Measures to suppress voter turnout
Georgia got on the band wagon early. We’ve had a voter ID law since 2006 which requires voters to show specific photo identification when voting in person.
At least a dozen other states have passed similar photo ID legislation amid proclamations it will prevent voter fraud. However, the GOP’s crusade for voter ID laws has recently been revealed for what it really is – an attempt to disenfranchise Democratic voters, primarily poor people and minorities. Last month, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, addressed a meeting of the Republican State Committee, and listed for them the recent accomplishments of the GOP controlled legislature. Triumphantly, he stated, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”
Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson commented on the incident in the Washington Post, “That’s not even slightly ambiguous. The Democratic presidential candidate has won Pennsylvania in every election since 1992. But now the top Republican in the Pennsylvania House is boasting that, because of the new voter ID law, Mitt Romney will defy history and capture the state’s 20 electoral votes in November.”
Voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. The simple truth is there’s virtually no fraud to eliminate. The Justice Department under George Bush conducted an extensive, nationwide, five-year probe of voter fraud, and ended up convicting a grand total of 86 individuals, according to a 2007 New York Times report. Not a single case involved the only kind of fraud that voter ID could theoretically prevent: impersonation of a registered voter.
Most cases were of the type recently uncovered in Brooks County, where 12 former county officials were indicted. The suspects are accused of illegally helping people vote by absentee ballot. State officials launched an investigation after an unusually high number of absentee ballots were cast in the July 2010 primary election, and the defendants include some workers in the voter registrar's office and some school board members.
Voters most affected by the new laws are those without driver’s licenses or other photo ID and live in urban areas — where poor people and minorities tend to live. As Robinson put is, “The problem seems to be that too
many of the wrong kind of voters — low-income, urban, African American, Hispanic — are showing up at the polls. Republican candidates have been vowing to ‘take back’ the country. Now we know how.”
In an editorial on the subject, the Washington Post said, “A flurry of activity in state legislatures across the country is threatening to make it more difficult for people to vote. These Republican-sponsored measures move the nation in the wrong direction. Are states better served if they protect the fundamental, constitutionally sanctioned rights of tens of millions of voters, or if they discourage voting in order to forestall a handful of fraud allegations each year? We would submit the former. Moreover, potentially vulnerable voters exist across party lines.”
As the Washington Post concluded in another recent editorial, “Voter IDs do more to inflict harm on democratic rule, wittingly or not, than they do to strengthen it. (These) types of measures will dampen participation in a chilling way.”
Celia Murray is a member
of the Morgan County
Printed in the July 26, 2012 edition.