Friday, September 02, 2016

Voter Fraud My Ass!

Growing up I remember public service announcements on television urging viewers to register and vote. The one I remember most vividly declaimed “Vote and the choice is yours. Don't vote and the choice is theirs.” A strong bold statement, to be sure but one that even before I became aware of the systematic racism of the segregated South, sounded ominously divisive. As I grew older and became aware of who “they” were I came to appreciate the protections afforded to fellow Americans who had been systematically denied the right to vote by a web of Jim Crow laws.

That's why the wave of “anti-fraud” legislation enacted by Republican states pisses me off. Not only has anyone demonstrated voting fraud that even remotely approaches a level that would warrant restricting the exercise of a fundamental right, but legislators specifically crafted provisions to target minority and working-class voters.

The most egregious example is North Carolina where the legislature took advantage of the Supreme Court's decision to gut the most effective provision of the Voting Rights Act. HB 589 enacted a raft of changes that significantly increased the barriers to African-American and other minority voting. We know that legislators specifically targeted minority voters because lawsuits against the changes have disclosed legislative requests for information about minority voting patterns before they eliminated practices that encouraged minority voting and established identification requirements that reduced minority voting. Given the absence of any real voter fraud anywhere in the US, I can't imagine that other states' motivations for enacting ant-fraud legislation are any less suspect.

Much of the restrictive voting legislation is promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which describes itself as “America's largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” I would call them and agenda-driven clearing house that produces templates for business-friendly legislation. I first heard of ALEC when I worked for the Arizona State Legislature in the 80's. Several of the more conservative legislators joined the newly-formed ALEC because they thought the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) formed in 1975 was too liberal. Given the legislation that has come out of Arizona in the past few decades I can understand why they thought so.

So in the end, anti-voting fraud legislation is an unwarranted restriction of a fundamental right fostered in the interest of a wealthy business class by a well-funded front group.

Ya gotta admire their success.

Fortunately, America still has a somewhat independent judiciary.

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