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Forum Post: It's Time To Defend Our Voting Rights

Posted 2 years ago on Aug. 18, 2012, 12:27 p.m. EST by VQkag2 (16478)
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Amsterdam News Aug. 16th 2012

By BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS, President and CEO of the NAACP | 0 comments

If partisan politicians and special interest groups have their way, this election may be stolen before the first vote is cast. In states across the country, governors and legislators have conspired with business interests to steal the vote from racial and ethnic minorities, young people, the elderly and other groups that do not share their values. The tactics vary from strict voter ID laws, harsh restrictions on voter registration, cuts to early voting, redistricting and illegal voter purges to the systematic disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people. But they all have the same result: suppressing the vote.

It is no coincidence that these measures have been railroaded through statehouses just months before a major presidential election. This is a coordinated attempt to suppress turnout on behalf of the would-be oligarchs and big business groups behind these efforts, such as the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, at the expense of anyone who opposes their agenda.

We all remember the lesson from the 2000 presidential race, when George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes: Every vote counts. After the Supreme Court handed Bush the keys to the country, half of America felt that the election had been stolen. It is worrisome to see that partisans are actively trying to rig the playing field this November. But the big difference between 2000 and 2012 is that this year, we can see this train coming down the tracks, and we still have time to stop it.

Like any good thief, proponents of voter suppression have “cased” the country to figure out where they can be most effective. They have targeted their lobbying efforts in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. And they are setting their sights far higher than 537 votes.

In 2008, Barack Obama won Pennsylvania by a healthy margin of 620,478 votes. This year, the state passed a restrictive photo ID law, currently under litigation, that would threaten the voting rights of 758,000 voters. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai betrayed the motivation behind the law in June when he told a group of his colleagues that the voter ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

In Virginia, the Romney campaign asked the state’s Board of Elections to throw out more than 15,000 registration forms that had already been approved. The board elected not to respond to the baseless request.