voter fraud

  • January 11, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Hardly surprising, but another Alabama official is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate an integral provision of the Voting Rights Act. Efforts to suppress the votes of minorities no longer exist, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange argues in a brief lodged with the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral argument on Feb. 27 in a case challenging provisions of the landmark civil rights law, including its primary enforcement provision, Section 5.

    The attorney general concedes in his brief that the state still “grapples with race relations issues, but they are the same kind of issues every state currently is endeavoring to solve,” reports Mary Orndorff Troyan for the Montgomery Advertiser.

    Strange’s brief is filed in support of a lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Ala., “a conservative, mostly white county south of Birmingham,” as Troyan describes it. In Shelby County v. Holder, the officials argue that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it covers some but not all states. Section 5 requires all or parts of 16 states to obtain “preclearance” of proposed changes to voting procedures from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C. Section 5 of the law was intended to ensure that states and localities and with long histories of suppressing the vote of minorities do not create discriminatory voting procedures.

    The NAACP LDF, which has intervened in the case to represent voters, argues that Section 5 remains central to the Voting Rights Act because it works to block discrimination before it occurs. LDF and other civil rights organizations have noted that the Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that Section 5 is constitutional and that in 2006 Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. Congress, in reauthorizing the law, created a record “consisting of 15,000 pages of evidence” supporting the ongoing need for a strong enforcement provision.

  • December 19, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The 2010 elections highlighted the strident efforts of some state lawmakers to make it much more difficult for people to vote, especially for minorities, low-income people, the elderly and college students. Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among the states that created and tried to implement voting laws requiring strict voter IDs, limiting early voting times and hampering voter registration drives.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee today conducted a hearing on the state of voting rights after the elections and against the backdrop of another challenge to an integral enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Beyond bringing stories of what the new restrictive measures wrought, several witnesses provided passionate defenses of the importance of the landmark civil rights law.

    Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires nine states, many in the South, and counties and other localities across the country to obtain “preclearance” of changes to their voting laws from a federal court in Washington, D.C. or the Department of Justice. The states and localities required to win preclearance are those with long histories of suppressing the vote of minorities. (Shelby County, Ala., officials in a case the Supreme Court will hear this term argue that racial discrimination in voting is a thing of the past and should be invalidated. Like several of the Judiciary Committee witnesses, many argue that Sec. 5 is the heart of the Voting Rights Act and works to block discrimination before it occurs.)

    Five counties in Florida are covered by the Voting Rights Act. Charles Crist, former governor or Florida, testifying today before the Judiciary Committee, said the last few years in the state have not “been so forward thinking.”

  • November 2, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Right up to the final hours of the 2012 general elections some state officials in an array of states will undoubtedly continue their tiresome efforts to discourage and turn away from the polls potential voters.

    Just today, as reported by The Miami Herald, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott (R), is rebuffing requests from the League of Women Voters of Florida and other civil liberties groups to extend early voting hours there, citing the long lines at early voting sites. The newspaper notes that since the start of early voting in Broward County alone has “averaged more than 28,400 voters a day. Miami-Dade averaged more than 26, 300.”

    The League of Women Voters of Florida, among others, asked Scott (pictured) to extend early voting to include Sunday, Nov. 4. But “top Republican officials,” told the newspaper that no extension is needed. Gov. Scott enacted a voting overhaul law in 2011 greatly reducing the number of early voting days, including the Sunday before Election Day. That law also included measures limiting voter registration drives and an onerous Voter ID law. Groups, such as the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and the ACLU have had success through litigation in blunting or blocking some of the law’s measures.

    Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel that the long waits “are discouraging to voters whose schedules and or physical conditions cannot accommodate these types of delays.”

    Rightwing groups and pundits have advocated for such limitations on voting, claiming that voter fraud mars the nation’s elections. As pointed on out on this blog numerous times and by many others, see Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker piece, in-person voter fraud is essentially myth. A recent “state-by-state map” by Nick McClellan, for Slate, reveals that there is very little evidence of voter fraud.

  • October 9, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The efforts by Republican controlled statehouses to create more hurdles to voting, such as limiting early voting, creating onerous voter identification requirements, and making it more difficult to conduct voter registration drives, are hardly a recent trend.

    Victoria Bassetti, author of Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters, argues in numerous articles that for a country that prides itself on its form of democracy the burdens on voting do not make good public policy nor provide a solid foundation for a healthy democracy. (This month PBS will air an “Electoral Dysfunction” documentary; the book is a companion piece to the documentary.)

    In a piece for The Washington Post, Bassetti says our system of voting is “mystifying” to other countries, largely because of the burdens we place on voting.

    “In the United States, we put the burden on the voter,” she writes. “And in doing so, we keep company with nations such as the Bahamas, Belize and Burundi.”

    While maintaining that very few would label voter registration “anti-democratic,” she notes that “many political and social scientists believe that our country’s practice of putting the registration burden on individuals, coupled with outmoded, paper-intense registration systems, are major causes of the United States’ perennially low voter turnout. One study estimated that voter registration barriers in the United States depress turnout by 5 to 10 percent.”

    In an Oct. 6 column for The New York Times, Bassetti explores how low turnout “produces poor representation, which produces laws people are disinclined to obey and so undermine the process.” She also mentions a rather interesting study regarding how difficult it can be for men to vote, especially if their candidates lose. The study, produced by scientists at Duke and University of Michigan, has something to do with testosterone levels in men and people with normal serotonin levels. (Simply or crudely put, voting can be tough on men because of testosterone reactions and people with weak serotonin systems.)

    Though interesting, Bassetti says such studies are not especially helpful to handling “complex issues facing our democracy.”

    Some of that complexity centers on the bureaucratic mess voting has become in many states.

  • September 25, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The campaign to keep certain groups of people from voting – African Americans, Latinos, college students, the elderly – has included efforts to shut down voter registration drives, limit early voting, and onerous voter ID laws. As noted here frequently the voter suppression efforts have taken place mostly in states controlled by rightwing lawmakers, and not surprisingly they disproportionately impact urban voters. 

    Voters represented by civil liberties groups, labor groups, the Department of Justice and the Obama campaign team have taken court action to stop provisions of many of the suppression tactics. Earlier this summer Attorney General Eric Holder knocked the Texas voter ID scheme as akin to a Jim Crow era poll tax.

    And more congressional lawmakers are ramping up efforts against the voter suppression campaign. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a Civil Rights hero, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are pushing for passage of the Voter Empowerment Act aimed at modernizing voter registration to “ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans ….”   

    In a press statement announcing the push, Lewis said, “It should be easy to vote, as simple as a glass of water, in a society that believes in the immutable right to voter of every human being to determine his or her own future. We must eliminate every barrier and impediment to the electoral process to make voting fair, accessible, and an accurate representation of the will of the people. The vote is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society to build.”