True the Vote is one of the most influential groups working to make it harder to vote by pushing for restrictive voter ID laws and launching challenges against people it thinks might be ineligible to vote, tactics which are supposedly directed at preventing voter impersonation fraud and double voting — crimes that in reality are exceedingly rare.
In order to cover up the fact that voter ID laws keep many times more people from the polls than the miniscule number of voter impersonation cases that they might prevent, groups like TTV try to conflate in-person voter fraud — the only thing actually targeted by voter ID laws — with faulty voter registration and with rare but persistent kinds of small-scale voter fraud by elected officials that they have no intention of actually combating.
A great example of this happened yesterday, when TTV reprinted a short blog post by former Bush Justice Department official and conservative activist J. Christian Adams linking to a story about “Three PA Elected Officials Charged With Voter Fraud.”
Adams offers his commentary, implying that this story proves that the numerous studies discrediting the voter ID push are just wrong:
I am curious to see if this barely reported case of voter fraud ever makes it onto one of the ‘academic’ studies purporting to demonstrate very little voter fraud. Those studies are characterized by false negatives.
A quick look at the story in question, however, shows that what happened in Pennsylvania has nothing to do with voter ID or any so-called “voter integrity” laws that Adams and TTV are promoting.
Pennsylvania requires that people requesting an absentee ballot provide a reason, which can be “illness or physical disability” that makes the voter “unable to attend his/her polling place or to operate a voting machine.” Those voters must also provide a copy of their photo ID.
The case that Adams and TTV are touting is that of three township supervisors who were charged with violating election laws in 2011, two for helping 13 elderly voters to apply for and fill out absentee ballots , despite the fact that all were physically able to go to the polls on Election Day and were thus ineligible to obtain absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. One of the supervisors is charged with helping an eligible absentee voter fill out a ballot but failing to report that he had assisted the voter.
None of this would have been prevented by a voter ID requirement. Instead, this is an instance of, at best, a misunderstanding and at worst, public officials using their insider influence to tinker with ballots.
If it’s the latter, all sorts of laws are currently on the books to prevent such instances of election fraud. But it is not something that so-called “voter integrity” activists have shown any interest in addressing, perhaps because it’s already against the law and policed. As the Brennan Center wrote in a 2007 report, such conduct “has been an issue since Senators wore togas” and is a completely separate issue from the kind of supposed fraud that groups like True The Vote claim to be fixing with suppressive voting restrictions.
It is extremely rare for individuals to vote multiple times, vote as someone else, or vote despite knowing that they are ineligible. These rare occurrences, however, are often conflated with other forms of election irregularities or misconduct, under the misleading and overbroad label of “voter fraud.” Some of these other irregularities result from honest mistakes by election officials or voters, such as confusion as to whether a particular person is actually eligible to vote. Some irregularities result from technological glitches, whether sinister or benign: for example, voting machines may record inaccurate tallies. And some involve fraud or intentional misconduct perpetrated by actors other than individual voters: for example, flyers may spread misinformation about the proper locations or procedures for voting; thugs may be dispatched to intimidate voters at the polls; missing ballot boxes may mysteriously reappear. These more common forms of misconduct are simply not addressed by the supposed “anti-fraud” measures generally proposed.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Asshole of the Day: Georgia Secretary Of State Laments That Democrats Are Registering Minority Voters [TW: Racism, Ethnocentrism, White Privilege, Voter Intimidation]
The audio was released a day after the Senior Deputy Whip for the Georgia Senate Republicans vowed to block early voting dates and locations he felt would attract African American voters.
A day after the Senior Deputy Whip for the Georgia Senate Republicans vowed to block early voting dates and locations that he felt would attract African American voters, a progressive group released audio on Wednesday of Georgia’s Secretary of State warning fellow Republicans that Democrats might win because they are registering minority voters.
The audio, posted on YouTube by Better Georgia, features a man identified as Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp telling fellow Republicans at a July 12, 2014 event in Gwinnett County:
In closing I just wanted to tell you real quick, after we get through this runoff, you know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November. But we’ve got to do the exact same thing. I would encourage all of you, if you have an Android or an Apple device, to download that app, and maybe your goal is to register one new Republican voter.
Listen to the audio:
The admissions by both Kemp and Senator Fran Millar that minority voters are almost certainly going to vote against the GOP in November contradicts the recent spin by the national party. Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus announced last year that his party would spend millions to reach out to minority groups. The RNC’s own autopsy report on the party’s 2012 election defeats found that many minorities “think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country,” (wrongly, the report argued). Latinos and African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2012, citing concerns about salary, wages, affordablehealthcare, and immigration.
On Tuesday, Kemp launched a “voter fraud” investigation into a voter registration effort he suspects may have “forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information.” Accusations of voter fraud have been a frequent tool of Republican secretaries of state.
A year ago, Kemp warned that allowing citizens to register to vote on Election Day would undermine their “individual freedoms.” In 2012, he spearheaded an error-riddled effort to purge voters from the rolls just months before the November elections.
Better Georgia executive director Bryan Long said in a statement that Kemp’s and Millar’s comments suggest the investigation is aimed at voter suppression. “The right to vote is sacred, and we should all want to encourage people to vote instead of making it more difficult,” he wrote, adding that, “GOP candidates in Georgia know they cannot win if the electorate reflects the increasing diversity of our state, so Sec. Kemp is using the power of his office to restrict minority voting access. The Justice Department should investigate.
A spokesman for Kemp did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the remarks.
Source: Josh Israel for ThinkProgress
It is rare for a politician to publicly deride efforts to boost voter turnout. It is seen as a taboo in a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals. Yet, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week slammed efforts to simplify voter registration.
Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”
Christie was campaigning for Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the same-day registration bill into law in July.
Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic, despite the Illinois State Board of Elections being composed equally of Democrats and Republicans. Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates.
The trouble with such rhetoric – beyond its anti-democratic themes — is its absurd assertions about partisan motives. After all, many of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.
In reality, same-day registration is all about turnout, not partisanship. According to data compiled by the think tank Demos, average voter turnout is more than 10 percent higher in states that allow citizens to register on the same day that they vote. Demos also notes that “four of the top five states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election all offered same-day registration.” There was some evidence in Wisconsin that same-day registration boosted Democratic turnout, but the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison reports that “Republican areas also saw heavy use of the state’s last-minute registration law.” The registration system been also been adopted by such deeply Republican states as Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
Unlike Christie, most Republicans who have fought voter turnout efforts like same-day registration have argued that same-day registration would increase voter fraud. This has allowed the GOP to position itself as battling crime — not as trying to block legal voters. But the GOP has been unable to substantiate that voter-fraud claim, and there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Demos, for example, surveyed data from six states with same-day registration and found that “there has been very little voter fraud in [same-day registration] states over the past several election cycles.” In GOP-dominated North Dakota — which requires no voter registration at all — Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger, a Republican, reported that “voter fraud has not been widespread in North Dakota” and that there have been “very few known incidents of voter fraud” in the state.
Those findings confirm a recent analysis of primary, general, special and municipal elections by Loyola University professor Justin Levitt. He found that since 2000, more than a billion ballots have been cast in the United States and there have been just 31 credible incidents of voter fraud.
In light of that data, Republican efforts to prevent same-day registration and preclude voting betray a fear that has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with political power. Essentially, the GOP fears that when more Americans exercise their basic democratic rights, Republicans may have less chance of winning elections.
If Judge Peter Economus’ reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.
Ohio’s attempt to reduce the number of days voters may cast an early ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal court in that state. Though the decision has a difficult road to travel before Ohio voters can be certain that it will stand — it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit, which has a conservative majority, and ultimately to the same Supreme Court that struck down a key provision of the VRA — Judge Peter Economus’ decision may be the strongest voting rights decision handed down since the justices’ attack on the VRA. Or, at least, it may be the strongest decision in the sense that it calls for a very strong shield to be erected around the right to vote. If his reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.
Much of Judge Economus’ opinion is devoted to explaining how limits on early voting disproportionately impact African-American voters. Many black churches, for example, conduct “Souls to the Polls” events that encourage churchgoers to vote after attending Sunday services — as an Ohio NAACP leader explained, “Sunday was a focal point also because many churches already provide transportation to take people to church, and carpools are also arranged so that everyone is together” — yet the new restrictions on early voting limit these churchgoers’ opportunities to vote on Sunday. Additionally, the new early voting schedule eliminates “Golden Week,” a period when voters can register and vote on the same day. The same NAACP leader testified that African-Americans are especially likely to take advantage of this period because “people in the African-American community in [his community] move frequently, especially since the 2008 recession.”
Empirical data also demonstrates that black voters are more likely to take advantage of early voting. Indeed, according to University of Florida Research Professor Daniel Smith, an expert witness who testified in this case, the rate of early voting in areas that are entirely African-American is more than twice the rate in areas that are entirely white. Additionally, Smith explained that “there is strong empirical evidence in Ohio that a greater proportion of blacks not only cast [early] ballots than whites but do so on early voting days that have been eliminated by” the new voting schedule.
This data matters because, under one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that was not struck down by the Roberts Court, “[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Moreover, as a precedent cited by Judge Economus explains, this provision of the VRA “does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Instead, a plaintiff need show only that the challenged action or requirement has a discriminatory effect on members of a protected group[.]”
The VRA prohibits laws that abridges black people’s right to vote. Restricting early voting abridges black people’s right to vote. Therefore it violates the VRA. Q.E.D.
Yet, while this is the strongest argument presented by Economus’ opinion, that doesn’t mean that it will be upheld on appeal. For one thing, as Sean Trende, a political analyst for the news site Real Clear Politics explained in expert testimony on behalf of the state, “’Ohio maintains one of the most expansive systems of early voting in the country,’ with an early-voting period twice the national median.” Though reducing the number of early voting days in Ohio reduces the opportunities for African-Americans to vote from its previous baseline, it is far from guaranteed that a Supreme Court which has been hostile to the Voting Rights Act in the recent past will hold that Ohio is required to maintain its prior baseline.
Indeed, just last month a George W. Bush-appointed judge in North Carolina refused to suspend cuts to early voting in that state, arguing that it was “speculative” to assume that black voters will not shift their voting patterns to other days when voting is allowed. This argument could resonate with a conservative Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, it this decision stands it will be a very important victory for voting rights. Among other things, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, Economus’ decision uses some of the “same legal reasoning that underlies the Department’s pending challenges to voting measures” to states like Texas and North Carolina, where lawmakers and state officials are aggressively taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of the VRA.
Source: Ian Millhiser for ThinkProgress
This weekend, the Dallas Morning News ran a long investigative piece exposing for the first time an armed raid that state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office ordered on a Houston voter registration operation, Houston Votes, back in 2010. The aftermath played out like ACORN in miniature: Despite the fact that nobody at Houston Votes was charged with any wrongdoing, the organization folded under the pressure of Abbott’s investigation.
The story provides an interesting look at the mechanics of the GOP’s obsessive search for certain types of extraordinarily rare voter fraud in order to justify extreme measures making it harder to cast a ballot. And it also stars two people who have since become familiar names in the national effort to make it more difficult to vote: Abbott, who is now the GOP nominee for governor of Texas, and Catherine Engelbrecht, who now runs the national group True the Vote, but who got her start running a Texas Tea Party group called King Street Patriots.
The raid on Houston Votes was part of a larger campaign by Abbott to uncover what he calls an “epidemic” of voter fraud, in an apparent effort to build support for a restrictive Voter ID law in Texas. Abbott’s campaign hasn’t exactly been a success: According to MSNBC’s Zach Roth, “over the 13 years of Abbott’s tenure, his office can only cite two fraudulent votes that might have been stopped by the ID law.” In the meantime, Abbott’s effort has resulted in some strangely zealous prosecutions, including those of a group of Tea Party activists who tried to cast protest votes in a resident-less utility district.
Dallas Morning News reporter James Drew explains how a racially charged speech by Engelbrecht led to Abbot’s investigation of and raid on Houston Votes:
On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.
The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.
His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.
A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.
The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.
Fred Lewis formed Texans Together in 2006.
The nonprofit community organizing group used volunteers to register voters in 2008 under the name Houston Votes. It registered only about 6,000 people that year.
For the next big election, in 2010, Lewis wanted to register 100,000 new voters in Harris County. He knew he couldn’t hit that number with volunteers. Houston Votes decided to use paid workers.
By that summer, Houston Votes had come to the attention of the King Street Patriots, a Houston-based tea party group. At the group’s regular meeting in Houston, its leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, talked about the New Black Panther Party. She then played a Fox news clip of an unidentified black man saying: “We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet.”
The clip was 5 years old. It came from a forum in Washington about media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. But after the clip ended, Engelbrecht showed a picture of a house in Houston. She said it was the office of the New Black Panthers, at Main and Dowling streets.
Dowling Street is infamous for a 1970 gun battle between police officers and African-American militants, one of whom was killed.
“Houston has a new neighbor,” Engelbrecht said. She added that a person outside the house appeared to be an employee of Houston Votes.
The house shown on the screen was the office of Houston Votes. It had nothing to do with the New Black Panther Party. And it was about 9 miles from Dowling Street.
Two weeks later, the King Street Patriots held another meeting. Paul Bettencourt, the former Harris County tax assessor-collector, was a guest speaker.
He said Houston Votes was worse at registering voters than ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Dozens of ACORN employees across the nation were convicted of voter registration fraud.
The next day, Bettencourt’s successor as tax assessor-collector, fellow Republican Leo Vasquez, held a news conference.
“The integrity of the voter roll of Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name ‘Houston Votes,’” he said.
Houston Votes had submitted about 25,000 voter registration applications. Vasquez said many were duplicates, or already registered. Only 7,193 were “apparently new voters,” he said.
Houston Votes later pointed to public records showing that at the time of the news conference, about 21,000 of the 25,000 who applied to register were already validated by the county and pending final approval by the secretary of state. Among those 21,000, the state had already given final approval to 7,193.
Vasquez announced he was referring the matter for “investigation and possible prosecution” to the Texas secretary of state and the Harris County district attorney.
The secretary of state, who advises local election officials on election laws, forwarded Vasquez’s information to the attorney general’s office on Sept. 14, 2010.
Abbott’s office opened a criminal investigation soon after.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Police arrest young black politician for distributing voting rights leaflets.
During a brief moment of calm late last week—when the police stood down and protesters celebrated a short-lived victory and it seemed as if the story had undergone a permanent transition—I wrote an article drawing a single line between the trampling of liberties in Ferguson, Missouri, and broader, less violent social phenomena, like voter suppression.
Since then, the police have taken another volte-face, public opinion about the events in Ferguson has polarized along racial lines, and the combination of the two has elicited a conservative response that neatly underlines my point.
I’m not talking about responses to the details of Michael Brown’s shooting, or the emergence of looters and outside agitators. I’m talking about the reflexive hostility with which conservatives reacted to the news that protesters in Ferguson had organized a voter registration drive.
“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Missouri GOP Executive Director Matt Wills told the conservative website Breitbart. “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”
Breitbart described the drive as “efforts by liberal organizers to set up voter registration booths”—a rendering that reflects a few revealing assumptions. But let’s begin with the overarching one—that these organizers are engaged in something nefarious; that their real goal here is to advance ideological or partisan interests, unrelated to those implicated by the civic unrest.
If you believe that, you have a blinkered view of the political dynamic on the ground—a sense that what’s going on is an unexpected departure from a placid, pre-Michael Brown status quo, which will return after this aberration runs its course, if liberals just quit meddling. Either that or you’re a carpetbagger.ADVERTISEMENT
In reality, the city of Ferguson is overwhelmingly black, while its police and politicians are overwhelmingly white. The friction between the black community and the white leadership predates Michael Brown’s shooting. But even if it didn’t, it’s hard to look back at what’s happened over the past week and a half and conclude that the majority of the city has been well served by its elected officials and public servants. Residents can’t change that dynamic without at least making the latter fear for their jobs, though, and a predicate to that is a high level of participation in the democratic process. Until now, black residents of Ferguson weren’t deeply engaged in that process. Thus: voter registration.
So the argument against voter registration in Ferguson fails the most immediate, relevant, local test. But notice that in the previous three paragraphs I didn’t write any of the following words: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, Barack, Obama, Hillary, Clinton, McCaskill, Blunt, Nixon, Obamacare, taxes, welfare. It’s very hard to draw a line connecting voter registration in Ferguson to unrelated statewide and national campaigns and policy debates. Ferguson is a small city in a conservative state. The idea that the Missouri GOP has a great deal to lose if Ferguson residents become more engaged is a big stretch.
Which is to say that even cynical, deracialized arguments against the registration drive don’t withstand scrutiny. It only poses a risk to the Missouri GOP, and perhaps the national party, if it snowballs. Preventing that is the only way to make sense of the conservative pearl clutching without reference to race.
But whether you believe the registration drive is a direct response to events in Ferguson or rank liberal opportunism, the idea that registering black voters there is illegitimate or “disgusting,” particularly under these circumstances, does reveal a preference for the existing power imbalance—either on the merits, or because it’s a price worth imposing on others to stifle minority participation in the political process. And on that abstract level it’s an idea that shares a lot in common with actions that have intensified civil unrest in Ferguson for nearly a week.
Republican Greg Abbott has taken the war on women a little too far. Sure, he’s against paycheck fairness and equal pay, and he chose a corporation over a rape victim. But to spy on an elderly woman through her bathroom window seems a bit far fetched, even for a Texas Republican.
But the ends justify the ever increasing desperate means it seems. Republicans figuratively donned their James O’Keefe investigative pimp kits and headed out to frighten elderly minority women in a desperate and misguided attempt to prove that non-existent voter fraud was a thing. Why not spy on naked citizens using their bathrooms in the name of small government?
Yes. In 2006, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, charged with upholding the law, deployed his office in an “investigation” to prove voter fraud that was dubbed a “wild goose chase.” It was during this “investigation” that an elderly woman said in a sworn statement that two investigators from Greg Abbott’s office were peeking in her bathroom window.
The Houston Chronicle reported at the time:
Gloria Meeks of Fort Worth, also 69, said she stepped out of her morning bath last month and screamed.
Two voter fraud investigators from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office were peeking in her bathroom window, Meeks said in a sworn statement.
Ms. Meeks said she was being investigated for helping the elderly and disabled vote, according to the New York Times.
Via a Lonestar Report on her sworn statement, we learn that she was naked and the agents justified this because they thought it was a kitchen window:
According to the sworn statement of Ms. Gloria Meeks, a 69 year- old Fort Worth community activist, two of Abbott’s voter fraud agents came on to her property and looked into her bathroom window while she was unclothed and leaving the shower. Incredibly, the agents justified their privacy violation by explaining, that they thought they were peeping in the “kitchen window.”
Oh. So that’s what Texas would be like if Abbott wins. Good times.
Lest you get caught up in the whole spying on an elderly woman through her bathroom window, the effort was much more widespread than that. The Lonestar Project revealed in 2008 that the results of Abbott’s very expensive “investigation” proved that voter fraud was practically non-existent. But also, “Texas Democratic Party officials and legal counsel became aware and concerned about the Texas Attorney Genera’s vote suppression efforts following the release of reports from the Lone Star Project. The reports raise questions about the legality of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s use of federal grant funds to investigate and prosecute citizens who have participated in mail ballot programs that benefit seniors and the disabled.”
Mail in your ballot? The Abbot team might be peeking in your bathroom windows! You know, just to be sure. Not to worry, though, if you are a Republican. Republican voters were not under “investigation” in this effort to get rid of a non-existent problem. But it’s totally legitimate to prosecute just your opposition, right? Like a witch hunt, but without the public aspect. This is what we want from our Attorney Generals – to take us back to before the American justice system.
The Lonestar Project busted the AG again:
The Lone Star Project issued numerous open records requests to the AG and found that virtually all the prosecutions were of minority senior citizens who were doing nothing more than helping their neighbors vote. Additional research showed that ALL those prosecuted were Democrats. This research was confirmed by a Dallas Morning News investigative report this month detailing that:
“26 cases – all against Democrats, and almost all involving blacks or Hispanics… In 18 of the 26 cases, the voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed – but the people who collected the ballots for mailing were prosecuted.” (Dallas Morning News, May 18, 2008)
Intimidating minorities to rig the vote? No problem! Greg Abbott has been trying anything he can think of to keep minorities from voting, which is the opposite of upholding the law.
In fact, his office is back in court this week defending Republican-championed redistricting maps (congressional and legislative) from charges that they intentionally discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics. It’s not like he did an investigation that only went after mostly minority Democrats and spied on an elderly minority woman in her bathroom. What can go wrong?
Abbott has only spent $3.9 million of Texas taxpayers’ money on the defense, though, so it’s not like he’s going full pimp O’Keefe yet. But the meter is still running at full speed. Anything to give the Republicans an edge.
Justin Levitt: “I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.”
"To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix. So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country."
That’s not 31 in one election, that’s 31 cases in separate elections over a span of nearly a decade and a half. That’s 31 out of more than one billion.The idea that in-person voter fraud is influencing the outcomes of elections is a ridiculous and absurd lie.
Voter ID laws are meant to keep legal voters away from the polls. There is no way that voter fraud is anything even approaching an actual, real problem for the integrity of our elections.
Voting is our most basic right and duty as citizens. The fact that Republicans don’t seem to care that they’re taking that freedom from legal voters — and they are — is proof enough that all their flag-waving and freedom talk and poseur love for the Constitution is bullshit. The enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom.
And Republicans have proven themselves again and again to be no friends of democracy.
"Voters will more vulnerable this November than they have been in decades."
Just over a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the nation has made so much progress on voting rights that key legal protections are no longer needed, a coalition of civil rights groups released a report documenting hundreds of voter discrimination and suppression cases. The organizations also called on Congress to rewrite the gutted section of the Voting Rights Act.
“Voters will more vulnerable this November than they have been in decades,” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a conference call with reporters. “Contrary to the Supreme Court’s assertion, voter discrimination is still rampant, and states continue to implement voting laws and procedures that disproportionately affect minorities.”
The report, released this week on the 49th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, counted 332 cases in the last two decades in which voters successfully sued for violations of their voting rights, or when the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a state or county’s attempt to change their voting laws in an unconstitutional way. They counted another ten instances in which aggrieved voters settled out of court.
Tellingly, the majority of the violations happened in a small handful of states — Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, with South Carolina close behind — that were covered by the very Voting Rights Act formula that the Supreme Court ruled outdated and unconstitutional. As a result of the Court’s Shelby County decision, the Justice Department may no longer deploy federal observers to the formerly covered states to deter and report race-based voter suppression. The civil rights advocates that the loss of this federal monitoring program will result in “a substantial increase in voter intimidation.”
Dolores Huerta, a longtime civil and labor rights activist who organized farmworkers with Cesar Chavez, told reporters the study indicates another trend she called “appalling.”
“As the Latino community grows in numbers and their influence grows in the political process, discrimination also seems to be growing,” she said. “It is sad to see how legislation and practices have continued unabated against people of Latino descent.”
Huerta and others involved in the National Commission on the Voting Rights said their research found that modern day voter suppression takes a variety of forms, and not all of them have received the kind of media and political attention garnered by controversial gerrymandering and voter ID laws.
Huerta pointed to states that disenfranchise former felons after they have served out their sentences, or charge them hefty fines to have their voting rights restored. Arnwine also mentioned dozens of documented violations involving the local government’s failure to provide ballots and information in other languages, which they are required to do by law.
Vice-Chair Leon Russell of the NAACP added: “When I attended hearings [on voting rights] in Florida and Mississippi, we saw continuing barriers to equal participation. We saw long lines created intentionally, either by not having enough polling places in certain areas, or not having enough machines at those places. Some counties in Florida even got rid of bathrooms at the polls, which makes it harder not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.”
The report comes on the heels of another study debunking the main justification used for passing many of the controversial voting laws in question: fraud.
Harvard Professor Justin Levitt surveyed more than a billion votes cast in general, primary, special, and municipal elections across the US from 2000 through 2014, and found only 31 credible instances of voter impersonation. And many of those 31 were never confirmed and prosecuted.
Source; Alice Ollstein for ThinkProgress
Appearing on C-SPAN this afternoon, former Pennsylvania Senator and perennial presidential candidate Rick Santorum, told host Tucker Carlson that not all countries were ready for democracy and that the Founding Fathers were right when they limited voting rights during the creation of the United States for the sake of “continuity.”
Responding to a question from Carlson about whether it would be good for the United States if countries like Saudi Arabia or Jordan became democracies, Santorum stated that it wasn’t a matter of whether “this is better for us or not.”
“I think the ideal and goal is a good one. The question is: how do you get there?,” Santorum explained. “And how long do you take, and what measures do you take. And, you mentioned Egypt, I don’t think Egypt was ready for elections.”
In 2012 Egyptian voters elected Mohamed Morsi, a candidate backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, considered by some to be a terrorist organization.
Santorum noted that one need look at history of the U.S.
“Were we ready for an election when the United States was formed to have everybody in the United States vote? Well, our Founders didn’t think so, ” he stated. “They limited the people who could vote in an election. Now you could say that’s horrible, that’s terrible. Well, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it was a decision that was made to make sure that there was some continuity and stability within the government that was consistent with the values the government was founded upon.”
At the time of the first U.S. Elections, only white men with property could vote.
Returning to Egypt, Santorum continued, “We can’t go out and say the objective is a free election, that should never have happened. Democracy is something that comes when it is appropriate to come.”
Santorum conceded that it may take “100 years.”
From the 06.29.2014 edition of CSPAN2’s BookTV:
Poll watchers in Democratic precincts in Mississippi? What could possibly go wrong with that? But that is exactly what will happen on Tuesday for the runoff between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel.
As Senator Thad Cochran, the veteran Republican, fights for his political life in Mississippi by taking the unexpected step of courting black Democrats, conservative organizations working to defeat him are planning to deploy poll watchers to monitor his campaign’s turnout operation in Tuesday’s runoff election.
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Mr. Cochran’s Tea Party opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniel, said in an interview on Sunday that his group was joining with Freedom Works and the Tea Party Patriots in a “voter integrity project” in Mississippi.
The groups will deploy observers in areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats, Mr. Cuccinelli said. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and conservative commentator who said he was advising the effort, described the watchers as “election observers,” mostly Mississippi residents, who will be trained to “observe whether the law is being followed.”
Missouri Republicans are pushing for a measure to expand early voting in the state. The move seems like a departure from the nationwide, GOP-led effort to shrink the window of time voters have access to the polls, but Democrats say it’s more of the same. The measure from Missouri’s Republicans, who in May failed to amend the state’s constitution to implement stricter voter ID requirements, comes at the same time as a citizen-led ballot measure that would expand early voting significantly. State GOPers say their version, which expands early voting by a much smaller amount and includes restrictions, will combat voter fraud and help voters make up their minds. But critics say the Republican-backed measure excludes days when working families and African American voters are more likely to hit the polls.
The hullabaloo started after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when volunteers such as Greg Oelke, a retired pipefitter in Missouri, gathered signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would give voters six extra weeks to get to the polls at multiple locations and provide time to vote on the weekends. Oelke, who often worked overtime on construction projects both in and out of Missouri, collected signatures around Springfield because he said it was hard for him to make it to the polls on Election Day. “Early voting is an issue that really means a lot to me,” he told Missouri Jobs With Justice, a group that helped organize the petition drive.
In early May, after hundreds of volunteers collected signatures in church basements and break rooms, citizens delivered a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to Missouri’s secretary of state, whose office has until August to verify the signatures and decide whether to place the measure on the November ballot. But Missouri Republicans won’t let that happen without a fight.
On April 1, a couple months after the petition drive had begun, Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) sponsored a competing measure. In May, the GOP-led House passed a version of the bill that expands early voting by six days—excluding the weekend—to a limited number of polling places, while also prohibiting same-day voter registration. If the citizens’ initiative is approved, both measures will appear on the ballot in November. “The testimony in the Legislature in favor of the sham early voting bill was actually testimony against early voting,” says Lara Granich, the director of Missouri Jobs With Justice. “That makes the real motivation behind it clear. They want it to be more difficult for folks to vote.”
GOP-led legislatures in other key swing states, including Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have all recently advanced measures to cut down on early voting. Democrats contend that Republicans target early voting because people who utilize it—low-income voters and minority voters—tend to also vote Democrat, a perception fueled by President Obama success with early voters, the Associated Press notes.
Republicans have offered different theories as to why six days of early voting makes more sense than six weeks. Last week, state Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) told the Missourian that six weeks of early voting would give voters too much time to commit voter fraud. (Between 2000 and 2010, there were 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation nationwide.) State Sen. Brian Nieves (R-Washington) said that six weeks of early voting “invites and begs” voter fraud, because it’s not uncommon for people to lie about their addresses, or to have people vote who are not registered. Mother Jones reached out to both Curtman and Nieves for information about documented voter fraud cases in Missouri, but did not receive a response.
Dugger, who introduced the measure, did not comment on the voter fraud allegations. He told Mother Jones that six weeks of early voting is too much because voters who cast a ballot early might end up changing their minds by Election Day. “I don’t want anyone to feel as if they wasted their their vote,” he says, noting that keeping the polls open for six weeks is a financial burden. “I think six days is a reasonable step.”
Granich argues that “if you are juggling two jobs and a family, six more days of bankers’ hours does nothing for you. This is really a cynical attempt to confuse voters.” Denise Lieberman, senior attorney at the Advancement Project, says that other states have demonstrated that early voting makes voting significantly more accessible, and voters aren’t required to vote early. As for the argument that early voting could promote voter fraud, she says, “I find it flabbergasting.”
In a fundraising email today, the voter-fraud mavens at True the Vote claim that a proposed bipartisan update to the Voting Rights Act is in fact a “move toward race-based segregation” that would “exclude millions of Americans from the full protection of the law — based solely on the color of their skin” and “turn our elections over to Eric Holder and Barack Obama.”
The Voting Rights Amendment Act is a bipartisan bill that would replace the formula that determines which areas are subject to Justice Department preclearance for changes in their voting laws. The previous formula was struck down by the Supreme Court last year, although the rest of the law remained.
The proposed formula, like its predecessor, would require states and counties with a history of voting restrictions targeting minority voters to obtain preclearance from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws. The preclearance provision, enacted to stop rampant Jim-Crow-era racial discrimination at the polls has for decades helped stem attempts to disenfranchise minority voters.
But according to True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, the very fact that the Voting Rights Act and the proposed coverage update are meant to stop racial discrimination at the polls means that they are the product of “race baiters” who want to “divide voters into color blocks for partisan gain” and “move toward race-based segregation.”
I’m sending you this message on the most urgent of topics!
Congress is considering a bill that could ultimately turn our elections over to Eric Holder and Barack Obama.
The bill is HR 3899. Bill sponsors have named it the Voting Rights Amendment Act, but we’re calling it what it really is- the Voting Rights Segregation Act. If it is not stopped, HR 3899 will fundamentally and intentionally change American elections into race-reliant battlefields where, for the first time in our history, the United States would EXCLUDE millions of Americans from the full protection of the law – based solely on the color of their skin.
HR 3899 also targets five states that will immediately be put under the authority of Holder’s Dept of Justice, requiring that they pre-clear election activities with Holder’s DOJ, effective immediately upon passage of the bill! The currently targeted states are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina. The Bill also gives Eric Holder the exclusive right to target other states for any reason he sees fit, including the passage and implementation of photo Voter ID laws.
This Country has gone through too much and come too far to now watch silently as the professional race baiters in Congress, like Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner and Sheila Jackson Lee, divide voters into color blocks for partisan gain.
Will you please help support True the Vote’s effort to kill this terrible race based bill?
Earlier this week True the Vote led a group of pro-liberty election integrity organizations in requesting GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to meet with our organizations to discuss the reasons this bill is an ill advised move toward race-based segregation. Last night, Cantor’s constituents let him know what they thought of his position on HR 3899- by voting him out of office. But make no mistake, the battle for HR 3899 is far from won.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century – right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist.After Applewhite’s story garnered national attention, election officials helped get her situation straightened out – and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional – but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.Two years later, Zachary Roth introduces us to a similar face – of the same age – in the “war on voting.”Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County Tuesday morning for Alabama’s primary elections. Mims, who is Africa-American, no longer drives, doesn’t have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without voting. Mims wasn’t even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot, as the law requires in that situation.Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mims a ride to the polls, recounted the story for msnbc. McCarren said Mims’s voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go.How many Alabamans lack ID isn’t known – in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. But nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans.Up until last year, there’s no way Alabama’s voter-suppression law would have been cleared by the Justice Department, but because a narrow Supreme Court majority gutted the Voting Rights Act, Alabama’s voter-ID law was never subjected to federal scrutiny.It’s against this backdrop that the Alabama Republican Party is “so desperate” to prove imaginary voter fraud exists, GOP officials are offering cash rewards.Tuesday is the first test of Alabama’s voter ID law – and the state’s Republicans are desperate to dig up some voter fraud. So desperate, in fact, that they’re offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who helps them find any. […]Bill Armistead, the Alabama GOP chair, wrote on the party’s website Monday that Republicans will fork over the cold hard cash to anyone who provides “information that directly leads to a conviction of a felony for voter fraud.” Signs saying “Reward – Stop Voter Fraud,” and directing people to call a toll-free hotline, will be placed at polling sites around the state both for Tuesday’s primaries and November’s general election, Armistead added.I can appreciate the degree to which party leaders are eager to substantiate their reckless voter-suppression tactics. These laws, the harshest voting restrictions seen in the United States since the Jim Crow era, are impossible to defend if they address a problem that doesn’t exist.But there’s no reason to believe the Alabama Republican Party will have to pay up anytime soon – voter fraud is still a problem that exists solely in the minds of far-right imaginations.As for 93-year-old Willie Mims being turned away before he could participate in his own democracy, now would be an ideal time for Alabama officials to feel ashamed of themselves.