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From Poll Taxes to Voter ID Laws: A Short History of Conservative Voter Suppression March 29, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Socialism.
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(Roger’s note: it is a simple phrase, but it says just about everything: “without economic democracy, political democracy is a sham.”  With a Supreme Court giving carte blanche to corporations to fund campaigns, with billionaire-funded “grass roots” organizations such as the Tea Party disenfranchising  masses of voters as discussed in the article below, with massive powerful lobbies such as Big Pharma and the private health insurance industry virtually writing legislation to protect their selfish interests – who can argue that political democracy in the United States, or anywhere in the world for that matter, is genuine democracy?  Democratic socialism is nothing more or less than economic democracy, and it can only come about through the destruction of the capitalist form of production, a mode of production that inherently exploits and alienates living human labour, a mode that is by its very nature undemocratic and which replicates itself in the world of social and political relations.)

Sunday 27 March 2011

by: Kevin Donohoe  |  Think Progress | Report

Thursday, ThinkProgress reported that the Ohio House had approved the most restrictive voter id law in the nation — a bill that would exclude 890,000 Ohioans from voting. Earlier this week Texas lawmakers passed a similar bill, and voter id legislation — which would make it significantly more difficult for seniors, students and minorities to vote — is now under consideration in more than 22 states across the country

Conservatives have said voter id laws are necessary to combat mass voter fraud. Yet according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Americans are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than commit voter fraud. And the Bush administration’s five-year national “war on voter fraud” resulted in only 86 convictions of illegal voting out of more than 196 million votes cast. Instead conservatives are employing an old tactic: using the specter of false voting to restrict the voting rights of minorities and the poor.

Below, ThinkProgress examines the history of conservatives anti-voter agenda:

Jim Crow South: In the Jim Crow South, historian Leon Litwack writes, “respectable” Southern whites justified their support for measures to disenfranchise African-Americans “as a way to reform and purify the electoral process, to root out fraud and bribery.” In North Carolina for example, conservatives insisted that literacy tests and poll taxes — which disenfranchised tens of thousands of African-Americans — were necessary to prevent “voter fraud.”

1981 RNC Voter Caging Scandal: According to Project Vote, in 1981 the Republican National Committee mailed non-forwardable postcards to majority Hispanic and African-American districts in New Jersey in an effort to accuse those voters of false voting. The 45,000 returned cards were rncthen used to create a list of voters whose residency the GOP could challenge at the polls. The Democratic National Committee sued, winning a consent decree in which the RNC agreed not to engage in practices “where the purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting.” Similar initiatives were undertaken by the Arizona GOP in 1958, the RNC in 1962 and again, despite the decree, in Louisiana in 1986.

Recent Voter Caging Efforts: During the 2004 election GOP state parties, along with dozens of unidentified groups, launched similar “voter caging” efforts designed to challenge the eligibility of thousands of minority voters by accusing them of voter fraud. And in 2008, the Obama campaign sued the Michigan Republican Committee for collecting a list of foreclosures in an effort to challenge the residency, and eligibility, of voters who had lost their home in the housing crisis.

US Attorney David Iglesias Firing Scandal: In an unprecedented politicization of the Justice Department, in 2006 the Bush White House fired US Attorney David Iglesias for refusing to prosecute voting fraud cases where little evidence existed. The New Mexico political establishment asked for Iglesias’ dismissal after he refused to cooperate with the party’s efforts to make voter id laws “the single greatest wedge issue ever.”

US Attorney Tom Heffelfinger Dismissal: In Minnesota, US Attorney Tom Heffelfinger lost his position when he ran afoul of GOP activists for “expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.”

Wisconsin, The Kochs and the 2010 Election: Last fall ThinkProgress reported that a coalition of Wisconsin Tea Party and Koch-funded groups, in an effort to stop “voter fraud” and prevent “stolen elections,” was planning a sophisticated voter caging effort that would use GOP lawyers and Tea Party volunteers to challenge the eligibility of voters at polls in the state. Earlier that year, the same groups were instrumental in defeating a voter protection law that would have criminalized any attempt to use force or coercion to “compel any person to refrain from voting.” One prominent Tea Party member behind the voter caging effort that “since the voter law did not get passed this year… we can still do this.”

As statehouses across the country move forward on voter identification bills, ThinkProgress will continue to track conservatives latest efforts to advance their century-old anti-voter agenda.

Republican Lawmaker to Asian-Americans: I’m Not Gonna Learn Chinese, So Can’t You Change Your Funny Names? April 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Electoral Fraud, Race, Racism.
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betty-brown

Posted by Tana Ganeva, AlterNet at 12:44 PM on April 9, 2009.

During a hearing on voter ID legislation, Texas Republican Betty Brown said Americans of Asian descent should “simplify” their names
On Tuesday, the Texas legislature heard arguments on voter ID legislation that would require photo ID — or two non-photo IDs — at the polls. An obvious necessity, of course, since everyone in the U.S. loves voting so much that there are scores of people clamoring to do it illegally. (In fact, there is no evidence of voter ID fraud in Texas).

 

 

Democratic lawmakers and several voting experts brought up the good — and oft-repeated — points that a) voter ID laws are a fake solution to a non-existent problem, and b) they disenfranchise poor, minority voters. (You know, the ones that tend to NOT vote Republican.)

 

 

Republicans, in turn, kept pushing the möbius strip argument that while there is a) no evidence of voter fraud b)voter fraud is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. 

 

 

Then, Rep. Betty Brown from Terrell, Texas turned the Republican position from absurd and subtly racist to really absurd and overtly racist. Following a presentation on the voting difficulties faced by Americans of Asian descent, whose legal names don’t always match their everyday names, Brown said the following:

 

 

 

 

Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?

 

 

Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?

 

 

 

 

Yep. That’s what she said. You know what’s fun? Thinking of Brown’s statement as one of those “What’s Wrong With This Picture” puzzles. I have this so far: 1) “learn Chinese” — actually, at issue are Americans of Asian — not just Chinese — descent 2) “you and your citizens” — in fact, the people under discussion are American citizens 3) The assumption that descendants of immigrants should accommodate the ignorance of some Americans by changing their names!

 

 

Asked to issue an apology by Democrats excited that Republicans are doing their work for them, Brown responded by … saying something else that was racially insensitive. A spokesperson for the Rep. grumbled that Democrats are making too big a deal of the issue and the Rep. was merely trying to resolve an ID problem. “They want this to just be about race,” the flack said, according to the Houston Chronicle.

What if Obama Had Lost? Did He Have a Concession Speech Ready? November 5, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, U.S. Election 2008.
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Either Obama was going to win, or there were going to be riots.  Here is one of the articles describing the kinds of preparations police were making in serveral US urban centers.

article imagePolice Nationwide Bracing for Possible Civil Unrest on Election Night

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/261500

African Americans and other minorities voted overwhelmingly for Obama.  The Black vote was probably over 90%.  White America did not elect Barack Obama, they would have preferred McCain/Palin.  We should not forget that.  It is a scary statistic.

If McCain had won, it was common wisdom that this would have to had been a result of massive electoral fraud.  The presidency was stolen in 2000 and 2004.  There was no reason — perhaps apart from Obama’s large lead in the polls (although even there there were discrepancies) — to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Imagine a McCain victory and riots in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Newark, Detroit, etc.  There can be no doubt (or can there?) that Obama would be on the air urging the rioters (insurgents?) to cease and desist.  But what could he promise them other than eight more years of White racist neo-Fascist rule?

Thankfully, as we celebrate this historic moment, we do not have to live that imagined nightmare.

A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows October 18, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

photo
Michael Winship sees the ACORN “election fraud” story as one of the urban legends that come up every election cycle.

   

 

 ACORN and election fraud. Hang on. As soon as I can get the alligator that crawled out of my toilet back into the New York City sewers where it belongs, I can turn my attention to this very important topic.

    You see, the ACORN “election fraud” story is one of those urban legends, like fake moon landings and alligators in the sewers, and it appears three or four weeks before every recent national election with the regularity of the swallows returning to Capistrano. First, the basics: ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an activist group working with low- and moderate-income families to, among many other things, register voters. To do this, they hire people to go around signing up the unregistered, killing two birds with one stone – giving employment to people who need it (some with criminal records) and providing the opportunity to vote to members of minority communities whose voices all too often go unheard.

    What happens is that some of those hired to do the registering, who are paid by the name, make people up. As a result, you’ll discover that among the registrants are such obvious fakes as Mickey Mouse and the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys, among others.

    This is where the Republican meme kicks in. As they have in past elections (although now louder and more angrily than ever), the G.O.P. has made ACORN the red flag du jour as the party tries to mobilize its conservative base and, allegedly, attempts to suppress the vote and distract attention from accusations of election tampering made against them, too.

    The charge is that these fake registrations will create havoc at the polls. On Tuesday morning, former Republican Sens. John Danforth and Warren Rudman, chairs of Senator McCain’s Honest and Open Elections Committee, held a press conference and described the results of the bad seeds in ACORN’s registration program as “a potential nightmare.” Danforth said he was concerned “that this election night and the days that follow will be a rerun of 2000, and even worse than 2000.”

    John McCain raised it at Wednesday night’s final debate and went further, adding, “We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who [sic] is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy É”

    Obama replied, “ACORN is a community organization. Apparently, what they have done is they were paying people to go out and register folks. And apparently, some of the people who were out there didn’t really register people; they just filled out a bunch of names. Had nothing to do with us. We were not involved.”

    Which is not to say Obama has not been associated with ACORN in the recent past. He has. As he said in the debate, as a lawyer, he joined with the group in partnership with the US Justice Department to implement a motor voter registration law in Illinois – allowing folks to register to vote at their local DMV. His work as a community organizer bought him into contact with ACORN, the organization received money from the Woods Fund while he was a board member there, and his presidential campaign gave ACORN more than $800,000 to help with get-out-the-vote campaigns during the primary season – but not, apparently, for registration drives.

    All of this distracts from several important points. ACORN has registered 1.3 million voters and maintains that in virtually every instance it is ACORN that has reported the incidents of fraud.

    As the organization asserted in a response to Senator McCain, “ACORN hired 13,000 field workers to register people to vote. In any endeavor of this size, some people will engage in inappropriate conduct. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and terminated any field workers caught engaging in questionable activity. At the end of the day, as ACORN is paying these people to register voters, it is ACORN that is defrauded.”

    Arrests have been made, as well they should be.

    Add to this the simple fact that registration fraud is not election fraud. Seventy-five made-up people who are registered as, say, “Brad Pitt,” are not likely going to show up at some polling place on November 4 to vote in the election. Because they don’t exist. (Besides, Angelina would never give them time off from babysitting duties.)

    Granted, there are ways to mail in an absentee ballot under a fake name and, too, from time to time some joker is going to come to the polls and try to bluff his or her way in. But despite the charge that thousands and thousands of fakes will flood the machines and throw off the count, it does not happen very often. And according to ACORN, “Even RNC [Republican National Committee] General Counsel Sean Cairncross has recently acknowledged he is not aware of a single improper vote cast as a result of bad cards submitted in the course of an organized voter registration effort.”

    Not that this has stopped the G.O.P. from banging the same drum every national election. And amnesiac members of the media and some government agencies from buying into it every time. Last year, The New York Times reported that the federal Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act, legislation enacted after the Florida debacle, was told by a pair of experts – one Republican, the other described as having “liberal leanings” – that there was not that much fraud to be found. But their conclusions were downplayed.

    As per the Times, “Though the original report said that among experts ‘there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,’ the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that ‘there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.'”

    Which raises the ongoing investigation of the Justice Department’s firing of those eight US attorneys shortly after President Bush’s re-election. It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite official explanations, half of them were let go after refusing to prosecute vote fraud charges demanded by Republicans. The attorneys had determined there was little or no evidence of skullduggery; certainly not enough to prosecute.

    (In an interview with Talking Points Memo on Thursday, one of those fired attorneys, David Iglesias, reacted to reports that the FBI has launched an investigation of ACORN: “I’m astounded that this issue is being trotted out again. Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it’s a scare tactic.”)

    What’s equally if not more scary are continued allegations of Republican attempts at “caging” minority voters – making challenge lists of African- and Hispanic-Americans registered in heavily Democratic districts. Just this week, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that voters could not be purged from the rolls in that state simply because their mailing address was invalid – this followed a failed attempt by a Michigan Republican county chairman to use a list of foreclosed homes as the basis of voter challenges.

    This comes on the heels of a recent report from the Brennan Center at New York University documenting how state officials – often with the best of intentions – purge huge numbers of perfectly legal voters from the rolls.

    As my colleague Bill Moyers reported, “Hundreds of thousands of legal voters may have been dumped in recent years, many without ever being notified.” The report describes a “process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.”

    Hardly reassuring words if you want democracy to work, and sadly, not an urban legend, but the simple truth.

Who Gets to Vote? October 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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By Amy Goodman

October 16, 2008/truthdig.com

The 2008 presidential election may see the highest participation in U.S. history. Voter-registration organizations and local election boards have been overwhelmed by enthusiastic people eager to vote. But not everyone is happy about this blossoming of democracy.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has become a lightning rod for the right wing. ACORN’s Web site notes that “the electorate does not reflect the citizenry of the United States of America. It skews whiter, older, more educated and more affluent than the citizenry as a whole.” Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s lead organizer, told me: “We organize low- and moderate-income people, usually folks who are minorities—African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and working-class white people. And most of these folks have always been disenfranchised out of the electoral process. … We’ve registered 1.3 million new voters across the country over an 18-month period of time. We had over 13,000 hard-working voter-registration workers. And we may have had a few bad apples, but I don’t know any organization that didn’t.”

Barack Obama himself was questioned about ACORN’s problematic registrations. He said: “Having run a voter-registration drive, I know how problems arise. This is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people, because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid. So there’s been fraud perpetrated on probably ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations. But this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, because these are phony names.”

ACORN has seen some clearly fraudulent registrations submitted, with names like “Mickey Mouse” turned in. ACORN says it reviews all the registration forms. However, it does not serve as the ultimate arbiter of which registrations are fraudulent. In fact, ACORN cannot legally throw away any voter-registration cards. It flags suspicious cards and submits them to the appropriate state election authority to make the judgment.

Republicans are increasingly alarmed at the shifting demographics of the United States. Minorities tend to vote Democratic, and the United States is slowly becoming a majority minority country—by 2050, whites will no longer represent a majority in the U.S. As right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan lamented in 2004: “In 1960, when JFK defeated Nixon, America was a nation of 160 million, 90 percent white and 10 percent black, with a few million Hispanics and Asians sprinkled among us. We were one nation, one people. We worshiped the same God, spoke the same English language.” Buchanan’s xenophobia highlights a political reality: Immigration and mobilization of the urban poor are shifting the electorate to the Democrats, especially in key swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Ohio.

The federal Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002 in response to the electoral crisis of 2000. But it requires new voters to present identification at the polling place, which critics allege is a modern-day Jim Crow law. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (the son of the assassinated 1968 presidential candidate) said recently: “I have an ID, and most Americans have an ID. But one out of every 10 Americans don’t have a government-issued ID, because they don’t travel abroad, so they don’t have passports, and they don’t drive a car, so they don’t have driver’s licenses. The number rises to one in five when you’re dealing with the African-American community.” The online Michigan Messenger revealed that Michigan Republicans were planning to use a list of people with foreclosed homes to purge voter rolls. And a federal judge in Detroit has just ordered that 1,500 people be restored to the Michigan voter rolls, based on “voter caging”—purging people if mail to them is returned as undeliverable. The scandal around the firing of U.S. attorneys, which ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was based largely on the refusal of the Republican prosecutors to pursue unfounded voter-fraud cases.

Citizen groups like Election Protection and Video the Vote are organizing to document and report problems at the polls on Nov. 4. It is more likely that they will see honest people denied the right to vote, purged from the voter rolls, than an attempt by Mickey Mouse to vote Obama.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
© 2008 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

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