Saturday, July 22, 2017

29.6 - Voter suppression by right wing continues

Voter suppression by right wing continues

I said last week I was going to put off talking about TheRump's "election fraud" commission because there were other things about voter suppression I wanted to address at the same time. So let's get to that right now.

The big recent headlines, of course, involve the so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Those headlines hit when on June 28 the Commission sent a letter to all 50 states plus Washington, DC, asking for what information they had on registered voters, including and here I am quoting the letter,
full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen.
That is, they wanted to gather all that data on every registered voter in the US into one big federal database which they would control.

Happily, a lot of states did not take kindly to the idea. Among the more colorful responses came from Secretary of State of Mississippi, who told the commission to go jump in the Gulf of Mexico - in pretty much exactly those words.

There were a lot of varying claims about how many states refused to comply, with some saying only a handful did while others claimed only a handful didn't. The difference largely revolved around how you defined "comply": A good number of states said they would supply those parts of the information that are already publicly-available, that is, information that anyone could obtain, although some of them added that they wanted to arrange with the feds to be reimbursed for the costs of submitting this large an amount of data.

Some said they wouldn't comply at all, which it appears they were quite free to do since the commission may have violated the federal Paperwork Reduction Act, which requires that federal requests for information from states must go through the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs - which this one didn't.

Ultimately, most states will turn over some records but at least 44 states and Washington, DC, won't give the Commission everything it wanted.

In the face of that resistance and a suit by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seeking an injunction against the gathering of the data, the Commission put a hold on the effort, telling states to hold off until there is a ruling on EPIC's suit.

But while the gathering of information is on hold, the purpose of doing it is not. There is very little reason to doubt that one of the purposes of the Commission is to produce enough and I use the word very advisedly "evidence" to justify TheRump's claim that the only reason he lost the popular vote - which really seems to stick in his craw - was that "millions" of undocumented immigrants and others voted illegally.

Giving extra credence to that idea is the fact that Commission co-chair Kris Kobach said on July 19 that "we may never know" if Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 "because even if you can prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, you wouldn't know how they voted."

But for that argument to have any merit, you have to presuppose that you can show that at least 2.9 million illegal votes were cast, because that was Clinton's margin of victory in the popular vote, something Kobach apparently regards as quite likely to be and again I use the word very advisedly "proved" by the Commission.

But assuaging TheRump's easily-bruised ego is not the only reason for the Commission's existence. It's ultimate purpose is to continue and advance the right-wing's assault on the right to vote. Indeed, opposition to the right to vote runs in the veins of many of the Commission's members.

Consider Kris Kobach. He is perhaps the chief architect of the right-wing attack on voting rights. As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has repeatedly tried to make it harder for Kansans to vote. In 2016 he illegally blocked tens of thousands of eligible voters from registering. Beyond that, he pushed the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in Kenya and in 2015, he said that it was possible that the Obama administration might ban all prosecutions of African-Americans.

Then there is Hans von Spakovsky. As an attorney in George Bush's Justice Department and against the advice of career DOJ attorneys, he approved a restrictive voter ID program in Georgia. He now is at the far-right Heritage Foundation, whose president openly admitted the group pushes voter ID requirements in order to elect "more conservative candidates."

Another member is J. Christian Adams. He is a longtime critic of the Voting Rights Act who claimed that under President Obama, the Justice Department's Voting Rights Division didn't spend enough time protecting white voters.

And don't forget Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State and now a senior fellow at the bigoted Family Research Council. In 2004 Blackwell actively hindered minority voter registration and voting in Ohio to support the reelection of George Bush. He endorses TheRump's claim of widespread illegal voting in 2016.

If that doesn't impress you, consider the group's actions. For one thing, Vice President Mike NotWorthAFarthing's office has confirmed the Commission intends to run the state voter rolls it wants to get against federal databases to check for "potential fraudulent registration," a plan that experts say, and the Commission must know because there is no way it could not know, is certain to produce thousands of false positives with potential loss of voting rights for many.

The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan group focusing on voting rights, has predicted some outgrowths of the work of the Commission, includin

-  proposals to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which is responsible for, among other things, guiding compliance with federal election law;
- pushing national and state voter ID laws and the fact that voter fraud, especially the sort that voter ID laws would address, is vanishingly rare be damned in order to embrace the other fact that such laws disproportionately disenfranchise minorities and the poor;
-demanding proof of citizenship as a condition for registering and supposedly, Kobach, who wanted to impose that in Kansas, already has an amendment drafted for that;
- and mandating aggressive purges of voter rolls, to be used to inflate claims of illegal voting to justify the other measures.

That last part - voter purges - is already being pushed. The same day that Kobach sent that letter to states looking for voter information, the Department of Justice also asked 44 states to send them information on their compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, the NVRA. That law mandates certain state agencies (such as the DMV, leading to the nickname the "Motor Voter" law) provide citizens with the opportunity to register to vote and outlines specific conditions states must meet before removing people from the voting rolls. The focus of the law, that is, is to enable and encourage people to vote by making it easier to register.

However, even though the bulk of the NVRA is about making it easy to register to vote, the letter from the DOJ was only about the parts of the law related to keeping voter lists up-to-date, showing no concern as to whether states were doing enough to aid people in getting registered.

The result was that many saw the letter as a signal that the department was gearing up to force states to kick people off their rolls. And just like the cross-checking that NotWorthAFarthing wants to do, voter purges have been notorious for producing false positives, leaving voters - often minorities - to show up to the polls only to find that their registration has been wiped from the books and the deadline to re-register has already passed.

Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said that "It's very clear the intent is to purge more and more groups who possibly don't vote the way they want them to vote."

But this goes beyond - well beyond - the federal level. It's at the state level, too.

Because even though US turnout for election is already distressingly low - only 55.7 percent of voting-age Americans cast ballots in 2016 - that is still too high for many GOPper-controlled state legislatures.

At least 99 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced or carried over from previous sessions in 31 states this year. The most common requirement is voter ID, demanding that voters produce some approved sort of ID at the polling place in order to vote - even though repeated studies have shown such in-person voter fraud to be, again, vanishingly rare.

But of course stopping fraud isn't the point of these laws, any more than the second-most popular requirement - demanding proof of citizenship to register - is. The Brennan Center estimates that millions of Americans lack the necessary documents or ID, an effect felt disproportionately among minorities, poor folks, and the young. The true point, that is, is keeping these disapproved groups of people from voting at all.

Consider what happens when GOPper state officials try to defend these laws as deterrents to fraud. when Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was trying to build a case for his new voter ID law, he could only cite one potential instance of fraud, that from seven years earlier and it involved registration, which, again, voter ID laws do not cover. In 2013, Kris Kobach himself did a review of 84 million votes cast in 22 states and found just 14 instances of fraud - less than 0.00002 percent of votes - to send to prosecutors.

But they won't stop because they don't care. They don't care about stopping fraud, they don't care about honest elections, they don't care about election integrity - they only care about winning elections any way they can, including twisting both law and logic to deny those who do not embrace their reactionary worldview the most basic of democratic rights: the right to vote.

And now they can count on help from the top.

Since 2011, federal courts have determined that Texas's voter ID law, SB5, targets people of color for discrimination - have determined that not once, not twice, but three times. US District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is considering if the legislature's latest attempt at a fix was good enough. The previous versions had been knocked down in part because the sweeping law listed seven acceptable forms of photo ID to be presented at the polling place, forms that clearly preference some voters over others. State-issued gun licenses, for instance, are acceptable but student IDs are not. According to the plaintiffs in the suit, the latest version - quoting -
maintains the same unexplained picking and choosing of 'acceptable' photo IDs for in-person voting - accepting IDs disproportionately held by Anglo voters and rejecting IDs disproportionately held by minority voters.
So in stomps the Justice Dept. of Attorney General Jeff "I am not a racist, I swear" Sessions to declare everything is fine, the law is fine, and all suits challenging SB5 should be dismissed because the court "has no basis" for providing any remedy. And the fact that this version has the same flaws as the earlier ones? They don't care - or, more accurately, they do care because that disparate impact is the purpose. It's not a bug, it's a feature.

They will not stop - so neither can we. This is something I have covered a lot over the years and I fully expect I will have cause to return to it not only now but repeatedly in the future.

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('');