New Strategies Required to Respond to Republican Voter Suppression Tactics

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As informed liberals know, voters across the country have been losing their constitutionally guaranteed right to elect their representatives thanks to Republicans, ALEC, and a host of other nefarious  conservative organizations like the National Center for Public Policy.  Having been forced to give up on poll taxes and literacy tests, Republicans have turned to new methods of voter suppression.  These include restrictions on early voting, same day registration, and most commonly, voter ID laws. Other tactics to dampen voting have also become legal, such as Florida’s laws that discourage individuals and organizations from registering people to vote by putting criminal and/or financial penalties in place if registration forms are not turned in within ridiculously short periods of time. While the only response that makes sense long term is to overturn these laws, there are some steps that can be taken in the interim.

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In a democracy, you want the maximum level of participation you can get from the citizenry. The only time you don’t want as many people voting as possible is if those people are going to vote against your party on a consistent basis. Hence, you have the highly motivated Republican Party pulling out all the stops to eliminate the chances that more Americans have a say in their government; they know that when voters turn out in high numbers, they are likely to lose. The result has been the slew of laws passed since 2003, and especially since 2010, to restrict voting rights.

There have been 176 bills introduced in 41 states to restrict voting rights just since 2011. As a result, 32 states now require some form of ID to vote. Of these, 14 states have implemented particularly strict photo ID laws that require individuals to obtain birth certificates, marriage licenses, or other documentation to substantiate their identity prior to obtaining the ID. These states have included provisions that particularly target college students by rejecting students IDs or out-of-state licenses as legitimate forms of ID. According to the Brennan Center, about 10% of voters, or more than 5 million people, do not have the photo IDs required. We know that this was never what the Founding Fathers intended, since they never even conceived of the possibility of photography, let alone demanding that people have it prior to voting.

The excuses are always the same. There are the tired analogies about how IDs are required for buying beer, driving a car, or boarding a plane, so why not require them for voting? It doesn’t seem to occur to conservatives that none of these activities is a constitutionally specified right. Then of course there are the unsupported claims of voter fraud. Again the Brennan Center for Justice has the facts. Nearly every case of alleged voter fraud can be traced to clerical errors, innocent voter mistakes, and “bad matching.” Bad matching occurs when lists of voters are compared to check for “dead” voters or double voting. Often when this is done, it can appear that a “dead” person is voting until further investigation is done to show that there are actually two people with the same name. When all of the research is done, the results reveal that voter fraud is extremely rare. More importantly, the only form of voter fraud that photo ID prevents is the impersonation of another person while voting, and the Brennan Center describes this as “an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning.”

Despite having no justifiable cause to restrict voting, Republicans have managed to convince the American people that this is somehow a pressing issue. Though the source is a recent Fox News poll, a national random survey found fully 70% of Americans supported voter ID laws as “necessary to prevent voter fraud.” When asked if the laws potentially disenfranchise minorities, only 34% said yes. It’s an embarrassing case of a nation duped again by Republican manipulation. More so, because the reality is that the experts on voting know exactly what the Republicans who are writing the anti-voting laws know: these new laws intentionally and disproportionately disenfranchise minority, low-income, young, and disabled voters, the very citizens who are more likely to vote Democratic.

In places like Minnesota, the voter ID laws are being put up to the public for a vote. With the current sentiments of the American people tilting strongly in favor of voter ID laws, there is a chance that even the progressive citizens of Minnesota will opt to require them. While this may sound like democracy on the face of it, constitutionally protected rights or other civil rights up should never be put up for popular vote. That’s the point of their being rights.  The courts may still play a role such as in Wisconsin where their voter ID law has been placed on hold pending the outcome of legal action. In Pennsylvania, 93 year-old Viviette Applegate is suing for the right to vote after her ID was stolen and state officials can’t find her birth certificate. Despite voting for the past 60 years, she is currently prevented from voting under current Pennsylvania laws. However, if these matters go to our current Supreme Court, given their previous rulings, there’s no promise that the civil rights of voters will be upheld.

This means that action has to be taken to mitigate the damage until more overarching responses to voter disqualification can be made. A new report entitled, “Got ID? Helping Voters Get Voter Identification,” has been issued by several civil rights organizations including Common Cause, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. This report includes steps that need to be taken to ensure that the next election is not stolen by Republicans using their suppression tactics.

The most important recommendations in the report have to do with changing efforts to “Get Out the Vote” into a longer term commitment. Instead of simply getting people to the polls on Election Day, activists have to begin identifying all of the people who need IDs. In Wisconsin, this was done by the Wisconsin Voices program which formed a relationship with the Department of Motor Vehicles, obtained a list of residents with driver’s licenses, and then compared the list to voter rolls. By this process, 1.3 million people in Wisconsin were identified that may need IDs to vote. The next step is to help people to obtain birth certificates or marriage licenses necessary to acquire IDs. Then, there is frequently a need to help arrange transportation to the site that issues IDs (usually the DMV). This can all be a long process, and the election is only 5 months away.

The best remedy is complete retraction of the voter suppression laws, but in the meantime whatever can be done to alleviate the harm they cause must be done. For people who care about democracy, “Get Out the Vote” efforts will be more challenging than ever before. The “Got ID” report offers a guide to advocates to begin acting now, and with so much at stake in the next election, it is urgent to begin using these strategies today.

14 Replies to “New Strategies Required to Respond to Republican Voter Suppression Tactics”

  1. As I am in Florida, where even the League of Women Voters can no longer help people register and vote because of the suppressive laws, I am interested in whether you know of any legal challenges to these laws.

    Furthermore, if you are a Floridian who needs a ride to the polls, watch where you get it from and arrange for it well ahead of time. “Helpful” “volunteers” and church groups may well demand to know who you are voting for once they have you in the car, and if they decide the answer is wrong, you could wind up shanghaied. If asked for ID while in line for the polls, demand to see theirs first, and don’t let anyone touch it physically until you are inside the precinct and in front of a genuine precinct worker. Thuggery is to be expected, and especially towards the elderly, the disabled, and women. Since women are the one demographic that cannot be reliably weeded out by paper methods, violence towards them not only on Election Day but in the period leading up to it is to be expected.

    And, as usual, watch out for false-flag candidates and faithless electors.

  2. This must be coming from the pro constitution party called the G Tea Of Koch P. You know the ones who worship the constitution as long as it only apply’s to those they choose.

    Ive just had a novel thought. This election will be the dirtiest on human record and the world will look down on us for the uncivilized people that we are becoming thanks to the GOP

  3. GOP rips a page right out of the Dixiecrat handbook of voter suppression.

    Only difference is Blacks are not being burned out of house and home…or shot to death.

  4. Maybe Black people/African Americans aren’t (yet), but two years ago my public opposition to teaching creationism (and support for teaching evolution) cost me my electronics workshop and a room full of precision test equipment (and parts and radios) I’d been collecting and repairing/rebuilding for years. Someone torched my shop (and the fire department refused to investigate). Total loss, no insurance. I still haven’t recovered from that and may never be able to.

    I might add that I’m American Indian and after another incident, found racist hate graffiti spraypainted in front of my mailbox.

    We’ve also had several kitties poisoned and we were driven out of the last mainstream (Episcopal) church we attended – told we couldn’t accept evolution and be Christian, and at the same time a lay leader in the church advocated murdering gays (by stoning them).

    These sort of things aren’t fluke incidents… I can name others who’ve experienced similar and worse – and it’s usually for publicly resisting the dominionist churches. Gay couples have also reported being burned out… from the stories a fairly common problem (I worry for all of my LGBT friends in the area). The thing is, it’s the same people that did those things who are behind the big push to disenfranchise Democrats.

    I am very worried about the election. The last two elections resulted in some rather nasty stories of propaganda and violation of election rules around here. People would put up signs for Democrats in fenced in yards and find them destroyed… not once but time after time. In fact, during the last election I saw only one sign for a Democrat and that was on a side street (but hundreds and hundreds of signs for Republicans). There were complaints in the newspaper and reports of arrests of “groups of nice looking kids” (connected to churches) caught destroying people’s signs and who bragged that they’d destroyed hundreds of signs before they were caught.

    One person I talked with said she’d keep putting up signs for Democrats and come out the next morning to find them destroyed and replaced with signs for Republicans – in a fenced in yard with a locked gate. The lady said that after a while she just gave up and went with no sign.

    I’ve also heard stories of people trying to harass and intimidate Democrats who went to vote in the last election, but must say that wasn’t our experience… our voting place is in a mainstream church, but they were very careful to obey the rules AND quite friendly and helpful – and had poll workers outside observing the walkway and parking.

  5. I am really tempted to paint a campaign sign on my roof. Wish I had the brass to use, “God is a Cat…”

  6. I’m concerned about that Episcopal church you got thrown out of for believing in evolution. It was NOT a main stream Episcopal church. My life time experience is that the majority of the members of an Episcopal church accept the understandings of science.

  7. The whole diocese is extreme right, and the priest had brought in speakers (from the pulpit) from the “Intelligent Design” crowd.

    They said, and I quote, “We need to teach the God of the Bible in the schools!” (Their argument was that “it” wasn’t religious enough!)

    I tried but because of the rules could not refute their nonsense.

    He also would sometimes let the Pentecostal “ministry students” preach from his pulpit. Yep, hellfire and damnation sermons in an Episcopal church. Later it became “Give Give Give Give Give!!!” (But not to help the poor.)

    In the local diocese, clergy will be defrocked if they even attend a gay wedding.

    (I was Episcopalian for years, and watched the local churches and diocese get steeplejacked.)

  8. It was a steeplejacked church. You’re right, the Episcopal church has traditionally been for educated people, and that’s what makes it a prize for steeplejackers, who are determined to extinguish enlightenment wherever it may be found.

  9. BTW… we could have returned, but the reception would have been a bit cold. We left of our own choice but the atmosphere wasn’t very nice. You might be interested in knowing that a retired gay couple (good friends of ours) WERE thrown out of the church… they were (and are) quiet, gentle, and kind men who are true Christians… but because they were in a long-term permanent relationship they were thrown out. (Other liberals also left… a couple said that they were made to feel so unwelcome that even going through the doors was uncomfortable.)

    While that church just drove us out, another church in this diocese DID throw us out, in the early to mid 90s – one that we had been attending for years.

    When the priest found out that we are American Indian by birth, he almost refused us the elements – hesitated with an ugly look on his face so long that the whole church started murmuring, and then when we went through the receiving line after church, pointedly turned his back on us and refused to even look at us. We were then notified that we were no longer welcome to attend there. (He was later caught in serial adultery and stripped of his priesthood.)

    Needless to say, I’m no longer Episcopalian.

    As painful as that was, however, it doesn’t even begin to compare to waking to one’s workshop on fire – and finding that it was deliberately set and knowing it was because of resistance to creationism.

    It also doesn’t compare to having a beloved kitty poisoned. Finding the racist hate graffiti- yeah, that comes close to being thrown out of a church because of race or driven from another because of science.

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