Posted 10 months ago on Aug. 18, 2012, 12:27 p.m. EST by VQkag2
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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.
And in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has steadily chipped away at Florida’s voting base since entering office in 2010. One of his first actions as governor was to reinstate a ban on voting rights for ex-
offenders and to add a five-year waiting period for rights to be restored. With a stroke of his pen, Scott ensured the silence of one and a half million voices this election, including over half a million African-Americans.
Florida also passed a law that chopped the state’s early voting period in half and introduced obscure requirements for groups that register voters, including a strict 48-hour window to submit registration forms. After the law was passed, the League of Women Voters pulled the plug on all registration activities in the state of Florida in order to avoid heavy fines for breaking the rules.
These efforts are intentionally suppressive, and they are widespread. But in the past few months, the NAACP and a coalition of advocacy groups have sounded the alarm. In Michigan, we met with Gov. Rick Snyder and convinced him to veto a strict photo ID law that would have suppressed thousands of voters of color. In Wisconsin, we challenged the state’s photo ID law in court and stopped it from taking effect. And in Florida, the NAACP and other groups filed suit against the new registration rules and earned a preliminary injunction.
As for the states where suppressive measures go unchecked, there is still time to take back our election by stepping up our registration efforts and helping disenfranchised voters navigate the new laws. The NAACP has been engaged in a nationwide voter registration drive called “This is My Vote” to do just that. We have registered over 25,000 people in Florida alone. You can visit www.thisismyvote.org to learn about the law in your state and how you and your friends can register to vote.
America’s most cherished asset is free and fair elections, a level playing field on Election Day. Our right to vote is the right upon which all our other rights depend. Let’s not wake up on Nov. 7 and find out that our election has been stolen again. These next few months are crucial in making sure that does not happen.
Benjamin Todd Jealous is President and CEO of the NAACP.