Voting Rights under Attack

Written by LWV of the Red River Valley Co-President Barb Headrick

In October 2007, the National Voter had an article entitled “Voter Fraud?” (You can read it on the website) In it you read how the cries of voter fraud are not backed up by any facts, but are a powerful message to create calls for restrictions on voting.

In 2011, restrictions have been put into place with Texas, Alabama, Kansas,Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin leading the way with new voter id laws that require a “government issued photo id” to vote. However, there are rules on what id’s are allowed. In Texas, a state concealed-weapons id is okay, but a student id from a state university is not. If citizens cannot provide a birth certificate to satisfy the requirements to get a state photo id, they cannot vote. This is true even for people whose citizenship is recognized by national and state programs including Social Security. Also, if you have never asked for you official birth certificate from the state you where you were born, it isn’t free. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, it costs $26 in Minnesota and $22 in Texas to get a copy of your birth certificate that you may need to get the required government issued ID. This means states are asking people to pay to vote. Sound familiar? That is a poll tax in my view and that is unconstitutional.

One of the worst examples is in Florida. A new voting law not only requires a state approved voter and reduces early voting; it also requires “third party organizations,” like the LWV of Florida, to submit a voter registration application within 48 hours or face fines and prevents Floridians who move from one county to another from changing their address at the polls. The latter does have an exception for military members and their families. The rest of Floridians would only be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot which are rarely counted. As for the 48 hour rule, how does it apply to long weekends?

Do you remember not so long ago when the push was on to make it easier to register and vote as the concern was lack of participation? Are you like me and find it interesting that this fear of “voter fraud” follows a 2008 presidential election of a Democratic president who gained substantial backing from newly registered minority and young voters? And since when is the US so rich with voters that we think it is time to treat the RIGHT TO VOTE like a privilege to be earned?

The League of Women Voters was built on the efforts to bring the right to vote to women. We have backed efforts to bring more people to the polls and use the power of government to guarantee that the right to vote is not hindered. Now, in a new century we face an old battle — restrictions on voting that will target those with less money and less political power to “solve” a non-existent problem. The history of the United States does have examples of political parties in numerous places using a variety of forms of voter fraud to gain and retain power. These tales led to voter registration laws in 49 of the 50 states. However, neither party has the organization or skills needed for successful voter fraud. A quick Google search shows only 6 states still close the bars on election day to prevent the use of that once very popular means of buying votes. Every election year we hear of the need for more election judges and the need for them to be better prepared and better paid. High turnout in a state often brings reports of a lack of ballots and long lines that discourage some voters from participating. These are legitimate problems that need to be addressed. People voting under a fraudulent name simply is not.

Why make it harder to vote? Because, unfortunately, there are too many people in this country who do see voting as a privilege that should be withheld to prevent “others” who “don’t know the truth” or “will just vote based on [insert some identify trait or belief that is seen as somehow illegitimate]. And then there is the fact of the political game. Each side knows detailed descriptions for voters who are more likely to vote for their candidate/party. Each side wants those voters to show up on election day and don’t really care if other types of voters do so. So, if early voting and same day registration is seen as enhancing Democratic candidates, then Republican elected officials have no problem with reducing or ending these efforts to get more people to vote. The Democrats would probably be no less stingy if the roles were reversed.

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley and everywhere else wants everyone who is eligible to vote. That is all we want. Because of this commitment to the RIGHT TO VOTE, I encourage all of our members and anyone else to call, write, email state legislators; do what you can to support lawsuits challenging these new restrictions on voting; or simply correct anyone you hear complaining about “voter fraud.” In fact, let us know you want some voter registration forms, we’ll get them to you. Register people and get them to the polls. There is no stronger way of saying “NO” then through greater participation in the face of these calls for restrictions and hurdles to our constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

No right in the US Constitution or any state constitution is invulnerable. We must stand for ourselves and our fellow voters. The LWV of the Red River Valley will always stand for more voters not less.

PS: The one state without any registration is North Dakota. Anyone think it is rampant with voter fraud?

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This is a blog for the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley. Members of the league will be contributing to it. Feel free to comment and join in our nonpartisan discussions.

Here is the League of Women Voter’s mission statement:
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

All discussion is welcome as long as it is polite and open to the views of others. When appropriate we will distinguish individual between officials LWV positions and private positions of the writers of this blog.

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