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5 Ways GOP Tried to Subvert Democracy in 2012 -- And They'll Try Again

The 2012 election saw the biggest challenges to voting rights and campaign finance law in a generation.

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Taken together, roughly one-third of the 2012 electorate believe some version of GOP-defined voter fraud was widespead—even though innumerable academic studies have shown that these kinds of infractions are singular events, on par with getting hit by lightning. (In fact, 2012’s most notable examples of election fraud were by Republicans, such as the Indiana secretary of state’s resignation after falsified candidate filing papers surfaced, or GOP consultant Nathan Sproul was caught dumping voter registration forms submitted by Democrats, or Ohio counties barring the new GOP voter vigilante group True the Vote from polling places after lying about members’ credentials.)    

There is plenty of evidence that the GOP’s accusations and tactics—on top of Obama being a mixed-race candidate—backfired and increased minority turnout. On Friday, Pew Research Center reported that blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in 2012, a first. But when partisan beliefs carry more weight than facts, it is all but impossible to reach consensus solutions in the political world. That takes us to the next big trend that will continue to unfold in 2013—the GOP’s assault on federal voting rights laws.

3. Rolling Back Federal Power

The goal of this page in the GOP playbook is to weaken the federal government’s power to regulate voting law changes in states and counties that have past histories of racial discrimination. Led by Republicans such as Texas’ attorney general, the GOP is seeking to overturn the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the DOJ used this year to reject voting laws in Texas, South Carolina, Florida and other states. The DOJ also used the VRA to reject Texas’ post-2012 Census redistricting, which ended up electing more Latino (Democrats) to the U.S. House after federal courts intervened.

These legal challenges are heading to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts has said that these enforcement sections of the Voting Rights Act are outdated. Arizona has another legal challenge to DOJ oversight that will be heard by the Supreme Court in 2013, over requiring new voters to provide citizenship documents when registering to vote. (Most states allow people to sign an oath.) 

To say that the GOP is hypocritical on race and voting is an understatement. In these anti-VRA lawsuits, GOP attorneys general are arguing that America has outgrown affirmative action to ensure voting rights. On the other hand, GOP officials such as Florida’s Scott and many partisan secretaries of state (Colorado, Michigan, Kansas and New Mexico) demonize communities of color with irresponsible and unproven allegations of illegal voting. And rightwing public intellectuals keep writing articles that personally attack current and former DOJ Voting Section attorneys, to try to discredit their efforts.

2012’s Real Problems

It’s worth noting what the CalTech/MIT survey found were the real problems faced by voters in 2012—to offer a sense of perspective.

Of the 128.6 million voters this fall, 13 percent (or 16.7 million) said they waited in line longer than 30 minutes. (Early voting lines were longer than Election Day because there were fewer polling places.) African Americans and Latinos faced longer waiting times than whites, sometimes twice as long or more, it found in its preliminary analysis. The longest waits were in Florida (averaging 45 minutes); the District of Columbia (35 minutes); Maryland (32 minutes); Virginia (28 minutes); and South Carolina (27 minutes).

Three other big-picture statistics are worth remembering. Three percent of voters, or 3.85 million people, reported a problem with voter registration records. In contrast, 2 percent or 2.57 million reported a voting equipment problem. Importantly, one-third of voters didn’t believe that all the votes cast would be counted.