GOP Voter Suppression Plan: Seven Tactics To Block Your Vote in 2012
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If you are a member of a racial minority, student or young voter, working poor, elderly or disabled, your ability to vote may be a lot harder in 2012—especially if you live in states that have a history of racial repression during the Civil Rights Movement. Simply put, the Republican Party knows which segments of society helped to elect President Obama and other Democrats in 2008, knows tens of millions of these people did not vote in the 2010 midterms, and has worked very hard to stop these people from voting again next year.
Their strategy has been simple: raise the barriers by complicating the rules to register to vote, to get a ballot, to vote early, or speedily. What follows are seven major trends that will affect you if you live in a state with new rules. Republicans know that most people do not pay attention to the fine print of election law. They get excited in the final days before presidential votes. But that may not be good enough in 2012.
Whether you are encouraged, discouraged or something in between about the coming presidential season, if you want to vote, look at these trends described below, see if you live in one of these states, and plan ahead: to register, to get the right ID, and to know where you can vote. If you don’t, the Republicans may silence your vote and voice.
“Heading into 2012, we are seeing the largest assault on the right to vote since the post-Reconstruction Era,” said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney with Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization. “This is an unprecedented attack on voting that could affect more than 5 million voters in 2012; in states that represent nearly two-thirds of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Twenty new laws and executive orders in 14 states stand to turn back the clock and make it harder to vote. In 2012, two-thirds of the states introduced legislation that could impede voters and more is on the horizon for 2012.”
Tactic One: Toughen Voter ID Requirements
Before this year, most states allowed voters to use all kinds of identification, even utility bills, to get a ballot. Not anymore. Now a non-expired, state-issued photo ID is needed in eight states: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Looking at 2012, similar bills or ballot measures to toughen ID rules will surface in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota and Missouri, where legislation already has been filed.
Before 2011, only two states, Georgia and Indiana, prevented voters from casting ballots if they did not have a government-issued photo ID. In 16 mostly southern states with a history of Jim Crow laws, the Justice Department must “pre-clear,” or approve, any change to voting laws before they can take effect. The ID laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas have not yet been cleared. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a major voting rights speech opposing all voter suppression tactics. But the Justice Department has not yet made a determination about these and other new voting laws in "covered" states.
Here’s why this is such a devious strategy. The GOP knows most Americans have little sympathy for people who lack photo ID. Polls by Democrats show that. There is a class divide here, where minorities and lower-income people, including students, disproportionately lack state-issued photo IDs. College ID cards are not the same. The GOP also knows that recent presidential elections often come down to very close votes in a handful of states, and many people in those states will want to vote next fall but will discover they cannot.