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GOP Voter Suppression Plan: Seven Tactics To Block Your Vote in 2012

If you live in a state where voting is becoming tougher, plan ahead to register, to get the right ID and to know where you can vote.

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The voting eligible population of  KansasSouth CarolinaTennesseeTexas and Wisconsin, which all have new ID laws, is 29 million. Of that, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School has  reported that 10.3 percent—or 3.2 million voters—lack a state photo ID. In those states, Lieberman said the number of voters without the requisite photo ID is  larger than the margin of victory in the 2008 presidential or U.S. Senate (Texas) races. In other words, with one change in law, the GOP will require Democrats and Independents to do a better job turning out voters in 2012 than they did in 2008 when electing Obama. 

Tactic Two: Create Hurdles To Get Required ID

It takes time, money, patience and determination to get the required photo IDs. In some states, state budget crises have led to shortening the work weeks at the state agency, notably motor vehicles, or even closing branch offices—such as in  WisconsinTennessee and Texas—where people need to go to get the ID. The ID itself may cost between $10 and $30, but there can be hidden costs if other forms of identification are needed to verify one’s identity and residency necessary to get a state ID. For example, not everybody has a birth certificate, marriage license, passport, divorce record or other documents, adding a complicating and time-consuming factor.  

The requirements for secondary IDs, if available, can cost upward of $200 (for naturalization papers, not passports), and 17 states require a photo ID to get a copy of a birth certificate, which by itself can take weeks or months. Many elderly people born at home simply do not have these underlying papers, transportation or funds to get the required voting ID. These bureaucratic steps amount to a poll tax, a notorious tactic used to stop African Americans and poor whites from voting.    

Tactic Three: Intimidate Voter Registration Groups

The Republican Party knows that the majority of people who register to vote in registration drives tend to be in minority and low-income communities, and are likely to vote for Democrats, if they vote at all. They also know that voter registration drives can be sloppily run, with errors on as many as one-third of all the applications tuned in, although local election administrators are well-versed in weeding out bad forms (although they resent the last-minute workloads). 

As a result, seven states tried to add new restrictions on groups and their members doing voter registration drives in 2011, and these laws passed in  Florida and Texas. The restrictions in these populous states must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department, which has yet to act. But the impact of these laws—which, in  Florida, creates a more rigorous schedule to turn in applications and imposes stiff fines for errors—has already discouraged some groups, such as Florida’s League of Women Voters, from even getting started for 2012. In addition to Florida and Texas,  Michigan is also considering legislation to more aggressively regulate the registration drives. 

Tactic Four: Try To Eliminate Same-Day Registration

In recent years, states have tried to make the voting process easier—not harder. One of the most convenient ways to help people to vote is to allow them to register at the polls or county offices and then vote. In 2011, Republicans in  Maine and Ohio eliminated same-day registration, although citizen-led organizing overturned the Maine law on Election Day this past November and put a ballot initiative on the November 2012 Ohio ballot, suspending a package of draconian election laws until that vote. Meanwhile,  North Carolina’s legislature will consider a bill ending same-day registration next year.   

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