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IDing the Real Problem and Preventing Voter Intimidation

The right wing has a magnificent tendency to solve problems that don't exist in a way that tilts the playing field for their own side. For the latest example, we need look no further than Pennsylvania, where Governor Ed Rendell is poised to veto legislation that serves little real purpose other than helping conservatives build power. As Tom Ferrick, Jr., aptly described, HB1318 would have made it less likely that low-income citizens were voting by instituting rigorous ID requirements and shutting down polling places. The regulations are a joke as fraud is extremely rare, but the provisions being advanced are widely acknowledged to undermine turnout among low-income and urban residents.

The Pennsylvania bill isn't that unique of an idea. Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Mississippi are all eyeing similar bills and Georgia already adopted one. What's truly ironic about Georgia's bill is that it made it tougher to vote in person while making it easier to vote absentee. This isn't an accident. In Georgia, conservative voters are far more likely to vote absentee than progressives. As some critics have noted, this is doubly ironic because absentee ballots are far more susceptible to fraud than votes cast in-person. Indeed, the Georgia bill fell short of a Department of Justice review that was later overturned by political appointees of the Bush Administration.

But there's a danger far more pressing with regards to our elections than the hollow specter of fraud. As reported by The American Prospect, conservatives have a history of engaging in vote suppression through intimidation of voters. In fact, the recent history of such intimidation -- posting threatening men with clipboards at polling places, telling urban residents that outstanding parking tickets render citizens ineligible to voter, and misleading information regarding voting times and locations -- are well-documented by the People for the American Way and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. To address the problem, Senator Barack Obama has introduced federal legislation. In a number of states, various actions have been taken, but few go far enough. The Center for Policy Alternatives has combined some state best practices into a comprehensive package of model legislation.

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