Is This Really How You Want to Win an Election?
In a blatant attempt to deliver the upcoming election to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, more than a dozen Republican-leaning state legislatures have passed voter suppression measures ostensibly meant to fight voter fraud. Unless the Department of Justice successfully challenges these laws in court, hundreds of thousands of voters will be deprived of their rights in November.
Proponents of the laws aren’t even bothering to hide their partisan motivations. Just last month, a Pennsylvania House Republican leader proudly boasted how “voter ID … is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Astonishingly, in an ongoing trial contesting Pennsylvania’s new law, the state stipulated the following:
“There have been no investigations and prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania ... The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania ... (The state) will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania ... (The state) will not offer any evidence or argument that in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November in the absence of the Photo ID law.”
It’s clear that the fight against voter fraud is a solution in search of a problem. Documented instances of voter fraud are virtually nonexistent. Nonetheless, since 2010, 14 states have passed laws that limit voter registration or require government-issued photo IDs to vote. Such laws conveniently overlook how difficult and expensive it can be for elderly, poverty-stricken, or less educated Americans to obtain such identification.
A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer found Pennsylvania’s photo ID law threatens to disenfranchise nearly 10% of voters. If the law takes effect, the results of the election will be an embarrassment, regardless of who wins in November.
Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida, took the unusual step of rebuking the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. In a Washington Post op-ed he wrote that it “make[s] a mockery of the democracy we put on display every election day ... Including as many Americans as possible in our electoral process is the spirit of our country. It is why we have expanded rights to women and minorities but never legislated them away ... Cynical efforts at voter suppression are driven by an un-American desire to exclude as many people and silence as many voices as possible.”
We couldn’t agree more. The history of this country has been the drive towards a more and more inclusive democracy. Unfortunately, partisan motivations are pushing some to turn back the clock. In an election year already marred by a flood of outside secret money thanks to Citizens United, laws limiting voter registration or requiring government-issued photo IDs only further undermine the integrity of our elections and democracy.