GOP Strategy: Voter Suppression

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The Oregonian

GOP Strategy: Voter Suppression

by
Michael Sears

 In the 2000 Presidential election, reporter Greg Palast, author of "The Best Democracy Money can Buy," broke the story of Florida's illegal voter purges, in which Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris kept 57,000 votes, most of them African-American, from being counted. Their names resembled names of persons convicted of crimes. The state eventually acknowledged that the purge was improper - two years after the Supreme Court selection of George W. Bush.

During the 2004 Presidential election, 350,000 voters were disenfranchised in Ohio alone, enough to give the election to George W. Bush instead of the legitimate winner, John Kerry. The evidence was laid out in a Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

A series of articles in 2004 by Adam Cohen, NY Times reporter, "Making Votes Count," details the problems states had during the 2004 election with voter disenfranchisement.

Now, with the debates over and Obama enjoying a sizeable lead in election polls, the only question remaining is whether we will have a fair election. This would not be a question had suppressing the vote not become a cornerstone of Republican electoral strategy.

Paul Weyrich, a principal architect of today's GOP and co-founder with Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, infamously said, "Many of our Christians have what I call the 'goo-goo' syndrome - good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote... As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

Since 2003, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, at least 2.7 million new voters have had their applications to register rejected. "Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law," the NY Times reported last week.

In the October 30, 2008, issue of Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast detail how deterring and discarding Democratic ballots may determine the next president. (Article not yet posted.)

In Florida, the Republican-dominated legislature created fines up to $5000 per violation for groups that fail to meet deadlines for turning-in voter-registration forms or for trivial administrative errors. Such legislation caused the League of Women Voters there to abandon it's registration drive, resulting in applications plummeting to fewer than 10,000.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Under the so-called Help America Vote Act, almost every state can demand a "perfect match" between a voter's identification and every other government record for that person - right down to precisely spelled name, address, and misplaced hyphens. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as many as 20 percent of New York driver's licenses have typing errors disqualifying voters. In California, a Republican Secretary of State blocked 43 percent of all new voters in Los Angeles in 2006 for failure of a "perfect match." In Florida, in 2006 and 2007, more than 15,000 new registrants were blocked by imperfect matches, three-fourth of which were Hispanic or black.

Prior to the Help America Vote Act, bipartisan county election officials maintained voter records. Now, that power is given solely to the secretaries of state - partisan officials. All told, states reported scrubbing at least 10 million voters from their rolls on questionable grounds between 2004 and 2006. In swing-state Colorado, nearly one in six of voters have been eliminated from their rolls. "Vote caging," or targeted mailings to identify potential voters who's addresses have changed, illegally disallows that person's vote, if the mailing to the old address is returned. Requiring unnecessary identification impacts Americans of color who traditionally do not carry driver's licenses or state ID.

The Rolling Stone article concludes, "If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls - they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering."

 

The Oregonian's Community Writers are ordinary citizens who share their ideas and opinions in weekly online articles. They are encouraged to write on topics of their own choice as a means of expanding the online conversation.

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