Since the Republican Supreme Court decided to dump parts of the Voters Rights laws passed almost 50 years ago, most states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors, including North Dakota, have attempted to pass hundreds of restrictive voting laws, particularly the requirement to have a photo voter ID. Some have been successful. After all, a great deal of fraud has been committed in voting precincts! Between 2000 and 2014 more than a billion votes have been cast in national elections. The staggering total of 31 cases of impersonation at the polls has occurred in that period. Texas, a state that has passed some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, has had two convictions in the last ten years for in-person voter impersonation while 20 million votes have been cast.
To be blunt, rich white Republicans have decided in 2014 to use race, wealth, and voter suppression laws to decrease the votes of poor whites, blacks, browns, reds, and yellows in order to capture the Senate from the Democrats. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 some talking heads said that the battle for civil rights was over. Those of us who have lived with segregation, “Separate but Equal,” Jim Crow, and white flight knew better. The defeated Old Confederacy came out of the woodwork and slave quarters of old mansions and plantations of the South and formed a New Confederacy, absolutely shocked that the president was half black.
So the Tea Party was formed not in Boston, but in Jackson, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Birmingham, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; and dozens of other old Confederate cities. Then the anti-government movement spread to other states on and above the Mason-Dixon line such as Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, establishing the fact that racism is not dead in the US.
On the day after the 2008 election Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said the top goal of the Republican Party would be chasing the black Obama out of the white White House. And the right wing pounced. The placards at Tea Party rallies portrayed Obama as an African witch doctor from Kenya. The perpetual presidential candidate Donald Trump sent his investigators to Hawaii to examine Obama’s birth certificate.
Rock music star and 2nd Amendment gunner Ted Nugent, a mouthy campaigner for many Republican big boys such as the Bushes, made this famous quote: “”I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the Acorn community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way to the top office of authority in the United States.” It’s just a side note that the Nazis called Jews “untermensch” (subhuman) and “mischling” (mongrel).
Southern Republican candidates made racist comments about Obama at many campaign events. North Carolina State Senator Larry Pitman was asked at a town hall meeting whether Obama was a traitor. His response: “I just don’t think it’s right to call Barack Obama a traitor to his country … I have not come across any evidence yet that he has done one thing to harm Kenya.” Another North Carolinian, voting official Don Yelton, said voter ID laws were necessary and sound because: “It hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything.” Claiming he was not a racist, he added: “Niggers say “nigger” all the time, so what’s really racist is not letting white people say “nigger.”
Southern Tea Party evangelicals still call Obama the Antichrist, and that he must be opposed at every turn (with his lesser demons Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi!). The cry “Take Back America!” emphasizes that Obama the Antichrist and his fellow Democratic demons have changed America from a white, Christian, male country to one betraying established, traditional ideals. Obama is still an “Islamic, atheist, Marxist Kenyan” to many people six years after his first election.
Over 30 states have laws requiring some kind of proof of identity to vote. Some have very strict laws requiring up-to-date photos, others have strict non-photo ID laws. The state of Texas, which has just received the OK from the Republican Supreme Court of the US voting laws for the 2014 vote while they are under appeal, already knows that potentially 678,000 to 844,000 voters, previously eligible to vote, will be disenfranchised by the new laws. That’s up to six percent of the eligible voters in the state. (About all the entire eligible voters in North and South Dakota!) This estimate comes from the Texas secretary of state and a federal judge who banned the law as unconstitutional. The Government Accountability Office recently determined that strict photo voter IDs in 2012 lowered voter participation by 2 to 3 percent in both Kansas and Tennessee.
Changes made in voting laws other than Voter ID laws will further suppress the vote in many states. Tighter restrictions in the following areas could further hurt poor and middle-class voters: early voting, absentee ballots, precinct changes, voter registration, same-day registration, and voting rights of felons. As an example, if you have committed a felony you cannot vote for life in these states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming. Most are red states, others slightly purple. In 13 other states you get your voting rights back upon release from prison. In others you can vote after probation or parole. In Maine and Vermont you can still vote sitting in a cell! About six million Americans cannot vote because of felonies committed. Over half are black and Latino. In some states it takes over ten years after release to get your voting rights back. In Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia more than one in five blacks cannot vote because of a conviction. Remember when George Bush won Florida by 537 votes in 2004? Over 800,000 Floridians could not vote because of previous criminal convictions. One could ask: “When is your debt to society finally paid?”
A few stories about older voters trying to vote in voter suppression states will point out some problems. Joy Dunn is 79 and first voted in Little Rock, Arkansas 60 years ago. She had to pay a $2 poll tax. Back in ‘54 that was about a day’s wages for many. Over the years she has acquired a number of different IDs, including a driver’s license. This year, because of a foot injury, she was unable to drive, so she decided to vote by absentee ballot. But she sent in the ballot without a copy of a valid ID, which was a new requirement in the state. Her ballot was returned so she got her neighbor to drive her to a library to copy the ID. The new laws had no budget for informing voters of the new rules. Joy said she had a number of friends who would have great difficulty with the new laws because of the expense of providing birth certificates. Some have never had a birth certificate and some certificates have been lost in fires at record centers.
Rosanell Eaton is a 93-year-old resident of Louisburg, N.C., a state that has passed some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation. The laws are currently being challenged in federal court. According to The Guardian, she told her daughter: ”You know, all this is coming back around before I could get in the ground. I was hoping I would be dead before I’d have to go see all this again.” (She is one who is challenging the new laws.)
Rosanell lived through Jim Crow days in segregated schools, drinking water from fountains labeled “colored.” Her father owned a little plot of land. She sometimes woke up seeing charred KKK crosses in the yard. Louisburg election officials used tricks to keep blacks from voting. Voters would be asked to name the number of beans in a barrel -- or they had to name accurately all of the elected officials in the county. Rosanell in 1939 was asked to recite the preamble to the Constitution – and did without error. She was allowed to vote. She was arrested at age 92 for protesting the new laws. She still could have a great deal of trouble voting. She has a number of different IDs, but her birth certificate has the name of Rosa Nell Johnson, her driver’s license is under the name of Rosa Johnson Eaton, her voter registration card names Rosanell Eaton.
Ruthelle Frank of Wisconsin has voted in every presidential election since she was 21. She is now 87, has lived in the same house for 85 of her years and has served on her village council for 18 years. She has never had a legal birth certificate because her parents didn’t have one. She has been registered to vote since she was 21. When she was told she needed a new ID she went to the DMV with a number of IDs but no birth certificate. The DMV worker asked her sarcastically: “How do I know you’re not an illegal alien?” She may have to spend up to $200 to try to get a legal birth certificate. She doesn’t have an extra $200.The story is worth reading in the 24 September, 2014 issue of The Guardian. Now we are in Jim Crow II with old geezers like me. In Kansas a 97-year-old woman was denied voting because she did not have a photo ID when she rode a nursing home shuttle to the polls.
Through the Citizens United and McCutcheon campaign reform decisions the highest court in the land has determined that free speech is very expensive. Only billionaires can buy it. Expensive words are bought by the gross and by the second on TV, radio, and print. Millionaires and billionaires have created a perpetual political auction and speech market in every township, village, county, city, and state in the nation.
Some of them think they should be allotted a vote for each dollar of cash and assets they control. Tom Perkins, billionaire venture capitalist in California, told the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco that he should get one vote for each dollar of taxes he pays. According to Perkins, if people don’t pay any taxes they shouldn’t get a single vote. In 1980 the top one percent of the One Percent contributed 15 percent of the money spent on elections. In 2012 that had increased to 40 percent of the billions spent on elections.
Maybe Perkins is not aware that most research on the subject suggests that high inequality, which we have in this country, destroys representative democracy and creates a higher probability of murderous revolution like the French Revolution of 1789. One Percent heads rolled into the baskets placed under the crash of the French guillotine. Perhaps sharpened pitchforks will appear at Florida polls this year. As the main author of the decision in the McCutcheon case, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “The legal scope is far more narrow limited in quid pro quo deals directly between donor and a politician. The government may not seek to limit the appearance of mere influence or access.” In other words, if you don’t see the politician stuffing money in his pockets and signing a promissory note to vote for a certain bill, you can’t do anything about it. What a bunch of judicial crap!
In 2012 black voters in many Florida cities had to wait up to six hours in lines to vote. How many people can go six hours without peeing? Election officials in Miami-Dade County precincts have been warning that restrooms at polling places will not be open during the 2014 elections. They made this bizarre, unbelievable announcement: “In order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly, the use of restrooms by the voters is not allowed on election day.(!)” I have suggested before that voters should bring blankets to form shields for peeing and defecating on lawns and highways near the voting precincts as a form of citizen protest on the closed-restroom rules.
Does expensive “free speech” go to the highest bidder? Does Congress go to the highest bidder? Who should be able to buy the most votes? Bill Gates at $81 billion? Warren Buffett at about $57 billion? Larry Ellison at $50 billion? Is that what ”free” speech is all about?
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