by Jeremy Leaming
For low-taxes, weak safety nets for the most vulnerable and tattered corporate campaign finance regulations to remain the status quo, right-wing policy makers in a slew of states are feverishly working to suppress the votes of students, minorities and others typically not inclined to support regressive policies.
Florida perhaps provides the most egregious example of attempts to enact voter suppression policy, with new onerous restrictions on voter-registration drives and early voting opportunities. The ACLU of Florida and the U.S. Department of Justice have fought the efforts of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and to alter voting practices in a state with a history of efforts to suppress minority voters. In March, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon blasted the governor, saying he was “so intent on suppressing the right to vote that he’s even taken the extreme step of launching a challenge to the Voting Rights Act itself because that landmark of the Civil Rights Movement stands in the way of implementing his voter suppression agenda.”
The Miami Herald reported yesterday that Scott was also ordering county officials statewide to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls. A list of more than 2,600 voters to be purged was created by the state’s Division of Elections, and according to analysis by the Herald was “dominated by Democrats, independents and Hispanics. The largest numbers were from Miami-Dade home to the state’s highest foreign-born population.”
The Florida list, as the newspaper, notes was based on outdated information provided by the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar) sent a letter earlier this week to Scott urging him to halt the purging of voters.
“Providing a list of names of questionable validity – created with absolutely no oversight – to county supervisors and asking them to purge their rolls will create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.” the lawmakers’ letter states.
Deutch and Hastings at a May 29 press conference in Davie, Fla., highlighted the state’s faulty removal of Bill Internicola, a 91-year-old World War II veteran, from the voting rolls. State election officials claimed they had information that Internicola born in Brooklyn was not a citizen.
In a forthcoming ACS Issue Brief, Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt focuses on the new voter suppression efforts, especially those in Florida. He says the state’s new efforts to hamper voter registration drives are likely the most restrictive in the nation, though influencing other state laws. Levitt will also participate in a June 16 panel discussion at the ACS 2012 Convention on the voting rights.
Right-wing led governments in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin are also ramming through voter suppression measures. The ACLU is also confronting those and other state tactics. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is also heavily involved in battling the voter suppression efforts. The group has joined an effort to prevent S.C.'s new voter identification law from taking effect. In a March 30 press statement, LDF said voter ID laws like the one in S.C. "disproprionately weaken the voting strength of voters of color and voters of limited means."
The right-wing lawmakers continue to claim that voter fraud justifies the voter suppression measures. But that’s a tired canard. Voter fraud in reality is a nonexistent problem that is being used to advance onerous restrictions on voting that not only suppress minorities, but those like the World War II veteran in Florida.
In a piece for Slate, Risa L. Golbuoff and Dahlia Lithwick blasted the new state voter suppression efforts saying they were being advanced “as part of an effort to eradicate a problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers: voter fraud.”
What is actually happening is an outrageous effort by right-wing lawmakers to turn away voters rarely inclined to support their pro-corporate agenda and their dogged devotion to the interests of the nation’s super wealthy.