorite pastime — finding ingenious new ways to keep minority voters (especially Democratic-leaning ones) from exercising their rights at the ballot box. Read the rest of this entry »
September 14, 2008
We all thought/hoped that Jim Crow was buried once and for all with the passage of the 1965 Voting RIghts Act and subsequent court decisions affirming the right to vote without undue burdens being placed on voter. But it looks like there is a new incarnation of the Southern voter suppression known as Jim Crow. This time around it is being tagged ‘Jim Crawford’ after a notorious U.S. Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Marion County (Indiana) Election Board.
In a recent Newsweek article Jonathan Alter describes the persistent effort by Republicans to keep blocs of likely Democratic voters from casting a ballot. http://www.newsweek.com/id/158392
…white Republicans in some areas will keep eligible blacks from voting by requiring driver’s licenses. Not only is this new-fangled discrimination constitutional, it’s spreading.
GOP proponents of the move say they are merely trying to reduce voter fraud. But while occasional efforts to stuff ballot boxes through phony absentee voting still surface, the incidence of individual vote fraud—voting when you aren’t eligible—is virtually non-existent, as “The Truth About Vote Fraud,” a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, clearly shows. In other words, the problem Republicans claim they want to combat with increased ID requirements doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, those ID hurdles facing individuals do nothing to stop the organized insiders who still try to game the system.
The motive here is political, not racial. Republicans aren’t bigots like the Jim Crow segregationists. But they know that increased turnout in poor, black neighborhoods is good for Democrats. In that sense, the effort to suppress voting still amounts to the practical equivalent of racism. Read the rest of this entry »
July 28, 2008
Overlooked in the discussions of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the bursting of the housing bubble is the plight of these formerly stable homeowners when it comes to being able to vote in the upcoming Presidential election.
The numbers of those who have lost their homes just this year is staggering. Almost a million homes lost in the first six months of this year:
Foreclosures are up 120%. Some 220,000 homes were lost to repossession in the last quarter, and another 739,714 entered foreclosure in the first quarter. That’s one in every 171 American homes involved in what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson euphemistically calls the “housing correction”…. http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2008/7/28/142127/083 Read the rest of this entry »
February 18, 2008
A federal judge Monday permanently blocked several voter registration requirements that raised a furor before the 2006 elections because many felt they unfairly hindered voter registration drives.
This ruling might be misunderstood as relating to voter ID requirements but actually it pertains to rules that affect the ability of third-party groups like ACORN to conduct voter registration drives.
They required registration drive workers to register and to undergo training, to list detailed information on each registration form they help with and for every gatherer to turn in forms in person, not through an organizer.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen O’Malley blocked those rules permanently, agreeing with several voters rights groups that they go against the country’s desire to let as many people vote as possible. Read the rest of this entry »
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 12, 2008
I have fond memories of the 1979 movie “Being There” starring Peter Sellers. It is a skillful dissection of politics and power where the audience is “in” on the joke from the beginning.
For those who aren’t familiar with this last Peter Sellers flick here’s a brief synopsis: the story revolves around Chance, a simple gardener who has spent his entire life with “the old man” in a big house where he tends the garden and watches TV. After the death of “the old man,” Chance, is evicted and wanders the streets of Washington D.C. where he encounters Rand, a wealthy business man. Rand takes Chance under his wing. Through a series of mis-understandings, Chance becomes known as Chauncey Gardener, whose utterances about gardening are interpreted as evidence of deep wisdom and understanding. Chauncey becomes a media darling who is touted by political power brokers to become the next president
So what does this movie have to do with politics today? Nothing, really — except that it illustrates the role of the media and political spinmeisters in creating a political candidate.
However, it also provides an interesting frame for thinking about citizenship and the demand for Real ID at every turn in our daily lives, including the vote in some states. Read the rest of this entry »
November 6, 2007
Until Greg Palast wrote about voter caging in Florida during the 2000 election cycle, it was a practice that was under the radar of voting rights activists. Reporting for the BBC Palast exposed this ugly voter suppression tool in 2004 in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. That is not to suggest that voter caging did not exist elsewhere, just that the best documentation on this practice exists for those three states.
Now John Kerry, the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004, who lost Ohio due to voter caging and other dirty voter suppression tricks, has stepped forward as lead sponsor on a bill to outlaw voter caging. Joining Kerry in co-sponsoring the Caging Prohibition Act are 12 other Democratic Senators including Presidential candidates Dodd, Obama and Clinton.
One might recall a recent incident where a college student was tasered after asking John Kerry whether he had read Greg Palast’s book “Armed Madhouse.” Lost in the discussion of whether the student should have been tasered, was Kerry’s answer to the student’s question: the junior senator from Massachusetts said that he had indeed read the book. Based on his introduction of this latest bill to ban voter caging, it would appear that Kerry decided to take action on what he learned from Palast’s book. Read the rest of this entry »
November 4, 2007
There was an interesting post on Firedoglake (one of my favorite sites) this week about the pending nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Christy Hardin Smith is speculating that this nomination may be in more trouble than has been publicly known.
For those who haven’t been following the career of Hans, here is the eloquent condemnation by the marvelous Christy at http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/10/28/hans-down/#more-12542
Try von Spakovsky sockpuppeting an article about voter suppression in violation of DOJ rules while he was still an employee there ostensibly working on civil rights issues. Or how about participating in an effort to disenfranchise elderly Native American voters in Arizona on a technicality rather than working to find a way to support their right to vote. Or the entire gaming the system for The Math scheme at the DOJ. Or that a number of his subordinates at the DOJ wrote in to the Senate to say that von Spakovsky has neither the ethical underpinnings nor the commitment to voting integrity that should not be gamed for political purposes to be anywhere near the FEC. And there is so much more: see Digby and Adam at ePluribusMedia, for starters.
Christy was responding to ominous Washington Post musings suggesting that the end of the sky was falling (or something equally dire) if the four nominees for the FEC (including the infamous voter suppression specialist von Spakovsky) were not immediately confirmed. Why, the FEC would be unable to function with only the two current members … it would be short-staffed (gasp of shock). So the Senate should rush right out and confirm the whole bunch — whadya waiting for, folks — hurry, scurry — get it done.
This ignores what Christy rightly calls
the odor of political gaming of voter’s rights that eminates from von Spakovsky’s long record of partisan action
Hans von Spakovsky should not be given a six year appointment to any agency having anything to do with elections, including the FEC.
“This is the first nomination that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has ever opposed,” said Wade Henderson, the group’s president. He said he thinks that von Spakovsky would “use his role at the FEC to make it more difficult for voters to exercise their franchise.”…
Because of concerns about von Spakovsky’s track record on voter suppression, Senators Feingold and Obama have both placed holds on the nominations of the block of four current nominees. Because of a “deal” the four nominations (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) are set to be voted on as a block rather than individually. This “all or nothing” approach would prevent von Spakovsky from getting an up-or-down vote on his own (de)merits.
The block should be busted and each nominee should get a vote on their own record. Then there would be accountability. Then the U.S. Senate would be exercising their true “advise and consent” function under the Constitution. Hans von Spakovsky should be denied a free pass and be voted down based on his record.
October 21, 2007
It used to be that the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ was interested in helping eligible American citizens exercise the franchise. Now the message is just “a shame”.
VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: DoJ Voting Rights Chief Says ‘It’s a Shame’ Elderly May be Disenfranchised by Photo ID Laws, But Minority Voters ‘Don’t Become Elderly, They Die First’
Incredibly, John Tanner Argues Restrictive Photo ID Laws at the Polls Actually Give Minorities a Greater Voice!
Rest of Panel, Audience Members at 2007 National Latino Congresso in Los Angeles Strongly Disagree…
Unbelievably, the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, John Tanner, contends that while it’s “a shame” that elderly voters may be disenfranchised by new Photo ID restrictions at the polls because many don’t have driver’s licenses, minorities don’t have to worry quite as much. Why? Because “minorities don’t become elderly the way white people do. They die first.”