as 2012 draws near, u.s. states ramp up voter suppression

Way back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a lot about voter suppression and election fraud in the US, posts under the general category election fraud - fraud in the general sense of "fraudulent democracy". Since then, a few states have passed a few laws mandating oversight of electronic voting, but other than that, little has changed. Voter suppression, voter intimidation, election disinformation campaigns, vote stealing, vote switching and other purposeful, malevolent attempts to undermine what's left of democracy in the US remains rampant.

Right now, a wave of voter suppression laws are being passed all over the US — laws designed to keep huge numbers of voters away from the polls in 2012. And what a surprise, these laws disproportionately affect African-Americans, seniors, students and people with disabilities. The ACLU counts 18 states that have either passed or or are threatening to pass restrictive voter ID bills in this legislative session alone. These laws could block the votes of a combined 21 million Americans who do not have government-issued photo ID, a disproportionate number of whom are low-income, people of colour, and elderly.

You may have heard about a case in 2008 in which 12 nuns were prevented from voting in Indiana. The women were in their 80s, had a history of voting in past elections, and did not drive; limited mobility made it difficult for them to obtain ID. They were turned away from the polls. This is a typical scenario. Multiply it by hundreds, thousands, millions. It amounts to a widespread, coordinated effort by governors and state legislators to prevent people from voting.

In some (although not all) states, if Attorney General Eric Holder determines that these laws violate the Voting Rights Act, he can deny the approval needed before they can take effect. If you live in the US, please go here to send a letter to Holder and help the ACLU's work. If you don't... consider yourself lucky.

Excerpts from the ACLU's fact sheet on voter ID laws:

* There is no credible evidence that in-person impersonation voter fraud -- the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem.

* Proponents of voter ID laws have failed to demonstrate that individual, in -person voter fraud is even a minor problem anywhere in the country.

* Multiple studies have found that almost all cases of in-person impersonation voter "fraud" are the result of a voter making an honest mistake, and that even these mistakes are extremely infrequent.

* It is important, instead, to focus on both expanding the franchise and ending practices which actually threaten the integrity of the elections, such as improper purges of voters, voter harassment, and distribution of false information about when and where to vote. None of these issues, however, are addressed or can be resolved with a photo ID requirement.

* Requiring voters to obtain an ID in order to vote is tantamount to a poll tax. Although some states issue IDs for free, the birth certificates, passports, or other documents required to obtain a government-issued ID cost money, and many Americans simply cannot afford to pay for them.

* In addition, states incur sizable costs when providing IDs to voters who do not have them. Given the financial strain many states already are experiencing, this is an unnecessary allocation of taxpayer dollars.

* Voter ID laws have a disproportionate and unfair impact on low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minority voters, students, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others who do not have a government-issued ID or the money to acquire one.

* The Supreme Court has held that a state cannot value one person’s vote over another and that is exactly what these laws do.

* Research shows that 11% of US citizens – or more than 21 million Americans -- do not have government-issued photo identification.

* As many as 25% of African American citizens of voting age do not have a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of their white counterparts.

* 18% of Americans over the age of 65 (or 6 million senior citizens) do not have a government-issued photo ID.

* Any requirement that citizens show government-issued photo ID at the polls reintroduces an enormous amount of discretion into the balloting process, thus creating opportunities for discrimination at the polls against racial, ethnic and language minority voters.

* Most polling places rely on volunteers or poll workers with minimal training to check in voters and answer questions. There is a risk that inadequately trained workers could turn away and disfranchise even properly documented voters.

* Voter ID requirements are a dangerous and misguided step backwards in our ongoing quest for a more democratic society.

* Elected officials should be seeking ways to encourage more voters, not inventing excuses to deny voters the ability to cast their ballots. Photo ID requirements present substantial barriers to voting and negatively effect voter participation.

* Today, 30 states have enacted discriminatory voter ID laws that prevent citizens from voting, and more states are considering such restrictive and discriminatory laws.

* The history of [the US] is characterized by a gradual expansion of voting rights. As our democracy continued to evolve with the right to vote has been expanded to include most Americans.

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