Posts Tagged ‘Voting Rights’

Trump, Kris Kobach and the voter fraud issue

July 13, 2017

[Note 7/20/2017.  In the original version of this post, I mistakenly exaggerated the possibility of fraud by individual voters.  My changes to the post are in italics and strikeouts.]

Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Commission on Electoral Integrity, is one of the chief proponents of the infamous CrossCheck system that may have led to wrongful cancellation of voter registrations of thousands of Americans.

As Secretary of State of Kansas, he claimed that there were large numbers of voters who were registered in two or more states and voted in two different states on the same day.

The supposed solution to this was to compile lists of names of voters with similar names, and to assume that they were the same person.

CrossCheck has compiled a list of 7 million paired names—which Kobach says means there are 3.5 million potential double voters.   This is the basis of Donald Trump’s charge that 3 million people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast said 1.1 million voter registrations have already been deleted as a result of CrossCheck.   Palast said the names are skewed toward typically black names, such as Jackson, and typically Hispanic names, such as Hernandez.

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Can we have a fair election?

May 6, 2015

In a capitalist democracy, there are two sources of power—money power and people power.

These days money power is flourishing—partly because of court decisions that say spending money is free speech under the First Amendment, and that corporations have First Amendment rights, but more simply because of the enormous concentration of wealth.

reagaon-couldnt-vote-todays-gop-vot3r-suppression5_n1At the same time, Republican state legislatures are rigging the election process through gerrymandering, and figuring out ways to disqualify voters, especially blacks, Hispanics and students, and make it more difficult to register to vote.

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice indicated that the reduction in the number of votes as a result of voter suppression laws in 2014 was greater than the margin of victory in the North Carolina and Virginia Senate races and in the Kansas and Florida Governorship races.

The Brennan Center can’t prove that the suppressed voters would have voted for the losing candidate, but that’s not the point.  Voting should be regarded as a basic American right.  If it isn’t, we Americans might as well go back to being ruled by hereditary monarchs and aristocrats.

Elizabeth Drew wrote that it is telling how few Republicans participated in the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march.

Investigative reporter Brad Friedman reported electronic voting machines are an even more insidious threat to voting rights, because your vote can be canceled without your knowledge.   He told how easy it is to tamper with electronic voting machines without detection.  Internet voting is even worse.

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The silence of the Democrats

November 19, 2014

It is not hard to understand the Republican motive for wanting to make it more difficult for poor people, minorities and young people to vote.

ap219250776125Neither is it hard to understand the motive for wanting to remove minorities from voting rolls by fair means or foul.  I don’t respect the motive, but I understand it.

What I do not understand is why the Democrats are so passive about this.  Why aren’t Democrats fighting against the obstacles that keep their constituent groups from voting, and fighting to get their supporters registered and to the polls?  It’s almost as if they don’t care about winning.

Remembering Heinlein’s Rule, I never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity and inertia.

But if I were more cynical than I actually am, I would say it as if the Democratic leaders fear being identified with poor people, minorities and the young more than they want their votes.

If I were even more cynical than that, I would say it is as if Democratic leaders would rather lose than increase the influence of poor people, minorities and the young within their party.

Voter purge may have decided Senate election

November 19, 2014

Statistician Nate Silver called the 2012 elections with almost pinpoint accuracy.  But this time around he underestimated the Republican margins of victory by an average of 4 percentage points.

Greg Palast, an independent reporter, wrote that the explanation may be less in Silver’s forecasting methods than in the systematic disqualification of Democratic-tending voters by Republican state governments using a system called CrossCheck.

CrossCheck is a system for comparing the names of voters in different states.  The assumption (if it were in effect in New York state) would be that if there is a record of a Phil Ebersole voting in Pennsylvania, Ohio or some other state as well as here in Rochester, N.Y., which is quite likely, they are all the same person voting in multiple states.

Just stop and think a minute about how crazy an idea this is.

Driving to anywhere in Pennsylvania would take two to five hours one way.  The political consultant Dick Morris said on Fox News that up to 1 million Americans are doing this.  That is, up to 1 million Americans have taken the trouble to register and vote in multiple states and then to go vote on election day.

This is—how shall I put it?—stark raving lunatic mad.

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How difficult is it, really, to get voter photo ID?

November 13, 2014

Getting photo ID for voting is damned difficult if the process is set up intentionally to make it hard for you.

pennsylvania_voter_id_rally-thumb-640xauto-6483-thumb-640xauto-6766Richard Sobel, a researcher for Harvard’s Institute for Race and Justice, looked at what some people in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas went through as they tried to get photo ID.  He wrote a report on what he found, which was published in June.

steve-frank67FAC2A7-A14C-4F72-D3C8-71613E397404He said “free” ID cost $75 to $150 if you figure in the cost of getting birth certificates, naturalization documents and other documents, the cost of travel, and time spent traveling and waiting.   Sometimes there were legal fees as well.

Sobel noted that this is considerably more than the poll taxes that were outlawed by Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1964.  I don’t see how any requirement to pay money in order to vote can considered anything but a poll tax.

Here are some examples from his report of what would-be voters ran into.

In Pennsylvania

According to a September 13, 2012 letter to The Morning Call in Scranton, a Pennsylvania resident seeking a “free” voter ID had incurred costs of $94.61 so far, which were likely to eventually reach $133.61. The potential voter traveled 34 miles round trip to and from the PennDOT agency in Bethlehem, an estimated hour of travel time.

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The passing scene: November 5, 2014

November 5, 2014

Voting rights groups challenge electoral purges by Greg Palast by Al Jazeera America.

One of the techniques for depriving black people and other minorities of the right to vote is by means of the interstate Crosscheck program, in which voters are removed from the rolls if a voter of that name is recorded as voting in two different states in the same election.

The problem is there are many people of the same name.  “Phil Ebersole” is not so common a name as “John Smith,” but a Google search turns up the names of more than half a dozen Phil Ebersoles in different states, most or all of whom presumably voted in the same election.

Crosscheck assumes “double voting” even if the voters have different Social Security numbers, different middle initials or one is “Jr.” and the other is “Sr.”   Investigative reporter Greg Palast, who’s been writing about voter suppression and election fraud for more than 10 years, said millions of voters, mostly Democrats and mostly minorities, were disqualified during the current election.

Israel’s desire to remake the Middle East challenges the Obama presidency by Geoffrey Aronson for Al Jazeera America.

Geoffrey Aronson, a former adviser to the World Bank and European Union on Palestinian issues, wrote that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a long range goal to reshape the Middle East in ways that enhance Israel’s power and weaken the surrounding Arab states.

Netanyahu believes that the boundaries of existing Arab states, which were drawn by Britain and France following World War One, are unnatural, Aronson wrote; Israel’s leader would like to see an independent Kurdistan, a breakup of Syria and many small states reflecting the ethnic divisions among Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and other groups.

This is compatible with the goals of the Islamic State (ISIS), which wants to unite Sunni Arabs in Syria and Iraq.  It does not fit the desire of President Obama for a united and stable Iraq.

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Exercising the right to vote

November 4, 2014

2014-11-04-his-vote-was-suppressed

Source: Candorville.

Will we have an honest election in 2012?

September 26, 2012

Dark red states have passed voter suppression legislation. Pink states have voter suppression legislation pending as of August.   Click on the Spreading Suppression link below for an interactive map giving the particulars for each state.

While I think Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are more alike than they are different on the issues that matter most to me, there is one subject on which the Republican Party is clearly in the wrong—the attempt to subvert the democratic process by creating arbitrary obstacles to voting, aimed at black and Hispanic people, college students and others likely to vote Democratic.

This is more serious than the Bush v. Gore decision, because it is not just a one-time thing.  It threatens to become a permanent change in the way we Americans choose our elected representatives.  It is a limited and partial (so far) return to the practices of the Old South of a century ago, when poll taxes and so-called literacy tests were used to to suppress voting by black people and poor white people.

Elizabeth Drew, writing for the New York Review blog, reported on what’s going on.

The Republicans have been making particularly strenuous efforts to tilt the outcomes—in most of the “swing states”: Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.  The Republican leader of the House in Pennsylvania, previously considered a swing state, was careless enough to admit publicly that the state’s strict new Voter ID law would assure a Romney victory in November.  In fact a state document submitted in court offered no evidence of voter fraud.  On September 18, Pennsylvania’s supreme court sharply rebuked a lower court’s approval of the law, questioning whether the law could be fairly applied by the time of the election.  This battle continues despite the fact that the Romney campaign in mid-September suspended its efforts in Pennsylvania because polls show that Obama was substantially ahead.  Even if the state’s electoral votes are not in question the outcome could still decide whether a great many people will be allowed to vote in November, and could also affect the popular vote.

Eight states have already passed Voter ID laws—requiring a state-approved document with a photograph in order to register or vote, a form of identification that an estimated 11 percent or over 21 million of American citizens do not possess.  But these laws are just part of an array of restrictions adopted to keep Democrats from voting.  Some use other means to make registration difficult, or put strict limits on the number of days before the election that votes can be cast , or cut back the hours that polling places can stay open.

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, which was characterized in Ohio by lines at voting places in black districts so long as to discourage voters, Ohio Democratic officials made voting times more flexible; after the Republicans took over the state they set out to reverse that.

Iowa, Florida, and Colorado tried to purge the voting rolls of suspected unqualified voters, but their lists turned out to be wildly inaccurate.  Florida officials compiled a list of 180,000 people whose qualifications were questioned, but after voting registrars checked (some protesting the unfairness of the purge) only 207, or 0.0002 percent of the state’s registered voters, were found to be unqualified to vote.  Nearly sixty percent of the 180,000 names had Hispanic surnames, another 14 percent were blacks.  Officials said that whites or Republicans were unlikely to be on the list.

While a combination of outraged citizens and legal challenges led all three states to ostensibly give up on the idea of purging voters, Florida and Iowa officials have said that they intend to pursue those who haven’t been proven innocent.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of citizens don’t know if they’ll be allowed to vote—which, like a number of the restrictions, could be a disincentive to even subjecting oneself to what could be a hassle or humiliation at the polling place.  Florida also enacted a voter ID law, which was struck down by a federal court. 

Ever on the lookout for ways to keep Democratic supporters from the polling places, the state cut short the number of days for early voting, and established rules that in effect barred outside groups such as the League of Women Voters from conducting registration drives. Though this restriction was later overturned by a federal court, voter registration groups said that important time had been lost while they contested the new restrictions on their activities.

In Ohio—the swingyest of the swing states, now in Republican control—secretary of state Jon Husted is trying to block voting on any weekend before the election; and he has appealed the ruling of a federal district judge ordering him to allow voting even during the last weekend before the election.  Husted also made the extraordinary proposal that voting hours in Ohio be extended solely in white districts, but this preposterous idea couldn’t withstand a citizen outcry.  Two Democratic county election officials from the Dayton area (one the few predominantly Democratic counties in the state) who objected to Husted’s proposal to permit no weekend voting were fired.

Elizabeth Drew noted that many American citizens will go to the polls in November not knowing whether they will be allowed to vote or not.

Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then.  Watergate was a struggle over the Constitutional powers and accountability of a president, and, alarmingly, the president and his aides attempted to interfere with the nominating process of the opposition party.  But the current voting rights issue is even more serious: it’s a coordinated attempt by a political party to fix the result of a presidential election by restricting the opportunities of members of the opposition party’s constituency—most notably blacks—to exercise a Constitutional right.

This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

While she and other writers focus on the Presidential election, voter suppression tactics are likely to be more effective, and more dangerous, in state and local election contests that don’t attract much attention and election tampering is less likely to provoke a big outcry.

Click on Voting Wrongs for Elizabeth Drew’s full report on voter suppression for NYRblog.

Click on Spreading Suppression for an interactive version of the above map showing the status of voter ID laws and other voter suppression legislation in the various states.

Click on The Ballot Cops for Mariah Blake’s report on voter intimidation in The Atlantic.

Click on Machine politics: the real threat of voter fraud for my earlier post on voting machines susceptible to hacking.

The new battle over voting rights

August 6, 2012

Click to enlarge

The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, stated that no American could be denied the right to vote on account of race.  But white supremacists in the South figured out new ways to disenfranchise African-Americans.  One was a poll tax, which most black people and many poor white people could not afford to pay (the poll was outlawed by the 24th Amendment in 1964).  Another was a “literacy” test, with an exemption for those whose grandfathers had been registered voters.

Wasn’t it reasonable to require voters to be literate?  Wasn’t the right to vote so precious that it is worth saving your money to exercise?  All good questions, but besides the point, because these were not neutral requirements aimed at producing a better electorate.  They were subterfuges intended to prevent particular groups of people from voting.

So it is with today’s new voter ID laws.  You can make the argument that voting is a privilege that should be earned and not granted automatically.  But if you believe that (I don’t), then the requirements for earning that privilege should be equally difficult for all segments of the population.  The new voter ID laws don’t do that.  Republican lawmakers want to discourage voting by members of certain groups that tend to vote Democratic—poor people, minorities and students.  The new laws have the same purpose, although they are less stringent, than the literacy tests and poll taxes in the South in the days of white supremacy.

I have had a driver’s license since I first got a car in 1959, and I had no trouble obtaining a stamped copy of my birth certificate when I applied for a passport.  But if I hadn’t had a car to begin with, it would have been hard to get to the DMV office to apply for a license.  If I had been poor, it would have been hard to afford the license fees.  If at birth I hadn’t been delivered in a hospital by a physician, I don’t know what I would have done for a birth certificate.

Things that are easy for me as a middle-class person are not easy for everyone—especially when lawmakers are intentionally trying to make things difficult.

There are two sources of political power in the United States.  One is the mobilization of money; the other is the mobilization of people.  While legal barriers to the first are coming down, legal barriers to the second are being erected.

If you’re a liberal or a Democrat, it is important to get people registered despite the hurdles, and to overturn the laws.  This could be a good basis of grass-roots organizing.  You shouldn’t count on the federal courts to overturn these laws, because not all the judges support basic Constitutional rights.

Click on UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud for a report by Mother Jones, with charts and many good additional links.

Click on Voter ID Laws Could Swing States for a report by Politico on how voter ID laws could change the outcome of the coming Presidential election.

Click on The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification for a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University on the difficulty and expense of obtaining photo ID, especially for Americans who don’t own automobiles or weren’t born in hospitals.

Click on Lead plaintiff in Voter ID lawsuit gets birth certificate, still can’t vote if you think the Candorville cartoon is an exaggeration.  This is a report on a 93-year-old woman who has voted in Presidential elections since 1960, but is disenfranchised by Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law.

Click on Think Getting “Free” ID Is Easy? Think Again for stories collected by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of American citizens and formerly registered voters who’ve been disenfranchised under voter ID laws.

Click on Pennsylvania Is Key to Republican Vote-Blocking for a report by the Washington Monthly on how voter ID laws could swing Pennsylvania from Obama to Romney.

Click on Gutting the Right to Vote for a report by Counterpunch on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.

Click on Florida looks ready to repeat many of the same mistakes in how it conducts its elections for a Slate report.

Click on CANDORVILLE daily comics by Darrin Bell for more cartoons.