Republicans clearly doubt their ability to win a presidential election without rigging the electoral system to suppress voting by Americans they fear would vote for a Democrat. This is not mere conjecture. Rather, it is the plain and only apparent reason that Republicans in 33 states have taken notably un-American, if not unconstitutional, steps in the last several years to suppress voting by minorities, by students, by seniors and by naturalized immigrants.
The various strategies they employ to achieve such shameful suppression of voting rights are now well-known and widely employed. But here’s the largely unexamined issue: Voter fraud is so exceedingly rare and minor that the GOP movement that cites potential fraud as the grounds for suppressing voting rights has itself become the major fraud against voting rights.
A new Carnegie-Knight investigative report found just 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonations since 2000. Given the number of registered voters, about 146 million, that amounts to just one case for every 15 million voters. If that rate holds for the 2012 election — the fourth election cycle since 2000 — there would be just one case of voter impersonation for a cumulative total of 60 million potential voters per single case. By contrast, some 5 million voters are expected to have their voting rights blockaded this year by new voter ID and related voter suppression tactics.
Tell it to the Republicans. They pretend their voter suppression tactics safeguard voting rights, yet the opposite is alarmingly clear.
Driven by Republican-contolled legislatures, 33 states, including Tennessee, have now acted to require some form of supplemental voter ID, in addition to traditional registration cards. Most of these states have also unreasonably restricted early voting, tightened registration requirements, and aggressively sought to purge voter rolls of certain categories of voters.
Florida and Ohio are pace-setters in voter suppression. They have egregiously limited the placement of voting machines, allocating disproportionately more to Republican precincts and disproportionately fewer to Democratic precincts in order to create long lines on election day and discourage waiting voters.
In both of these battle ground states, Republican officials have wrongly made provisional ballots harder to get, or wrongly discarded them without counting them. In the last two elections in Florida, local GOP-led election commissions arranged for police to set up barriers near urban voting stations to discourage voting in minority, largely Democratic neighborhoods.
Ohio’s controlling Republicans made their state one of five that moved this year to cut their early voting period — from 35 days to 11 days, with no voting on the Sunday before the presidential election — a popular day for African-American congregations to vote together. After opponents of the law managed to force a referendum on this tactic, the Legislature’s Republicans kept their ban on early voting during the three days before the election, and allowed counties to cut extended hours and weekend days for early voting.
The problem with the latter is vividly partisan. Ohio’s county election commissions have three members from each party, with the Ohio’s Secretary of State (now a Republican) allowed to cast the deciding vote in split votes. When the issue of extending voting hours came up this week in Ohio’s county election commissions to allow early voting to people after work and on weekends, the Secretary of State vetoed the option for all 64 Democratic-leaning counties, and approved it for all 24 Republican-leaning counties.
And in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, a state judge denied an appeal to overturn the state’s new photo ID requirement, despite the fact that its Republicans sponsors, who passed the law on the grounds of potential voter fraud, could not present a single piece evidence of voter fraud in court records anywhere in the state.
Such ugly partisan tactics are an outrage. They utterly defy the notion of fair voting rights, and stain this nation’s democratic values. If courts and the Justice Department do not act to uphold legal challenges against this travesty, Americans’ voting rights will be irreparably eroded.
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