Voter ID and Suppression Laws
I have had two topics twirling in my head for weeks now, each itching to be written; both hopefully bi-partisan and of interest to all. They were to be edifying in nature; more of an “I do not think this is getting nearly enough attention so I am going to talk about it.” But each topic required a little bit of reading and every time I sat to do it, Trump, the GOP or both did something that required online venting so my two ever important posts got pushed farther and farther to the bottom of the priority list.
Then this week happened and you know, I honestly did not think I could be more repulsed by this freak show we call “governing” but I was wrong. So tonight, I AM going to address one of those topics in the most objective and edifying way possible. But I have to tell you, I am just beyond words this Wednesday in July. The President is cyber bullying the Attorney General, banning trans genders in the military without telling the Secretary of Defense in order to “save money to build the wall,” and berating Republicans who refuse to vote for a tax cut for the wealthy that will eliminate health insurance for 32 million people. Yeah…..I think disgusted is the way to go here.
Let’s talk about voter suppression. Oh – wait. I should warn you. This will include a little history, and a little politics. But this post will be infused with rampant cynicism and a whole lot of spice. I do not mean to insult anyone, but I have got to tell you – it might happen. I am just that mad.
Voter suppression. In this arena, America does not have a proud history. In fact, it’s horribly embarrassing. It is really one of those “glass houses – throwing stones” stories and perhaps most importantly, hypocrisy dates to the founding. We give our Founders a lot of credit and yes, they were really smart. Brilliant even. But we really need to own up to a couple of myths about who they were and what they believed.
1). A good number of them were not Christian; thus, the whole “founded on Christian values” thing is hogwash. A lot of our Founders were Deists. Look it up. Deists were not Christian – in fact, Deists tended to mock the Christian masses for believing in the “mythical Jesus Christ Savior” idea. Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Madison – many questioned the basic Christian theology that we ascribe to them today. This “myth buster” has nothing to do with voter suppression but I’ve been wanting to throw this out for a long time and now I have.
2) They were NOT egalitarian and did NOT believe in universal suffrage. More importantly, they were scared of direct democracy. Our Founders created a Constitution and a government to prevent demagoguery and honestly, to prevent democracy. The bi-cameral legislature was a compromise. Remember – the Senate was elected by state legislatures and was considered the upper chamber. The direct election of Senators did not happen until much later in our history and only as a result of a constitutional amendment. Madison, the father of our constitution WARNED us against a Trumpian Presidency. In fact, much of the constitution and the checks and balances therein, were guards against majority oppression of the minority. Majority rule is democracy so thus, checks and balances were always meant to first and foremost protect minority interests against the whims of the majority, especially when the majority came under the influence of a demagogue.
The Founders never intended for the masses to vote; the franchise was intended only for those educated and propertied. They would choose representatives and be the ones to serve in government. The only question in the late 18th century was whether merchants, bankers and capitalists would be granted suffrage (the right to vote) in addition to the landed aristocracy. No one else and certainly not women and minorities were ever intended to have the right to cast a ballot.
The right to vote has ALWAYS been a hard fought battle and even when won, the assaults continued. Of interest may be the question of women’s suffrage which was ratified by the 19th Amendment in 1920. Universal women’s suffrage gained support within Protestant communities in order to pass the 18th Amendment, Prohibition. Interesting, right? It was almost a deal. “We will vote for Prohibition but you have to give us the right to vote first.”
Native Americans were granted the right to vote in 1924 but here’s a shock, states were allowed to deny that right until 1957. And then the greatest voting rights abomination in American history (which is not meant to insult women or Native Americans), that being the denial of the franchise to African Americans not just in the South but across the country in the 100 years after the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And actually, let’s not pretend that at the moment that the Voting Rights Act was passed that everyone in the South just said, “Oh ok….well, I guess since the federal government passed the law and the president signed it, we will stop lynching people and let blacks vote.”
Now here’s the thing. I’m not going to focus on the various laws and mechanisms to keep people away from the polls. Instead, I want to make the point of WHY. WHY do those in power want to limit the franchise? Answer: Because it is easier to stay in power if you only represent the interests of people that look and live just like you. It is that simple. The more competing interests in your constituency, the more difficult it is to remain in office. Oh – and then there’s the racism thing.
Here’s another little known fact but one I learned in high school – and yes, it is a fact. Republicans do much better in lower turn out elections. Democrats do better in higher turnout elections. Why? Because of the coalition that make up each party. The coalition that makes up the Republican Party are, for a variety of reasons, highly dependable voters. Democrats do not fare as well – and NO it is not because Democrats are lazy. I would be happy to post more detail on this in a separate thread but for right now, let’s just assume that I am right. Because I am. Just ask my Mom.
I hate to tell everyone this, but all of this is just background! We have not even gotten to the part that has Amy so disgusted! But it is coming so if you are going to bail, do it now.
I cannot tell you how important it is to vote. All elections matter and typically, your local elections matter more than state or federal. But guys – voting is critical but here’s the thing: Do not vote if you are going to be ignorant about the issues and there is absolutely no excuse for ignorance. Not with the internet. I would certainly caution you from getting your information from Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists on both the right and the left, but there are so many free resources available online via think tanks and advocacy groups that you can become informed in relatively short order. Pick a few issues and get informed – BEFORE you go to vote.
Now, here comes the spice. In 2016, a lot of Republicans held their nose and voted Trump because of the Supreme Court. “Oh my God, Hillary cannot put a liberal on the Court.” But I bet if I asked you “Okay – why not?” Not one person could tell me why putting a “liberal” on the Court would be such a horrible thing other than, “Abortion” or “Religious Freedom” or “I might have to bake a cake for a gay wedding.” Yes. Yes. I see how that could be a horrible tragedy for you.
On the flip side, I CAN tell you what a Conservative court will do to your rights as individuals. In fact, let’s add Citizens United to the list of topics for a future post. You are going to love it and when you are adversely affected by a conservative Supreme Court decision I will be there to say, “I. Told. You. So.”
Circling back to the need to vote…..liberals did a bad job of voting in 2010 and man, did we pay for it. Now, to the modern conservatives’ credit, the movement had been working diligently for decades at the state and local level gearing up for the 2000 and specifically 2010 election while the progressives were still basking in the glow of Obama. We were caught with our panties in a wad and the conservative Republicans were well organized for a take down.
Why was 2010 so important? Do you know? I bet you do. It’s the census!!! It’s the census!!!!! Remember that thing in the constitution? Every 10 years the federal government is required to count the population and collect specific demographic data. Next question – and this one is for all the marbles – what does the government do with all this data? Well I suppose a lot. But the thing I care about for this post is…..”reapportionment.” The government uses the population data in the census, taken every 10 years to determine first at the state level the number of Congressional representatives aligned to each state. But then – and this is really important – the state legislature, DRAWS the district lines, in theory to level out the number of constituents that each legislator represents.
This is where we get the term “gerry-mandering” and each party does it. John Oliver does a nice piece on it – you can probably find it on You Tube. Essentially, if Republicans are in the majority (at the state level), they will draw the lines to help Republican candidates and if Democrats are in the majority, then the lines are drawn to help Dems. And in 10 years, they start all over. Gerry-mandered districts (in this case, extreme gerry-mandered districts) throughout the country have resulted in many House districts that are so safe for Republican incumbents that they simply do not have to moderate their views. The Freedom Caucus (the far right conservatives) are in incredibly safe districts because the lines have been drawn that way. These congressmen represent people who look and live exactly like them. Their constitutes likely hate government, hate Obama, love Trump and believe that the only people deserving of federal dollars are the military and well, themselves. These representatives will not have competition until MAYBE 2022 when the lines are re-drawn and that is a big MAYBE.
Now we have gotten to the part about voter suppression and I would really suggest that you just stop reading now if you are not in the mood for sarcasm and what I would call “robust honesty.” Because in addition to the gerry-mandering (and again – BOTH parties do this. It’s not right and causes problems but we will save that for a later post), the Republican legislatures have done a particularly good job at targeting minority voter rights under the guise of “voter integrity.” Democrats DO NOT do this because DEMOCRATS benefit from higher turnout elections. (Note* The Democratic Party used to be the conservative party in America. It was the states’ rights party, the party of slavery, the party of segregation and the party of Jim Crow. This changed throughout the latter half of the 20th century. It’s an amazing story but in short, the Dems and GOP essentially switched roles in this particular area).
I have to tell you. I am impressed with the Republican “talking points” used to justify the need for stricter voter id laws. And really, when you, the average white voter thinks “Well that sounds reasonable. I think it makes sense to show an id to vote” it really does make sense. And that is what they WANT you to think. They got me too! I’m a progressive! But here’s the thing. You have to ask the question: what ID’s are allowed? What ID’s are NOT allowed? And for those ID’s that are allowed, how easy is it to get? Does it cost money? What documentation is required to obtain? How easy it is to obtain that documentation?
Let’s walk through a use case, shall we? Let’s say I’m a 44 year old Connecticut resident who owns a car. Hey guess what? A state issued current driver’s license is acceptable for proof of identification! I can vote!
Okay, let’s try this one. I’m a 44 year old woman without a car who lives in some big city in North Carolina. I do not have a current driver’s license. I really do not need one. I work at a super market and use public transportation. North Carolina just passed a Voter ID law, so I need to get a driver’s license OR a basic state issued ID in order to vote. I do not have access to the internet, so I have to ask a friend for help in checking out the state website to find out a) where I can go to get the id and b) what documents are necessary to prove my identity. I find out that I need two forms of id plus an original birth certificate with a raised seal and apply for the picture id in person during very specific hours and one of 2 locations throughout the state. OK. Well I was born in Alabama. So my friend helps me go online to find out how to get my birth certificate. Fortunately, I can request one online, but I have to pay $50 for it and it will take up to 6 weeks to receive. I do not have $50 so I have to ask my friend to put it on her credit card until I can pay her back when I get paid that next week. Six weeks later, I get the birth certificate! The North Carolina web site says that I can bring a piece of mail as the second form of ID to prove that I am who I say I am. I work with my supervisor at the grocery store to get a few hours off on Wednesday because that is when the Department of Motor Vehicles is open AND accepting applications for ID’s. It will take an hour to get there by bus because of transfers, but by God, I am going to get that ID! I get there and take a number. Two hours later, my number is called and walk up to the counter with all my documents. The lady is really nice but the name on my birth certificate has my full middle name and the piece of mail only has my middle initial and unfortunately, the law specifies that they must match. The nice lady says, “You will have to come back at another time.”
If anyone thinks this is a unique case or that this does not happen, you are naïve at best and at worse, ignorant. What demographic is susceptible to this type of run around? Nailed it. You see, Republican state legislatures do not just pass “Voter ID laws.” They add clarification and detail to the voter id law that targets specific groups without actually calling out a group by race or ethnicity. See how easy it is?
Hey – here’s another one. Statistically, what demographic “moves” more often? Here’s a hint: it’s not white people. Wait wait – it’s not, “middle and upper middle class white people who tend to vote Republican.” In 2000 I lived in West Des Moines Iowa. It was a lovely suburb and over the ten years I lived there, I saw lots of money come and go. Today that entire area is unrecognizable and is a wonderful place to raise a family. But sometime between 1996 and 2000, I moved from an apartment to my first condo and while it was only 4 blocks away, my new address was in a different precinct. I did not realize it until I went to my old precinct to try to vote in the Presidential election. The nice lady looked for me on the voter role and when she could not find me, asked a few questions and said, “oh honey, you are in the wrong place!” Then she offered two options: Drive the 3 blocks to the correct precinct site and vote there or cast a provisional ballot at my old precinct and after validating that I did not vote in my new precinct, my ballot would be counted. I think I voted provisionally because I remember being in a hurry. Now, I’m 44 and have really just moved 3 times. The only issue I ever had was in 2000. Now assume that you move every year or two and maybe, like me you just move within the neighborhood. The ability to cast provisional ballots is set by the legislature and you know, Republican legislatures since 2010 have a tendency to limit this type of flexibility. Mmmmmm. Interesting, right? So what the Republican legislatures will do is pass laws that disallow provisional ballots from being cast. So in my example, that nice lady would have said, “oh honey, you have to go to this other precinct to vote.” Now, if that precinct was really just a couple blocks away, then it might not be a big deal. But….and you know where this is going, don’t you? I guess “just by the luck of the draw” the new precinct seems to always be farther away than it needs to be and requires another bus ride. Again, we are talking about a population that works hourly, relies on public transportation and has limited options and time for voting as compared to say, well….people that look a lot like me.
Early voting is another good one. Do you know who takes advantage of early voting? Three guesses and the first two do not count!!!! Nailed it. Minorities tend to vote early. In fact, North Carolina is my favorite example of targeting minority voters by limiting “early voting.” This past election cycle, the Republican legislature (and I have to say – if you doubt any of this, you really have to read some of the reports because the Republicans were so incredibly stupid about how they targeted minorities with their voter suppression laws, it was ridiculous. In reviewing the federal appeals court ruling that overturned the law, I could almost feel the judge cringe at the audacity of these law makers. “Legislatures targeting minorities with surgical precision” is a line that I will not forget). In North Carolina, black churches do a great job of coordinating “Souls to the Polls.” Get this: North Carolina collected all this voter data and determined that in these specifically black districts, a good deal of early voting was done on the 2 Sundays before election day. Well that was because after church, the congregation would have a lovely potluck lunch, climb on a bus and go to the polls. No one told anyone how to vote, and no one campaigned for any candidates. Transportation and good Christian fellowship was provided to all. And those fuckers in North Carolina decided to shut down early voting AND they closed early voting precincts in predominately minority districts.
Folks, these are just the highlights. Conservative media throws out some bullets about “voter fraud” without providing any proof of actual fraudulent voting. In fact – oh and this is priceless – there were a few reports after this last election of proven duplicate votes by Trump supporters. That was hilarious. I also like the “dead people that vote for Democrats.” Have you ever wondered why dead people vote for Democrats and not Republicans? Probably not but I have. People have thrown this at me throughout the years and honest to God in my youth, I would entertain it. But now I just shake my head. Because to believe that, you would have to believe that the Democratic Party – the Party that could not manage to defeat this orange buffoon of a man, somehow coordinated a national conspiracy of “live human beings” to somehow vote once for themselves and then go back to the polls with the fake id’s of dead people. I guess it’s possible that the same person running Hillary’s pedophile ring was also running this “dead voter ring.” I love my party. I do. But we have better things to do than coordinate a dead pedophile ring of voters.
Now. In all those votes cast in 2016, were there voting abnormalities? Of course. Do we need to harden our infrastructure to ensure voter integrity? Yes. But I just find it incredibly hypocritical to focus on the insignificant and stupid (dead people) while at the same time ignoring the warnings of the intelligence community that the Russians were trying to get into state voting machines. Wait. What? Yes allow me to serve up the irony on a shiny golden plate: the same Republican Party that passed all these laws in states with Republican legislatures (just Google – you will find them) in order to certify the “integrity” of the ballot box and to ensure the public faith in our democracy – told our intelligence community and the President (Obama) that they did not believe the Russians trying to hack into various state voter rolls and threatened – yep threatened the President that if he went public with the information claiming that Russia was trying to help Trump that the GOP would YELL and scream that he was playing partisan politics. That was Mitch McConnell. If you do not believe me, then please go find the article by the WaPo. It’s in my Facebook Feed. Trump even referenced it because one of the quotes by the Obama official was “We choked.” He liked that part.
So let’s just evaluate the hypocrisy here. We have a foreign power actively trying to get into multiple state election systems with proof provided by our intelligence community and the GOP shrugs its shoulders. But oh my goodness, we have to make sure that the dead voters do not vote for the Democrats (I guess if the dead voted for Republicans it would be okay? Let’s put a pin in that one for later discourse).
In the post Reconstruction South, the former Confederate states did not pass laws that said, “blacks cannot vote” because that would violate the 15th amendment. I mean – they were not that stupid. Instead, they passed laws like “the grandfather clause.” That law said that if your grandfather could not vote, then you could not vote. So if your grandfather was a slave, then I guess he could not vote…therefore, you could not vote, which would mean that your grandson could not vote, right? Or literacy laws that said, “you have to be able to read in order to vote.” But guess what? If blacks are not allowed in schools, then how do they learn to read? Poll taxes – if you do not have the money to pay the tax, you could vote and then, your grandson could not vote. And then if none of these laws worked to keep you home on election day, the big burning cross on your front lawn would do the trick. It was an iterative process to dissuade.
So none of this is new and THAT is why I’m so angry. In 2013, Antonin Scalia was still alive and well and in a 5-4 CONSERVATIVE ruling, struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The important part of that law was that in the 9 states of the old confederacy (so the states with a pretty clear and documented case of voter suppression and outright racism), any change in election laws had to be reviewed and approved by the federal government. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority. His decision was based on the idea that it had been 50 – 60 years. Prejudices change, people change. Those living today had nothing to do with what happened 60 years ago. Roberts pointed to Congress saying that legislatures needed to pass laws to remedy discrimination according to current conditions.
Guess what? That’s EXACTLY what the legislatures did!!! Not Congress – but all those state legislatures. That ruling came down in June of 2013. Immediately after that ruling, states with Republican legislatures began to pass laws described above in order to suppress voters that tended to vote for the Democratic Party. This cannot be argued or denied by the facts. It happened after the Civil War and Reconstruction and throughout the 20th century. Now it is happening again thanks to a conservative Supreme Court. We will have more such rulings as the Court becomes more conservative.
And if you are white and/or Republican, then I guess it does not matter to you. In fact, you are likely quite happy! To you, I say congratulations. But the democracy will not fare well and in fact, the divisions between rich and poor, blacks and whites, this and that will get worse. These divisions are what bring down democracies and republics and while it may not happen in our lifetimes, it will happen.
Do we need a voter integrity commission? Hell no. Certainly not the one headed by Kris Kobach. You know what we do need? We need a bi partisan, multi-cultural commission to review voting laws and practices across this country to understand what drives voter apathy and excitement. This country has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the world. For God’s sake this is America. We need a commission to understand why Americans choose not to vote and how comfortable they feel with their options when they do. And sure, let’s throw in a review of voter fraud and an assessment of voter security and infrastructure. Let’s conduct a review of federal support for state and local election commissions – interestingly, the Republican House just stripped funding for the “Election Assistance Commission” which is the ONE federal program set up to assist state and local administrations in the cyber security arena. Good timing given the recent Russian attack huh?
But this is not what Kobach wants to do. Kobach wants to collect data in order to intimidate voters. That is the intent. Now that is my assumption based on observations. I do not want anyone to believe I know something that I do not. But given his history…yeah, he wants to intimidate minority voters into staying home on election day. And on the day that Kobach sent the infamous “show us your data” letter to all 50 states, the DOJ quietly sent another letter to the states asking for details on each’s process for maintaining voter rolls. The expectation from the left is that the DOJ under Sessions will call for a full throated purge of voter rolls ahead of the 2018 mid-term election. Guess what party that will hurt?
Now, if you are committed to the Right Wing Conservative Media Empire and their ridiculous talking points and have actually read this entire post, then all I can say is “one day your grandchildren will ask you what you stood for during this time period.” Please – – continue to believe that voter fraud is pervasive and that the only way to preserve democratic integrity is by passing laws. If that helps you sleep better at night, then please by all means, continue to live with that illusion.
But the facts are illustrative of something else entirely so I would suggest to get a good over the counter sleep aid and admit that that something is off in GOP land. Since the dawn of the Republic, those in power have done everything possible to preserve that power by disenfranchising the competition. They have used a variety of tactics and maneuvers. America has done a lot of great things, but those great things do not and will not out shine the perverse and sinful mistakes of our past. When a Christian screws up and sins, we know it. The Bible tells us we have to ask Jesus for forgiveness and accept it when given. I learned that in Sunday School. But I learned something else. Jesus expects us to learn from our mistakes and I have to believe that after forgiving me for hitting my sister, He would not be pleased if I hit her again.
Voter suppression is real and is much more significant than “voter fraud.” Every single American is responsible for saying “hell no” and you know what? Voting for Republicans simply enables this behavior.
I do not have any kids but I suspect that someday Nikki, Bryant or one of their kids will ask me about this time period. I hope they do because it will mean they are interested in American history and American politics. Now, my response will of course be couched depending on the age of the inquisitor. But I can tell you this: I will be proud to tell them the side of history I supported. I will not have to lie or pretend that I supported the “right” thing when really I favored the voter suppression law. And I have to tell you – as angry as I am this week, and as fed up as I am with the 38% enabling this president and the Republican majority, it is knowing that PROGRESS always perseveres that keeps me from simply firing off insults and instead, refuting talking points with facts.
But let’s see what happens tomorrow. If I were to bet, I’d lay odds on Trump issuing an executive order to round up all of the Thanksgiving turkeys that Obama pardoned and sending them to the guillotine. Republican leaders in Congress shake their head in dismay. Speaker Ryan issues a statement, “It is fully within the power of the president to issue and revoke turkey pardons. I have not seen the tweet of the day and do not make it a practice to commit on every single Tweet emanating from the White House. And now, if you will excuse me, I need to get the rod in my back adjusted as I am losing rigidity in my upper torso” (Meaning, my lack of a spine has rendered me prostrate).
Amy, from the Facebook Archives