Voter Fraud Tactic is Just Another Voter Suppression Tactic

mapofshame2015New Orleans  Score setting is boring. It’s almost Trumpian. Who cares about all of this inside baseball back and forth? No one but the players in all likelihood. But, vindication, now that’s different. Recognition of a reality where someone has being crying to be heard in the wilderness, oh, yes, that’s worth taking note, I think.

And, so we will!

Finally, there’s starting to be a drumbeat of deeper understanding starting to rise among the cognoscenti in the media and political class that might eventually be heard over the din of the spin machines down to the grassroots that recognizes that these claims of voter fraud are nothing more than election tactics designed to confuse voters, rile up the hater-base, inspire racists, and suppress minority votes. Trump’s total lack of any credibility whatsoever has finally forced some mainstream reporters out of their deep slumber because the antipathy to Trump is so great by so many that they see his claims of a “rigged” election as a threat to democracy, rather than the standard operating procedure for election cycles at least throughout the 21st century in the United States.

I don’t want to suffer from “premature certainty,” but first the Washington Post pointed out that this rigged election malarkey was also a feature of the 2008 election thanks to John McCain’s fallacious accusations that ACORN was about to carry out the biggest voter fraud in history. The story was run nationally on the Tribune wire. Now the Huffington Post has jumped in and, more weightily, the New York Times finally got off the duff and realized that this “crying wolf” about so-called “voter fraud” has been going on cycle to cycle since at least 2000. Hello, welcome aboard the reality train! They of course cite the fact that ACORN was targeted, wrongly, in 2008, though they could as easily with a little more work and research have also made the same case back several cycles before 2008 as well.

The facts rarely disrupt tactics that are working even if they are essentially little more than media-manipulation and campaign dirty tricks. They do throw some fuel into the fire of truth though, and we can hope the sparks spread. Here are some:

…a study by Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles…uncovered only 31 credible claims of voter impersonation between 2000 and 2014, out of one billion ballots that were cast. An Arizona State University journalism project reviewed 2068 allegations of election fraud between 2000 and 2012 and concluded that only 10 had involved misrepresentation.

Many of the allegations have been directed at efforts to register minority voters, so it’s hard to avoid the race mongering inherent in these claims and the intentional voter suppression, tragically backed up by targeted legislation largely in red-Republican states. Efforts to charge immigrants with illegal registration and voting, especially in 2012, but certainly in 2008, as well have all been pretty clearly unsubstantiated and at worse attributed to errors and confusion.

The Times concluded with an assessment from Lorraine Minnite from Rutgers, a voting expert, that,

“The frame is being controlled by those who are promoting the idea that fraud is a problem. If we shifted the framework to people who are trying to vote but don’t get their vote counted, we’d be having a different discussion.”

Been there, done that, said it often, so big whoop and amen to that!

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Voter and Community Suppression Coming to United Kingdom

biteLondon    Talking to someone in the United Kingdom the other day, they made a comment that any new “bad” idea in the USA germinates for a couple of years and then pops up in a modified form in Britain.  Yikes!

One good, bad example can be found in the new voter suppression policies that are debuting next year in time for the national elections.  Previously, the head of a household could automatically register everyone under the roof.  In the name of “reform,” the Conservative government turned the tables with a lot of fancy rationalizations all of which mean that now everyone has to individually register to vote.  Who gets hurt?  Who do you think?  Young voters, old voters, tenants, lower income families and others that don’t have the time, money, information, and so forth to crawl over the obstacles deliberately put in their path to be able to vote.  And, what does it matter, as conservatives in all countries say, they probably didn’t want to vote that much anyway?!?

The unions have collectively funded some social media and networking efforts to try to get younger voters to register.  One is called “Bite the Ballot “for example.  The Trade Union Congress (TUC) also has a collective effort for the labor in this area.  Individual unions say they are working to register their own members.  Having lived through the USA experience, I worry that the impact of not launching a massive effort to simply assure that everyone maintains their right to vote will mean an increasing gap that will be harder to bridge later once the impact is realized.  One official told me that if Labour returns to power, then they will get rid of this, but that’s a big bunch of “if’s,” and the point of voter suppression is likely to also be a factor in any future success of progressive governing coalitions.

The other new “twist” coming to the United Kingdom are called the “gagging” rules by progressives.  Individual committees for nonprofits are limited in expenditures in a race to about 5000 pounds and nationally to about 20000 pounds.  The rules are complicated.  I know, since I’ve read them!  There are also various provisions to “chill” the rights of nonprofits to participate even in campaigning for change.  If the commission determines that an organization is campaigning for a position that is aligned to or espoused by a political party, then the organization would be forced to limit its voice on the issue to the ceilings prescribed which is why they are speaking of such groups being gagged.  Charities and other so-called “third sector” groups are wringing their hands, especially because unlike a union or an ACORN, they don’t have members per se.  From what I could tell – and gather in conversations thus far – there still are no particular limits on communications to your direct membership about issues, so unions are not as affected directly though they are in terms of general issues and community issues where they and others would want to communicate with the public.

This is all new stuff in the UK.  Unions don’t have political action committees for example.  Community-based organizations are not as familiar with “independent expenditure committees” and the other hurdles US organizations have had to learn to jump.  Lawyers are no doubt working overtime on all sides of the political spectrum.

The learning process is going to be painful!

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Suppressing the Vote and Keeping in Simple in Arkansas

imagesDallas         The Republican voter suppression efforts around the United States are such a yo-yo between legislatures, courts, and more courts that god only knows how much the voters in many of these states will be confused as they go to the polls in November or, as likely, as they stay home, which is what voter suppression is all about.

In Texas, voter identification will be required because the courts argue they don’t have time to really straighten it all out before November. This is the one where a hunting license can allow you to vote, but not a student ID, isn’t it? Although that could also be half a dozen other states.

North Carolina, a battleground state for control of the US Senate, is a mishmash. Some parts of their voter ID law are taking effect in 2014, but the picture ID requirement has been delayed until 2016, so look forward to more shenanigans there. Meanwhile the Justice Department has sued over the whole shebang being racial discrimination, but that won’t come to court until after the election.

Kansas under Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a world class immigrant hater and vote denier, and Governor Sam Brownback, now in a mess in this election, pushed through a tough ID policy already. There was an interesting challenge by two older voters who didn’t have records available to allow them to vote, but when it was scheduled for trial after the 2014 election they got out of the suit. There is still an ongoing dispute over whether the Kansas voter-hater laws can change the standards for federal elections. It’s pretty clear that as long as Kobach and his crew are in charge of voting in Kansas the best way for a lower income voter with a name that sounds different and a bit of a tan to have their vote counted would be to vote absentee in some other state, because if they keep trying to vote in Kansas, they’re going to be sucking air.

And, then with great relief there is Arkansas. The Arkansas Supreme Court tossed the controversial voter ID law passed over a veto by the Governor. The ruling was straightforward. The Arkansas state constitution was clear that there were only four things required to vote and was specific enough to list them. “The Constitution says that a voter must be a United States citizen, a resident of the state, at least 18 years old and lawfully registered to vote in the election. “These four qualifications set forth in our state’s Constitution simply do not include any proof-of-identity requirement,” the ruling said.”

You can see why ACORN always adopted as its own the Arkansas state motto: the people shall rule. It may have been written in Latin to look fancy, but we always understood what it meant, and it seems the judges there are still clear about its meaning as well, even if the voter suppressors wanted to try and pretend otherwise.

This election is going to be a fight all the way to the ballot box, way before the actual ballots are finally counted.

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Please enjoy David Bowie’s Sue (or in A Season of Crime) and Smooth Me from New Orleans Suspects.  Thanks to Kabf.

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Voter Suppression Spreading to the United Kingdom

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.17.37 AMNew Orleans      There’s a new virus spreading. This time it’s not Ebola or something from the Middle East or Africa, but the pernicious attacks on democracy through voter suppression now leaping from the United States to United Kingdom.

Not surprisingly, it starts easily enough with some seemingly small tweaks in voter registration. In the United Kingdom the government pushed through an Individual Electoral Registration Scheme, as they called it. Simply put, the old registration system meant that one person from any household registered everyone in the household: one and done! The new system means that every qualified individual in a household has to individually register in order to be able to vote. The first test comes in six months or so in the May 7, 2015 national and parliamentary elections.

Compared to the United States voting has been relatively robust with 60% voting in the 2010 general election in the UK, although that still means that 6 million voters were left by the wayside. Younger and usually more alienated voters between 18 and 24 years old not surprisingly are well represented in the missing voters column since statistics indicate that less than half are registered and less than half of the registered actually turnout to vote.

Invariably any new registration system, as the United States proves resoundingly during every election cycle, puts a disproportionate burden on minorities, the elderly, the young, and lower income voters once something semi-automatic is replaced by a new system requiring some motivation and effort. In what is now called “choice architecture,” creating hurdles and creating choices without incentives or motivations produces predictably poor results.

There are now various catchy campaigns to try and reverse the tide. One is called “No Vote, No Voice,” sponsored by the Daily Mirror newspaper, Unite, the UK’s largest union, and others. Another striving to be hipper is called “Bite the Ballot,” but let’s not go there.

Additional roadblocks to registration include banning third-party registration, where ACORN and Project Vote excelled, which allowed an individual or organization to submit a validly completed registration form qualifying a voter for the election and easing the process. Of course if there was interest, this problem is likely solvable with wirelessly activated iPad type mobile computers or even smartphones that would allow individuals to register on-line which is legally permissible throughout the United Kingdom and tied to each person’s national insurance number so highly individualized.

ACORN organizers in the United Kingdom took a quick look at the elections returns in the past election and 72 seats were determined by 5% or less of the votes. Either restricting or increasing voter registration, particularly since first time registrants always vote in high numbers at their first opportunity, and increasing get-out-the-vote field programs could shift political alignments from the top to the bottom.

Surely, this was not a unique insight, which may explain the suppression efforts themselves.

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Tide Turning on Voter ID Suppression

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picture from http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/01/17/court-overturns-pennsylvania-voter-id-law/

New Orleans   As long as Republicans realize that their appeal is to a minority segment of the United States population, but fortunately for them, one that votes more steadfastly that Democrats, they will try to erect barriers in the road to voting since we do not have automatic suffrage.  You would think that would be matched with constant efforts by the Democrats to expand the electorate and lower barriers, but who knows if that’s true?  But no matter, as long as it all works this way, the push and pull to limit and expand voting access will be a constant in the political wars, democracy be damned.

The far right though seems to be having some particularly bad problems with voter identification.  Courts seem to be clearer and clearer that it’s just plain not legal.

Recently a Wisconsin federal judge ruled that voter IDs so clearly and overwhelmingly targeted minorities in that state that they ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act in addition to the 14th Amendment.

An Arkansas judge threw out voter IDs as well.

In Pennsylvania after several tries at mandating voter IDs, despite there never having been a single case of in-person voter fraud in the state, the Governor has now announced that he will not appeal his most recent loss in court at trying to establish voter IDs.

It’s hard not to conclude that at least the voter ID part of the voter suppression effort is increasingly a losing cause.

Now no less than Tea Party darling, libertarian Republican, and possible Presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, has cautioned his Republican buddies that it’s time to drop the voter ID obsession from their program.  He says it’s hurting the party.  He even stated in Memphis, where he continues to try to distance himself from earlier remarks he has made indicating tepid support, if not opposition, to previous civil rights legislation, that the voter ID campaign is alienating African-Americans.

Voter suppression is no doubt alive and well, but you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, and with the momentum gaining in the courts and politicians now feeling the breeze, finally voter identifications, a well-recognized suppression-only effort often called a “solution looking for a problem,” may be fading from the conservative top ten.

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Judges Recant, but Voter Suppression Goes into Overdrive

DSCN4835New Orleans  Explain to me how in a rational world hunting licenses in Texas can be an acceptable form of voter identification, but a student ID from the University of Texas cannot be?  Stumped aren’t you?   How exactly does North Carolina cutting back on early voting by one week ensure the sanctity of the ballot there?  These are simple examples of the lengths that Republican-dominated states are willing to go now that the dogs have been let out by the Supreme Court on voter suppression.

            Even the judges are asking for forgiveness and mouthing mea culpas.   Judge Posner of the federal appeals court who wrote the majority opinion in an Indiana case a couple of years ago upholding their IDs is now writing his “I’m sorry” statements since he was unhappy at how his verdict has been twisted to green light voter suppression.   Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said much the same thing the other day to the Wall Street Journal.  

            Columnists Cokie and Steven Roberts cited an overlooked report by the Ohio Republican Secretary of State from 2012 that found that of 5.63 million ballots cast in the state, he thought there were 163 so-called “possible” cases of voter fraud.   Possible means not proven and in fact not even processed, just votes with a question mark, but even if these were stone cold cases of fraud, which as I’ve said, they decidedly were not, it would be an incidence of 1 out of every 41704 ballots or voters were.   Let all of our problems be so minor.  

            The Justice Department, regardless of the Supreme Court’s enabling of all of this mischief by relaxing the Voter Rights pre-clearance protections, is suing in North Carolina and is clear about voter IDs and their racial impact since African-American residents are 22% of North Carolina’s population but 34% of those without government-issued IDs.  Not surprisingly blacks also accounted for 41% of voters using same day registration and 29% of early voting, which the Republicans are also trying to restrict of course.

This is a classic case of supposed solutions, looking for problems to fix, since all of this is about voter suppression not voter fraud.   All of this is nothing but a rationale from the right.   A great ACORN leader in Arkansas named Bill Whipple, now gone many years, used to repeat to me regularly the rhetorical question of whether or not I knew the correct definition for the word “rationale,” which he would then quickly provide, saying that, “a rationale was nothing more than a lie in the skin of a reason.”

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