We’re already well aware that the voter ID laws that have been passed in many states are designed not to prevent fraud but to deter certain groups of people from voting, as several Republicans have admitted in the past. But even without those accidental moments of honesty, it would be clear that something other than an epidemic of voter fraud was motivating the passage of these laws, because there is nothing close to an epidemic of voter fraud.
Today, we have some new evidence of that. Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News reviewed the 66 voter fraud cases prosecuted by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott since 2004 and found that just four cases would have been prevented by the state’s voter ID law. The law was passed in 2011 and blocked by a unanimous three-judge panel of federal judges until this spring, when the Supreme Court gutted the key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act. Just two hours after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Abbott declared the voter ID law to be once again…which in turn led to another Justice Department lawsuit.
The numbers that are supposedly driving Texas’ voter ID push are so ridiculous that they’re actually quite difficult to illustrate. Consider this: Texas had 13,594,264 registered voters in 2012. Four cases of fraud out of 13,594,264 voters works out to… actually, it’s a percentage so small my calculator won’t even display it. Of course, voter fraud is a serious felony that Texas is right to prosecute on the rare occasions that it happens. But Greg Abbott considers the crime widespread enough to pass a law that will disenfranchise thousands of voters who can’t access the ID they need, or will be confused or otherwise deterred by the restrictions and won’t go to the polls.
Perhaps the most telling part of Slater’s piece is this:
“Abbott acknowledged that voter ID wouldn’t have made a difference in most of the cases he has prosecuted.”
Instead, Abbott’s response to Slater’s data on the ineffectiveness of voter ID was as logical as can be expected: Obamacare!
So Abbott’s solution to prevent potential voter fraud is one that he admits won’t address most of the (very few) actual instances of fraud, yet he’s pushing ahead with instituting a law that will disenfranchise thousands? To me, it looks like he doesn’t even believe his own spin anymore. The only “problem” this law addresses is that some people want to vote for Democrats—and Greg Abbott knows it.
Between the Supreme Court’s decision to neuter Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and the passage of one of the nation’s most restrictive voter ID bills in North Carolina, with many other states also passing bills to restrict voting and registration, it’s been a tough year for the right to vote in America. And it just got worse in Virginia, where elections are just around the corner.
According to a report by Think Progress, around “57,000 Virginians have been flagged as being registered in another state, and counties are removing some from the voter rolls without any notice or opportunity to rebut the claim.” This is a crucial point in this case: it’s one thing to make thousands of registered voters jump through hoops to prove they’re eligible to vote in the state, but it’s quite another to remove those voters without any notice, less than two months before an election and less than six weeks before the registration deadline. If the voter was removed in error, the burden is on that voter to fix the state’s mistake in time to vote this November. As Think Progress points out, 57,000 voters is around 3% of the number of voters in 2009—more than enough to make the difference in a close election.
This is disturbing news, particularly following reports that Florida may be looking to take another shot at purging their voter rolls, which they failed to do in time for the 2012 election. Oh, and Iowa, too. Any other swing states feel like joining in?
For more information on voter purges, take a look at the Brennan Center’s report, as well as our report on voter fraud, The Right To Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box.
At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this Wednesday, Reverend Al Sharpton made the case that people of color are facing a new generation of Jim Crow-type laws. “Jim Crow had a son,” Sharpton said, a son who writes voter suppression, Stand Your Ground, and stop-and-frisk laws. His name? “James Crow, Jr., Esquire.”
At Rosa Park’s funeral in 2005, Sharpton made similar comments:
The one we’ve got to battle is James Crow, Jr., Esquire. He’s a little more educated. He’s a little slicker. He’s a little more polished. But the results are the same. He doesn’t put you in the back of the bus. He just puts referendums on the ballot to end affirmative action where you can’t go to school. He doesn’t call you a racial name, he just marginalizes your existence.
A case in point of the slicker, more polished push for policy that disproportionately harms people of color is the assault on voting rights in North Carolina. The Institute for Southern Studies released the results of an investigation yesterday finding that mega-donor Art Pope has played an important, if largely hidden, role in making restrictive voting laws in the state a reality. Whether through funding conservative think tanks disseminating lies about voter fraud or by financially backing Republican elected officials involved in pushing the sweeping anti-voter law, Pope’s influence in bringing about what The Nation described as “the country’s worst voter suppression law” is clear.
At PFAW, we often write about the danger of individual Americans’ voices being drowned out by the roar of moneyed interests in our democracy. Through organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists can quietly help get Stand Your Ground and voter ID laws on the books. Art Pope’s support of North Carolina’s draconian voting law shows one more example of why the struggle to protect individual voices and votes in a democracy being flooded by the money of wealthy special interests is an uphill battle – but a battle unquestionably worth fighting.
Events commemorating the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom are already under way in Washington, D.C. If you live in the capital area or nearby, you may want to attend events at the Lincoln Memorial this Saturday, August 24th or next Wednesday, August 28th , or one of dozens of other events. The A. Philip Randolph Institute, for example is holding its 44th annual education conference and youth conference in honor of Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the organizers of the March who appeared on the cover of Life Magazine’s September 6, 1963 issue. You can find information about events here and here.
Whether or not you can get to Washington, you can catch major events on television. And you might want to get started tonight – Friday, August 23 – with the PBS re-broadcast of an award-winning documentary about author and advocate James Baldwin. James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket will be shown on PBS stations as part of the American Masters program. Broadcast times vary so check your local station’s listings. PBS will also host on interactive online screening at 5:00 pm eastern on August 28th.
For a reminder of why it’s important to know our history, and prevent it from being co-opted, see People For the American Way President Michael Keegan’s new Huffington Post op-ed, Don’t Let the Right Wing Co-opt King.
Kansas secretary of state and national voter suppression advocate Kris Kobach has been struggling in recent months to implement a new “proof of citizenship” voter registration requirement that he pushed into law. But now he has a new plan: sue the federal government to make it harder to register to vote with a federal form in his state.
Like a similar Arizona law that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court, Kansas’ law requires those registering to vote to produce documented proof of citizenship beyond the sworn oath required on federal voter registration forms. This has produced an administrative nightmare in Kansas, throwing the voting status of at least 15,000 people who registered with the federal form into limbo.
Kobach’s first plan to fix this was to force the thousands of Kansans who had registered with the federal form to cast provisional ballots in the next election, which would then only count if they showed up later at an elections office armed with a birth certificate or other citizenship document. The state board of elections rejected the plan, which one Republican state senator called “disingenuous at best.”
Kobach then got creative, suggesting that Kansas create two classes of voters, with those who register with the federal form only allowed to vote in federal elections. Voting rights advocates balked.
Now, Kobach has a new plan. Along with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Kobach is suing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require the federal government to add extra “proof of citizenship” requirements to federal voter registration forms in the two states. Andy Marso at the Topeka Capital-Journal sums up the scheme:
Facing the possibility of legal action over 15,000-plus suspended voter registrations, Secretary of State Kris Kobach struck back by announcing Wednesday his own suit against a federal election commission.
Kobach said at a news conference that he and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, both Republicans, have filed a complaint against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asking that federal voter registration forms issued to residents of their states include state-specific proof of citizenship requirements like the ones on state forms largely responsible for putting thousands of Kansas registrations on hold.
Kobach said the court case is "the first of its kind."
Kansas voters will be best served when the EAC amends the Kansas-specific instructions on the Federal Form to include submitting concrete evidence of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote," Kobach said.
Kobach said the lawsuit would partially preempt a suit being prepared but he American Civil Liberties Union over the suspended registrations.
“It does block many of the arguments the ACLU might wish to raise,” Kobach said.
Kobach and the ACLU have disagreed on much when it comes to voting laws, but both he and Bonney said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., invited a lawsuit.
"This lawsuit is pursuant to Scalia's invitation," Kobach said.
In a WorldNetDaily column today, Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly comes to the defense of North Carolina’s new voter suppression measure with classic Schlafly logic. The new law is not politically motivated and won’t keep Democrats from voting, Schlafly claims…before adding that the law’s main virtue is that it is politically motivated and will keep Democrats from voting.
Schlafly starts out her argument by claiming that the notion that the state’s new photo ID requirement will disproportionately disenfranchise largely Democratic voting groups is “absurd” because “the poorest members of society can obtain photo ID to get taxpayer-funded handouts”….and then immediately contradicts herself by declaring “the real reason the left wants to make sure that individuals without voter ID are allowed to vote is because they are expected to vote for Democrats”:
Liberals make the absurd claim that requiring photo ID is discriminatory because some minority groups may be unable to provide proper ID. But government-issued photo identification can be obtained by anyone at very low cost.
We already need photo ID, aka a driver’s license, to drive to work, which is rather important to most people. Welfare recipients are required to show photo ID to receive money in many states, and we haven’t heard any gripes about ID discrimination.
If the poorest members of society can obtain photo ID to get taxpayer-funded handouts, they should be able to do likewise for voting. The real reason the left wants to make sure that individuals without voter ID are allowed to vote is because they are expected to vote for Democrats.
Schlafly then takes on the North Carolina law’s reduction of early voting days, including eliminating Sunday early voting, which she happily admits is a response to the popularity of early voting among Democratic voters:
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. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”
She is especially upset that the Obama campaign (or the “Obama technocrats”) ran a successful early voting get-out-the-vote effort, or, as she puts it, “identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote”:
The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.
But early voting’s sins, according to Schlafly, go beyond being successfully used by Democrats. In fact, she says, early voting “is actually contrary to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution”:
Early voting is actually contrary to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution. Article II states, “the Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes, which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.” Federal law sets the date for national elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
But that isn’t all! Schlafly -- who happens to be the recipient of the 2011 Citizens United Lifetime Achievement Award-- claims that early voting actually “increases the influence of big money spent on campaigns.” Not only that, she says, but it “increases opportunities for ballot fraud” because, she claims without any evidence, poll watchers aren’t present during early voting:
Early voting increases the influence of big money spent on campaigns because it requires candidates to campaign, to spend and to buy expensive television ads over additional weeks. Early voting increases opportunities for ballot fraud because the necessary poll watchers we expect to be on the job at polling places on Election Day can’t be present for so many days.
Schlafly wraps up her argument by declaring that North Carolina’s voter suppression law should “cheer up” conservatives as they work to restrict reproductive choice, cut unemployment insurance and Medicaid and mandate the teaching of cursive so that “kids will now be able to read letters from their grandmothers”:
In 2012 the Democrats were so sure that North Carolina was a happy hunting ground for their votes that they held their National Convention in Charlotte to renominate Barack Obama. North Carolina promptly responded by voting down same-sex marriage in a referendum and then passing a bunch of good laws. So cheer up, conservatives.
In addition to the helpful new voting laws, North Carolina passed stricter regulations on abortion clinics, ended teacher tenure, cut unemployment benefits, blocked the expansion of Medicaid and (despite the scorn of propagandists for the national takeover of education by Common Core) mandated the teaching of cursive writing. Maybe that’s why the liberals are so angry: Kids will now be able to read letters from their grandmothers.
The Christian Action League, the American Family Association’s North Carolina affiliate, issued a statement Friday praising a restrictive new voting law in North Carolina. The group is particularly pleased with a provision eliminating early voting on Sundays. “We have always opposed voting on Sunday for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Sunday is the church’s prime time for developing the character of a nation,” said Mark Creech, the Christian Action League’s director.
He adds that Sunday voting in fact imperils our freedom because “it is a Sunday-cultivated character that makes an electorate fit to guard and preserve its liberties.”
“These new laws will not create a hardship for anyone who wants to vote in North Carolina. What they will do is ensure — through ID checks and a slowed down registration process — that all of our votes count,” said Dr. Creech. “We’re most pleased that the shortened early voting period takes at least one Sunday out of the mix.”
“We have always opposed voting on Sunday for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Sunday is the church’s prime time for developing the character of a nation,” Dr. Creech said. “It is a Sunday-cultivated character that makes an electorate fit to guard and preserve its liberties.”
Of course, Sunday early voting hours have been particularly popular among faith communities. In 2008, a “souls to the polls” drive in black churches led to 37,000 people in North Carolina casting Sunday votes. Last year, it was a similar success.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has become a national figure by advising other states on how to implement anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures, has come up with a new creative way to make it harder for Kansans to vote: barring those who register to vote with a federal form from casting ballots in state elections.
Back in June, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona elections law that required those registering to vote to show proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. In Kansas, Kobach has been struggling to deal with the implementation of a similar proof-of-citizenship law, which has left the voting status of at least 12,000 Kansans in limbo.
These voters, many of whom registered with the federal “motor voter” form at the DMV, were supposed to have their citizenship information automatically updated, a process that was delayed by a computer glitch. Kobach then suggested that these 12,000 voters be forced to cast provisional ballots – a suggestion that the state elections board rejected.
Now, the Lawrence Journal-World reports, Kobach has a new idea to deal with the problem that he created. The paper reports that Kobach is considering a plan to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona case by creating two classes of voters. Under this plan, those who register with a federal form would be allowed to vote only in federal elections until they produced the state-required citizenship documents. Those who meet the state registration requirements would then be allowed to vote in state-level elections.
In Kansas, a new state law requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Kobach, a Republican who pushed for that law, said he is considering a proposed rule change that would allow those who use the federal form to register to vote to be allowed to vote in federal elections, such as presidential and congressional contests. The federal voter registration form does not require proof of citizenship documents, but includes a signed sworn statement that the individual is a U.S. citizen.
But those people would not be allowed to vote in state elections, such as contests for governor, other statewide offices and the Legislature.
Those who register to vote by providing proof of citizenship will be able to vote in both federal and state elections under the proposal.
Voting rights advocates in the state are understandably skeptical:
Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said she would strongly oppose such a plan.
"It won't work," Furtado said. "When we can't handle registrations, the process of applications and processing registrations, how are we going to separate ballots?" she said. "This is creating a problem. Whenever we make things complex, people shun away."
When the elections board rejected his provisional ballots plan, Kobach was taken aback, saying that those who register to vote with the motor voter form aren’t likely to vote anyway, so disenfranchising 12,000 of them wasn’t “a major problem.” That seems to be his justification for the two classes of voter plan as well. According to the World-Journal, “Kobach said few Kansans register to vote using the federal form, so it shouldn't affect too many voters.”
WASHINGTON – In response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to require the state to obtain federal permission before implementing voting changes, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“In the wake of the Shelby County Supreme Court decision which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, today’s announcement is heartening for those of us who care about protecting access to the ballot box for all. The Roberts Court decision did not affect the Justice Department’s ability under the VRA to ask a court to require preclearance as necessary for specific jurisdictions, including those that had been automatically covered by the now-defunct congressional formula in Section 4. The safeguard of preclearance is still urgently needed, and Texas’ rush to advance a discriminatory voter ID law just hours after the Supreme Court decision came down is a case in point. We applaud the Justice Department’s new effort to protect Americans’ fundamental right to cast a ballot. We also continue to urge Congress to adopt a new preclearance formula to restore this important civil rights statute.”
A state elections board has prevented Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach from forcing the status of 12,000 voters into limbo, but he doesn’t get what the big deal is.
Kobach hit a speed bump this week in his effort to implement a new voter ID measure that requires voters to produce proof of citizenship when they register to vote. As Think Progress reported yesterday, a computer system delay has caused the voting status of 12,000 Kansans, most of whom registered while doing business at the DMV under the “motor voter” law, to go into limbo.
To “fix” this problem, Kobach suggested that the 12,000 voters effected by the computer glitch be forced to cast provisional ballots in the next election. If they wanted those ballots to count, they would have to later go to local election officials armed with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
The state elections board rejected Kobach’s solution. As Republican state senator Vick Schmidt said, “I don’t believe a large percentage of the population knows what casting a provisional ballot means. They believe it is going to count. Sadly for these 12,000-plus individuals, it will not count unless they take further action, and I think that is disingenuous at best.”
But Kobach told the Wichita Eagle that disenfranchising those 12,000 people wouldn’t be a “major problem” because they represent a “tiny percentage” of Kansas’ voters and probably don’t really want to vote anyway:
Kobach said his proposal would have given voters, particularly those who could participate in upcoming special elections this fall, an extra week to prove their citizenship. But he said those who remain in suspense probably only registered after being asked by clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles and aren’t likely to be very active voters.
“I don’t think it’s a major problem,” he said. “This is a pretty tiny percentage of 1.8 million voters. It’s a small number of people. We’ll see as the coming elections unfold how many actually come out to vote.”
To put this in perspective, Kobach’s justification for pushing the voter ID law in the first place was what he alleged were 221 incidents of illegal voting in Kansas over the period of 13 years, only seven of which resulted in convictions.
So, Kobach thinks seven confirmed cases of voter fraud over 13 years requires upending the state’s entire voting system. But that overhaul resulting in 12,000 voters in one election forced to cast ballots that might not count affects “a small number of people” and is not a “major problem.”
It's been a week of mixed emotions for those of us who care about civil rights. There was the elation today when the Supreme Court overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act -- the discriminatory law that has hurt so many Americans in its nearly 17 years of existence -- and let marriage equality return to California. There was the anger when the Court twisted the law to make it harder for workers and consumers to take on big corporations. And there was the disbelief and outrage when the Court declared that a key part of the Voting Rights Act that was so important and had worked so well was now somehow no longer constitutional.
But throughout the week, I have been reminded of one thing: how grateful I am that Mitt Romney will not be picking the next Supreme Court justice.
It remains true that this Supreme Court is one of the most right-leaning in American history. The majority's head-in-the-sand decision on the Voting Rights Act -- declaring that the VRA isn't needed anymore because it's working so well -- was a stark reminder of why we need to elect presidents who will nominate Supreme Court justices who understand both the text and history of the Constitution and the way it affects real people's lives.
We were reminded of this again today when all the conservative justices except for Anthony Kennedy stood behind the clearly unconstitutional DOMA. Justice Antonin Scalia -- no stranger to anti-gay rhetoric -- wrote an apoplectic rant of a dissent denying the Court's clear role in preserving equal protection. If there had been one more far-right justice on the court, Scalia's dissent could have been the majority opinion.
Just think of how different this week would have been if Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were not on the court and if John McCain had picked two justices instead. We almost certainly wouldn't have a strong affirmation of LGBT equality. Efforts to strip people of color of their voting rights would likely have stood with fewer justices in dissent. And the rights of workers and consumers could be in even greater peril.
As the Republican party moves further and further to the right, it is trying to take the courts with it. This week, we saw what that means in practice. As we move forward to urge Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act and reinforce protections for workers and consumers, and work to make sure that marriage equality is recognized in all states, we must always remember the courts. Elections have real consequences. These Supreme Court decisions had less to do with evolving legal theory than with who appointed the justices. Whether historically good or disastrous, all these decisions were decided by just one vote. In 2016, let's not forget what happened this week.
While civil rights leaders are denouncing the 5-4 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is cheering. In an email alert sent at the end of the day on Tuesday, Perkins says, “With help from the U.S. Supreme Court, America may finally be turning a page on the racial politics that have haunted our last 50 years.” Oh, yes, giving a green light to the kind of blatantly discriminatory voter disenfranchisement efforts that we’ve seen in recent elections is certainly going to help America “turn the page” on racial politics.
Like other Religious Right leaders, Perkins loves to denounce “judicial activism” when judges uphold reproductive choice or legal equality for LGBT people. But he happily embraces this ruling in which a narrow Court majority rejected a huge bipartisan congressional vote that reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 on a matter in which the Constitution specifically and intentionally gives Congress wide discretion. Perkins complains that “Congress insisted on reauthorizing a Voting Rights Act that was rooted in one of the darkest chapters of U.S. history.” And he claims that “In recent days, the Voting Rights Act has been a tool for a liberal and politically-motivated DOJ to shape laws to its advantage.”
Perkins seems deeply concerned about “the red tape of the Voting Rights Act” that he said has been “unnecessarily handcuffing” states whose history of disenfranchisement meant that they had to have changes in voting procedures pre-approved by the Justice Department or by a three-judge District Court in the District of Columbia. In contrast, Perkins seems utterly unconcerned about more recent voter disenfranchisement campaigns waged by the GOP and its allies.
Perkins cites Chief Justice John Roberts’ disingenuous suggestion that the court was not acting in a way that would encourage discriminatory disenfranchisement. "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting," Roberts insisted. "Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions."
Is there anyone who thinks Roberts and Perkins actually want the federal-government-hating Tea Party Republicans who are calling the shots in the House of Representatives to support the creation of a new formula that would subject more states to federal oversight? Perkins makes his thoughts on that point abundantly clear with this comment about the Justice Department: “And in an administration as corrupt as President Obama's is proving to be, the less power it has over the states, the better!”
Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, told Mike Huckabee on Monday that the U.S. should consider a “national referendum” to make voter registration more difficult.
The two were discussing the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated an Arizona law mandating that people registering by mail to vote in the state using a federal voter registration form produce additional documentation to prove their citizenship. The federal form already requires voters to certify under oath that they are citizens. Civil Rights groups worried that the Arizona requirement would disenfranchise low-income voters and jeopardize voter registration drives.
Gosar told Huckabee that the ruling, which found that Arizona’s requirement was preempted by federal law, was “very disappointing,” adding, “We really have to solve this process from the federal level, with regards to either legislation or a national referendum.” It is unclear what he meant by a “national referendum.”
Gosar also lamented that the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder has “upheld or disdained certain groups’ privileges over others,” echoing Justice Antonin Scalia’s dismissal of the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement.” (Scalia, however, wrote the opinion striking down the Arizona law.)
Huckabee: This morning, the Supreme Court handed down a very significant decision striking down your state’s law regarding voter documentation. Did the ruling surprise you? And what kind of reaction are you hearing from your home state?
Gosar: Well, I mean, they’re disappointed. They cited the supremecy clause, the federal government over the states, and they bypassed what would be legal documentation. I think that’s what’s eluding us is that what, you know, what is being dictated to the states in regard to voter safety. But then you have a federal government that fails to respond, particularly when you look at the Department of Justice under Eric Holder and how they have upheld or disdained certain groups’ privileges over others. I think it’s very disappointing, and it tells me that we really have to solve this process from the federal level, with regards to either legislation or a national referendum.