A leader of voter suppression group True The Vote apparently believes that a significant percentage of Americans want non-citizens to be able to vote in U.S. federal elections.
On yesterday’s True The Vote conference call, which featured Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky, True The Vote executive director Jennifer Wright claimed that over 20 percent of Americans want non-citizens to be given voting rights.
Discussing Kobach’s new law in Kansas, which requires people registering to vote to present a birth certificate or similar documentation of citizenship, Wright warned there is a growing push to let non-citizens vote in national elections: “I wonder about those citizens who think that non-citizens should be able to vote. Because I don’t think anyone would argue that we should be able to vote [or] that I should be able to vote in an election in Mexico even though I live in a border state.”
She cited polls “showing that over 70, 78, 80-plus percent of people throughout the United States agree that you should be a citizen to vote.” She appears to be referring to a recent poll from the conservative Rassmussen, which found that 78 percent of respondents agreed that voters should be required to prove their citizenship before registering. It asked no questions about whether or not non-citizens should be allowed to vote.
Of course, the current federal voter registration form does require proof of citizenship in the form of a sworn statement under penalty of perjury. Kansas’ law requires extra proof in the form of a birth certificate or naturalization document, an administrative hurdle that has left the voting rights of tens of thousands of Kansans in limbo .
But in the paranoid universe of True The Vote, people who oppose voter suppression laws actually want foreign nationals to be able to cast votes in American federa; elections, using the federal voter registration form as a “work-around around the proof of citizenship.”
I originally hail from Arizona myself, so I am familiar with how this ruling came down through Arizona and the concerns we had in our state that this federal form would then be a work-around around the proof of citizenship. So to be able to have it now spelled out in black and white, and I think quite confidently it will remain so, is a boon for election integrity.
Because, obviously, the studies are out there showing that over 70, 78, 80-plus percent of people throughout the United States agree that you should be a citizen to vote. I wonder about those citizens who think that non-citizens should be able to vote. Because I don’t think anyone would argue that we should be able to vote, that I should be able to vote in an election in Mexico even though I live in a border state, or whatever arguments we may have.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, following a federal court ruling upholding his strict requirement that people registering to vote must present a birth certificate or comparable proof of citizenship, is now hoping to peddle the law to other states. But in a conference call last night hosted by the group True The Vote, which was founded to support voter suppression laws, Kobach inadvertently explained what is so wrong with his policy, which has left 16,000 Kansans with their voter registrations suspended.
Kobach told True The Vote that he hoped that other states with voter ID laws would adopt his stricter version, and said that he had already discussed the possibility with Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. He also promised to put a generic version of the law on his personal website for activists to present to their own state legislators.
But while defending the law, Kobach made an argument that in fact illustrates what an extraordinary hurdle it may present to some voters.
“We really gave people lots of options” to prove their citizenship, Kobach boasted. He noted that there was even a “special process” for people who don’t have their birth certificate: “We created a process for that person to go before the state elections board and provide affidavit evidence and other evidence to show that they’re a US citizen. And that process has only been used twice.”
Yes, out of 16,000 people who have yet to provide the state with citizenship documentation, just two people without the proper documents have made it through the new bureaucratic hurdles to prove that they are citizens....which Kobach somehow sees as a great victory.
Later in the call, Kobach speculated that voter suppression laws helped increase the turnout in the 2012 elections because the people who are targeted by such laws actually love them. He said that he had talked to a counterpart in a southern state who told him of counties with high minority populations “where election fraud is so ingrained in the experience of voters…so when voter ID came along they had hope.”
“He believes it was the hope of a fairer election among some minority communities that had experienced fraudulent elections that drives the higher turnout,” Kobach said.
In fact, many elections experts say that high turnout among African-American voters in 2012 was driven in part by a backlash to voter suppression laws, not support for them.
Following the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year, Glenn Beck went on a personal crusade to prove that the Obama administration was engaged in a massive cover-up of the role that an al Qaeda operative played in the attack and was doing so for the benefit of the Saudi Arabian government.
Beck infamously gave the US government three days to come clean about the cover-up before he exposed it on his network. When those three days passed, Beck launched into a full-scale campaign to prove that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, who was injured in the bombing, was actually an al Qaeda "control agent" and the "money man" who financed the operation and recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry it out.
Beck's theory rested on the fact that Alharbi had once been considered a "person of interest" during the investigation but was quickly cleared. Beck's network received information during the investigation that Alharbi "was set to be deported under section 212 3B" for "terrorist activities" and it was upon that piece of information that Beck built his entire campaign, as he spent days hammering away, challenging everyone to disprove his theory and warning that they would only discredit themselves if they tried to do so.
Eventually, Beck's crusade came to a grinding halt when he brought a former INS special agent onto his program to bolster his theory but, instead, watched as Bob Trent blew a hole right through it by pointing out that the 212 3B designation and Beck's entire timeline "doesn't make sense."
After that, Beck more or less abandoned the issue, though he continued to personally believe in his original conspiracy and mention it from time to time.
And now, nearly one year later, Beck and his company are being sued by Alharbi for defamation and slander:
Glenn Beck defamed on his radio show a Middle Eastern victim of last year's Boston Marathon bombing as a criminal participant in it, the man claims in Federal Court.
Abdulrahman Alharbi sued Beck, The Blaze Inc., Mercury Radio Arts and Premiere Radio Networks for defamation and slander.
Alharbi describes himself in the 6-page lawsuit as "a 20-year-old student who was a spectator at the Marathon and was injured in the bombing. Mr. Alharbi, like many others, was questioned by federal authorities investigating the events of that day. Those authorities also, with his permission, searched his apartment. The responsible officials quickly concluded that Mr. Alharbi, other then being injured in the attacks, had no involvement in the attacks. Many news outlets reported the facts of the search of an apartment and that authorities had questioned a man of Middle Eastern descent. When the authorities concluded that Mr. Alharbi had no involvement, reports ceased. The defendant Glenn Beck, with the active participation of the distributor defendants, repeatedly and falsely identified Mr. Alharbi as an active participant in the crimes that were committed on April 15, 2013, repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain Mr. Alharbi and repeatedly and falsely accused Mr. Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks that took place at the Boston Marathon. Those statements were made widely and publicly. The statements were false and did grave injury to the plaintiff."
Beck, The Blaze and Mercury Radio all are based in Texas, defendant Premiere in California. Beck's show is owned by Blaze and its corporate parent Mercury, according to the complaint.
The complaint adds: "Beck falsely accused Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks that took place at the Boston Marathon.
"On or about May 8, 2013, and at repeated and diverse times thereafter, Beck stated that Alharbi was the 'money man' who had funded the attacks at the Boston Marathon.
The statements made by Beck were false."
Alharbi says he has "received numerous messages ... based on Beck's statements accusing him of being a murderer, child killer and terrorist."
He seeks punitive damages for defamation with malice.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, along with his ally Kris Kobach , secretary of state of Kansas, won a big voter suppression victory last week when a federal court ruled that the two states can require their residents to present extra documentation of citizenship to vote in federal elections.
In an interview late last week, Horne and former Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth (now a NewsMax host) delved into another voter suppression topic: the long-term or permanent disenfranchisement of people who have served time for felonies.
And they found it hilarious:
The two got on the topic when Hayworth’s fellow Newsmax host asked Horne about a recent case in Iowa in which a jury acquitted a woman with a prior felony drug conviction didn’t know she had lost her right to vote.
Horne joked that if voting rights are restored to ex-offenders, “I can just picture politicians appealing to the convicted felons’ vote by saying that they’ll legalize bank robbery or whatever.”
Hayworth agreed: “The politician in me suddenly thinks that in a felon-eligible society, no one can run for attorney general and say, ‘I’m tough on crime,’ because that would be counter-productive with the felon vote.”
Arizona is one of ten states that permanently bars at least some people with felony convictions from voting. Because of harsh penalties for drug crimes and racial sentencing disparities , such laws disproportionately affect African Americans; the Sentencing Project estimates that such laws have made 1 of every 13 African Americans ineligible to vote.
A growing bipartisan movement – including President Obama, Sen. Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell – has sought to restore voting rights to people who have served their time for felony convictions.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures throughout the country, won a big victory last week when a federal court allowed Kansas and Arizona to require extra proof of citizenship from people registering to vote with federal voter registration forms.
Kansas’ strict new documentation requirement – which requires residents to produce a birth certificate, passport, or similar document in order to register to vote – has thrown the voter registrations of 16,000 people into limbo, a problem that Kobach has consistently laughed off.
In an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins on Washington Watch last week, Kobach insisted that voting rights advocates on the “radical left” have “great difficulty demonstrating that it’s actually harder” to register to vote with his arcane new system. In fact, he alleged that voting rights groups “just want the loosey-goosey kind of system that allows fraud to occur because they perhaps feel they can benefit from that fraud.”
To illustrate the urgent importance of blocking tens of thousands of people from the ballot box in order to prevent noncitizens from voting, Kobach produced “a couple of recent examples” of such fraud occurring. One such “recent example” was from 1997 – or 17 years ago. The other – a tale of “50 Somali nationals” voting in a Democratic primary in Kansas city, Missouri in 2010 – never actually happened. When Kobach brought up the same anecdote in an op-ed last year, the Kansas City Star looked into it and found that a court had dismissed charges about the illegal votes, finding that “credible evidence proves that there was no voter misconduct and there was no voter fraud with regard to this election.”
Interestingly, there was proven voter fraud in that 2010 Kansas City election. One candidate’s uncle and aunt pleaded guilty for fraud for voting for their nephew even though they lived outside of his district. That fraud would not have been prevented by Kobach’s proof-of-citizenship law.
Yet, Kobach is so insistent that the “radical left” wants to use noncitizen voters to steal elections that he’s willing to put the voter registrations of tens of thousands of Kansans on hold in the name of preventing it.
Kobach: We’ve got cases going back years in this country of aliens usually being manipulated by someone who’s trying to steal an election or trying to influence an election. They’re told, ‘hey you can vote,’ they may not know that they’re breaking federal and state law, but they go ahead and register to vote.
So, I can give you a couple of recent examples in our neck of the woods. In Kansas City, Missouri, in 2010, in the Democrat primary for the state legislature, about 50 Somali nationals were registered to vote and persuaded, coached, to vote for one candidate, and that guy ended up winning by one vote.
In Kansas, in my state, in 1997, some alien employees of a meat-packing plant across the border in Oklahoma were encouraged to register to vote in Kansas to help sway a country referendum on a hog-farming operation.
Perkins: Why the opposition? Why are people opposed to this?
Kobach: Well, as you know, it comes from groups on the radical left, and they make all kinds of claims asserting that it’s going to be harder to vote or harder to register, but they have great difficulty demonstrating that it’s actually harder or statistically showing that it produces reduced turnout when in fact the opposite seems to occur, people have greater confidence in their elections when they know they’re secure.
I don’t know, I think some of these groups just want the loosey-goosey kind of system that allows fraud to occur because they perhaps feel they can benefit from that fraud.
Yesterday, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach and Arizona attorney general Tom Horne scored a big victory in federal court when a Kansas district court judge ruled that federal voter registration forms in both states must require voters to show proof of citizenship.
The proof-of-citizenship requirement, which Kobach shepherded through his state’s legislature, has created a huge mess, leaving the registrations suspended of nearly 16,000 voters who hadn’t or couldn’t provide the necessary documents.
Throughout the process, Kobach has dismissed the concerns of voting rights advocates and the growing chorus of protest from elections officials, newspaper editorial boards and others in Kansas. When 12,000 voters had their registration thrown in limbo, Kobach said it wasn’t a “major problem” because it was “only a tiny percentage” of the total voting population. (By contrast, the supposed reason for the law was to prevent a handful of fraudulent votes cast over a dozen years). When it was announced that only 72 percent of registered voters were able to meet the new requirement, Kobach boasted that “that’s actually an extraordinarily high percentage” and blamed “procrastination” for the 28 percent without complete registrations.
In a speech that Kobach gave in January to the Kansas Sovereignty Coalition, a Tenth Amendment group, Kobach mocked the Kansans – then totalling 19,000 – whose voter registrations were in limbo as "the 28 percent procrastinators," claiming that “nobody’s been denied any rights.”
“Nobody’s rights have been suspended,” he claimed. “Those 19,000 people haven’t completed their registration yet. They can complete it tomorrow and vote tomorrow if they want to. Nobody’s been denied any rights, they just haven’t finished it yet.”
“Oh and by the way, 72 percent of the people who have registered to vote since January 1, 2013, have completed their application and have sent in proof of citizenship. So those are the 28 percent procrastinators.”
“We should not get alarmed at all by the number that the left continually throws around,” he said.
Tellingly, when Kobach first mentions “voting rights,” and audience member loudly corrects him: “privilege, privilege.”
Today, under the banner of the Coalition to Protect Wisconsin Elections, a group of seventeen grassroots nonprofit organizations including People For the American Way gathered in the Wisconsin Senate Parlor to protest a batch of anti-democracy voting rights and campaign finance bills slated for Senate consideration tomorrow. The event included voters with their mouths taped shut to symbolize their voices being silenced by the proposed legislation as well as speakers from a range of progressive organizations, including PFAW regional political coordinator Scott Foval.
Speakers expressed opposition to a legislative package that will restrict access to a free and fair vote, allow unfettered spending on so-called political “issue ads,” and reduce transparency on reporting political activity in Wisconsin, including:
• Senate Bill 324, restricting early voting hours and banning the option of weekend voting like “souls to the polls” drives organized by faith communities.
• Senate Bill 267, making it more difficult for people to register to vote early.
• Senate Bill 655, repealing current law to allow lobbyists to contribute directly to legislators starting April 15 of election years, even while the legislature is in session; lowering the bar for disclosing political contributions; and allowing unlimited Internet political activity without disclosure to the Government Accountability Board.
• Assembly Bill 202, requiring poll observers to be allowed as close as three feet to poll workers, despite numerous complaints of harassing and intimidating behavior in recent elections.
Also under consideration, but not yet added to the official Senate calendar, is Senate Bill 654, which would rewrite the rules for disclosing political “issue ads” ahead of an election. And currently seeking sponsors but not yet introduced is a bill that would eliminate same-day voter registration.
These bills could do serious damage to our democracy. In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites cast their ballots early. Several municipal clerks, who are responsible for administering elections, offered extended hours for voting to allow working people to participate in their democracy by casting their votes after work or on weekends.
In addition, the proposed new disclosure requirements would allow nearly unlimited, undisclosed political ad spending, both in broadcast and on the Internet, as well as increased allowances for solicitation activity for political bundling by political action committees and political conduits.
But “We, the People” are fighting back. Check out the video of today’s event below:
In response to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s announcement yesterday of early voting cutbacks, Reverend Dr. Tony Minor of Cleveland, a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action, said:
“These changes blatantly discriminate against the African American community. Limiting early voting hours by cutting Sundays and weekday evenings is a transparent attempt to block some Ohioans from participating in their democracy.
“It’s no secret that many Ohioans can’t vote during work hours. Our elected officials should ensure that democracy works for everyone, not making cuts to early voting that disproportionately impact African Americans.”
People For the American Way's African American Ministers In Action represents 1,500 African American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
On Wednesday the Ohio legislature passed two restrictive voting laws that cut early voting and gut the state’s absentee ballot program, among other measures. This afternoon, Governor Kasich signed them into law. In response, the Ohio members of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action released the following statement:
“It is shameful that in this day and age, we are still fighting to protect the right to vote. Hiding behind the debunked myth of ‘voter fraud,’ it is clear as day that Republican leaders simply want to make it harder for some Ohioans to cast a ballot. Our elected officials should be encouraging all Ohioans to participate in their democracy, not pushing suppressive laws that threaten our most fundamental right as citizens.”
People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action represents a network of 1,500 African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
The following is a guest blog from Reverend Michael Couch, a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action.
On Tuesday, while speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder called for a repeal of state voting laws that disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people. In a country where nearly six million citizens are unable to vote because of felony convictions, these changes could not come quickly enough.
State laws dictating voting rights for those who have served time in prison vary, from an automatic restoration of rights after sentence completion in some states to outright bans in others. Restrictions on this civil right in states like Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, and Virginia should no longer be subject to criteria such as the type of convictions, arbitrary time frames, petitions to clemency boards and/or the state governor.
I work daily with others around the country to make sure nonpartisan voting education and voter registration of women and men who have completed their sentences takes place. Laws that disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people take away the single most fundamental American right, and they do so disproportionately to people of color. As Attorney General Holder pointed out in his speech, restrictive laws prohibit a shocking one in thirteen African Americans adults from voting.
As an African American faith leader, I find this to be both morally unacceptable and counterproductive to the goal of fostering supportive, engaged communities. I know from experience if someone has committed a crime, served their time in prison, and is released, no good could come of permanently stripping them of their most basic right and responsibility. Moreover, what isn’t often addressed is how restrictive laws keep families of those adults from helping them transition back to being a responsible, contributing citizen of their community. It’s time to change the message sent to the nearly six million Americans who have lost their voice and civic responsibility in our democracy.
Attorney General Holder is right: These laws are “unwise…unjust, and… not in keeping with our democratic values.” It’s time for states to get rid of laws that suppress those who have served their time and prevent them from fully participating in our democratic system.
Ohio Republican legislators are up to their voter suppression tricks again, trying to limit absentee ballot registrations and restricting voting hours ahead of the November 2014 elections. The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday that GOP Rep. Mike Dovilla, Chairman of the Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, said the committee will vote on Senate Bill 205 and Senate Bill 238 as early as Tuesday. If passed out of Dovilla’s committee, it could be off to the full House for a floor debate on Wednesday.
• SB 205 would ban county clerks from mass mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters, holding that duty only for OH Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has proven in the past that he will restrict voting access almost every chance he gets.
• SB 238 would achieve one of Husted’s anti-voter policy agenda items by limiting early voting days, effectively eliminating Ohioans’ ability to register and vote on the same day anywhere in the state.
These legislative moves come just days after the news broke that Hamilton County officials might relocate Cincinnati’s largest early voting location to a new, much less accessible location. That decision met with considerable push-back from voting rights activists and the media, resulting in a deadlock vote from the Board of Elections. The final decision now also goes to Secretary Husted to decide, effectively putting the power to restrict access to early voting in Cincinnati’s largest city in his hands.
If you are from Ohio, call your Representative now and tell them to protect your early voting rights by voting ‘NO’ on SB 205 and SB 238. You can find your Representative’s contact information here: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/members/member-directory. Once you have talked to your Representative, drop us an email at email@example.com to let us know what they said. We’ll keep tabs on the situation and update you on voter suppression efforts in Ohio – and across the country – on the PFAW blog.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and related rulings undermining the nation’s campaign finance laws opened the doors to massive corporate and right-wing spending. Nowhere have the results been more catastrophic than in North Carolina, where a right-wing takeover subjected state residents to an avalanche of far-right legislation targeting children, teachers, voting rights, and more.
Last year PFAW’s Miranda Blue and Calvin Sloan documented the far-right takeover of state politics that was funded by billionaire Art Pope with the help of GOP strategist and current U.S. Senate candidate from Virginia, Ed Gillespie. In 2012, Pope and his allies poured millions of dollars into elections for the state legislature and millions more to elect Gov. Pat McCrory.
Once they got into power, with Pope himself installed as McCrory’s budget director, North Carolina citizens were subjected to the full fury of a far-right, Tea Party-on-steroids legislative agenda. Education spending was slashed and thousands of teachers fired while tax dollars were diverted to school vouchers.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens were denied Medicaid and unemployment benefits while taxes were cut for the state’s richest residents. And in order to perpetuate the power of Pope’s puppets, one of the nation’s worst, most restrictive voting laws was put into place to disenfranchise voters, with an assist from the Supreme Court’s gutting of a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
But North Carolina has not given Americans only a terrifying look at what a Tea Party-run country would look like. It has also given us an inspiring example of grassroots organizing on behalf of a very different set of values. Led by Rev. William Barber, head of the state’s NAACP chapter, North Carolinans began “Moral Mondays” protests at the state capitol. They were dismissed as “morons” and outside agitators by right-wing legislators. One of Pope’s right-wing groups published personal information of protestors online.
But those efforts did nothing to squelch the Moral Mondays movement, which drew thousands of people to the weekly protests. Hundreds were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
Now Barber and the diverse coalition he leads have put out a call to people across North Carolina and the rest of the country to come to Raleigh on February 8 for what they hope will become the largest civil rights gathering in the south since an interfaith, interracial group of people responded to Dr. King’s call to join civil rights marchers in Selma.
On Tuesday, Rev. Barber spoke to bloggers about Moral Mondays, the February 8 march, and the values-based “fusion” organizing that is sustaining the pro-justice movement in North Carolina. If you’re going to change America, he said, you have to change the south – with broad-based, locally led movements in every state.
Barber emphasized that his movement was not partisan – that many independents and Republicans have joined in the Moral Mondays protests against the extremist and unjust laws passed by the far-right faction that now runs the state government. What motivates the new coalition, Barber said, is a combination of the constitutional principle of the common good and the biblical principle of caring for the vulnerable. A few days before the march, a policy briefing will examine the moral, economic, political and social costs of the state’s regressive legislation.
One goal of turning February 8 into a national event, Barber said, is to discourage right-wing strategists who hope to duplicate Pope’s takeover and subsequent imposition of extreme policies that Barber describes as “constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible, and economically insane.”
You can find out more about the February 8 march at the event website.
In 2012, over the protests of thousands of Pennsylvanians, forty five organizations, and every Democrat in the state legislature, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law one of the strictest voter ID requirements in the country. The Speaker of the Pennsylvania House acknowledged that he pushed the law to help Mitt Romney win the state.
This morning the two-year-old law was ruled unconstitutional. Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley wrote that law was a “substantial threat” and that it would hinder the ability of many to vote freely.
In the ruling, Judge McGinley stated:
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”
People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council said of the law last year:
“The purpose of this law has been clear from the beginning. It was meant to keep African Americans, students, and other traditionally suppressed communities from exercising our hard-won right to vote. Even the law’s supporters have admitted that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Instead, this law is a purely political attempt to disenfranchise citizens who have every right to vote. I am dismayed at today’s decision and hope that as this case moves through the courts, our judges recognize the ugly intent and real consequences of voter ID.”