GOP Voter Suppression Plan: Seven Tactics To Block Your Vote in 2012
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Another hurdle concerns proof of citizenship. Arizona was the first state to require proof of citizenship to register to vote, but that law has been tied up in court. Meanwhile, bills requiring proof of citizenship passed in 2011 in Kansas, Alabama and Tennessee. Only Alabama’s law has to be cleared by the Justice Department, which has yet to act.
Tactic Five: Curtail Early Voting
In recent years, states have also tried to make voting easier for people by creating or expanding the option to vote before the first Tuesday in November. In 2011, five states— Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia—passed laws rolling back early voting options. Florida’s law reduces early voting from 13 days to seven days. That is potentially very damaging to minority communities, as nearly a third of all Floridians cast early ballots in 2008, with African Americans doing so at twice the rate of whites.
In Ohio, the law—which has been put on hold by a ballot initiative that will appear in November—would have eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day. In Georgia, the law reduced early voting from 45 days to 21 days; and in Tennessee from 15 days to 13 days. The changes in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee must be pre-cleared before they can be implemented. However, the Justice Department has yet to make its determination in those states.
Tactic Six: Ban Felons From Voting
Many people remember what the Florida Secretary of State did in 2000 with erroneous lists of convicted felons in her state: she intentionally purged tens of thousands of legal voters, which was one of many factors leading to George W. Bush’s victory in that year’s presidential battleground state. That tactic’s ghost has risen in Florida and Iowa, where governors have issued executive orders either delaying or revoking the rights of former felons to regain their right to vote. Across America, there are 5.3 million people, disproportionately people of color, who cannot vote because of felony convictions.
Tactic Seven: Bleed Election Administration Budgets
This may be the least-understood and most far-reaching barrier as people try to vote in 2012. Already, tight state budgets have given cover to political decisions in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Texas to limit the operating hours of, or close, the state offices where residents can obtain required photo IDs. As a result, waiting times in the offices that remain open have grown longer in Tennessee and Wisconsin. In Texas, there are 34 counties with no Department of Public Safety Offices, including four counties where the Hispanic population is more than 75 percent.
Limiting access to voter-related services before Election Days creates very troubling precedents for Election Day, when longtime polling places might be consolidated and moved with little public notice, or under-staffed by poll workers, who are volunteers—not professional election administrators. In other words, not only do would-be voters in many states have to get their credentials in order, it may take them much longer to vote because poll workers will have more work to do to process voters.
In Madison, Wisconsin, County Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said the time it will take to process voters next November “has at least doubled.” In Florida, 30 percent of voters in 2008 voted early. If that state’s law stands cutting the period in half, that mean perhaps an additional 15 percent of the states’ voters will have to be processed on Election Day, doubling waiting times at peak hours. Meanwhile, as states have to spend millions to produce new voter identification documents, that will cut into promotional messages alerting voters about changes in the process.