Wednesday, April 16, 2014

GOP “Ballot Security”: Efforts Weaken Voter Rights


Are you concerned about growing Republican efforts to suppress voter turn-out? After sweeping State government seats across the nation in the 2010 mid-term, voter suppression legislation is on the rise, including restrictive voter ID laws in 33 states and laws requiring people to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote. These new laws coupled with the recent Supreme Court decision that weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act result in our election system taking a beating and seriously weakens your right to vote. What you need to realize is that this is not a new movie. Unfortunately, you are just coming in long after the movie has already started.

We recently celebrated President Johnson’s successful effort to extend the right to vote to all citizens with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But, conservative anti-voter fraud efforts were already in full swing. Republicans attributed President Kennedy’s narrow win in the 1960 presidential election to alleged voter fraud in Illinois and Texas. Before the 1964 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) launched Operation Eagle Eye, the nation’s first large scale anti-voter fraud campaign.  Volunteers were recruited to challenge voter’s eligibility at polling places and to intimidate them with cameras, 2 way radios and calls to GOP friendly sheriffs for assistance.

In 1981 the RNC instituted “caging”, a technique that sent hundreds of thousands of sample ballots to voters in African American and Latino neighborhoods. If ballots were returned as undeliverable, the information was used to strike many eligible voters from the rolls. Another effort in New Jersey, the RNC recruited squadrons of men, often off duty policemen, to descend on African American and Latino precincts wearing National Ballot Security Task Force armbands. The men carried walkie-talkies and in some cases guns. Signs were posted warning in large red letters that the areas were being patrolled. This was another effort to intimidate legitimate voters.
After the election, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a federal law suit based on violations of the Voting Rights Act. The Case was settled in 1982 when the RNC signed a consent decree to end all “ballot security” programs targeting minority precincts.

Four years later in Los Angeles, the RNC was caught “caging” black voters in an effort to “keep the Black vote down”. After the DNC filed suit again, the court required the RNC to submit all plans for anti-voter fraud campaigns to the court for approval before implementation.

After Bush v Gore, political strategist increased their efforts, trying to alter rules and tinker with election administration to gain partisan advantage. The results helped George Bush defeat John Kerry in his bid for a second term in the White House. “Ballot security” programs have tipped the balance of some elections, giving Republican “razor-thin margins of victory” in recent years.

In 2008, the RNC appealed to the court to abolish or modify decades old consent decrees barring certain anti-voter fraud activities. The court declined to lift the ban on these programs designed to keep minority voters from casting their ballots. Now an organization called True the Vote wants to pick up where the RNC left off, by building a nationwide army to root out voter fraud—or, some would say, to suppress voter turnout through intimidation and legal maneuvers which strip voter eligibility.

Yes, the movie goes on and the stakes are high. Since Republicans can’t win your vote with policies you can embrace, they are hell bent on kicking minorities off the voter rolls. Watch and listen for “ballot security” measures designed to steal your vote. Keep an eye on your state legislation that might make voting more difficult or even impossible for some minority voters. Don’t be swayed by empty promises and attempts to sell you on fewer hours and reductions in the number of locations where you can vote. Prepare to fight for your right as a citizen to cast your vote.

Related articles:

The Ballot Cops, Mariah Blake, The Atlantic
Republicans Admit Voter-ID Laws are Aimed at Democratic Voters, Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast

How Voter Supression Works,  Dave Roos, How Stuff Works

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