Thursday, April 29, 2010

Voter Suppression, Indirectly

In March, 2007 Washington Post Writers' Group columnist Marie Cocco lamented the electoral tactics of the GOP, highlighted by the dismissal of federal prosecutors for partisan political reasons. Eight U.S. prosecutors, including David Iglesias were sacked because they reportedly "would not time indictments and investigations favorably for the Republican Party at election time."

Cocco noted that the right's portrait of a vast Democratic conspiracy spearheaded by ACORN to rig elections far and wide

The Justice Department’s own statistics show that of 87 ballot-fraud convictions obtained since the department launched its “voter integrity” initiative in 2002, 17 were for noncitizen voting and another six were for multiple voting. Most of the cases involved vote-buying schemes hatched by local politicians in Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere.

The charges against ACORN, of course, were a classic in Republican fear-mongering. Far before that organization was forced to disband, the U.K.'s Brad Friedman commented in October, 2008

Acorn verifies the legitimacy of every registration its canvassers collect. If they can't authenticate the registration, or it's incomplete or questionable in other ways, they flag that form as problematic ("fraudulent", "incomplete", et cetera). They then hand in all registration forms, even the problematic ones, to elections officials, as they are required to do by law. In almost every case where you've heard about fraud by Acorn, it's because Acorn itself notified officials about the fraud that's been perpetrated on them by rogue canvassers. Most officials who run to the media screaming "Acorn is committing fraud" know all of the above but don't bother to share those facts with the media they've run to. None of this is about voter fraud. None of it. Where any fraud has occurred, it's voter registration fraud and has resulted in exactly zero fraudulent votes.

Even though the ginned-up scandal against ACORN had not yet materialized, Cocco observed

the vote-fraud folklore serves its purpose. It enables Republicans to push through state requirements for photos and other forms of voter identification, rules that depress turnout and impact elderly and minority voters—that is, Democrats—most seriously. This is the real fraud.

And so it is. Rush Limbaugh yesterday commented about

the new Arizona immigration law: It is all about voting. If papers (ahem) are required to vote, the Democrats are finished. It's their only hope. I mean, look, they're the radicals. They are siding against the American people. This regime is siding against the American people. The only hope they have is for fraud and illegals voting, and you can't really get away with that if everybody has to have a photo ID and legal proof (i.e., papers) that they are citizens.

Ironically, Limbaugh, in his own hyper-partisan and fact-free manner, seems to recognize the underlying issue in the new anti-immigrant (or, euphemistically, anti-illegal immigrant) legislation (promoted largely by the state's GOP): preventing the Wrong Kind of People from voting. Greg Palast explains how then-Secretary of State (now Governor) Jan Brewer in 2005 used

a 2004 law, known as "Prop 200," which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans' latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party's desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box....

State Senator Russell Pearce, the Republican sponsor of the latest ID law, gave away his real intent, blocking the vote, when he said, "There is a massive effort under way to register illegal aliens in this country."

How many? Pearce's PR flak told me, five million. All Democrats, too. Again, I asked Pearce's office to give me their the names and addresses from their phony registration forms. I'd happily make a citizens arrest of each one, on camera. Pearce didn't have five million names. He didn't have five. He didn't have one.

The horde of five million voters who swam the Rio Grande just to vote for Obama was calculated on a Republican website extrapolating from the number of Mexicans in a border town who refused jury service because they were not citizens. Not one, in fact, had registered to vote: they had registered to drive. They had obtained licenses as required by the law.

It is a (probably sad) fact about modern American politics: whites generally vote Republican; non-white ethnic minorities, Democratic. Oh, there are a lot of other variables, but racial (if including Hispanics as a separate race) status has become a better predictor than most of one's vote. And holding down the votes of minorities, including Mexican-Americans, is an effective way of getting Republicans elected. And if fearful Chicanos choose to move to California, New Mexico, or Mexico, all the better. Or as Palast concluded

that's the point, isn't it? Not to stop non-citizens from entering Arizona -- after all, who else would care for the country club lawn? -- but to harass folks of the wrong color: Democratic blue.

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