Democracy only works when most people vote and participate. Voting should be encouraged, facilitated, easy, and free from coercion and fraud.
In the discourse of ideas that is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society, voting is the fundamental building block without which the house will, sooner or later, fall. And yet, instead of concentrating on debate, information and dissemination of facts and fact based ideas, voter suppression seems to be the answer from the right “since we have a serious voter fraud problem?”
The Brennan Center for Justice’s ongoing examination of voter fraud claims reveals that voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation nearly non-existent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relate to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. Since the 2010 elections, new voting restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states. Out of those 22 states, 18 passed these restrictive voter suppression laws by GOP-controlled bodies.
The article discussing this issue published by Mother Jones in August 2012, titled “UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud,” shows how voter ID laws and elimination of election day registration impacts different groups, and makes no sense, as follows:
1. 12 States introduced laws requiring birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Only 48 percent of women have a birth certificate with their current legal name.
2. Texas allowing concealed-handgun licenses as proof of identity but not state university IDs. Adults without valid ID:
a. Blacks – 25%
b. Asians – 20%
c. Latinos – 19%
d. 18-to-24-year-olds – 18%
e. Seniors – 18%
f. Earning less than $35,000 – 15%
g. All – 11%
h. Whites – 8%
3. Felons completed sentences ineligible to vote – 4 Million, 38 percent of that group are African Americans.
4. 13% of African Men cannot vote due to criminal records. (Important to note that Belgium and the United States are the only democracies that disenfranchise citizens for lengthy or indefinite periods after completing prison sentences.)
5. Indiana could not find one voter ID impersonation in its entire history, while defending its precedent-setting Photo ID law before the Supreme Court.
6. 80% of the 75 million eligible voters who did not take part in the 2008 election were not registered to vote.
7. States with Election day registration have 7-12 % greater turnout than states without.
Several examples of current court cases of voter suppression:
1. Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law – Violates 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and 24th and 14th Amendments for effectively imposing an unconstitutional poll tax on eligible voters.
2. Ohio slashing early voting for 2014 midterms – The law eliminates Ohio’s “Golden Week” which allows voters to register and vote on the same day (first week of early voting) and Sundays and evening voting, disproportionally affecting low income voters, many of whom are African American.
3. North Carolina eliminating a week of early voting, ending same-day registration and prohibits “out-of-precinct” voting – Critical for low income voters who cannot take time off work, many African American and other minorities.
4. Kansas classified voters into separate and unequal classes in violation of Kansas Constitution’s equal protection guarantees – Since Kansas could not impose a documentary proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters who register using the federal form (declare under penalty of perjury they are citizens), Kansas implemented a dual registration system to prevent people who use the federal form from voting in state and local elections unless they have additional documentary proof of citizenship.
Important to note that there have, however, also been improvements. Laws to improve the election system and increase voting access passed in 16 states since 2012.
Voting is something that all of us should do but many of us just don’t. In 2012, only 58.2% of US citizens voted in the presidential elections (down from 61.6% in 2008). In midterm election the voter turnout is even lower. For example, in the 201o midterm elections only 41% of us voted.
In a country that prides itself on “Freedom,” “Democracy,” “Constitutional Rights and Protections,” and “Government of the People, by the People and for the People,” should we not make voting as easy and as simple as possible, facilitate and encourage citizens to participate in the marketplace of ideas, vote for their representatives and take control over their destiny and that of our country, especially since the voter fraud scare is a simple and irrelevant hoax?