How to Win an Election:
Deny People the Right to Vote
Eastern Region Coordinator
(This article first appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Many Republican-controlled state legislatures are considering or have already approved limits on early voting and are requiring voters to display government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. College students, minorities, and the poor, who tend to vote with working class ideals not with corporate interests, will be disadvantaged the most. These groups tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans, and therefore a clear effort to suppress their vote will be evident this election year.
Barriers to Registration
Last May, the Republican-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law requiring anyone who signs up new voters to hand in registration forms to the State Board of Elections within 48 hours of collecting them and to comply with a barrage of bureaucratic requirements. Those found to have submitted late forms would face a $1,000 fine as well as possible felony convictions.
As a result, the law threatens to turn civic-minded volunteers into criminals. The League of Women Voters denounced the legislation as old-fashioned voter suppression, and announced that it was ending its voter registration efforts in Florida after 70 years of signing up new voters in the state.
Rock the Vote, which helped 2.5 million voters to register in 2008 could soon follow suit. “We are hoping not to shut down,” said Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote, “but I can’t say with any certainty that we will be able to continue the work we are doing.”
Cuts to Early Voting
Nearly 30 percent of the electorate voted early in the year 2008 and they favored Obama over McCain by 10 percentage points.
States like Florida and Ohio, which are controlled by conservative Republican governors, have dramatically curtailed early voting for 2012. This year early voting will be cut from 14 to 8 days in Florida and from 35 days to 11 days in Ohio, with limited hours on weekends. In addition, both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election, a day when black churches mobilize their constituency.
By far, the biggest change in election rules for 2012 is the number of states requiring government- issued photo IDs. This is the most important tactic in the Republican war on voting. In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a photo ID law in Indiana, even though there was no evidence of voter fraud. The new law is supposedly designed to prevent voter fraud.
In Texas, under emergency legislation passed by the Republican-dominated legislature and signed by Governor Rick Perry, a concealed weapon permit is considered an acceptable ID but a student ID is not.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Wisconsin mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date, requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets. As a result, 242,000 students in Wisconsin may lack the documentation required to vote this year.
Roughly half of all black and Hispanic Wisconsin residents do not have a driver’s license. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 Department of Motor Vehicle offices, many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close the DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.
One of the most restrictive photo ID laws was passed in South Carolina. To obtain a free state ID, the 178,000 South Carolinians who currently lack a photo ID will be forced to pay for a passport or a birth certificate. Also, many elderly black residents who were born at home in the segregated South and who never received a birth certificate must now go to family court to prove their identity.
Obviously, those who have created these barriers to voting are hoping that voters will stay home or will be denied the right to vote on Election Day.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott instantly disenfranchised approximately 100,000 ex-felons who have paid their debt to society for non-violent crimes by prohibiting them from voting. This law would also prohibit another 1.1 million prisoners from being allowed to vote after serving their time.
President Bill Clinton was asked why the state would disenfranchise people forever once they have paid their debt to society. His response was, “Because most of them in Florida were African-American and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats, that’s why.”
As you can see, the Republicans intend to control state legislatures, continue their hold on the House of Representatives, win back the Senate and take over the White House by manipulating the voting process.
Depriving people of their constitutional right to vote is an absolute disgrace. As working-class citizens, we should make everyone we know aware of this intended discrimination against working people, students, people of color, the elderly and other Americans who have a desire to be involved in the democratic process.
Now is the time for us to learn what regulations our respective states are putting into place and prepare the electorate by ensuring they understand how to get around these impediments. We must be prepared to leap over such hurdles so that eligible voters are properly registered and can come out with a vengeance on Election Day and show America and the politicians that we will not stand for their attempts to deny us our democratic rights.
I, along with my fellow Coordinators John Dirzius, Princella Vogel, Sharyn Stone and Omar Gonzalez, encourage all members to ensure that every eligible member of their family is properly registered to vote on Election Day.