Let's Fix This Country
the election

Have They Stolen Your Vote?

New laws combat an imaginary scourge: Voter fraud

      First reported Jan 7, '12   In Texas, student IDs aren’t proof of identity to allow you to vote, but a handgun license is. In Florida, there are now onerous restrictions to inhibit voter-registration drives. In South Carolina, you need a photo ID such as a driver’s license or a passport else your right to vote is denied.

A nationwide campaign has been underway to enact barriers to voting. A mix of arbitrary encumbrances have been pushed through state legislatures to block American citizens from entering the voting booth in the 2012 elections.

Five million Americans are already affected, a number exceeding the margin of victory in the last two presidential elections. Thirty-four states have introduced laws to require photo IDs, with

seven such statutes already on the books. Laws requiring proof of citizenship have been wending their way through the legislatures of twelve states. Florida now bans registering voters on the Sunday before Election Day, when black churches have traditionally conducted drives after services. A dozen states beside Florida are making it difficult to impossible to conduct voter registration drives or are eliminating voter registration on election day. Nine states seek to shrink early voting periods, which are popular among voters because they thin out lines.

One in ten Americans are thought not to have a qualifying document. Not everyone drives, states do not typically issue other forms of ID, and a decided minority has a passport. In the usual case, obtaining a state issued photo ID means standing in lines — just think motor vehicle bureau — and legislatures know that those lower on the economic scale cannot afford to take time off from work. States enacting new requirements then typically take no steps to handle the volume of applicants, such as opening more driver license offices, increasing staffing or extending hours.

And if a citizen must pay to get an ID or a copy of a birth certificate in order to vote, this amounts to the return of the poll tax, which was banned by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Texas charges $22 for a copy of a birth certificate.

An organization of civil rights lawyers called Advancement Project says this is "the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century".

On its face, it may seem perfectly reasonable that we should be required to prove we are who we say we are and that we are entitled to vote. Did not the Supreme Court in 2008 upheld Indiana’s ID statute, deciding that the requirement to prove identity with a photograph is not unconstitutional? The injustice is that the many restrictions are most likely to ensnare African Americans, Latinos and the young. That’s no accident. These groups tend to vote Democratic and were key to Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Changes in election laws are mostly sought in the 29 states with Republican governors. So it is not a coincidence that four states — all with Republican governors — disallow student IDs as proof of identity for voting even though the IDs are issued by state institutions. Republicans gained six governorships in 2010 and are making a concerted effort to solidify their party’s gains by squeezing out groups that traditionally vote Democratic.

An ironic twist is that non-citizen immigrants could mistakenly be allowed to vote because of their photo-ID driver licenses. Utah has put a on-citizen indicator on their licenses as a prevention.

the fraudulent claim of fraud

That, of course, is not the admitted reason. The rationale universally cited is to prevent voter fraud. States were helped along with draft legislation provided by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council under the rubric of "Preventing Election Fraud". Republicans believe that fraud is standard practice by Democrats for winning elections, citing Acorn as an example. To whatever extent such accusations are true, these were improper attempts to register voters, not fraud by voters themselves. But nonexistent fraud by voters is what the state governors and legislatures claim as their justification for restrictive voting laws.

So Kansas, for example, now requires proof of citizenship to "ensure the sanctity of the vote", says governor Sam Brownback. By making voting problematic for an estimated 620,000 in the state, Kansas will ensure itself from recurrence of the single case of election fraud over the last six years.

But this lengthy study by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that the claims of voter fraud are more often attributable to the media’s penchant for “agitated headlines” such as “Hundreds Might Have Double Voted” or political programs such as Sean Hannity on Fox News saying, "Allegations of voter fraud continue to pop up all across the country". But the many cases examined by Brennan have proved false. Clerical errors, similar names, matching names crossed with one another, address changes — these proved to be the most common reasons for mix ups, not fraud.

Claims that dead people had cast ballots are popular, only for it to be discovered on audit that the unfortunate individuals had died after the election. In a huge disproof of fraud, one of many examples that Brennan probes, claims of irregularities in Ohio resulted in a statewide survey of votes cast in 2002 and 2004. Out of 9,078,728 votes, "four instances of ineligible persons voting" were found — a factor of 0.00000044%. Ridiculing the threat to our elections, Stephen Colbert warned, "Folks, our democracy is under siege by an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere".

“By throwing all sorts of election anomalies under the ‘voter fraud’ umbrella...advocates for such laws [as requiring photo IDs] artificially inflate the apparent need for these restrictions” is the Center’s view in its report that runs down one after another claim of voting abuse. “The voter fraud phantom drives policy that disenfranchises actual legitimate voters”.

Bluntly stated, portraying voter fraud as justification for laws that disenfranchise citizens is the real fraud. It makes no sense. An attempt by an ineligible individual to vote — the sort of fraud called “impersonation” — is a decidedly ineffective way to influence an election as the percentage example above makes clear, and singularly foolish in the bargain, carrying as it does a five year prison term and a $10,000 fine — even deportation, if that applies.

The campaign to make voting difficult for targeted groups has been underway for many months, yet the Justice Department only began to move in late December by suing to halt South Carolina’s photo ID requirement under the Voting Rights Act. Its Section 5 prohibits nine states, most of them across the South, from changing voting laws without “preclearance” by Justice, owing to a history of discriminatory practices of similar intent as those being turned into law today. Sourth Carolina's rule has since been blocked, and Texas also has since been declined preclearance.

The Act also provides for Justice to intercede in any state that adopts discriminatory measures, but has not acted on that Section of the law to curb other states.

Attorney General Eric Holder says a thorough review is underway and promises that it will be thorough but the clock is ticking and discrimination is difficult to prove. Wisconsin didn't have to wait for the Justice Department; a judge has just struck down its new voter restrictions.

1 Comment for “Have They Stolen Your Vote?”

  1. A Florida TV station compared jury recusal forms with the voter rolls and found muttiple instances of non-citizens that had voted in recent elections and elections going back to Bush vs. Gore. Florida was decided by less than 300 votes. How many were illegal votes by non-citizens?

    Often public officials don’t use foreclosures and completed evictions to purge voter rolls. Thus, people potentially could vote in two different counties or states. I received a mailed jury summons, taken from the voter rolls, for the former resident of my house. The person, who could still vote in El Paso County had not lived in the house for over three years.

    When the Florida TV station revealed the non-citizen voting, I have yet to hear that the Holder Justice Department Voting Rights section has opened an investigation? I guess we know why there are so few prosecuted cases of voter fraud it because the Holder Justice Department does not want to anger the Hispanic Vote and refuses to do its duty.

    Regards,

    Airborne All The Way

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