Posted 9 months ago on Aug. 18, 2012, 10:50 a.m. EST by VQkag2
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Rochelle Riley: GOP caught with voter-suppression pants down
Detroit Free Press
We should be ashamed of ourselves.
As November’s presidential election looms, we aren’t really paying attention to a growing movement to keep some people from voting.
Once again, when it’s not us, we don’t care so much. But if any American is not allowed to vote, as happened in the 2000 presidential election, then our entire democracy is a fraud.
GOP-led efforts to combat what they claim is a major issue of voter fraud prompted lawmakers to propose 62 voter photo-ID bills in 37 states. Lawsuits have been filed in numerous cases, most notably in Pennsylvania, where a judge is slated to decide the law’s fate soon. (Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder derailed legislative efforts here to fuel the voter suppression train.)
Here's the problem with the GOP effort: Voter fraud via impersonation is so rare that there have been only 10 cases since 2000, according to a new study released out of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
"Despite the push for strict voter ID laws in a charged partisan and racial debate, the most exhaustive study ever of American election fraud reveals the rate is infinitesimal," according to News 21, the voting rights project conducted by 24 students from 11 universities across the country.
The project found that, since 2000, there had been only case for every 15 million eligible voters.
So this great Republican-led effort to ensure fair elections is based on a fear that, like most political fears, is overblown and possibly fraudulent.
Passing a voter-ID law to prevent voter fraud is like passing a law to prevent black beauty salons from opening on Mondays. For the uninitiated, almost none do.
It’s like passing a law to prevent doctors from operating without gloves or a law to prevent the demolitions of buildings with people in them.
That study, that amazing project that once again affirmed the need for the kind of great journalism that was a part of America’s birth, also found that:
• “Photo ID laws and other new voting restrictions disproportionately affect minorities, students, the disabled and the elderly. "
• “More than half of the state bills proposing photo IDs originated from people affiliated with the conservative, pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council. Since the model photo ID legislation, known as ALEC's 2009 Voter ID Act, 62 voter ID bills were introduced in state legislatures."
• "Changes to Florida's voting laws will reduce the state's in-person, early voting time frame. This includes the Sunday before Election Day, when African-American churches traditionally organized caravans of parishioners to polling places, known as 'Souls to the Polls.' "
The issue is a complex one.
A new Washington Post poll found that nearly three quarters of people surveyed felt that voters should have a government-issued ID to vote.
But only about half knew anything about efforts to pass new voter ID laws across the country. And about half considered voter fraud as a major problem.
But -- and this wasn’t a part of the poll -- few of the respondents had any idea that they had little to fear.
I’ve read testimonials, editorials and position papers that compare the need for voter ID to the identification process to get on a plane, drive a car or write a check. I used to be one of those who wondered what the big deal was.
The deal is this: The GOP is targeting people, particularly black people and older people who may not do those things anymore or young people whose permanent residencies still remain with their parents.
There are seniors who no longer fly, who have paid their mortgages, who don’t drive and who no longer have an ID. They have spent decades walking into their polling places, showing the voter registration cards that were mailed to their homes and doing something that they had to fight for, that their ancestors had to fight for: the right to declare a preference.
If you’re someone who hasn’t kept up with the issue and you don’t see what the big deal is: Imagine that you’re an 85-year-old woman who owes no one, no longer drives and looks forward to voting. And you walk into your polling place and are asked for something that you haven’t needed in 10 years: Proof that you’re an American, proof that you are supposed to get that ballot, mark it and give it back to America.
If you can imagine that – and you can understand that the very problem that the GOP voter-suppression effort aims to end isn’t really a problem - then imagine this.
One day, it could be you.
Contact ROCHELLE RILEY: email@example.com