8 Insidious Attacks on Our Democracy That You Don't Know About
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There are threats to American democracy in 2014 that you have probably heard about.. For instance, any day now the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to blow up another big category of federal election law, ending contribution limits to non-candidate political committees. It’s such a foregone conclusion that analysts have even published lists of the newest political players with ready checkbooks.
And then there’s the death by smaller cuts to democracy that don’t get noticed beyond the election wonk websites or by voters until Election Day when they throw up their hands and wonder what is going on? While there are efforts in 2014 to make voting easier—such as five states setting up online voter registration and a congressional effort to fix part of the Voting Rights Act that was gutted last year by the Supreme Court, many Republicans are working to make voting harder and slower.
This year is shaping up to be another season where the GOP’s gameplan is to reshape the electorate and election rules to retain their power; instead of bringing all eligible voters into the process, running on the strength of their ideas, and trusting voters’ decisions. What follows are eight aggressive GOP attacks on democracy. It’s not a compete list.
1. The Latest Voter Suppression Catalog: North Carolina.
Until the Republicans took control of the governor’s mansion and Legislature in 2012, North Carolina pioneered some of the most progressive election laws in the South. Since then, the GOP has ressurrected the ghost of Jim Crow, narrowing options to register, to vote early, and to obtain a ballot on Election Day. Bill Moyers noted these abuses in a detailed report this month, but even he didn’t recite everything that’s gotten worse.
North Carolina’s GOP has also ended straight party voting in 2014, where a voter can pick all of a party’s candidates. Its governor won’t fill a vacant U.S. House seat held by a Democrat until November, instead of holding a traditional special election. The last time the state’s elections were this rigged was more than a century ago, legal scholars said.
2. And Now Early Voting Is UnAmerican, GOP Hacks Argue.
In recent elections, much of the GOP’s focus has been on enacting tougher voter ID laws so presumed Democrats would have a harder time and give up on voting. But it’s turned out that many targeted voting blocks—people of color, students, the poor, some elderly—figured out how to get required IDs and voted early, especially in the states offering that option. Now, the new twist among Republican intellectuals is arguing that voting early is bad for the democratic process, because candidates can’t control their end-of-campaign messaging and voters won’t benefit from last-minute debates. This is anti-democratic propoganda at its worst, as there is ample documentation that voters not only prefer convenient options, but early voting raises turnout in lower-profile contests.
3. Proof of Citizenship on Paper, Not By Sworn Oath
Not everyone has their birth certificate or passport. That fact is being manipulated by Republicans in a growing number of states—Arizona, Kansas and now Georgia—to create yet another barrier for getting on voter rolls: documented proof of citizenship. Until a few years ago when Arizona added this new proof to its registration forms, would-be voters—like everywhere in the country—would sign a legal oath, under criminal penalty, that their information including U.S. citizenship was correct. That declaration wasn’t good enough for Arizona’s GOP, which has been fighting in federal court to add paper proof to the federal registration form.
The issue went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled it was up to an obscure agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to figure it out. That body has no sitting commissioners, as Congress and the White House have let it languish. But weeks ago, its legal staff told these three Republican-run states to back off. Now a full-on legal fight is brewing with giant consequences, because if these Republicans are successful, many eligible citizens won’t be able to register to vote by just signing a legal oath.