New study finds suppression of U.S. voters’ rights takes several forms but all threaten nation’s democracy

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LatinaLista — The hallmark of the United States isn’t just our practice of democracy but the freedom of our elections — in theory.

Ever since President Obama was elected to the White House, there has been an increased effort by those states with Republican majorities and/or governors to pass legislation that would keep people from casting fraudulent votes — even though official data shows it’s not nearly the problem as some would have the nation believe.

Out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud, according to a Department of Justice study outlined during a 2006 Congressional hearing. Only 26 of those cases, or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas

So, what’s the real reason for enacting laws that are addressing a problem that, for the most part, is non-existent — it’s called voter suppression.

It would benefit the Republican Party — because they are the majority of the authors of these kinds of laws — to ensure that less voters who opposed their party platform and politicians actually voted in elections.

These are voters of color, low income, gay, young people, etc.

Before the summer of 2013, there was a federal mandate that states, notorious for their suppression of votes by people of color in the past, had to clear with the federal government any changes to their state’s voting laws. In a shocker, the Supreme Court struck that oversight down and deemed that these same states no longer needed to get clearance from the federal government before implementing voting changes.

What has happened in the aftermath is clear proof of the real intent behind these laws that are promoted as ‘safeguarding the integrity of the American vote.’ Unprecedented activity erupted in Republican-held states to make changes to how, when and where votes are cast.

Most of these states got away with passing legislation but the federal government is challenging others.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it will challenge Texas’s Voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.

…“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

The full extent of what Republican legislators have been doing to achieve more favorable results at the polls has been documented in a new report titled Lining Up: Ensuring Equal Access to the Right to Vote

Published by the civil rights organizations, Advancement Project and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the report highlights the organizations’ efforts to “combat restrictive voter ID laws, challenges at the polls, deception and intimidation, “show-me-your-papers” proof-of-citizenship practices, unacceptably long lines, and the troubling use of provisional ballots.”

According to the report’s findings, the assault on voters’ rights is not just blatant but disturbing in its effort to diminish a democracy admired around the world.

Some of the report’s highlights are:
 

 

  • From January 2011 to October 2012, restrictive voter ID laws were proposed in 38 states. After considerable litigation and advocacy, only four states – Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana and Kansas – had strict voter ID laws requiring current, government-issued photo ID in place during the 2012 election.
  • Laws that shortened early voting periods in 2012 contributed to long lines, which voters of color faced more. African-American voters faced the longest lines, waiting an average of 23 minutes to cast a ballot, compared to an average wait time of 12 minutes for white voters and 19 minutes for Latino voters. A comprehensive data-based study of over 5,000 precincts in Florida and found that black and Latino voters in the state faced later closing times than non-Hispanic white voters.
  • In Pennsylvania, a record number of voters cast provisional ballots. In Philadelphia alone, more than 27,000 provisional ballots were cast on Election Day because of names missing from the rolls, poor poll worker training, and poll worker confusion over the state’s voter ID law.
  • Florida officials sent more than 2,600 letters to registered voters in 2012, saying they were ineligible to vote and would be purged from the rolls unless they showed proof of citizenship within 30 days. Eighty-two percent of letter recipients were voters of color (mostly Latino, but also black and Asian-American citizens). Eligible voters on the list were only permitted to vote after litigation.
  • In the first half of 2013, 11 of the 15 states formerly covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – more than 73 percent – had already introduced restrictive voting bills that make voting harder for people of color. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling was released in June, officials in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama announced plans to implement new restrictive voter ID laws and other suppressive measures that threaten to disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority voters. In the weeks since, Virginia and North Carolina enacted some of the most restrictive voting laws known in recent history.
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