The Strangling Of Voting Rights

It’s happening in cities and states across the country. In 22 states, Republicans are determined to pass legislation that would effectively kill the voting rights of minorities, the poor, and college students. In their attempt to transform America into a conservative Christian nation, Republicans are disregarding the Constitution to keep voters from making their voices heard in 2012 and beyond.

In an effort to crush the middle class and the poor on behalf of the wealthy, Republicans are taking the ultimate step towards becoming tyrants. By making it more difficult to register to vote and to step into the booth, Republicans are keeping millions of potential Democratic voters from casting their ballots. Many Republican governors and legislatures are already moving forward with these plans to subvert democracy and civil rights, and they are using the specter of voter fraud to do it.

In Ohio, the Republican controlled legislature has passed a voter ID law that would restrict the voting rights of almost one million people in the state. Ohio as well as other states such as Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Maine, Montana, Alaska, Iowa, and Virginia are all pushing tough voter identification laws as well as laws that ban same day registration. These types of laws will make voting more difficult for first time voters and the poor.

The voter photo ID laws would basically require voters to present their driver’s licenses. This poses a major problem for many senior citizens, the disabled, and the poor who either can’t have a driver’s license, can no longer drive, or cannot afford to acquire a license. There is only one reason why Republicans would make laws that affect these groups. In years past, senior citizens, the disabled and the poor have overwhelmingly voted for Democrats. By curbing the rights of these groups, Republicans improve their chances of regaining total control over the United States government and many state governments. But the Republican plan also utilizes an old tactic: fear.

In addition to the photo ID laws, many Republicans are also pushing laws that force people to prove that they are United States citizens before they get to register to vote or cast one. There is no doubt that Republicans are trying to scare ethnic groups such as hispanics with this kind of law. Even hispanics that are here legally are scared of this law. Any hispanic or Arab or person of any minority group that goes to the polls could be easily accused of not being an American citizen by groups of conservatives that gather at voting locations to scare people into not voting. Hundreds of thousands of hispanics may just stay home on election day, rather than be accused of not being an American and possibly illegally detained. But even the voting rights of white American college students are being threatened by the GOP.

If Republicans have their way, millions of students on college campuses across the country may be barred from voting. Not only are they pushing laws that would ban students from using their college issued student identification cards to vote, Republicans are also pushing laws that would disqualify students from voting if their parents live in a different state. In this egregious attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters, Republicans are trying to prevent students from voting for Democrats like they did in 2008. Republicans aren’t even attempting to hide this. In New Hampshire, State House Speaker William O’Brien, a Republican, stated in front of a crowd that the legislation is necessary because there “are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.” This statement proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republicans are only passing these restrictive voting laws because they want to disenfranchise liberal, progressive, and Democratic voters in an effort to swing the 2012 election and future elections in their favor.

The excuse that Republicans are using to pass these kinds of bills is that by passing these bills, they are ending voter fraud. The problem is that voter fraud is not a problem in this country. Voter fraud is just a phantom issue that Republicans are blowing up so that they can strip rights away from a huge swath of the American people. In North Carolina for instance, out of 4.3 million votes cast in 2008, only 40 voting irregularities were reported by authorities. That’s .01075% of all the votes cast. That number is just as low throughout the rest of the nation. In other words, voter fraud is not an issue and it’s certainly not worth the price tag that taxpayers would have to pick up to implement the new Republican voter laws.

In most states, these new voter laws will cost taxpayers an estimated $20 million dollars. So, on top of state budgets that are already running deficits, Republicans want to add $20 million dollars more, all so that they can keep voters from voting in elections. So much for fiscal responsibility. Republicans have once again proven that they care more about gaining power than they do about the pocket books of the taxpayers.

But this violation of civil rights is not only a costly ploy, it’s also unconstitutional. Under the United States Constitution, any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote…” is illegal. But Republicans are blatantly disregarding the Constitution and judicial rulings on the subject on the grounds that they simply do not agree with them. In New Hampshire, after being informed of Newberger v. Peterson, a 1972 federal district court decision that ruled the state cannot bar college students from voting in New Hampshire even if they intend to leave after graduation, Republican State Representative Sorg, the man who introduced the anti-college voter bill, told a public hearing that he had not read the decision and did not “care” for it. So, Republicans are just going to ignore the law and pass their bill anyway. This is happening in many other states as well.

This is a dangerous slope that the Republicans are going down. Their modern day tactics to prevent people from voting is comparable to the literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses that the South used to prevent people of color from voting back in the Jim Crow era. Republicans employed similar tactics in an attempt to bring down Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940′s. This electioneering prompted FDR to quip that “there are some political candidates who think that they may have a chance of election, if only the total vote is small enough.” It appears that Republicans today are thinking the same way once again. 21 million people may be barred from voting in 2012. If we continue to let Republicans trample on our voting rights, we could one day wake up to find out that we have lost our right to vote completely. So when you step up to cast your vote in 2012, keep in mind that Republicans are the ones trying to take that right away from you.