As we get closer to the mid-term election, we long for the times when preparing to vote was a matter of volunteering for a voter registration drive, working for a candidate’s campaign, familiarizing ourselves with the issues. If we moved since the last election, we need to update our voter registration information.
These days getting ready to vote entails checking to make sure our voter registration information is correct and finding out if the ID that was valid to prove eligibility to vote 2 years ago remains valid in 2014. For many Americans, voting is a process that can mean losing a day of work – with that journey to the out of the way poll station and the hours waiting in line. While Democrats are looking for ways to expand the vote and bring the experience voting back to advanced world standards, Republicans continue to restrict the vote and convey their displeasure with voting rights advocates who have the gall to encourage minorities and poor people to vote. Although some Republicans are coming around to re-enfranchising ex- felons the prevailing sentiment within the Koch controlled party is one of disgust with popular elections.
If we had any doubts about the GOP’s obsession with the “good old days” of Jim Crow, we only need to remember that some Republicans went on record to describe a voter registration drive in Ferguson, Missouri as disgusting.
Republicans are all for voter registration drives as long as they don’t involve registering democrats, minorities and poor people.
Of course, no one suppresses the vote like Republicans in Texas. The state’s Attorney-General, Greg Abbott, is the Republican choice to replace Rick “Oops” Perry. While nothing can motivate Abbott to oversee the distribution of tax payer dollars at a cancer center, it only took a propagandistic speech by Catherine Engelbrecht to give Abbott the incentive to shut down a voting rights organization.
Late last month, Dallas News told the story of a 2010 police protected by bullet proof vests with their weapons drawn raiding a house where Houston Votes was involved in the sinister business of registering poor people to vote and the role of Engelbrecht in making it happen.
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 street.
Engelbrecht gave Abbott all the incentive he needed to raid the house where Houston votes was registering poor people to vote.
Texas police served a search warrant before confiscating the group’s computers, hard drives and documents. Big surprise. After a year long investigation, Abbott concluded Houston Votes hadn’t done anything illegal. But his real objective was fulfilled because the group’s funding dried up leaving them unable to continue registering voters. To add insult to injury, Abbott saw to it that the group’s records were destroyed in 2013.
Not surprisingly, Abbott came up with a defense for the unwarranted raid and investigation.
Houston Votes had to fire more than 10 people for either falsifying or inappropriately duplicating registration forms, so there was some wrongdoing that was akin to ACORN-type political operations that deserved looking into,
You can count on Abbott to spend whatever it takes to defend it and take an active role in its realization. He defended gerrymandering by arguing it was all about discriminating against Democrats. Don’t be surprised if he uses the same argument in the upcoming trial on the Voter ID bill.
If an organization that helps poor people register to vote has to fire people for breaking the rules, that’s good enough for Abbott to shut that organization down.
During the 2012 election season, Republicans hired the firm of longtime Republican operative, Nathan Sproul to register Republican voters and throw away the registration forms of Democrats. Sproul provided the Bush campaign with the same “service”.
If the organization had to rename itself after getting caught breaking voter registration rules and that organization belongs to Nathan Sproul, Abbott welcomes its assistance in his quest to keep the vote white.
North Carolina deserves honorable mention for sending voters on a trip back to the future in record time.
In the couple of years of Art Pope’s version of Tea Party rule, NC passed a Vote Suppression measures that competes with the big boys like Texas. Aside from the standard restrictive Voter ID and registration provisions and reduced voting opportunities, NC Republicans waged war on student voters. They eliminated polls stations at public (and predominantly black) colleges and made every effort to disenfranchise the students.
Voting rights groups and the DOJ are challenging the Texas and North Carolina laws. The Texas law will be considered this month, while the NC law will be considered in June 2015.
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s law enforcement is arresting people, including a former candidate for the State’s senate for leaving voter registration leaflets on people’s cars. As reported by Think Progress, Ty Turner was arrested for distributing literature based on an ordinance that wasn’t enforced before. After all, nothing threatens law and order more than registering people to vote.
Image: screen grab from A little Reality