During her run to replace Jon Husted as Ohio’s Secretary of State, Democratic State Senator Nina Turner articulated this election season’s most pertinent political issue. After Governor John Kasich signed bills eliminating the number of early voting and registration days that would disenfranchise voters largely in minority districts, Turner argued “What Husted has done in … cutting … weekday hours and evening days… violated the 14th amendment to the Constitution and section two of the voting rights act.”
“When Democrats are in control,” she observed, “we expand and protect access to the ballot box. What Republicans know is that when they scale back opportunities, less people vote and that is how they win.” Her charge that “when Republicans can’t beat their Democratic opponents, they cheat them” is strongly supported by the multi-year GOP strategy track.
Calculated voter suppression is in Republican DNA. It subverts the democratic political process. It’s un-American. Republican governors and legislatures across the country, alleging voting fraud, have enacted laws that restrict voting by ordinary citizens who reside primarily in Democratic districts. Their allegation itself is fraudulent because vote fraud is virtually non-existent, yet the resulting voter suppression has been tacitly legitimatized by an ideologically activist United States Supreme Court.
The egregious practice has proliferated. In Pennsylvania, its political purpose has been acknowledged by the perpetrators. After the state’s Republicans enacted their 2012 voter identification law, GOP House majority leader Mike Turzai gloated, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done!”
The New Georgia Project in the Peach State successfully registered 90,000 new voters, but 40,000 of those registrations, primarily people of color, mysteriously disappeared. A judge refused civil rights activists’ petition to force the state’s Republican Secretary of State to process the registrations. With pre-election polls consistently projecting an extremely close U.S. Senate race, the loss of 40,000 registered voters in heavily Democratic districts stood to be decisive.
North Carolina’s 2013 voter identification law, often called the worst in the nation, eliminated same day registration, restricted registration drives and abridged early voting. It required that a voter who turned up in the wrong precinct would be prohibited from voting. Hearing an appeal, Judge James Wynn was bewildered: “Why does the state of North Carolina not want people to vote?” he asked. A full appeals court invalidated only part of the new law, but the ideological Supremes overturned the circuit court and permitted the harsh suppression act to take effect. Further, during yesterday’s voting, WRAL-TV in Raleigh reported that two locations received incorrect thumb drives and that many voters left without casting ballots. The station also disclosed that there were “reports of voting machines registering incorrect votes and polling places in black neighborhoods being down or having incorrect voter rolls.”
In Texas, an election judge watched a 93-year-old registered voter be rejected because his driver’s license had expired, probably because he didn’t drive anymore. He had other picture IDs, but not those that the state’s 2011 voter ID law specified.
The Huffington Post reported that “A disabled woman in Travis County was turned away from voting because she couldn’t afford to pay her parking tickets. An IHOP dishwasher from Mercedes can’t afford the cost of getting a new birth certificate, which he would need to obtain the special photo ID card required for voting. A student at a historically black college in Marshall, who registered some of her fellow students to vote, won’t be able to cast a ballot herself because her driver’s license isn’t from Texas and the state wouldn’t accept her student identification card.” Although a federal court declared the law unconstitutional because it was designed to discriminate, the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay for yesterday’s election. Mother Jones reported that it’s the first time in 32 years that the Supreme Court allowed a law restricting voting rights to be enacted despite having been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court for targeting minorities.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber reported, “We saw voters who had the right documentation, went down to the local I.D. issuing agency there in Texas and were told, ‘Oh we don`t have I.D.`s, we ran out. You have to come back later.’ “
In Dallas County, Ron Natinsky, running for judge in a Democratic district represented by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, quipped “We don`t need another 5,000 or 10,000 of her people to go to the polls.”
Late last week, California Senator Barbara Boxer noted, “Every single one of those (voter suppression and voter ID laws was) signed by a Republican Governor. Everything is at stake including our democracy, the right to vote … The party that stands for the right to vote is the Democratic Party. (Republicans) can`t win on the issues so they`re trying to stop people from getting to the polls.”
There are important issues on which there can be legitimate differences of opinion: healthcare, minimum wage, student loans, tax policy. But the right to vote should be sacrosanct. It must be retrieved. We lose it, we lose our national soul.
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May 6 marked the start of International Nurses Week, the annual recognition of nurses and the profession of nursing.