Robert Knight of the far-right American Civil Rights Union appeared yesterday on VCY America’s Crosstalk to discuss so-called voter fraud problems, where he accused people who oppose restrictions on voting rights such as voter ID laws of being “racist.”
Knight: To suggest that showing a Photo ID like everybody else is supposed to show is a way to suppress the minority vote to me is a rather racist thing to say, because it implies that these people are just incapable of operating by the same rules everybody else is. It’s that soft liberal racism that pops up over and over.
As detailed in the Right Wing Watch: In Focus, The Right to Vote Under Attack, research overwhelmingly dispels claims of widespread voter fraud and found that the proposed laws set out to solve this invented problem have a lopsided impact on African American voters. And according to a NAACP report [pdf], such laws are “threatening to disfranchise millions of people, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color.”
“Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” said David Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”
Mr. Becker makes an important point: our problems are found in a system that hasn’t kept up with the times. The solution is to modernize that system, not cause further harm by prioritizing politics over participation.
Last fall’s The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details just how harmful the politics can be.
“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day."
The Brennan Center for Justice continues:
“Last year, a slew of states passed new laws making it harder to vote. Notably, none of those laws addressed the concerns highlighted in this study. Rather than erecting barriers between eligible American citizens and their right to vote, we should be opening pathways to a modern voting system. Voter registration modernization is a common sense reform that would cost less, register many more voters, and curb any possibility of fraud. It should be put in place without delay.”
There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction.
On Sunday, November 6, People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, a nationwide network of African American clergy, will launch a yearlong program to turn out the vote in the 2012 elections. The VESSELS program will work with at least 400 clergy from across the country to respond to widespread attacks on voting rights by educating, training and turning out voters.
The effort will focus on twelve key states with large African American populations that have been hit by right-wing attacks on voting rights, including suppressive voter ID laws.Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council , said:
“African American voters are under assault from right-wing legislators who think they can win elections by keeping us from voting. We must respond by knowing our rights, educating our fellow voters and turning out even more people to the polls than we did in 2008. This is not a partisan issue: it’s about ensuring that our democracy lives up to its highest ideals.
“Throughout American history, the Black Church has been a powerful force behind efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to our Constitutional rights. The current battles over voting rights are no exception. As dozens of states pass laws making it harder to vote, we must work harder to ensure that everybody who can participates in the democratic process. We believe that God gave us a voice, and we must use it to speak with our vote.”Rev. Dr. Roland Womack, Jr., Chair of AAMLC and retired pastor of Milwaukee’s Progressive Baptist Church , said:
“The Vessels program is extremely important to the 2012 election, at a time when the rights of all people are not recognized and a permanent ruling class determines the decisions and direction of this country. I am participating because I am old enough to remember how it used to be and I promised my father and my God that I would not stand by and let this happen to us again.”Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, Vice-Chair of AAMLC and Founder and Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia , added:
“The current Occupy Wall Street movement along with ancillary movements in cities around the world is further testimony to the importance of citizens’ involvement in our political process. The VESSELS program is an important step toward voter empowerment. Our democracy depends on it.”
More information about the African American Ministers Leadership Council and the VESSELS program can be found here.
People For the American Way Foundation’s report,The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box
In April of 2007, Florida took a significant step toward full democracy for ex-offenders seeking to have their right to vote restored. Governor Charlie Crist persuaded the state's Clemency Board to adopt new regulations. The new rules "automatically" restore the rights of ex-offenders who have committed non-violent crimes, have completed their sentences and probation, and paid victim restitution.