MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We've seen it all before.
Passing laws to keep certain groups of people from voting, when they are entitled to do in a democracy under the Constitution.
It used to be a "poll tax" in the South, where blacks were kept from voting because they didn't pay sufficient taxes. It was, of course, racist, but it also set the precedent of tying voting rights to wealth.
In the last few decades -- with a new surge in the past two years, -- we have seen Republican controlled states pass a number of voter identification laws - with additional limitations on advance voting and restrictive residency requirements in many cases. These new legal requirements for voting are meant to keep minorities, students, the disabled and the poorer elderly from voting, because these groups tend to lean Democratic in their affiliation.
A new study by the Brennan Center for Justice indicates that "since January 2011, partisans in 19 states have rushed through new laws that cut back on voting rights. In a comprehensive study released last October, the Brennan Center concluded these laws could make it far harder for millions of eligible citizens to vote."
The Department of Justice has successfully challenged a few of the new voter suppression laws, but hardly enough. Remember that if Jeb Bush and Kathryn Harris had not eliminated tens of thousands of minorities from the voting rolls in 2000, through a vetting process called caging, Al Gore - who won the popular vote in the US by half a million votes - might have carried Florida easily, instead of having the election stolen by the Supreme Court.
The right of an American citizen to vote is the fundamental ingredient that makes a democracy representative of the will of the people, of all US citizens. To intentionally keep people from exercising their right to vote, in the absence of any significant voter fraud, is a crime against the Constitution.
The Brennan Center concludes:
The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote. They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.
This November, restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes - nearly half of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Therefore, the ability of eligible citizens without photo ID to obtain one could have a major influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.
The report also notes:
Ten states now have unprecedented restrictive voter ID laws. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all require citizens to produce specific types of government-issued photo identification before they can cast a vote that will count. Legal precedent requires these states to provide free photo ID to eligible voters who do not have one.
Unfortunately, these free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters....
More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax - outlawed during the civil rights era - cost $10.64 in current dollars.
Stealing the most basic right in a democracy, the right to participate in the election of a representative government, is a thuggish form of state-sanctioned election theft.
It is election fraud that legally steals elections and replaces the rule of the majority with the rule of the entitled.