Minnesota GOP Refuses To Allow Citizens To Testify As It Steals Their Right To Vote

Last Wednesday, more than 200 protesters holding signs that read “ALL Our Voices Count No Voter ID Amendment” waited in the halls of the capital building while the Minnesota Senate committee conducted a hearing on a voter ID amendment. Why were they waiting in the halls? The Republican lead committee allowed no citizens to testify on the legislation. Predictably, it passed the committee on a party line vote, 8 Republicans for-6 Democrats against. Last year the Republican lead state congress passed a bill requiring voter ID and it was vetoed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. It really got me to wondering, why would 200 citizens protest the prospect of showing id to vote? It doesn’t sound unreasonable, after all, you have to show ID for almost everything now. What’s one more?

At least, that’s what Republicans want you think. The reality is far different.


Republicans have led the charge on supposed voter fraud, contending the problem is widespread and corrupting our democracy. Since 2011, thirty-four states have proposed and/or passed some form of voter ID laws; a comprehensive list can be found here. One reason for the panic that seems to be recurring on the conservative side is that according to a PEW research study 1.8 million deceased citizens are still registered. The idea is that people can then use those names to illegally vote. But then, according to the same study, streamlining the election process would fix that particular problem, no ID needed.

In fact, the George W. Bush administration was so concerned about voter fraud it had the Justice Department conduct a 5 year study on the issue. And they found … nothing much really. The New York Times ran an article about it in April 2007:

“Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year… Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.”

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

Okay. So there really isn’t a problem with voter fraud being perpetrated by American citizens. The supposed fraud could actually be fixed with a nation wide computerized registry system that would identify residents who are registered more than once, voters who are deceased, and voters who aren’t eligible to vote. So, what’s up with the voter ID laws?

Well, let’s look at who the new laws would affect. According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice:

“In the first three quarters of 2011, state governments across the country have suddenly enacted an array of new laws and policies making it harder to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Two states reversed earlier reforms and once again disenfranchised millions who have past criminal convictions but who are now taxpaying members of the community. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting.

“These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Already 19 new laws and two new executive actions are in place. At least 42 bills are still pending, and at least 69 more were introduced but failed. Already, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 185 electoral votes in 2012 – more than two thirds of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, six have either cut back on voting rights already or are currently considering new restrictions.”

In a country where 1 in 4 eligible citizens are not even registered to vote and there is virtually no fraud being perpetrated by those citizens who are registered, why would you make it harder to vote? Or more costly for citizens to register? Why is it all so pointedly one-sided? Is it just a coincidence that it affects mostly Democratic leaning voters?

Of course not. This is a concerted effort to avoid a repeat of 2008 when Democratic voters swarmed the polls and handed the GOP a crushing defeat. The turnout was significantly higher than expected and it shook the Republicans to their core. Minorities, the young and the poor voted a black man into the White House. Faced with this reality, the GOP resolved to make sure they couldn’t do it again by taking their vote away. While crying wolf about voter fraud, the Right has systematically engaged in voter suppression.

If the GOP was serious about ending voter fraud, the solution is simple: update the registration process and save ourselves some money while doing it. Everybody still gets to vote and can still vote early if they like. Of course that means the GOP will have to compete in the marketplace of ideas and do it legitimately. That’s not going to happen in our lifetimes and we all know it. You keep on protesting, Minnesota!

 

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