Friday, August 16, 2013

121.6 - Update: Voter suppression comes to North Carolina

Update #2: Voter suppression comes to North Carolina

Okay, the other update is feel-bad news.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how some states were moving at warp speed to impose new restrictions on voting and voters in the wake of the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and how North Carolina was among them.

Well, they've done it. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law a bill that not only requires certain types of photo identification at the polls in order to vote, something that the state itself admits that as many as 300,000 registered voters in the state lack, many of those being - surprise! - the poor and minorities, it also eliminates a boatload of measures that had been designed to protect against voter disenfranchisement and to increase participation.

That is, in addition to the photo ID requirement, the bill also reduces early voting days from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day registration, ends pre-registration for 16-and-17 year-olds, ends a student civics program, and kills an annual state-sponsored voter registration drive.

It also requires the State Board of Elections to look for ways to "purge" voter rolls, eliminates the checkoff on tax returns for public funding of elections, raises individual donation limits, obviously of most benefit to the most well-off, expands the ways in which unlimited corporate contributions may be used by political parties, broadens those who can challenge another's right to vote from someone in the same country to someone anywhere in the state, drops a requirement that political ads paid for by parties or supposedly "independent" groups say who paid for them, and allows dark money groups to not report how much they spend on campaign-style ads except for the period after Sept. 15 of an even-numbered election year.

In short, it's a voter suppression and money rules wet dream.

Now, the wingnuts are right about one thing: A lot of states don't have same-day registration or have less early voting than North Carolina had or some such. But rather than saying, as you would foolishly rationally expect, "look how much better we do on encouraging voting than other states," the response from Gov. McCrazy is, “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states." Which reminds me of nothing so much as the statement I recall from some years ago where a company announced it was "meeting the competition" by raising its prices to match theirs.

But the real excuse for all this, of course, is the supposed need to combat voter fraud, the mythological supposed "crisis" manufactured entirely in the PR firms of the right wing.

Consider: In 2012 in North Carolina, 6,947,317 ballots were cast in the general and two primary elections. Of those, the state Board of Elections said merely 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were referred to the appropriate district attorney's office. So alleged - not even proven, but alleged - voter fraud accounted for 0.00174 percent of the ballots: less than two one-thousandths of one percent. In 2010, 3.79 million ballots were cast and only 28 cases of suspected voter fraud were turned over to the appropriate DAs. So in 2010, alleged voter fraud accounted for 0.000738 percent of ballots cast: seven ten thousandths of one percent.

Meanwhile, with 300,000 registered voters lacking the photo IDs, that means that even if 99.9999% - literally four nines - of those people got photo IDs, there would still be more people disenfranchised by lack of ID than there were suspected fraudulent votes in 2010.

Oh, but that doesn't matter, no no no! It's all about the integrity of the system! It's just common sense! So much so that McCrazy used the phrase twice in a 90-second YouTube video announcing the signing. In that same 90 seconds, he also managed to find time to claim that the only opposition to photo ID comes from "the extreme left" only interested in "divisive politics," an argument that once again proves that the right wing has absolutely no sense of irony.

But face facts and this is important: This is all of a piece. It's not just North Carolina, that's just the latest case. It is all part of a program. There is an active movement, an active coordinated effort in and by the right wing to make it harder and harder, impossible if they can work it out, for anyone who cannot be expected to reliably vote for the wingnuts to vote at all - which is why, virtually without exception, the changes we see getting pushed have their greatest impact on the poor, minorities, and the young.

And I'm not talking about some dark conspiracy by dark and hidden forces. The forces are dark but they are not hidden. This is all right out in the open, coordinated by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded outfit that develops "model laws" friendly to corporations and the 1%, including on voter disenfranchisement, and distributes them to a network of like-minded state-level activists and legislators. And if you're in a demographic which they can't count on to suck up to the corporations and the rich and their reactionary allies and toadies, then they are after your vote. Not just in North Carolina. Everywhere.

The upside - or, more accurately, the not-downside - of the story is that within hours of the bill being signed, the ACLU of North Carolina and a coalition of other groups filed a lawsuit against the bill,
charging that it violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The North Carolina NAACP and Advancement Project followed shortly after with their own suit. And the Justice Department has suggested it might fight the new law, under a standing provision of the Voting Rights Act which bans changes to election laws that have the intent to discriminate. That's obviously much harder to prove than it has the effect of discriminating, but at least is means the DOJ is looking to see if the effort is worth it, which is at least a hopeful development.

There is a footnote to this one, too: The new law did do one thing right. It bans the use of touch-screen voting machines by 2018 because only systems that "generate a paper ballot or a paper record by which voters may verify their votes before casting them" will be allowed. Touch-screen machines are notorious for being both unreliable and for being hackable. Good riddance, at least in North Carolina.


No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');