Election 2014  
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Voter Suppression 101: How Conservatives Are Conspiring to Disenfranchise Millions of Americans

A spate of anti-voting-rights proposals in states as different as Florida and Wisconsin is not occurring by accident. Instead, many of these laws are being spread through ALEC.

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The same cannot be said of Pennsylvania. As the nation's sixth most populous state, Pennsylvania commands 20 electoral votes in the 2012 election. Gov. Corbett's proposal would allocate these votes according to the Maine/Nebraska system, potentially swinging the election in the process.

President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 10 percentage points in 2008, but if Pennsylvania had allocated votes in the same way as Maine and Nebraska then he would have only earned only more electoral vote from the state than his opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). In 2012 President Obama could win the state as a whole and still lose twelve of the state's twenty electoral votes due to Pennsylvania's heavily gerrymandered districts. This is more than enough to change the result of next year's election. Consider that after the Supreme Court awarded Florida's electoral votes to George W. Bush after the 2000 presidential election. Bush received only five more electoral votes in 2000 than his opponent Al Gore, who won the majority of the national popular vote.

Gov. Corbett's plan risks absurd results where the overall winner of a state's popular vote becomes the loser of its electoral vote. Worse, it undermines the legitimacy of any president who takes office solely due to Pennsylvania conservatives gaming the Electoral College. Although the Pennsylvania plan is probably constitutional, it is no less an attack on our democratic system of government. The winner of the 2012 presidential election should be the person chosen by the American people, not by arbitrary differences between various states' election laws.

For the moment, Gov. Corbett's proposal appears to be dead due to infighting between the proposal's supporters and some of Pennsylvania's members of Congress in Washington who fear it could cause more campaign resources to be directed toward their districts. There is nothing preventing its supporters from reviving it -- potentially even on the eve of the election -- should the 2012 election appear close enough to be swung by manipulating the Electoral College.

Moreover, at least one Wisconsin lawmaker has jumped upon this proposal, creating the risk that it could spread to other states. If similar swing states, such as Florida or Michigan, took up this plan, it could fundamentally transform the next election into a contest to see who can best game the system.

five worse states for voting rights

Voter suppression in personal terms

In a representative democracy, it is important to point to individuals who would be prevented from exercising their right to vote due to these efforts at targeted voter suppression. Here are some real-life examples of the consequences of these voter suppression laws.

Ricky Tyrone Lewis

Ricky is a 58 year-old Marine Corps veteran. Despite the fact that he was able to offer Wisconsin voting officials proof of his honorable discharge from the Marines, Milwaukee County has been unable to find the record of his birth that he needs in order to obtain a voter ID card.

Ruthelle Frank

Ruthelle is an 84 year-old former elected official who voted in every election for the last 63 years, yet she will be unable to obtain a voter ID unless she pays a fee to obtain a birth certificate from the Wisconsin government -- despite the fact that the Constitution explicitly forbids any voter from being charged a fee in order to vote. Worse, because the attending physician at her birth misspelled her name on her original birth certificate, she may need to pay hundreds of dollars in court fees to petition the state judiciary to correct her certificate before she can obtain a voter ID.

 
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