Tag Archives | 2012 Election

GOP Uses Voter Suppression in 2012 Election

Raking leaves relaxes the mind and soothes the body after a hectic political campaign. But I can’t quite get the election out of my head.  Something’s still bothering me.

Even in politics, there is an unwritten code of ethics governing at least few things. Even in the most vile, dirty, roll-in-the-gutter campaigns, candidates refrain from doing certain things. They don’t criticize  opponents’ families, particularly their children. If opponents or their family members become sick or injured, candidates express condolences and support. At the end of campaigns, even nasty campaigns, the losing candidates almost always swallow hard and give concession speeches.  These speeches are of special significance for they signal an end of hostilities to supporters  and acceptance of defeat by the losing candidates. That’s important in a society where the peaceful transition of power is one of our democratic traditions.

One other thing should be added to the list of things you just don’t do. You don’t take away another person’s  right to vote. Unfortunately, our nation has a sad history of doing just that with poll taxes and literacy tests. The most recent attempts were the requirement that voters have a photo ID and a reduction (in some states) in the number of days available for early voting.  Here in New Hampshire, in the last election, a photo ID wasn’t required, but it will be in future elections.
It’s difficult to explain why photo IDs are inappropriate for elections when they are widely used for identification purposes elsewhere: to verify identities for airplane flights, to purchase alcoholic beverages or cigarettes, or to check the identities of people stopped by the police for traffic violations.

Nevertheless, photo IDs shouldn’t be required to vote. Let me explain. First, the crime of voter impersonation is extremely rare. Second, certain categories of people such as the poor, minorities,  handicapped  persons, students and the elderly (all of whom tend to vote Democratic) are less likely to possess a driver’s license for ID purposes because they are less likely to drive.

“Oh,” you say, “That’s no excuse, here in New Hampshire, a person can get a photo ID for free.”

Technically, that’s true, but it’s harder to get a free photo ID than you might think. Here, in Hampton, the applicant first must go to the Town Clerk’s office to get a voucher. Then, that person must be driven 21 miles by someone else (remember the applicant doesn’t drive)to the Motor Vehicle Bureau in Dover. Then, applicants must wait in line to complete paperwork and have their photos taken. Hey, voting is supposed to be easy, not this difficult.

Also, photo IDs aren’t foolproof. Someone voting by absentee ballot doesn’t have to present a photo ID. That brings up a point. Republicans in states across the nation sought to institute photo ID laws because they realized photo IDs would suppress Democratic turnout. But Republicans did nothing to prevent fraud resulting from illegal absentee ballots. That’s because Republicans generally do very well with absentee ballots.

Which raises yet another point – voter suppression by reducing the number of days allowed for early voting. Generally speaking, Democrats are much more likely to use early voting than Republicans are. Therefore, Republicans can reduce the Democratic vote by limiting the days allotted  for early voting.

Attempts to limit early voting were carried out in two crucial swing states – Ohio and Florida. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted tried in Ohio, and Republican governor Rick Scott did so in Florida. The result was long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots. In Florida, some voters waited as long as 9 hours. Inevitably, some voters lose patience and leave the line without voting.

Of course, a way exists to verify a voter’s identity without the use of a photo ID. When the person first registers, have them sign the form twice. Send the duplicate signature to their polling place. When the voter arrives, have them sign their name and compare the two signatures to be sure they are the same.

Voters might leave photo IDs at home, but they won’t leave their hands at home. And signatures won’t discriminate against certain classes of voters. Virtually everyone has one.

But this method won’t suppress the Democratic vote so it was ignored in state legislatures with Republican majorities. Of course, someone might say, “Well, if voter suppression were such a problem, then Democrats wouldn’t have done so well in the last election.”

That doesn’t rule out the occurrence of voter suppression. Suppose that, despite wearing shoes two sizes too small, a runner wins a race in a photo-finish. Imagine how much larger the runner’s winning margin would have been if he wore the right size shoes. Imagine what the vote totals might have been without voter suppression.

The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. To deny it or suppress it as Republicans did in the last election, undermines our system of representative government. It is a grievous injustice which deserves prosecution as a crime.

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