Sunday, March 30, 2014

GOP Starts Voter Suppression Assault

According to the NYT today, states controlled by Republicans are gearing up for an all out assault on voting. They are attempting to limit the time polls are open, cut or eliminate weekend voting, sharply reduce early voting days, eliminate same-day registration, exclude all kinds of IDs (like student and state-worker IDs), and now are trying to require proof of citizenship--which will pretty much require you bring your birth certificate or passport.

Florida already deleted Sunday before election day... although you can vote the day before or the day after. WHY SUNDAY? Because that's when black people vote. Churches organize "Souls to the polls" drives after Sunday services. This, they figure, will help the GOP.

They claim this is about voting fraud, but that is nonexistent for in-person voting, although there is some for absentee voting (which these laws don't touch. Rick Scott engaged in absentee voting fraud himself for his election).

If voting fraud was a real concern, there are ways to fight it that do not disenfranchise poor voters.

One method used by other countries is to have the government send a card to every registered voter a few weeks before the election saying where the polling place is. The voter is instructed to bring the card, which serves as proof that the voter is registered. In some places the cards contain high-tech anticounterfeiting technology, such as holograms. It is also possible to include on the card a digital photo of the voter, taken at the time the voter registered. To make this even more bulletproof, the card could contain a random number, different for each voter and each election and known to the poll workers, to make it harder to forge the cards. A scheme like this would make it virtually impossible for anyone to vote fraudulently and would not disadvantage people without government-issued ID. But, of course, the real purpose of the voter ID laws is precisely to make it harder for poor people, who disproportionately do not have drivers licenses or passports, to vote.

A recent study from Harvard and the University of Sydney confirms this. The U.S. ranked 26th in electoral integrity, a broad measure of flawed elections, including factors such as voter registration and campaign finance. An example of a flaw in the U.S. system that other countries don't have is the requirement in some states to present a voter ID card. The card is usually free but the birth certificate needed to get it is not free, so if you don't have a drivers license (expensive) or a passport (more expensive), you may have to effectively pay to vote. De facto, this is poll tax. For this and many other reasons, no Western country scored lower than the U.S. in the study.

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