Republicans Block the Vote: How Voter-ID Laws Suppress Registration Drives and Block Democratic Votes
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In 2005, Mark “Thor” Hearne, a lawyer who had worked for the Bush-Cheney political campaign, founded the American Center for Voting Rights.
The center produced one 72-page report: “Vote Fraud, Intimidation, & Suppression in the 2004 Presidential Election,” which was submitted to a House committee chaired by Ohio Congressman Bob Ney (who would later do time for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal).
The report included no documented account of any individual impersonating another at a polling place. Yet it recommended that “[s]tates should adopt legislation requiring government-issued photo ID at the polls and for any voter seeking to vote by mail or by absentee ballot.” The center soon closed its doors, or more precisely its private postal mail-drop, and Hearne returned to private practice.
What Hearne was selling had a longer shelf life than his voting rights center. Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation Fellow Hans von Spakovsky began promoting photo-ID laws as an essential line of defense against election fraud. Republican state party officers began writing voter-ID planks into their platforms. And in 2009, the American Legislative Council drafted the model legislation that Republican legislators would use a template for their bills. (ALEC is a Republican outfit that receives more than 98 percent of its funding from corporate lobbyists.)
In 2011, Republicans in 38 states introduced legislation that would make state-approved photo-ID cards a requirement to vote. Seven states signed it into law: Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.
It was a remarkable achievement. Prior to 2006, no state required a voter to show a government-issued photo ID card in order to vote. In 2012, states in which voting rights have been restricted will provide 171 electoral votes, 63 percent of what is needed to win the presidency, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School.
How pervasive was the fraud that informed the voter-ID campaign? Indiana was one of the earliest states to pass a voter-ID bill, in 2007. In separate opinions upholding the law, Appeals Court Justice Richard Posner and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer observed that attorneys representing the state of Indiana could provide no evidence of voter-identification fraud. “As far as anyone knows,” Posner wrote, “no one in Indiana, and not many people elsewhere, are known to have been prosecuted for impersonating a registered voter.” Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who works with the Brennan Center for Justice, has been gathering evidence of polling- place voter fraud. “I keep an open door,” Levitt said. “I think I’m up to 11 or 12 possible attempts that people have pointed to across the country since 2000. There have been about 400 million ballots cast in general elections...since 2000.”
One paragraph in an amicus brief filed in support of the Indiana plaintiffs explains why legislators began to craft solutions to problems that did not exist:
It should be noted that Indiana’s was one of at least ten bills introduced by Republicans in state legislatures between 2005 and 2007 requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. In the house and senate votes for these ten bills combined, 95.3 of the 1,222 Republicans voting and just 2.1 percent of the 796 Democrats voting supported the bills. Moreover, in all five cases in which both houses passed them and a Republican was governor, the governor signed them. In the three cases in which both houses passed them and a Democrat was governor, the governor vetoed them. [In two instances, only one house passed a bill.]