Republicans across the nation have enacted such sweeping voter ID reforms aimed at the young, minorities, low income people and those with disabilities that the Brennan Center for Justice concluded it “could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
Five million disenfranchised voters is a lot of people. It might even help the Republicans win the White House in 2012.
Here’s a look at these new voter ID laws in action in Wisconsin during the recall of nine state senators last summer. The Republican legislature’s Wisconsin’s voter ID laws required voters to show photo IDs at the polls this summer during the recalls, however if they didn’t have them, they could still vote (in theory). Starting next year, photo IDs will be required. In 2009, in Wisconsin alone, the cost for issuing voter ID cards was estimated at 2.4 million dollars.
Citing widespread confusion at the polls last summer stemming from improperly trained election officials and uninformed voters, the A League of Women Voters suggested improvements including hiring more poll workers at an added expense, as well as providing more training and taking action to alleviate long lines. Apparently making voting more difficult for some people is a big part of freedom for Republicans.
Other problems noted by the League included:
— In almost a quarter of the polling sites, officials were inconsistent in asking voters to show ID, in violation of the law.
— Some voters showed IDs, such as fishing licenses and employer IDs that would not be valid for voting in 2012.
— Voters were incorrectly told at some polling places to re-register if the address on their photo ID did not match the address on the poll list. The law does not require that the address on their photo ID be current in order to vote, but they do have to show proof of residency when registering.
— In at least four locations voters were incorrectly told they couldn’t vote next year if their driver’s license was expired. The law allows for licenses that have expired after November 2010 to be used.
— Observers found problems experienced by disabled voters with the requirement they sign the poll book, even though the law allows for exemptions.
In short, these voter ID laws were a costly debacle. These same Republicans in Wisconsin have been busy dismantling workers’ rights in order to save “money.” The hypocrisy of their enacting voter ID laws in a state with hardly any voter fraud issues does more than smell of deliberate voter disenfranchisement. Republicans are willing to spend 2.4 million dollars on a non-issue while they kill union rights under the guise of fiscal responsibility.
Ironically, just this year in Wisconsin there were a few widely publicized instances of voter fraud. There was Republican Marcie Malszycki, 30, an aide to state Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, who voted improperly for Walker in the 2010 election, dead people who signed the Republicans recall petitions against Democrats, the shady practices of Republicans in the recall campaign and “issues” with lost, torn and uncounted ballots in Waukesha by the Republican county clerk during the Supreme Court race (technically more of an election fraud issue).
Cokie Roberts, who served under George W Bush’s administration on the Council on Service and Civic Participation, wrote an article with her husband Steve yesterday in which she called the new voter ID laws a “miscarriage of justice” and urged the Department of Justice to challenge this assault on Americans’ rights. The Roberts wrote, “This is far more than an outrageous attempt to rig the next election. It is a tragic violation of core American principles. How can we possibly promote democracy abroad when we violate such basic rights at home?”
Supporters of the new laws say they are necessary to combat voter fraud. But that, to put it bluntly, is a lie.
There is no evidence — none — that fraud is a major problem in any state. Rolling Stone magazine reports “a major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 (during a Republican administration) failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop.”
You might remember Cokie for her comment about candidate Barack Obama visiting his dying grandmother in Hawaii during the 2008 campaign. Roberts said “I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of [Barack Obama] going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place.” So it appears that her opinions regarding our democracy don’t come from some vested interest in the reelection of Barack Obama. Cokie’s passion for voting rights is no doubt influenced by her father, the late Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, Hale Boggs, who endorsed Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In 2007, The Brennan Center for Justice found that the sort of voter fraud addressed by overly restrictive identification requirements is more rare than death by lightning. They wrote in the report, “Overly restrictive identification requirements for voters at the polls — which address a sort of voter fraud more rare than death by lightning — is only the most prominent example.”
The Republicans Voter ID restrictions were a debacle last summer in Wisconsin and will end up costing the state untold amounts of money to address a non-existent issue; an issue so rare it occurs less often than being killed by lightning. These same laws are being enacted all over the country and are set to disenfranchise over 5 million voters.
This, from the party of “freedom.” Republican legislatures have done this in 19 states and two states’ laws were changed by executive order.
Every citizen has the right to cast their ballot. Discriminating against the poor, the young, minorities and the disabled is an unthinkable violation of the evolved principles of this great country. Republicans are going after those who vote Democratic in a deliberate attempt to rig elections and in doing so, they are proving that the GOP is no longer the party of liberty.
In fact, I can’t think of a more antithetically un-American action than stealing votes away from others because of the way they vote. I registered voters in 2008 for the Obama campaign, but I registered anyone who wanted to vote. Some Republicans were shocked that I would do so. My response to them was this is America and I love this country, so I support every citizen casting their ballot for the candidate of their choice. I don’t need to agree with them in order to passionately support their right to do so, and use my free time to assist them in doing so. I wouldn’t want to win an election by cheating or by taking someone else’s vote away from them. That’s not how this country is supposed to work.
The modern day Republican Party is killing the modern American spirit of expanding voters’ rights as we saw in 1965, with the help of misinformation central from Fox News and the con artists who carry their water. The only reason they are doing this is because they fear that they can’t win elections the American way.
What kind of political party fails to believe in the tenets of the very government they seek to control? The Republicans’ voter ID laws will cost us more than money we don’t have; they will cost us our honor as a free democracy in the eyes of the world.
Image: Facing South