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Voter Suppression 101

Voter Suppression 101

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Scott Keyes, Ian Millhiser, Tobin Van Ostern, and Abraham White expose the voter suppression efforts underway across the country.
Scott Keyes, Ian Millhiser, Tobin Van Ostern, and Abraham White expose the voter suppression efforts underway across the country.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Apr 04, 2012
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1Center or American Progress | Voter Suppression 101
Voter Suppression 101
How Conservatives Are Conspiring to DisenfranchiseMillions of Americans
Scott Keyes, Ian Millhiser, Tobin Van Ostern, and Abraham White April 2012
Introduction
Te righ o voe is under atack all across our counry. Conservaive legislaors are inroduc-ing and passing legislaion ha creaes new barriers or hose regisering o voe, shorenshe early voing period, imposes new requiremens or already-regisered voers, and rigs heElecoral College in selec saes. Conservaives abricae reasons o enac hese laws— voerraud is exceedingly rare—in heir eors o disenranchise as many poenial voers amongcerain groups, such as college sudens, low-income voers, and minoriies, as possible.
1
 Raher han modernizing our democracy o ensure ha all ciizens have access o he ballo box, hese laws hinder voing righs in a manner no seen since he era o Jim Crow lawsenaced in he Souh o disenranchise blacks aer Reconsrucion in he lae 1800s.alk abou urning back he clock! A is bes, America has uilized he ederal legisla-ive process o augmen voing righs. Consiuional amendmens such as he 12h,14h, 15h, 17h, 19h, 23rd, and 26h have seadily improved he sysem by which ourelecions ake place while expanding he pool o Americans eligible o paricipae. Ye in2011, more han 30 sae legislaures considered legislaion o make i harder or ciizenso voe, wih over a dozen o hose saes succeeding in passing hese bills. Ani-voinglegislaion appears o be coninuing unabaed so ar in 2012.Unorunaely, he rapid spread o hese proposals in saes as dieren as Floridaand Wisconsin is no occurring by acciden. Insead, many o hese laws are beingdraed and spread hrough corporae-backed eniies such as he American LegislaiveExchange Council, or ALEC, as uncovered in a previous Cener or American Progressinvesigaive repor.
2
Deailed in ha repor, ALEC charges corporaions such as KochIndusries Inc., Wal-Mar Sores Inc., and Te Coca-Cola Co. a ee and gives hem accesso members o sae legislaures. Under ALEC’s auspices, legislaors, corporae represen-aives, and ALEC ocials work ogeher o dra model legislaion. As ALEC spokes-
 
2Center or American Progress | Voter Suppression 101
person Michael Bowman oldNPR  , his sysem is especially eecive because “you havelegislaors who will ask quesions much more reely a our meeings because hey areno under he eyes o he press, he eyes o he voers.Te invesigaive repor included or he rs ime a leaked copy o ALEC’s model VoerID legislaion, which was approved by he ALEC board o direcors in lae 2009. Tismodel legislaion prohibied cerain orms o idenicaion, such as suden IDs, and has been cied as he legislaive model rom groups ranging rom ea Pary organizaions olegislaors proposing he acual legislaion such as Wisconsins Voer ID proposal romRepublican sae Rep. Sone and Republican sae Sen. Joe Leibham.Similar legislaion had been proposed during he early 2000s in saes such as Missouri, bu he legislaion requenly ailed o be passed. Seeking new avenues, he George W.Bush adminisraion prioriized he convicion o voer raud o he poin where wo U.S.atorneys were allegedly red in 2004 or ailing o pursue elecoral raud cases a he levelrequired by hen-Atorney General John Ashcro. In ac, hree years aer rs prioriizingelecion raud in 2002, Ashcro’s eors had produced only 95 deendans charged wihelecion-raud, compared o 80,424 criminal cases concluded in a given year.Tese eors were dismal in erms o eeciveness and convicions, bu news reporsrom 2007 poined ou ha simply “pursuing an invesigaion can be jus as eecive asa convicion in providing ha ammuniion and creaing an impression wih he publicha some sor o elecoral reorm is necessary.
3
  Wih his groundwork laid, ALEC oday is spearheading hese eors anew. Tese new anivoing laws are being challenged legally by a variey o nonparisan organizaions rang-ing rom Rock he Voe o he League o Women Voers o he Public Ineres ResearchGroup. Addiionally, he Deparmen o Jusice is reviewing some o he new sae laws orpossible violaions o he Voing Righs Ac, which reezes changes in elecion pracices orprocedures in nine souhern saes due o heir hisory o voer suppression in he pas.Tis issue brie ocuses on boh he curren saus o various anivoer measures hrough-ou our counry as well as he legal challenges hey ace. Readers will learn how conserva-ives wan o reurn o pas pracices o voer suppression o preserve heir poliical power,and looks a several insances where progressives are ghing back successully.
Registration restrictions
Le’s begin wih voer regisraion resricions. In a handul o saes, legislaors aren’ jus making i more dicul o voe; hey’re making i more dicul or ciizens eveno regiser in he rs place. Lawmakers in hal a dozen saes made a variey o changes
Registering thepoor “to vote is likehanding out burglarytools to criminals.”
–ConservativecolumnistMatthewVadum
51
 
3Center or American Progress | Voter Suppression 101
o he regisraion process in 2011.
4
Tese include limiing when ciizens can regiser,resricing who is permited o help hem, and implemening ougher bureaucraicrequiremens o regiser.Nowhere has he war on regisraion been more conroversial han he sae o Maine.Since 1973, Mainers have been permited o regiser o voe a he ballo box. For nearly 40 years, he sysem worked smoohly—separae lines or regisering and voing are used opreven congesion—and jus wo insances o voer raud were ound in he enire span.
5
 Neverheless, when an unusually conservaive group o lawmakers ook over boh sae-house chambers and he governorship in 2010, one o heir primary orders o business was o repeal he saes law permiting ciizens o regiser on Elecion Day. Forunaely,in he ensuing weeks ciizens o he sae rallied o collec ens o housands o signauresand orce a voe on he mater. In November 2011, 61 percen o Mainers rebuked helegislaure and voed o resore Elecion Day regisraion in heir sae. Alas, voing righs proponens in oher saes have no been as successul. In Floridaand exas, or example, lawmakers succeeded in placing onerous new resricions onnonpro organizaions ha help regiser new voers. Voer regisraion drives by groupssuch as he League o Women Voers have been a saple o our democracy or years,helping housands o ciizens o regiser, regardless o heir poliical aliaion.In he Sunshine Sae, however, hose may now be a hing o he pas. Las July, heLeague o Women Voers announced i would no longer operae in Florida becauseo new anivoer legislaion—including complicaed new ling requiremens and amandae o submi compleed regisraion orms wihin 48 hours o compleion or acea hey ne—made i nearly impossible or hem o coninue heir work.
6
Te Lone Sar Sae also placed unnecessary new requiremens on groups and indi- viduals ineresed in helping regiser ohers. exas lawmakers in May passed legislaionrequiring ha people who help regiser voers, known as voluneer depuy regisrars,mus also be eligible exas voers hemselves. Te new law has a number o uninendedconsequences. For insance, legal permanen residens who are in he process o obain-ing heir ciizenship would be barred rom learning he poliical process by helpingregiser ohers. Many such immigrans are currenly employed as depuy regisrars; hisnew law would likely resul in heir ring. Wha’s more, disabled exans who are considered ull guardians o he sae and ineligibleo voe would be shu ou as well. One disabled genleman had carried voer regisra-ion orms in his wheelchair or years, eager o regiser ohers or a democraic process hehimsel could no paricipae in. Under he new law, i would be illegal or him o coninueregisering new voers.
7
As o February 2012, exas’s new law remains no in eec whilehe Jusice Deparmen deermines wheher i complies wih he Voing Righs Ac.
“I don’t wanteverybody to vote.
–HeritageFoundationco-ounderPaulWeyrich
52

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