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voting rights

Courts Reversing Few Phony Voter Fraud Laws

In rapid order, five federal courts have turned back laws enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures in four states that were designed to
keep targeted groups from the ballot box. Rulings have rejected laws in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and North Dakota, four of the ten states that have made such changes to voting laws.

To prevent voter fraud is the reason the proponents of the laws hide behind. Officially-issued identification documents with an individual's photos are needed to combat the problem of voters committing fraud by impersonating someone else — except that every study has shown that the problem is rare to the point of non-existence. We cited overwhelming proof Setback and Further Confusion : A federal appeals court has now reinstated Wisconsin's voter identification law, overriding the lower court's determination that the state's voters need not prove identity with photo-IDs and disagreeing with three other federal court decisions less than three months before the election.

before the 2014 elections in "The Republican Campaign that Kept Democrats from the Polls"" where you'll read of several studies, one being the Brennan Center analyzing 9,078,728 votes and finding only four instances of ineligible persons voting — a factor of 0.00000044%.

More to the point, voter fraud is not just rare but an absurdly ineffectual way to sway an election. Even for a local election with low vote counts, an organizer would need to enlist enough people to make the requisite difference in the vote count, somehow identifying the particular souls who would be willing to take the legal risk and banking on not one of them blowing the whistle to the constabulary. As for each individual, how many would be foolish enough to agree to commit a felony that carries a five year prison term and a $10,000 fine — even deportation, if applicable — once that word got around?

As proof that the photo-id requirements have something other than fraud in mind, the laws curiously do nothing to screen against the loophole of absentee ballots.

But for those not absent, obtaining photo-ids is an obstacle for people on the lower economic rungs who have difficulty obtaining time off from work and sacrificing much-needed hourly income to travel and apply for an approved ID card. That targeting successfully finds its mark with blacks and Hispanics, two groups known to vote predominantly Democratic. Republicans want them to stay home.

That was the case with the Texas ruling. The seven different means of identifying oneself all seem reasonable except that all of them — such as driver licenses and passports — cost money, and if not needed for other purposes amount to a poll tax. Evidence presented in the suit against the state showed that some 600,000 would-be voters would be affected if the law were allowed to stand.

Native Americans successfully challenged the law in North Dakota for much the same reasons. The judge wrote that “No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote”. In Wisconsin the reasoning for the verdict was much the same. All three states are to loosen the laws to allow for alternative means such as poll workers vouching for members of their community they know personally, or letting voters sign affidavits swearing to their identity.

But then there is North Carolina. The federal court called the set of laws narrowing the right to vote, "the most restrictive voting laws North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow" and “these new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision”. In "First Prize for Nastiest State Goes to...", this publication wrote about these provisions three years ago when first passed by the Republican-controlled general assembly and senate and signed by the Republican governor right after the Supreme Court crippled the 1968 Voting Rights Act that had held certain southern states in check.

In addition to limiting what can be used as a photo-id, North Carolina's law bans voter registration on Sunday to disrupt the black tradition of conducting registration drives after church services, shortens the early-voting period to eliminate one "souls to the polls" Sunday when African-American churches provide transportation to the polls after services, ends same-day registration to require an extra trip, invalidates as proof of identity the state IDs issued to those on financial assistance (a high percentage of recipients being black), and in a move that hopes to deter students from voting at all — they tending to be liberal — ends a family’s dependents tax deduction if sons or daughters vote at college instead of at home. And just to make sure, in the 2014 election, the number of voting sites was severely cut in counties with high black populations to make for long lines that discouraged voting.

Republican rule is extremely unpopular in North Carolina, which has again become a battleground state. Fearing those Democratic votes, Governor Pat McCrory is rebelling against the decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found "intentional racial discrimination" in the state's law. With only three months to the election, he wants a Supreme Court review.

the other imagined rigging

And finally we have the fraud of Donald Trump planting in the minds of his idolators that if he loses it is because American elections are rigged. He told Sean Hannity of Fox News that “November 8th, we’d better be careful, because that election’s going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us...I’ve been hearing about it for a long time”.

This prompts wonder if Trump has ever been to a polling place, where on election day we are somehow identified, we sign a register, that signature blocks anyone else who comes along, and multiple persons oversee one another.

But as our companion commentary, "Why Donald Trump's 'rigged election' comment goes right to the heart of our democracy" says, rather than accede defeat with the grace of all losing candidates before him, Trump would has no scruple to keep him from attempting sabotage of the trust Americans have had in the election process for a couple of centuries just to salve his ego.

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1 Comment for “Courts Reversing Few Phony Voter Fraud Laws”

  1. Based on its policy of voter suppression, the Republican Party disqualifies itself as a credible political party within a democracy. Coupled with one of its leader’s statements that his primary objective was to make President Obama a one term president and his refusal to interview the President’s Supreme Court nominee, the party’s primary achievement has been to be obstruct the very functioning of our federal government, not to mention shirking their duties under their oath of office. None of this can be blamed on Donald Trump, though his candidacy and statements that the election process is “rigged” further undermines respect for the government and elections in which evidence of voter fraud is virtually non existent.

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