10 Right-Wing Election Myths Debunked by Reality in 2012
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4. Tougher Voter ID Laws Are Needed
Voter ID laws have been on the books for years. You need to show ID to register to vote. New voters must show an ID to get a ballot. And established voters sign in at the polls (or sign their names on mail-in ballots) under penalty of perjury. But those precedents have not stopped GOP-controlled legislatures from enacting new laws requiring voters to show a specific form of state photo ID to get a ballot. The GOP’s big rationale is that they’re fighting voter impersonation fraud—the claim someone else is voting under another’s name. Of course, their real agenda is preventing likely Democrats in key cohorts—young people, urban residents without driver’s licenses, poor people, etc—from voting.
What the 2012 election showed was that the biggest perpetuators of fraudulent voter registration schemes were Republicans, notably Nathan Sproul, a political consultant who was hired by several state Republican Parties to register voters. Sproul’s workers had a bad habit of throwing out forms from Democrats. State parties were forced to fire him after police opened investigations. This isn’t to say that there were no cases of Democrats tinkering with registrations. But almost all of the cases reported in 2012 involved the GOP’s consultants or lone actors. No one found registration fraud on a scale affecting thousands of votes, let alone hundreds.
The biggest point about 2012’s voter ID fights is that voter impersonation is not a problem demanding a "solution" affecting every voter in a state. But it is a remedy that can cause widespread confusion and be a barrier to eligible voters, such as in Pennsylvania where poll worker confusion over that state’s new voter ID law led to scores of complaints to voter hotlines. The GOP’s ballot security concerns are a ploy to block their presumed political opponents from voting. As the 2012 election showed, that’s exactly what they did.
5. Tougher Voter ID Laws Protect Minorities
This absurd line was pedaled by two of the Right’s biggest voting propagandists, former Bush Administration Department of Justice attorney Hans von Spakovsky (now with the Heritage Foundation) and National Review columnist John Fund. They made this claim in their new book, Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk, in media commentaries, and at recruiting sessions for right-wing voter vigilante groups that obsess over the specter of illegal voters.
Von Spakovsky said that minority turnout in Georgia went up after it adopted a tougher voter ID law—a claim that handily overlooks how its Latino population has surged in recent years. But more to the point, tougher voter ID laws have given GOP groups a pathway to racially profile voters. These laws target non-white voters because many of the people who lack a new government-issued photo ID are young people or city dwellers who don’t drive. In Ohio, volunteers from True the Vote, a leading GOP voter vigilante group, were told to take photos of suspected illegal voters, write down their names and complain to poll workers—all to discourage voting by people who fit their profile. These GOP vigilantes were not deployed to whiter and wealthier suburbs.
At a True the Vote summit in Colorado this past summer where AlterNet was an undetected observer, Secretary of State Gessler told attendees that they would be accused of being racist as they "defended" democracy. He told them just to ignore the accusations—of course, from liberals and civil rights activists. But racially profiling voters is by definition racist, not defending anyone’s rights.
6. Federal Voting Rights Act Is Obsolete