Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman has always stood out, even within the GOP, for his extreme views and statements, so it only makes sense that Sen. Ted Cruz touted the congressman’s endorsement prior to last night’s Wisconsin presidential primary.
At Cruz’s victory party, a Milwaukee television reporter asked Grothman why he thinks the GOP has a chance to win Wisconsin in the general election, since no Republican has won the state since 1984. Grothman replied by arguing that “Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
Grothman’s claim confirmed yet again what voter ID opponents have been saying all along: that GOP lawmakers throughout the country have tried to pass laws making it more difficult to vote in order to reduce the voting share of young people and people of color, who studies have consistently found are less likely to have the required identification documents. In Wisconsin alone, approximately 300,000 voters could be impacted by a new voter ID law, and many observers blamed the law for the long lines seen at the polls on Tuesday.
All of these restrictions, however, are ostensibly to solve the problem of in-person voter fraud, a crime so rare that one study found just 31 possible cases of it out of over a billion ballots cast in primary and general elections since 2000. Conservatives have often pointed to discredited and debunked claims about widespread voter fraud to justify their support for these voter suppression measures.
While serving in the Wisconsin legislature, Grothman was a vocal supporter of voting restrictions, even going so far as to say that such measures would help Mitt Romney carry the state in 2012:
Grothman was the chief sponsor of a bill to limit early voting and prohibit weekend voting in Wisconsin, a direct assault on turnout efforts in Democratic-leaning districts. Grothman also proposed a measure to weaken campaign finance reporting requirements and another to make it more difficult for the elderly to seek assistance in voting, and even tried to end same-day voter registration in the state, which in 2012 had the nation’s second-highest turnout rate.
Last year, Grothman co-sponsored a bill that would weaken local courts that had ruled against voter suppression measures. He supported a state voter ID law in 2012, which he admitted he thought would help Romney “in a close race” and implied that voters without ID probably didn’t want to vote anyway. After the election, he claimed that President Obama and Sen. Tammy Baldwin both won their elections due to fraud.
Grothman isn’t the only conservative who has inadvertently revealed the true purpose of voter ID laws and other restrictive voting measures, such as efforts to limit early voting.
Mike Turzai, who is now the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, confidently predicted at a GOP gathering in 2012 that a new restrictive voter ID law would secure Romney’s victory in the swing state.
“Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done,” he said.
John Fund, a conservative commentator who has frequently warned of the scourge of voter fraud, once admitted that voter ID laws do little to stop absentee ballot fraud, which he called “the tool of choice amongst fraudsters,” since voter ID laws only impact in-person voting.
“I think it is a fair argument of some liberals that there are some people who emphasize the voter ID part more than the absentee ballot part because supposedly Republicans like absentee ballots more and they don’t want to restrict that,” he admitted, before adding: “But the bottom line is, on good government grounds, we have to have both voter ID laws and absentee ballot laws.” (Indeed, while all types of voter fraud are extremely rare, PBS notes that “election law experts say it happens more often through mail-in ballots than people impersonating eligible voters at the polls.”)
Fund once pointed to 19 possible cases of voter fraud out of 421,997 ballots cast in one Ohio county as proof that voter ID laws are necessary. Out of the already small number of cases that authorities were investigating, just two involved alleged in-person voter fraud and neither involved someone impersonating someone else, the supposed target of voter ID laws.
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly cheered on another way the GOP has tried to suppress the vote: by reducing voting hours.
Schlafly said in 2014 that Republican lawmakers must restrict early voting opportunities because high voter turnout helps Democrats:
Democrats promote early voting for the same reason they oppose voter ID: because they view early voting as helping their side. In the absurdly long 35-day period of early voting in Ohio in 2012, Democrats racked up perhaps a million-vote advantage over Republicans before Election Day was ever reached. Republicans have been slow to realize how early voting helps the Democrats.
Georgia state Sen. Fran Millar, like Schlafly, has condemned attempts to increase voter turnout. He was particularly critical of an effort in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest, to open an early voting center in a mall near a predominantly black megachurch and “dominated by African American shoppers.” Millar wrote in 2014:
Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. Per Jim Galloway of the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution], this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist . Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea – what a surprise. I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.
Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state.
He later added: “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”
Doug Preisse, the chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, Ohio, the home of Columbus, plainly admitted in the run-up to the 2012 election why he believed the state should curb early voting hours: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.”
The state party chairman later defended Preisse by explaining that his statement wasn’t meant to be on the record.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running for president, signed legislation in 2014 that cut early voting and eliminated same-day registration in his state.”
In 2012, after stepping down as chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer told the Palm Beach Post that GOP strategists are committed to restricting voting access in order to hurt Democrats and simply use the menace of voter fraud as “a marketing ploy.”
Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours.
“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.
“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”
Another Republican leader in the state, Wayne Bertsch, told the newspaper that Republicans used voting curbs to undercut the Democratic vote .
One GOP official in North Carolina, Don Yelton, was quite candid about why he thought the state should enact voter restrictions.
“This law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt,” he said. “If it hurts a bunch of college kids that’s too lazy to get up off their bohunkus and go get a photo ID, so be it. If it hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that wants the government to give them everything, so be it.”
As captured in 2013 in an incredible interview with The Daily Show:
While Yelton eventually resigned from his position while still standing behind his remarks, that wasn’t much of a comfort to the thousands of North Carolina voters who could lose their ability to vote thanks to recent voting restrictions, despite the fact that “North Carolina officials made just two referrals of cases of voter impersonation fraud out of 35 million votes cast in primary and general federal elections between 2000 and 2014.”
But hey, at least he’s honest.
This piece by People For the American Way Political Coordinator Carlos A. Sanchez originally appeared in Fox News Latino.
Even as a diverse coalition of Americans unite around the principle that voting rights are an essential American principle that needs to be protected, the Republican Party remains firmly committed to doing the opposite. Their continued push for policies that make it more difficult for people to vote disproportionately affects minority and young voters.
Republicans – including leading Presidential candidates – have for years been pushing initiatives that make it harder to vote. Jeb Bush supports states’ efforts to enact voter ID laws, and as governor, he restricted early voting and infamously purged 12,000 eligible voters before the 2000 presidential election. Marco Rubio asked, “What’s the big deal?” with voter ID laws. Scott Walker enacted what has been described as “one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.”
Voter ID laws systematically target Latinos’ and other minorities’ ability to vote. In 2012, measures to restrict voting could have affected over 10 million Latino voters. A Brennan Center for Justice study reported, “In Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory in each of those states during the 2008 presidential election.”
And it’s no accident that these laws disproportionately affect Latinos. A separate study from last year found “a solid link between legislator support for voter ID laws and bias toward Latino voters, as measured in their responses to constituent e-mails.” And yet another study that was released earlier this year found that even in states without voter ID laws, Latinos were targeted: “Election officials themselves also appear to be biased against minority voters, and Latinos in particular. For example, poll workers are more likely to ask minority voters to show identification, including in states without voter identification laws.”
Some Republicans have explicitly made known their intentions of suppressing Latino and African-American voters in order to win elections. Over 30 years ago, ALEC-founder and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation Paul Weyrich spoke plainly: “I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Republican after Republican has continued in his footsteps: An Ohio GOP County Chair stated he supports limits on early voting because, “I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.” Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai believed voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Former GOP Precinct Chair Don Yelton used the “n” word as he tried to deny that a voter ID law in North Carolina was racist (and he explained that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt”). Conservative activist and notoriously anti-immigrant Phyllis Schlafly said, “The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game.” Schlafly’s Eagle Forum endorsed Marco Rubio in his run for Senate (here’s a lovely picture of the two of them) and applauded Scott Walker for his opposition to legal immigration.
The Republican response to the growing power of minority voters could not be clearer: shut them out of the election process. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, despite a striking absence of evidence that fraud exists, Republican-led chambers across our nation have moved in concert to restrict access through the polls for political reasons. It’s that simple.
What’s even more upsetting is to hear a group who claims to represent the best interests of a community choose to ignore the facts in favor of their funder’s agenda. Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Iniative, said he’s fine with voter ID laws and that he doesn’t think Republicans are trying to suppress the Latino vote. Libre is a Koch-funded GOP shadow group that time and again turns its back on the Latino community – for example, Libre supported Republican candidates who opposed immigration reform in 2014. Garza’s support for voter ID laws is yet another instance of him and Republicans supporting a policy that’s devastating to Latinos.
It’s time for the Republican Party to end their campaign against voting rights—and for people like Daniel Garza to stop giving them cover when they do it.
Carlos A. Sanchez is the Coordinator of Political Campaigns for People For the American Way.
The following is a guest post by Zachary Koop, a 2014 Young People For Fellow.
This past Monday, the US Supreme Court made a troubling decision: it rejected an appeal to overturn Wisconsin’s voter ID law, considered one of the strictest in the nation. In so doing, the justices paved the way for other states to prohibit eligible voters from casting ballots.
As a young, progressive Wisconsin student, my peers and I share the sentiment that our voices are being attacked by Wisconsin’s recent voter ID law. Indeed, this policy disproportionately impacts young voters, especially youth of color. Among voters between the ages of 18-29, 17.3 percent of black youth and 8.1 percent of Latino youth were unable to vote because of inadequate identification, compared to 4.7 percent of white youth.
Governor Walker claims that subjugation of Wisconsinites is not the intent, but it is unquestionably the impact. This policy threatened to prevent 300,000 Wisconsinites from voting. Inclusion should be an American ideal, but that is clearly not the case today.
This attack on the voting rights is just one example of how the Right is further disenfranchising historically marginalized communities across this country. But despite their intent, these moves are also mobilizing millennials to demand that our democracy include us. While complex legal and legislative processes often make us feel frustrated and powerless, we understand we need to claim our place at the voting booth. As the largest, most diverse and most progressive demographic in history, we have the power to alter the policy and political landscapes in substantial ways – and we’re already doing it.
Millennials are advancing change across the country. I found my own place in the progressive movement thanks to programs like People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For (YP4) Fellowship. Through YP4’s Vote and Courts Matter programs, I learned how to organize my peers, mobilize voters, and came to understand just how important the courts are to advancing (or dismantling) progressive policies.
Because of YP4’s support, this past fall at UW-La Crosse I passed policies through my campus’ student government that enfranchised students during the 2014 midterm elections. By requiring the administration to issue free student IDs compliant with the voter ID law to all students who requested one, running voter registration drives, and more, we helped ensure that 10,000 students could cast ballots during the election cycle. We are now creating a campus voter registration system that is easily accessible to all students and plan to share our tactics with surrounding state universities to make voting more inclusive and widespread amongst students.
Nothing is more voice-squelching than voter ID laws, an economically inefficient policy that marginalizes youth and other minorities. The Supreme Court’s decision is a call to action for Wisconsin millennials to realize that justice does not advocate for itself and that we must incorporate courts activism in our fight for civil rights.
More than a year ago, the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to voting rights when they struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in their Shelby v. Holder decision. In the wake of this decision, nine states and many other counties that once had to have their voting law changes approved by the federal government before they took effect — what’s known as “preclearance”— no longer have to do so. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, where does that leave voters in the preclearance states and in other states where legal battles over voting laws are raging?
Yesterday ProPublica published a great round-up of the current landscape of voting rights across the country. Some of the lowlights included:
• Seven preclearance states have announced new restrictions since the Supreme Court rolled back the Voting Rights Act.
• [In 2012], a federal court called Texas's photo ID law [the] “most stringent in the country.” Now, it’s in effect.
• Two months after the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina cut early voting and eliminated same-day registration.
ProPublica notes that while glaringly discriminatory barriers like literacy tests are behind us, these legal changes matter a great deal. As voting rights advocates have demonstrated, voter ID laws, limitations on early voting, and voter roll purges disproportionately harm communities of color and other marginalized groups. Rather, Americans agree that no one should be facing barriers to casting a ballot and participating in our democracy.
You can read the full article here.
The past week held both good news and bad news for voting rights, depending on your part of the country. On Friday in Ohio, an appeals court declined to put on hold a ruling that expands early voting in the state, a win for those of us who believe that voting should be fair and accessible for all people. But on the same day, an appeals court gave the okay to Wisconsin’s voter ID law — a law that had been blocked months ago by a federal judge who noted that it disproportionately affects Latino and black communities.
Commentators have noted that instating the new voter ID law in Wisconsin so close to an election could cause real confusion for voters, and advocates are asking for a re-hearing. As election law expert Rick Hasen said, “It is hard enough to administer an election with set rules — much less to change the rules midstream.”
Beyond the practical implications for voters, it’s also important to connect the dots back to how these decisions happened and who was making them. As The Nation’s Ari Berman wrote on Friday night:
[A] panel of Democrat-appointed judges on the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction from a Democrat-appointed district court judge striking down Ohio’s cuts to early voting. Two hours earlier, however, a trio of Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit overturned an injunction from a Democratic judge blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
This is why elections matter. And the courts are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who does and does not get to participate in them. [emphasis added]
Nearly one month before the state’s August 5 primary elections, 18,000 Kansas voters are still barred from the ballot box because of incomplete paperwork under the state’s new law requiring proof of citizenship to vote.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the major player behind the passage and implementation of the new law, has consistently pushed back on criticism by claiming that “nobody’s been denied any rights” and that the thousands of Kansans with suspended registration are just “procrastinators” who haven't gotten around to producing the required birth certificate, passport or similar document to election authorites.
Now, of course, stories are emerging that show that the thousands of Kansans caught in registration limbo aren’t just “procrastinators” and that the system that he claims is quick and easy to use is in fact leaving people behind.
This weekend, the Wichita Eagle interviewed one such voter, Michael Nucci, who had his registration suspended despite having shown up at the DMV with his passport, one of the approved proof-of-citizenship documents:
Michael Nucci, a voter who was placed in incomplete status, said he found the process difficult.
Nucci, 43, moved to Wichita from Florida in 2012 and registered to vote without any problems. But in December 2013, when Nucci moved to a new address, he went to the DMV to update his registration and brought along his passport and phone bill. A week later, he said, he received a letter telling him his registration had been suspended.
Nucci contacted the Sedgwick County Election Office and was told to send a copy of his passport.
“There’s something involved between DMV and the election office where they are not on the same system. And I think it’s ridiculous,” Nucci said. “And I didn’t send them my passport because I already brought it to the DMV both times. Why should I send them a copy of my passport again, a third time?
“I’ve had no problem (registering to vote) until I came to Kansas,” Nucci said.
Today, the Eagle reported that the daughter of Kobach’s Republican primary challenger, Scott Morgan, was in a similar position — she uploaded a picture of her passport to Kobach’s website and still was informed that her registration had been suspended. Morgan told the paper that he was afraid that such “hurdles” to voter registration would discourage young voters:
Morgan said his daughter registered online through the secretary of state’s website and that he watched her upload a picture of her passport.
“It’s all these things that the average 18-year-old is just going to say, ‘the heck with it,’ ” Morgan said. He said that the online system repeatedly froze as she went through the registration process. “And it’s just phenomenal that we think it’s okay to put these kind of hurdles in front of these people who are trying to register to vote.”
Morgan said such issues could dissuade young people from voting.
“It’s hard enough to get 18-year-olds to get excited about voting anyway. And this is the kind of thing where each one of these steps, whether it’s the browser freezing up or the cumbersome form … each one of those you lose people,” Morgan said.
Morgan said his family couldn’t help but laugh upon receiving the letter, joking that many people would think it was something he made up for the campaign. But he took a photograph of his daughter holding her letter and posted it on Facebook as proof.
“When you get it, you laugh about it, because it’s so absurd. But then the sad thing is the absurdity is the reality of what we’ve created here in Kansas to protect ourselves from something that doesn’t exist,” Morgan said.
And this isn’t even to mention the hundred or so Kansans who will be able to vote only in federal elections in August, thanks to Kobach’s new two-tiered voting system. Or voters who don't have the required proof-of-citizenship documents at all and have to go through a time-consuming process with the state elections board in order to have their voting rights restored.
But Kobach apparently sees these problems as growing pains: He warned the Eagle that Morgan and his Democratic opponent just want to “wave the white flag and give up” on his voting scheme.
In an interview recorded in September 2012, North Carolina Speaker of the House and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis compared the growing population of African Americans and Latinos to a stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.”
In an interview highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which first spotted the 2012 interview, a spokesman for Tillis claimed that “traditional North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations.”
If you listen to the full context of Tillis’ remarks, however, it is clear that he was referring to the “traditional population” as a group distinct from the “Latino population” and the “African American population.”
Right Wing Watch points out that “traditional population” and “traditional Americans” are frequently used by anti-immigrant extremists as euphemisms for “white population.” For instance, in The Social Contract, a journal founded by an influential anti-immigrant leader, the term is used in a 2012 essay by Brenda Walker when she says, “Traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”
In speaking of the “traditional population,” Tillis stands alongside people like William Gheen, founder of anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said that immigration reform would create a situation in which “traditional Americans, like those who that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”
It is true that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Asian American populations are growing faster than its white population. For instance, the Latino population in North Carolina grew by 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 4.7 percent of the population to 8.4 percent. Yet Tillis has consistently worked to marginalize Latinos, by cutting spending on education, opposing healthcare reform, and supporting a restrictive voter identification law ironically called “VIVA.” That’s why People for the American Way is working in North Carolina this year to make sure Latino voters know the threat posed by Tillis’ extreme agenda.
Last year PFAW’s Spanish-language advertising helped spur turnout among Latinos in Virginia’s gubernatorial elections, and did the same in many 2012 battleground contests. As we look to the 2014 elections, Tillis’ actions and statements marginalizing the Latino community will represent a real challenge to his standing in an increasingly powerful voting bloc.
Wayne Allyn Root, the conservative activist who ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket in 2008, claimed last month that President Obama won reelection because “Democratic voters across this country are voting four times, five times, 10 times each for the Democrats.”
In a video commentary posted in late March, Root insisted that “Democrats are winning elections through what appears to be massive voter fraud.”
Root — who is also a birther — cited the right-wing myth that the fact that a handful of precincts in the heavily Democratic Philadelphia recorded no votes for Mitt Romney means that Democrats were “stuffing the ballot box.” The Philadelphia myth is part of a right-wing trend of blaming Democratic victories on unproven voter fraud in urban areas.
Root also said that President Obama should be impeached over alleged IRS targeting of conservatives, citing the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. “If you think impeachment can’t happen, it’s a pipe dream,” he said, “I’ve got news for you. Study Ukraine."