What is the best way to limit a voice you wish would remain unheard? Well, suppress it of course. And, that is exactly what is happening all over the country today. Voter suppression has been an ongoing issue in our country’s checkered past. But, as we inch closer and closer to National Election Day on November 6th and with early voting already happening in Ohio, voter ID laws, or “voter suppression” laws, have become ever stringent and blatant.
Historically, voter suppression laws have been used to reduce turnout amongst groups who support the Democratic Party like Black voters. However, laws passed in recent years have major implications for Latino voters since they often require that voters have state issued IDs. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, minority groups, the disabled and the elderly are less likely to possess state issued ID. And, they are more likely to vote for Democrats. Coincidence? Not at all. At first glance, a neutral observer might say that assigning partisan or racial leanings to this issue is pure spin. But, we can use logical deduction to debunk that theory.
First, take the current electoral map from Real Clear Politics. When comparing it to new voter suppression mandates, “restrictions from 19 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 14 states,” all Republican or “toss up.” Virginia’s heavily contested voter ID law which would further define the types of ID allowed for voting eligibility, backed by Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, has been a bitter point of debate for Virginians and the Justice Department. But, since it is a more lenient policy than some of the others affecting voters this election season, the DOJ has upheld the new measure. Texas too has seen actions from the courts on their voter suppression laws. So have several other states with polarizing voter suppression laws like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Florida is a special case. You may have heard about the “voter purge” that began a few months ago at the decree of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. In a supposed effort to reduce non-citizen voter fraud, Gov. Scott began removing voters, many of whom were citizens, from the voting rosters in his state. With the Florida voting debacle that ensued in the presidential race of 2000, one might wonder why the “Sunshine State” continues to be mired in fraudulent voting activities. And, with a large portion of the 538 electoral votes at stake, 209 in “leaning” and “toss up” states to be exact, Republicans have a lot to lose if turnout remains at its 2008 levels. Clearly, these are solid Republican or Republican leaning states. The solid Democrat or likely Democrat states have yet to join in the voter suppression endeavor in any significant way.
Second, voter fraud is as likely to occur as getting struck and killed by lightning. The Brennan Center found, in two separate 2004 state-wide studies, that voter fraud occurs at a rate that is less than 4-hundred-thousandths of a percent of the time. Does that sound frequent enough to warrant tax-payer funded efforts to “protect” the vote? Probably not. So, one must wonder what the real motive is here. A recent issue arose in the battleground state of Colorado, in which a young woman was videotaped while registering voters at a local grocery store. In the tape, she said she was registering voters in support of Gov. Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for POTUS, for the County Clerk’s office. This is both fraudulent and illegal. And although it is a localized example, hardly representative of the Republican Party as a whole, it paints an ugly picture for the type of tactics used by some Republican Party supporters.
Third, Republican Party leaders have come out and stated that the desired outcome of the voter suppression laws is to further Romney’s agenda. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA) explained that “lazy” people would most likely be the only people affected by the stringent voter ID laws. These “lazy” people are also predominantly Black, Latino, elderly, young, and poor. Other party officials commute the voter ID laws with the goal of giving the election to Romney. State House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) spoke on June 23rd about what voter suppression efforts in Pennsylvania could mean for the Romney campaign.
Based on these three facets of spin debunking, it is safe to say that voter suppression laws a) have been primarily pushed by the Republican Party, b) are not correlated with an increase of voter fraud, and c) are chiefly directed at Blacks, Latinos, elderly, young, poor, and all the other “lazies” who won’t just go get a sufficient form of ID to vote when they’ve never had to do that before aka citizens who vote for Democrats.
So, the most logical question remains: why can’t those lazy Black, Latino, elderly, young, and poor people just go and get proper ID? It’s just that easy right? Walk down to their neighborhood DMV, fill out a form, and get this free piece of plastic that they can wield into a polling place to vote. Well, for one, they might not know about this new concerted effort to disenfranchise them. And, Reps starting these voter ID battles this close to a major election are totally aware of that fact. Additionally, many elderly people do not possess valid documents to verify citizenship. Does this mean they should be disenfranchised? Of course not.
Another question emerges from these recent trends: why now? With clear partisan biases, the answer seems simple. If they vote, Republicans lose. It happened in 2008. And it is possible that it will happen again. Therefore, what is the best option? Keep them quiet. And, with voting day just one month away and President Obama still ahead in these key battleground states, Reps have got a lot more suppressing to do. Everyone born in this country has the right to vote. The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guarantee that. Exercise your right no matter whom it favors.