When President Obama spoke about voting rights on Friday, he pointed out that the severity of the Republican Party’s attack on voter rights is the most serious it has been in the past 50 years.
President Obama also addressed the Republican Party’s marketing ploys to justify laws that everyone knows are intended to suppress the vote.
While recognizing that we need reasonable rules to ensure the integrity of our elections, President Obama said he is against requiring ID that millions of Americans don’t have.
On the question of voter fraud, President Obama used something Republicans don’t believe in – evidence based data.
One recent study found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years. Another analysis found that out of 197 million votes cast for federal elections from 2002 to 2005 only 40 voters out of 197 million were indicted for fraud…. Now for those of you who are math majors… the percentage is 0.00002 percent.
Occasionally, Republicans are forced to walk back a vote suppression policy. For example, Ohio Republicans backed down following a public outcry when they tried to financially penalize the state’s largest county for sending out absentee ballots.
Still, there is no tactic too extreme or too low for the Republican Party to try if they can get away with it. These extend beyond the already unacceptable restrictions on voter and registration ID, shorter voting hours, eliminated weekend voting, reduced or eliminated early voting, reduced or eliminated absentee voting, and eliminated same day registration.
Right Wing media likes to publish stories of reports showing rampant voter fraud. The only problem is the numbers don’t show voter fraud at all.
Last week North Carolina’s Board of Elections released a report which concluded that 35,570 North Carolinians who voted in 2012 had names and birthdates that matched voters in other states. The board also said it found 765 voters whose names, birthdates and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers matched people in other states.
Naturally, the right wing pounced on the report as “proof” that 35,570 people voted twice.
It’s surprising how many real and living people in America share a name and a birthdate, as shown in Michael P. McDonald and Justin Levitt’s study, Seeing Double Voting: An extension of the Birthday Problem.
On the specific case of this report, Levitt told election lawyers in an email:
I would be very interested indeed in how many of the 35K alleged double voters are the results of mistakes or mistaken assumptions …. I’m going to bet on the vast majority evaporating upon closer scrutiny.
The lesser number of 765 voters had the additional data point of the last four digits in their social security number matching someone in another state is disconcerting and merits further investigation. However, without further investigation, one cannot automatically assume these are cases of double voting.
Part of this can be explained by clerical errors. Clerks may mistype the spelling of someone’s name, or mistype their birth data. Experts say this happens frequently.
People move from one state to another, but can show as registered to vote in two states. Here is how that happens. States submit data on voters to a centralized voter cross checking database, such as the one designed by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.
States submit data on registered voter. A voter moves and registers to vote in their new state. However, the state they moved from hasn’t flushed the voter’s record yet. Apparently it takes several election cycles for that to happen. The fact that data isn’t up to date would explain how false positives can occur. It also explains how inflated numbers can happen.
It does not produce evidence of voter fraud. As the Institute of Southern Studies reported, Kobach’s office admitted it “couldn’t provide any evidence of a single instance in which the Interstate Crosscheck’s data had led to an actual legal charge of voter fraud.”
There’s the suppression by voter purge tactic, for which Rick Scott is especially famous. Just the number of voters Scott erroneously purged as felons in 2012 exceed the total number of actual fraud cases in both of the studies President Obama cited. This doesn’t include the number of people wrongfully purged as non-citizens. It also excludes a number of people that Scott tried to purge after the legal deadline.
Moreover, purging eligible voters is not limited to Florida.
Kansas is investigating what led to an erroneous purge of 4,838 from Cherokee County voter rolls in 2011. According to Cherokee County Clerk, Rodney Edmonson, people were wrongly purged because they hadn’t voted in two consecutive or state elections, which is not a cause for purging under Kansas law. The problem doesn’t end there. Under Kansas law, when a name is selected for removal from the rolls, a confirmation must be mailed to the home in question to verify if the person has moved. If there isn’t a response to the mailing, that is when a person can be purged from the rolls. However, the confirmation mailing was not sent to most, if not all, of the people wrongfully identified to be purged.
Voter gestapo organizations like the Voter Integrity Project (financed by NC’s Koch friend, Art Pope) are trying to purge voters with pre-election challenges.
In Buncome County, The voter Integrity project tried to get 182 people purged last month. The Board of elections rejected 86 of those challenges.
The 95 remaining challenges were considered during a 20 minute meeting last week. According to Asheville-Buncombe League of Women Voters, 85 of the people named during that meeting are registered at a homeless shelter. If they were homeless, they probably didn’t know about the meeting which would explain why they didn’t appear at it.
Some states have given election gestapo groups like True the Vote and the Voter Integrity Project additional powers on Election Day.
In North Carolina, Art Pope’s election gestapo, the Voter Integrity Project, now has the power to challenge any voter in any district.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, gave the Koch Brother funded True the Vote and other “poll observers” the new power of standing as close as 3 feet from voters while they are registering to vote and as they are processed by election officials. This is a form of intimidation because it means these “observers” will be standing in close physical proximity as they are being processed. Also, voter rolls are public information, but under this new rule, “poll observers” can match a face to a specific name and address.
Local officials are using a variety of tactics guaranteed to create even longer lines.
In one Florida county, half the voting locations were eliminated. It comes as no surprise that occurred in a district comprised mainly of minority voters. If the same number of people are voting, but there are dramatically fewer locations at which to vote, wait times will increase substantially. It also means people will have to travel further to vote, discouraging more voters.
As if that wasn’t enough, some poll places in Dade Country, Florida won’t allow voters to use restrooms. This may not sound like a bit deal – unless voters must also wait in line for several hours in order to vote.
Having access to restrooms is something many of us might not realize is a human right. In California, some activists are fighting a policy of closing public restrooms several hours a day on the basis that it violates the human rights of homeless people who really have no other acceptable option. Interestingly, this is roughly the same duration for which certain voters in Miami Dade would be denied access to a restroom.
For some voters, this restriction amounts to a physical bar that will be impossible to overcome in the name of exercising their right to vote.
Image: The Political Carnival