GOP vote-blocking tactics have brought back the operative elements of the poll tax and the literacy test as a way of cutting back access to the ballot for those most likely to vote for the Democratic Party. The GOP argument for such voter suppression is built on the false claim that voter fraud is running rampant in the United States. The Brennan Center for Justice and the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush have done extensive studies of voter fraud and have found it to be an extremely rare occurrance.
The voter-suppression effort most in the news today is in the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania officials are reportedly finding it difficult to justify voter ID requirements and have fallen back on the argument that since you need to show your photo ID when you fly, when you bank and for many other activities, why shouldn’t you be required to show a similar ID when you vote? The quick answer to that is if you are on the voter registration list, you already have established to the satisfaction of election officials that you have met voter qalifications.
Since moving to New Mexico I have been a poll worker about a half-dozen times. New Mexico has not required a photo ID since I’ve been here. The current system has all the registered voters on a computer database. The poll worker asks the voter for his/her name and types that name into the computer. Usually, the name is sufficient to bring up the registration information but the poll worker may need to request address information. As a verification check, the voter is routinely asked for date of birth.
There are seven principal voter-suppression tactics and then there is the special case of Florida:
One – Toughen Voter ID Requirements
A few years ago only Georgia and Indiana required photo IDs. Since then, 34 states have introduced photo ID laws. Five states enacted them; governors vetoed five; and others are considering them. A 2006 Brennan Center study found nearly one in five citizens over age 65 — 8 million — lack a current, government-issued photo ID. Some over age 65 were born before recording births was standard practice. 3.2 million voters in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin would find voting more difficult. Seventeen states require a non-voter ID.
Two – Create Hurdles to Get Required ID — even charge for it, making it like a poll tax.
Three – Intimidate Voter Registration Groups
Seven states since the 2010 elections have tried to add restrictions on voter registration and such laws passed in Florida and Texas. Florida is treated below as a special case.
Four – Try to Eliminate Same-Day Registration
The citizens of Maine shot down such an action. An Ohio elimination law is up on a referendum.
Five – Curtail Earlly Voting
This is being done mostly by reducing the number of days.
Six – Ban Felons From Voting
Florida is notorious for erroneous lists. Iowa has enacted a ban. An estimated 5.3 million ex-felons are denied the vote across the nation.
Seven – Bleed Election Administrative Budgets
Tennessee, Wisconsin and Texas have limited the operating hours or closed state offices where residents can get required photo IDs. In the three states above there are a total of 34 counties with no Department of Public Safety offices, including four where the Hispanic population is more than 75 percent.
Florida Governor Ric Scott wants to take his state into a version of its segregationist past by purging from the voting rolls numerous individuals. His original list included over 180,000 Floridians, 60 percent of them minorities. The poster boy of that list was a 92-year-old, who received a Bronze Star in World War II and had been a regular voter all of his adult life.
When Governor Scott proposed his original list, the Florida Secretary of State resigned in fear that he might be subject to a criminal prosecution. Shortly after the resignation, a liquor lobbyist visiting Scott was asked by Scott if he would like the vacated job. So it is a former liquor lobbyist who is pressuring some 67 county election commissioners to enforce the Scott election scheme. The Florida Attorney General has sent a letter to the local election heads advising them not to carry out the scheme and the U.S. Justice Department has also intervened.
Those sent a letter concerning their voting status had 30 days to respond. Presumably, those failing to respond with documentation of their right to vote were taken off the rolls.
The other Scott initiative is to so burden new voter registration that those trying to do so will give up the ghost. Previously, those registrating new voters had ten days to turn in their lists; however, Scott has seen to it that they have only 48 hours. Fines of as much as $1,000 a voter can be levied for submitting the name of an unqualified voter. The League of Women Voters and other voter registratrion groups have stopped registrating voters because of the onerous conditions imposed on the activity. A high school teacher is now facing thousands of dollars in fines for trying to register high school students.
As of about two months ago, a federal judge put a stay on carrying out the registration part of Governor’s Scott’s crusade against what would be overwhelmingly anti-GOP voters. The judge restored the ten-day reporting period and apparently stayed the imposition of fines.
Previously, in the United States, a prime objective was to expand the voting franchise. Now, a political party fearful of voting demographics, is seeking to shrink the voter base least likely to vote for its candidates.