Recently there have been several states who have passed new voting laws that are stated as preventing voter fraud. While very few episodes of fraud have been found by the Government Accountability Boards of these states, (despite study after study) the stampeding effort to ensure the laws are passed raises the questions of; Why are they all fired to ensure passage of this bill? Who does it impact? What can be done?
At stake for all of these bills is the 2012 Presidential Election. With some clever redistricting (I’ll cover that later) and the voter registration laws, several groups will be disenfranchised this next election. As E.J. Dionne stated in his most recent blog:
These statutes are not neutral. Their greatest impact will be to reduce turnout among African Americans, Latinos and the young. It is no accident that these groups were key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — or that the laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments.
These new laws require voter identification cards at the polls, limiting the time of early voting, ending same day registration, and making it difficult for groups to register new voters. For an interesting example, Texas voter law states that a handgun license is an acceptable form of ID but a student ID is not. Looking at this reasonably, handgun owners typically vote Republican, while students are less likely to do so. Besides Texas, more states, such as Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee all have these new laws. Indiana and Georgia had already had their laws in place. Maine has voted to end same day registration, and Florida has shortened the early voting period and made it very difficult to change addresses the day of voting. Since in 2008 the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter registration law, legal redress may not be available anytime soon. Yet, one can see that this will indeed become a civil rights issue. Referring back to Mr. Dionne’s blog one more time, I admire his response to this problem;
Whether or not these laws can be rolled back, their existence should unleash a great civic campaign akin to the voter-registration drives of the civil rights years. The poor, the young and people of color should get their IDs, flock to the polls and insist on their right to vote in 2012.
As I stated, redistricting is also essential to the election plans being made in 2012. For the first time in 30 years of Wisconsin history, one party is able to do the redistricting. Generally, redistricting is done with the leadership of both parties doing major politicing. Then a Democratic plan and a Republican plan are offered to the assembly, senate and on to the governor for the final signature. Needless to say, that is not happening this year. Instead, Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has asked the state to spend state money on two legal firms that would ensure that the redistricting map meets state and federal guidelines. State Representative Kelda Helen Roys disagreed with the move to hire outside legal assistance.
“It seems that the Republicans, because they’ve chosen to go this route, want to draw the most partisan map they could think of,” Roys said. “Using the non-partisan legal counsel could have been free and taxpayers would have access to the memos that come out of the process.”
Wisconsin is not the only state that is being redistricted. Texas and New Jersey are undergoing similar processes. This type of legislation that can impact both state and federal elections is being passed while attention is diverted toward other bills that are as bad for the people. While cutting state and federal jobs, failing to create ANY jobs in local sectors, increasing deductions from payrolls and breaking up union bargaining rules their hope is that this information will fall off the grid. It ensures electoral victories in 2012.
The battle lines are drawn, and we will have to choose our path. Find out the exact ID’s that are acceptable and ensure they are available to all who want to vote. Become a “Special Voter Registration Deputy” to pre-register as many voters as possible. Fan out to Nursing Homes, Retirement Centers, and home bound to ensure early voting is available and completed. Any other action that will put a ‘spoke in the wheel’ of this unjust law. I am sure I did not think of all the ways to thwart this legal hijacking of our vote, so please feel free to suggest more!
This final quote is courtesy of Defend Wisconsin, a great grass roots organization.
If you are a Wisconsin resident, you voted in the last election and you haven’t moved since then, you won’t be asked for proof of residence in the July 12 elections.
However, if this is your first time voting, you’ll be required to provide proof that you’ve lived at your current Wisconsin residence for at least 28 days. Parents and neighbors can no longer vouch for your residence, as the bill “continues current requirements for certain electors to provide proof of residence … but discontinues the use of corroborating electors to verify residence.” Current acceptable forms of proof of residence are, according to the Government Accountability Board:
A current and valid Wisconsin driver license.
A current and valid Wisconsin identification card.
Any other official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit.
Any identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the card holder, but not including a business card.
A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election.
A residential lease which is effective for a period that includes election day (NOT for first-time voters registering by mail).
A university, college or technical institute fee card (must include photo).
A university, college or technical institute identification card (must include photo).
A gas, electric or telephone service statement (utility bill) for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before election day.