Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the
presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts
are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign
assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and
on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide
variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting
a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before,
are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets
are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates.
Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression
campaigns have been reported:
Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version
of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing
states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire
to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress
improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved
backward since the last federal election in 2006. Examining the most
recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia
the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting
process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states
are moving important reforms.
Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
In a blow to voting rights, Indiana's strict voter ID law, which requires government-issued photo identification every time a person votes, has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. This deeply disappointing decision will undoubtedly give new momentum to efforts to expand voter ID laws in many states (Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and possibly Illinois appear likely to pass new voter ID laws in the immediate future). However, progressive legislators and advocates can take the offense in broadening the debate over the real sources of fraud and intimidation in our elections.
Since the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) established the
requirement that first time voters present some form of identification
before voting in a federal election, voter identification requirements
of all sorts have been enacted across the country.Currently
26 states have laws that are more restrictive than the HAVA mandate,
and 21 states require ID from voters every time they vote.These laws have been passed by arguing they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, even though all evidence suggests that such fraud is extremely rare and poses no threat to the integrity of our voting systems.Instead, these fraud arguments have merely been a partisan tool, used for decades, to suppress turnout
among new groups entering the electorate in large numbers and
threatening the power of those currently in charge, whether they be
minorities, immigrants or students.