“[O]ne of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today." Bill Clinton, 7/6/11
Rolling Stone: "Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008." According to Berman, "a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots."
Since the 2010 election, Republican efforts to disrupt voting rights has been "more widespread and effective than ever."
In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.This coordinated effort focuses on disenfranchising voters in four key areas: (1) barriers to registration; (2) cuts to early voting; (3) photo IDs; and (4) disenfranchising ex-felons.
Berman provides a list of a dozen states that have approved these obstacles to voting thus far: Kansas and Alabama now require proof of citizenship to register to vote; Florida and Texas have erected barriers to groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters; Maine repealed a 1973 law that permitted Election Day voter registration; Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia cut short their early voting periods; Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls; and Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots.
Steve Benen notes that "it’s hard to say which is more astounding — the scope of the Republican efforts, the brazenness of their schemes, or the fact that this has gone largely overlooked by the establishment media in recent months."
Republicans claim that these measures are necessary to address widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that there is no evidence to substantiate any problem. Berman quotes a 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, which concluded "it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls." Or as Stephen Colbert joked,"Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere."
Republicans efforts to suppress voter turnout have nothing to do with voter fraud but are designed to prevent those with low income and minorities from voting. This open secret was acknowledged by Matthew Vadum
of the American Spectator, who recently conceded he supports making it difficult for the poor to vote: "registering the poor to vote is un-American" and "like handing out burglary tools to criminals."
As E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote, “these statutes are not neutral. Their greatest impact will be to reduce turnout among African Americans, Latinos and the young. It is no accident that these groups were key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — or that the laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is set to chair a hearing to examine the rash of voter ID laws passed by state legislatures this year. His office appears to recognize that "these new laws significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting, and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters" despite "the overwhelming evidence" that voter fraud is "virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low income Americans to exercise their right to vote."
It is unclear what impact these hearings will have but, as Digby says: “Democrats had better hope that the coming elections aren’t close. If they are, there’s just no way they can win with these laws that are coming on line. And that’s the plan.”