Addendum: Thank you to MotherJones.com, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, Politico.com, and the New York Times for the help on statistics.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
"Stop the Vote!" or Voter ID Laws and the Aristocratic Effort to Systematically Deny Marginalized People of their Votes and Voices
Remember that time back in 2008 when thousands of people voted in the Presidential election two, three, four times with fake addresses and criminal records? Remember how the country came to a stand still while the government figured out how to deal with the rampant voter fraud that ended up deciding the election? Me neither: because it didn't happen. As a matter of fact, it has never happened. Statistically one has a better chance of being struck by lightning than encountering an instance of voter fraud. Between 2002-2005 there were 26 federal convictions for voter fraud: 18 were cited for voting while ineligible, 5 for voting multiple times, and 3 for registration fraud. In 2004- a Presidential election year- the rate of voter fraud was an astronomical .0002%. There clearly is no countrywide epidemic of voter fraud. So, what's all the hubbub? Why is the GOP spending so much of its time and resources trying to create a solution to a problem that doesn't exist (and winning!)? My thesis: so Barack Obama will be a "one-term President."
This last comment, by house majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), crystallizes the theory that the GOP is not focused on issue politics this year but on partisan squabbling and empty political victories. The new voter ID laws sweeping the country are a case in point. In the above paragraph, I outlined the unrampant nature of voting fraud. So why have the conservatives gone to great lengths to make sure that this doesn't happen (even though it never does)? To make sure that Barack Obama is a "one-term President." You see President Obama won the last election with 96% of the African-American vote, 67% percent of the Latino vote, and 63% of the Asian vote. In addition, Mr. Obama also won 68% of the 18-to-24 vote. Why is this relevant? Because 25% of black adults, 20% of Asians adults, 19% of Latino adults, and 18% of the youth don't have photo IDs. Is it a coincidence that the four biggest blocks of Obama supporters are the four main groups that could potentially suffer the effects of such an unnecessary law? Most likely not. Mike Turzai, a Republican state rep from Pennsylvania's fightin' 28th, has been quoted extensively as saying that the voter ID law is going to "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." Is this evidence that voter ID is a concerted effort by the right to deny certain people of their right to vote because they generally vote Democrat?
Philadelphia, for instance, has voted Democrat in the past nine Presidential elections. Since 2000, there have only been ten cases of in-person voter impersonation. In a city of three million people how is cutting down on these ten acts of malfeasance going to allow Mr. Romney to win? By denying lower income and minority voters their rights.
What prompted this egregious and blatant abuse of influence? Incompetence. Far right wing Randian maniacs such as Dick Armey, the Koch Brothers, and Karl Rove have successfully confused the language of smaller more efficient government (traditional conservative politics) to mean unchained and unfettered capitalism. This kind of elitist upper-class warfare is a breeding ground for racism, marginalization, and oppression. When the interest of a few is weighed against the needs of the many and the few have all the resources, it is easy for them to tip the scales of law and justice.
This voter ID law is a case in point of far right extremists (it is worth noting that many of these people are Randian disciples) high-jacking the democratic process. They have crafted a platform that is not only suspect but also downright ludicrous. More tax cuts for the rich?! Military escalation in the Middle East?! Slash and cut social programs that keep the most vulnerable among us afloat?! How could a politician hope to pass such absurd and socially damaging legislation? By marginalizing those who stand to lose. When the winners are the only ones voting it is easy to see why the conservative agenda has become so extreme.
This country is lauded as a democracy. In a true democracy people have equal access and opportunity to participate in the political process. The recent waves of voter ID laws being introduced across the country are an attempt to stifle this process. These laws are structured to deny traditionally marginalized communities their right to have a voice in US policy and programs. Voter fraud is not a problem in this country therefore any strategy that seeks to solve this "problem" is going to be tarnished with ulterior motives. Read the statistics, research the laws, and discern the motivation for these laws yourself. In 2008- a very popular election- only 60% of eligible voters voted. Any inhibition to the everyday American getting to the polls on election today is a travesty and should be fought at every level. We have a right to participate in this country—demand it.
 During that same election the American Center for Voting Rights initially claimed there were a 100 cases of voter fraud involving 300,000 votes. A review of the study revealed that only 185 of these votes could be potentially fraudulent.