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Berman reports: "Since the 2010 election, Republicans have waged an unprecedented war on voting, with the unspoken but unmistakable goal of preventing millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012."

Thanks to the GOP, performing your civic duty can now put you on the wrong side of the law. (photo: AP)
Thanks to the GOP, performing your civic duty can now put you on the wrong side of the law. (photo: AP)

GOP War on Voting Targets Swing States

By Ari Berman, Rolling Stone

10 March 12


n March 7, 1963, civil rights activists were brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during the infamous "Bloody Sunday" march, for advocating for the right to vote. This week, forty-seven years later, today's civil rights leaders retraced the march from Selma to Montgomery, protesting what NAACP President Ben Jealous calls "the greatest attack on voting rights since segregation."

Since the 2010 election, Republicans have waged an unprecedented war on voting, with the unspoken but unmistakable goal of preventing millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012. More than a dozen states, from Texas to Wisconsin and Florida, have passed laws designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process, whether by requiring birth certificates to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, requiring government-issued IDs to cast a ballot, or disenfranchising ex-felons.

Within days, the crucial battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Virginia will become the latest GOP states to pass legislation erecting new barriers to voting. If, as expected, the new laws lead to fewer Democrats casting ballots in November, both states could favor Republicans, possibly shifting the balance of power in Congress and denying Barack Obama a second term.

Pennsylvania will be the ninth GOP state since 2010 to require a photo ID in order to vote; the state's law mandates a government-issued ID or one from a college or nursing home. According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, 11 percent of U.S. citizens lack a government-issued ID, but the numbers are significantly higher among young voters (18 percent), voters 65 or older (18 percent) and African-Americans (25 percent). Based on these figures, as many as 700,000 Pennsylvanians may not be able to vote in the next election. (Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele claims 99 percent of Pennsylvanians possess the proper ID, which seems unlikely given the state's large student, elderly and African-American population).

The Pennsylvania measures are strikingly similar to model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an influential conservative advocacy group funded in part by the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers. In Pennsylvania, as in other states pushing voting restrictions, Republicans have hyped the bogeyman of "voter fraud" to promote the ID laws, even though, as the Associated Press noted, they were able to cite "no instances of voter fraud that the bill would somehow address." The law, the very type of big-government expansion that Republicans so often decry, will cost the state anywhere from $4.3 million to $11 million to implement.

The law is an unnecessary expenditure by the state and an unreasonable burden on voters. In order to obtain a free ID card to vote, voters must first obtain a Social Security card, birth certificate or certificate of residency, along with two proofs of residency, which costs money and amounts to a poll tax by another name. A voter who shows up to the polls without a valid ID can cast a provisional ballot, but that ballot will count only if the voter provides the requisite ID to the county board of elections within six days. "This is de facto disenfranchisement," says Andy Hoover, legislative director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. "The poll workers can avoid the discomfort of turning away a voter, but ultimately the chances that the vote will count are slim."

The Virginia legislature passed its own voting restrictions this week, which Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign off on within thirty days. The state's voter ID bill is looser than Pennsylvania's, allowing more types of acceptable ID in order to vote, including non-photo proof of ID, like a bank statement, utility bill or, this being the South, a handgun permit. But the law makes life much tougher for Virginians who show up without the requisite ID.

In the past, a Virginia voter lacking the proper ID could sign an affidavit attesting to their identity and then cast a regular ballot. Under the new law, that voter must cast a provisional ballot, which will count only if the voter then presents proof of ID to the board of elections within 24 hours. This change in the law could disenfranchise thousands of Virginia voters, says Tram Nguyen, associate director of Virginia New Majority, a progressive organizing group. "No one can point to any reason the [existing] system doesn't work," says Nguyen. "There haven't been any documented cases of voter fraud in Virginia." New trainings for election officials and an education campaign for voters will cost the cash-strapped state between $500,000 and $2 million, according to the Commonwealth Institute.

As more states pass voting restrictions, the pushback against the new laws is growing stronger. Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel in the democracy program at the Brennan Center, says "there's a pretty high likelihood you'll see litigation in Pennsylvania" challenging that state's new law. A Wisconsin judge recently issued an injunction against a new voter ID law, among the toughest in the nation, until a trial next month decides whether the law violates the state constitution. "The new voter identification requirements," wrote circuit court Judge David Flanagan, "will likely exclude from the election process a significant portion of Wisconsin voters who are qualified under our constitution to participate in the process."

And in Florida, another critical swing state in 2012, the Department of Justice came out against the state's severe restriction of voter registration drives and curtailment of early voting. "The United States' position is that the State has not met its burden, on behalf of its covered counties, that the two sets of proposed voting changes are entitled to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," DOJ wrote in a court filing. Minority voters were twice as likely as white voters to register to vote through voter registration drives and to use early voting in 2008. The League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, and Florida PIRG filed a lawsuit challenging the election changes, which should be decided in the coming weeks.

Stephen Colbert recently devoted a segment of his show to the story of a Florida high school teacher who was fined $1,000 for "voter registration fraud" after failing to turn in student voter registration forms within the state's new 48-hour deadline. It was part of his satirical series, "People who are destroying America." Thanks to the GOP's war on voting, performing your civic duty can now put you on the wrong side of the law.

Ari Berman is the author of "Herding Donkeys": The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, now out in paperback with a new afterword. your social media marketing partner


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-18 # globalcitizen 2012-03-10 20:27
A historical, social view is going to take on a much larger view, paradigm of the voter, citizen, civil,
"disenfranchisem ent" to expose cummulatve class despotism and totaliarianism.

The class compromise with commercial capitalist slavery started out "disenfranchizi ng" people of color, even prevented white male vote enfranchising until the early 1800's.

Class, property relations limited every group relatively, in their constitutional right to representation. You know the drill, Rhode Island was the first to extend the "privilege"???? , right to vote to unprivileged white males, and both women and people of color were disenfranchised from the ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO VOTE.

I use the word, "absolute", because class disenfranchisem ent can limit social power in many ways to enhance class power, property rights, enslaving rights. Poll taxes, fees were used to keep out African Americans from voting right into the JIM CROW period into the civil rights movement in the 1960'S

Sad to say, the right to vote for CLASS PARTIES, corporate, empire parties accomplishes the same DISENFRNACHISEM ENT of social movements who enslave themselves through an IDEOLOGICAL DISCONNECT for class/empire BETRAYING PARTIES through class deformed policies, betrayals that steals the social vote and converts them into class agendas. The republican theft of your vote is redundant by the class liberals who do the same.
+23 # Doctoretty 2012-03-11 07:13
What a bunch of doubletalk!
+12 # pbbrodie 2012-03-11 13:08
If you don't, and it surely appears that you don't, you should proof read what you have written prior to posting it. It is extremely difficult to try to make sense of your comments. Your run on sentences and grossly overly complicated sentence structures make it nearly impossible to follow the point you are attempting to make. Perhaps you should consider taking a writing class. Finally, your use of capital letters does nothing to enhance your comments and actually detracts from them. Try laying off the capital letters, except where appropriate.
+35 # Doubter 2012-03-10 22:30
It was Ben Franklin who told the lady the founder's had given us "a Democracy, (correction: "Republic") if you can keep it." Others have said: "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve,"
How much longer are we going to put up with this crap?
Probably till the water is so hot, that like the frog, we won't be able to jump out of the pot.
+20 # John Locke 2012-03-11 08:44
This will only continue until someone in Government orders an investigation and prosecution for Conspiracy to deny Civil Rights...Voting is a Civil Right!
+3 # Night Raider 2012-03-11 17:45
Doubter, it was Ben Franklin who said "the founders have given us a Republic, if you can keep it," not a Democracy.
+56 # maddave 2012-03-10 22:31
Disregarding all theory, double-talk and psycho-babble, I have but one question regarding this coordinated, mass disenfranchisem ent: Where the hell is Eric Holder and his Department of Justice? What the GOP-dominated States are dong to immorally and illegally discourage or disenfranchise minority, elderly, younger and immigrant citizens' voting rights. LBJ's Voting Rights Act, the 15th Amendment to the he Constitution and several Federal Court decisions apply.

So where are you, Holder? Where is the ACLU? Where is our oft cited but, recently, seldom-sighted fair elections system that Americans once pointed to with pride?
+28 # Majikman 2012-03-10 23:24
I'm not an atty. but what I see happening is repug legislators passing a gazillion unconstitutiona l laws and daring a challenge. States pass all kinds of ridiculous laws that remain on the books because no one has challenged them in court. Do we forget how Bush loaded up the justice system with ersatz lawyers with their mail order diplomas? How many federal judges appointed by Obama are rotting in the wings because congress won't give the OK?
The repugs are counting on a dysfunctional justice system to hijack the election...AGAI N.
+21 # Nell H 2012-03-11 06:49
Quoting maddave:
Where the hell is Eric Holder and his Department of Justice? What the GOP-dominated States are dong to immorally and illegally discourage or disenfranchise minority, elderly, younger and immigrant citizens' voting rights.

The DOJ blocked South Carolina's photo voter ID law. The League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and others are backing the DOJ in the courts. It was Bush's AG who overruled the professional opinion of DOJ staff and did not object to some of these laws.
+20 # Doctoretty 2012-03-11 07:14
Don't know where Holder is. But the ACLU has been active. I have signed their petition. Have you?
+8 # John Locke 2012-03-11 09:59
maddave: we all know where they are, They are in hiding from this very issue. Those in government (congress) don't really want fair elections...if they did the voting machines would have been their first issue of business. They are all aware how these machines can be tampered with; there is sufficient evidence from the 2000 election to have these machines outlawed!

In addition and along these lines...They don't want educated people in America Voting! Although I doubt that many truly educated people actually vote any longer!
-5 # globalcitizen 2012-03-11 11:04
Why disregard social theory? The same people, corrupt class/empire liberals, called an independent vote for Raph Nader, "a wasted vote", where a vote for social power would confront class power.

However votes for class parties, class ideologies, including corrupt liberalism, become automatically corrupted, losing their social intent to a class/empire agenda. That is how social votes are stolen, co opted through class deformed language, policies by both corrupt class parties.

The theft of an absolute right to vote becomes redundant by an ideological disconnect, relative theft of the right to vote for social agendas. A kind of self enslavement,red undant loss of social control by those who want to stay in the boiling water of class despotism, through their own DESREGARD OF REALITY:

Strategies of Deception


"The first step towards that is to free ourselves from the strategies of deception with which the oligarchs try to shape our minds...."

The common denominator of self deception is the notion that voting for class power brings social control, social outcomes. IT DOES NOT
0 # suzyskier 2012-03-12 14:57
I guess we will have to do something about this voter disenfranchment ourselves! If we just allow this to happen with out educating our fellow citizens they (the big R) will win. I wish I knew where to start? Volunteer for ACLU? If enough people get together and help the people who are being disenfranchised maybe we can stop at least some of this illegal shenanigans. I know it sounds naive but if no one does anything it is going to be a terrible era for all of us.
+25 # Regina 2012-03-10 23:05
How different are these demands from (a) poll taxes; (b) tests on deliberately obscure elements of American history; or (c) requirements of property ownership? The ALEC and Norquist strangleholds on American civil rights are glaringly unconstitutiona l. Indeed, the Republican Party, pledged to Norquist and underwritten by ALEC, is now the worst subversive movement in our history and must be stopped now, before they overthrow us completely. Their hue and cry about religious liberty is really an attack on all knowledge (and kids should not be encouraged to go to college!), particularly science and other areas of logical reasoning. Religious leaders have become all too cosy with Congress as consultants. The Republican war on women, foul as it has become, is but a diversion from their total war on America. The Republicans are conniving to have only Republicans admitted to the election process. They are no longer a political party -- they have become a conspiracy and must be dealt with accordingly. Or else e pluribus unum will become Sieg Heil!
+22 # Phlippinout 2012-03-10 23:42
typical GOP. They have no plan to better anything, the only way they win is by scheming and plotting their next deception.
-20 # lorenbliss 2012-03-11 03:59
Note the wording of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" enforce the constitutional right to vote...").

Note also the wording of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("...prohibits states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen...").

Why then have the Democrats (again) surrendered to the Republican onslaught against civil rights?

Once more -- as has been the norm with Barack the Betrayer since he took office -- the DemocRats seem intent on facilitating the GOPorker tyranny.

Which merely underscores the bitter truth the 'Rats and the 'Porkers are secretly united in a single Ruling Class party.
+1 # lorenbliss 2012-03-12 15:36
My comment was evoked by maddave's question, above: "Where the hell is Eric Holder and his Department of Justice?...LBJ' s Voting Rights Act, the 15th Amendment to the he Constitution and several Federal Court decisions apply."

Sorry I failed to spell it our more clearly. (Frankly, I had no idea some attention spans were so short.)
0 # lorenbliss 2012-03-12 21:52

RT.Com (Russian Television's English language service) reported maybe five minutes ago the U.S. Department of Justice has moved against the Texas voter-suppressi on law, which with its rejection of the identification cards issued by colleges and universities is one of the more egregious examples of the campaign of deliberate disenfranchisem ent.

The report was by Thom Hartmann, who anchors RT's nightly news program "The Big Picture."

RT is effectively embargoed by Google -- more of the "non-existent" Internet censorship in the U.S. -- so I couldn't find a working link to tonight's program. But Googling "doj targets texas voter suppression law" (no quotes) will being up a growing list of links to Ruling Class Media reports on this developing story.

Unfortunately it's too soon to know if this is just a token action or the beginning of a (long-overdue) campaign to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If it is indeed the beginning of an enforcement campaign, I will happily eat public crow!
+17 # MainStreetMentor 2012-03-11 05:55
Corporations, through a twisted, abstracted manipulation, have been declared "persons" - and their money is their "speech". That very same perverted, distorted thought process may very well allow those corporations the right to vote - once it's been removed from a large portion of the mass of citizens. WE must change this. WE must be active and "in the faces" of our elected officials demanding this stop.
+22 # Barbara K 2012-03-11 06:19
There is only one way I can think of to make their dirty assault fail in Nov. this year.


our future is at stake and we cannot allow them to stack the deck, but we don't have to vote for their candidates
+20 # szq5777 2012-03-11 07:55
Yes, Vote Democratic! As a poor person I know that Repubs are my enemy!!They always have been and always will be!
+28 # walt 2012-03-11 08:15
The GOP is truly amazing!

We have been witnessing the fiercest attacks by the GOP on just about everything that exists: voting, unions, health care reform, minorities, gays, workers' rights, pensions, the environment, the poor, public education, and more.

The time is right to vote them out and hope the entire party will disband before they destroy what is left of the country after the eight years of Bush/Cheney!
+12 # myungbluth 2012-03-11 11:29
I remember when a person said anything against George W. they were branded "unpatriotic" Now the entire GOP should be branded a terrorist religious group bent on the destruction of democracy as we know it. VOTE THE GOP OUT - BOTTOM TO TOP!
+8 # angelfish 2012-03-11 10:02
ReTHUGlicans are decidedly UNAmerican! THEY want to decide who can and who cannot vote, who can and who cannot love one another or marry, who can and cannot get the medical care and treatment they need, ad infinitum! All Freedoms GIVEN to Americans in our Constitution, the RIGHT to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness! They are a sorry, pitiful and puny bunch of individuals who do ALL they can to undermine what our Founders tried to provide for ALL Americans! Please, remember dear fellow Citizens, and vote them OUT in November! The People, UNITED will NEVER be defeated!
0 # MidwestTom 2012-03-11 10:07
Every tine I hear a voters rights argument where we are arguing that virtually every living American must vote, it bothers me. Are the positions of socially concerned people totally dependent on the votes of people who have no idea who, or what. they are voting for, other than "Democrats have it all right", so vote straight Democratic? The Democratic party dominated this country from the mid 19230's to to sixties, not with blacks (they usually could not vote) , prisoners, illegals, but with white Christian working class voters. We have now become a party that that has lost the majority of our formal voters, to compensate we have become dependent on what I will call Blind voters. Rather than concentrating on this group we should figure out how we win back our former core. Our positions should be appealing to the majority of intelligent informed people, or we are doomed.
+8 # LeeBlack 2012-03-11 12:01
Democrats work to get more people to vote and Republicans want fewer people to vote. That's all you need to know when asking who represents the people.
-3 # 2012-03-12 06:46
While I do not support voter ID laws (since they do not address the real electoral frauds that we know about) and I do support allowing felons who have served their sentences voting, this essay is a smear based on accusation and innuendo.

The only study of the effect of voter ID laws on turnout (Milyo, U of Missouri) showed that minority community turnout increased following enactment of voter ID laws.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts

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