❄ PLAIN TALK [II]: SUPPRESS THE VOTE

❄ This post, and other ‘PLAIN TALK’ posts on this blog, describe in plain language the current Republican Party aims and methods, which I consider a perverse exercise in political design. ❄

Five years ago I blogged, in “Every Citizen a Voter [I]”, on voter suppression in the United States. [Note 1] I would subtitle this post EVERY CITIZEN A VOTER [II]. Far from urging all citizens to register and vote, key Republicans prefer to shape the electorate to their pleasure—by excluding those thought less likely to vote Republican.

Now, in 2011, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that ““An attack on the right to vote is underway across the country through laws designed to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. If this were happening in an emerging democracy, we’d condemn it as election-rigging.”” [Note 2] Although the title of Dionne’’s article—“How states are rigging the 2012 election””—seems to say the culprits are ‘states’, the full text makes plain that the culprit is the Republican Party. “The laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments” and the laws themselves display “rank partisanship.”

What do these laws do? Dionne: ““The laws in question include requiring voter identification cards at the polls, limiting the time of early voting, ending same-day registration and making it difficult for groups to register new voters.””

The Question

Should we understand these laws, and their enactment, as ordinary, ‘just politics’, normal, and so to be expected? Or should we understand them as extraordinary, pernicious, a threat to public life, orchestrated, and a large-scale exercise in voting fraud?

Are the persons who promote these laws, and the state legislators and governors who enact them, engaged in an illegal conspiracy?

Approaches

Begin with this radical idea: US citizens have a right to vote, which no one may take away. An electoral democracy requires nothing less.

Observe, however, that states have denied the vote, or removed a registered voter from the rolls, on many grounds—or pretexts. Being a woman, failure to meet a property test, race, too short residence, failure to pay poll tax, alleged non-residence, status as felon, failure to register or re-register, failure to register by deadline, failure to vote in a recent election or elections, and so forth.

Just as previous tests have often been explained as ‘necessary’ to construct a reliable list of qualified voters, some current proposals—for example, requiring a ‘government-issued photo ID at the polls—are justified as necessary to prevent ‘voting fraud’. If not felony, at least irony!

Some would argue that this is a political matter, subject to legislative jurisdiction. On this argument, terming the several proposals to place conditions on voting ‘illicit’ sounds out of place. And, even Dionne notes, the US Supreme Court upheld in 2008 an Indiana requirement that voters produce photo ID. [Note 3] Does it follow that it is far-fetched to write of a ‘conspiracy’? A conspiracy, according to my dictionary is “A combination of persons for an evil or unlawful purpose; an agreement between two or more to do something criminal, illegal, or reprehensible; a plot.” [Note 4] If voter suppression is not unlawful, it is at least evil and reprehensible. So ‘conspiracy’ it is.

Accounts

Are there sources that might help us to characterize this ‘conspiracy’, and hence better understand how to prevent its achieving its ‘reprehensible’ or ‘evil’ purpose?

A New York Times editorial on this subject is titled ““The Republican Threat to Voting”.” [Note 5] According to the Times “ Many of these bills were inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-backed conservative group, which has circulated voter ID proposals in scores of state legislatures. ” What is this ‘ALEC’? It‘s website describes it as “non-partisan”, but critics portray it as partisan to the core, in effect a front organization for Republican Party ambitions, financed by the Koch brothers.

The squarely non-partisan League of Women Voters has long championed voter registration. In the first half of 2011 Googling on [“League of Women Voters” suppression] uncovers several League state organizations criticizing the Republican initiatives. [Note 6]

Design Proposal

See “Every Citizen a Voter [I]”.

Design Problem

There I pose this question: “ how would the transition from the world we have now to a world of presumed voting eligibility be accomplished?” And in the meantime are vigorous voter registration drives and vigilance at the polls the only available responses?


NOTES

[Note 1]:  This blog, 6 June 2006, “Every Citizen a Voter [I]”.

[Note 2]:   E. J. Dionne, Jr. “How states are rigging the 2012 election”, Washington Post, 19 June 2011.

[Note 3]:   David Stout, “Supreme Court Upholds Voter Identification Law in Indiana&#148, The New York Times, 29 April 2008.

[Note 4]:   The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, v. 1, p. 407.

[Note 5]:   Editorial, The New York Times, “The Republican Threat to Voting”, 26 April 2011.

[Note 6]:   [Wisconsin] “League of Women Voters Denounces Costly Voter Suppression Legislation,” http://www.lwvwi.org/Portals/0/News%20and%20Events/PDFS/LeagueDenouncesVoterSuppressionBill.pdf , 5 May 2011. [South Carolina] “League of Women Voters Denounces Voter Suppression Legislation,&#148 The Pickens Sentinel, http://www.pickenssentinel.com/view/full_story/13396203/article-League-of-Women-Voters-denounces-passage-of-voter-suppression-legislation-Read-more–The-Easley-Progress—League-of-Women-Voters-denounces-passage-of-voter-suppression-legislation-?instance=home_news_lead , 25 May 2011. [Florida] “League of Women Voters Accuses Legislature of Voter Suppression,”, ABC Action News, 11 May 2011. http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/political/league-of-women-voters-accuses-legislature-of-voter-suppression .

[Political Design 2011.06.29. Post A26. http://www.learnworld.com/blog/design.html or http://design.learnworld.com]


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