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Elders and Voter Suppression

Are you registered to vote? Are you sure?

Using a pretext of widespread voter fraud, Republicans in the 50 states have been on tear creating an array of new, restrictive voter ID legislation that makes it difficult, expensive and, in some cases, impossible to register and/or vote in some states.

In an analysis of just 19 of these new laws and two executive actions passed in only 14 states, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law concludes:

“These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

“The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.”

(Some say the number of voters these laws would disenfranchise is as high as 21 million.)

Before I get into the weeds on this, you should know up front that the Republican claim of voter fraud is hollow. It is so rare that the Brennan Center notes, “one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

There are two exhaustive reports of the Brennan Center's investigations into the myth of voter fraud here and here (both pdfs].

So there is no reason for these Republican-backed laws except to restrict and repress voting.

How is that being done? Through a combination of methods. This from National Conference of State Legislatures website. (Keep in mind that legislation is being passed, blocked, introduced, reintroduced, challenged in court, etc. at such a pace that the numbers change almost daily.)

"Thirty-one states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In 15 of these, the ID must include a photo of the voter; in the remaining 16, non-photo forms of ID are acceptable.”

You might say requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote is not unreasonable and you might be correct. That is, until you know that at about 11 percent of Americans overall do not have photo IDs and that number shoots up to 25 percent among blacks.

Lack of photo ID – most commonly, a drivers license - is spread disproportionately among the poor, people of color, immigrants and – ahem, elders.

Some states with new ID requirements to vote now issue non-driving IDs, but it is not easy for people to gather the documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, etc. and there are always fees for copies of them. Plus, some elders, born at home or whose births were attended by midwives, have no birth certificates.

And women, if you live in one of these states, watch out when you apply for a non-driving ID. If you changed your name when you married and it, therefore, does not match the name on your birth certificate, be prepared to go through many hoops to prove that you, Mary Jones, are the same person as Mary Smith before your wedding day.

The website thinkprogress reported last fall on how these new restrictions are working out for some elders they spoke with in Tennessee:

”As predicted, the law is disenfranchising the poor, elderly, and minority voters, including a 96-year-old African-American woman, a 91-year old woman, and now, a 86-year old veteran.”

"Under the law, any resident without a photo ID is supposed to get one free of charge. But when [Darwin] Spinks asked for an ID, he was told he had to pay an $8 fee...He was sent from one line to another to have a picture taken, then was charged.

“I said, ‘You mean I’ve got to pay again?’ She says, ‘Yes,’” explained Spinks.”

So even when the state does not charge to issue the ID itself, it finds other fees to impose, violating the Constitutional ban on poll taxes.

There have also been accusations that in some Republican-controlled states,

Departments of Motor Vehicles have been closed down in minority neighborhoods requiring people to travel long distances to get their new IDs.

And, apparently, not all government IDs are created equal. On Super Tuesday last week, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has voted in his community all his life was denied his right to vote because his VA identification did not meet Ohio's restrictive requirements. Paul Carroll was

“...turned away from a polling place this morning because his driver’s license had expired in January and his new Veterans Affairs ID did not include his home address.

“'My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,' [said Carroll].”

Tennessee voting was back in the news again last week when former U.S. Congressman, Lincoln Davis, was denied his right to vote on Super Tuesday in the precinct where he has voted since 1964. He spoke about the incident last week with Keith Obermann:

In addition to purging voter rolls without telling residents, as happened to Representative Davis, and requiring a photo ID while making it difficult and/or expensive to get one, states have changed requirements for absentee voting, cut back on length of time for early voting and imposed restrictive registration procedures. Maine, for example, has repealed election day registration.

In some cases, students are no longer allowed to vote in the town where they attend college which means, mostly, they can no longer vote.

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders discussed this issue not long ago with Rachel Maddow.

He points out a double political whammy – that just now when the Citizens United decision is allowing the haves of our nation to buy candidates and elections, simultaneous voter suppression efforts are depriving the have-nots (especially those who might disagree with the haves) of their much smaller right to be heard at the ballot box:

Voting rights are being attacked relentlessly in nearly every state generating a huge amount of reporting. Thinkprogress, which is one place is doing a good job of keeping up, has dozens of stories from around the nation on their website. Update the list by entering “voter suppression” in the site's search box.

This is like the contraception issue, isn't it? We thought birth control was settled in the 1960s. Now they – mostly Republicans – want to change that. We thought the vote was settled with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now they - Republicans – want to disenfranchise millions of Americans.

And they are succeeding.

So. Be sure to let your state representatives know where you stand on the voting rights issue and most important:

• Check now that you are registered to vote in your state/town

• Check that you are still registered in the precinct where you believe you should vote

• Check that you have all the required credentials to vote

• If you need a non-driving ID, start now to meet the requirements to obtain one


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Jimmy


Comments

Excellent post. This is so incredibly important and hard to believe but it is true! In Wisconsin, Walker's cronies have also instigated these changes as well as many more designed to disenfranchise.

A judge has issued a temporary injunction against the voter ID stipulation but lots of other negative rules are considered law.

Our response has been to urge volunteers to become special voter registration deputies so that we can go out and get people registered where they are at schools, clubs, malls, etc. What could be more patriotic than registering to vote? Yet we are receiving flipped fingers and thumbs down from Walker supporters.

Some of the black activists are already trying to put together programs to get their communities the help they need for this. It is important and whether the person will vote as we might wish (sometimes they won't), we should help also as this is a big deal. There will not be time to change it back to something more reasonable before the presidential election. And it could tip the results without a doubt toward Republicans which is what they are counting on.

It seems a good idea would be to research the groups in minority communities and who work with elders to see which ones are doing good work enabling us to donate to help them as their effort is not without cost.

There are a lot of sneaky ways to win elections and this clearly is going to be one. They sound so righteous as they are interviewed about their pure motives. Yeah right. On all the programs where I have seen them, which, of course, are leftie leaning, they cannot justify why they are doing it. To answer the truth is something they won't do. They get support for it from those who are so scared of the 'other'. Their motives are obvious and disgusting. When they get the majority enabling them to redistrict, they work on many ways to win including redistricting. They aren't trusting on running on their ideas and agenda. They wouldn't dare!

If you don't have a valid message, if your candidates are radical 'know nothings' or hypocrites, if your record is shameful the only alternative is to steal the election.

We no longer have a democracy if this continues. One man - one vote. Yeah, right!

I voted on Super Tuesday so I guess that I'm okay.

I never thought I'd see the day when our voting rights came into question. We are dealing with evil, greedy and ruthless people and that's why I'm working with various groups to fight back. And I urge others to do the same.
Stuffing envelopes, making calls, etc. aren't difficult and help a lot!

An additional element in the pattern of Republican voter suppression is attacking the groups that have been doing voter registration. Sometimes this takes the form of making the requirements for being a voter registrar very onerous. But also, this was why it was so important to right wingers to bring down ACORN. Goodness knows, ACORN had a lot wrong with its internal culture, but across the country, few organizations were so dedicated to bringing poor citizens into the political process. And that scares Republicans, so ACORN had to be demonized.

Headlines I liked ...
Judge temporarily blocks Wisconsin voter ID law
(from MSNBC 3-6-12)

Personally, I'm not against asking for ID when one registers to vote. I stronly against making acquiring an ID so difficult that it's impossible for some people to exercise their rights as citizens to vote.

This reminds me of the dreaded poll tax and ridiculous questions that SOME voters used to have pay and answer many years ago in the South in order to vote. This was one of the main irritants that brought on the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. I sincerely hope it brings on another civil resurrection in this decade !!

Well, this is just chickens coming home to roost. We, the voters in previous elections, as a group, have elected to office the thugs who are perpetrating this shameful disenfranchisement. This is not a scheme being imposed on us. We elected the people causing this.

@Mr. McGraw-- I beg your pardon, but I did not vote into office ANY of those thugs. However, I am a blue person in a red state and knew that my vote wasn't going to count... I still voted though.

Given the large and growing numbers of illegal immigrants in the country, especially in the Southwest, it seems to me some sort of voter ID just makes sense. I'm not interested in disenfranchising any legal voters, but I am concerned about illegals influencing our elections.

I think we have far more concern about some of the "legals" disenfranchising other legal voters than we do about the number of illegals who may somehow vote.

A lot of phony fear tactics are being foisted about in the interest of achieving a not so honorable end result -- in this instance, influencing our elections.

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