Indiana’s Voter ID law. Is it a voter fraud condom or voter suppresion?

I was reading an article on Alternet this evening, Republicans Urge Supreme Court to Allow Preemptive Strikes in Elections.  And discovered this unusual phrasing in the US Department of Justice amicus brief (pdf) [emphasis added].

 A State need not wait to suffer a harm; it can adopt prophylactic measures to prevent it from occurring in the first place. That is particularly true in a situation, like voter fraud, where the temptation is obvious and the consequences of undeterred and undetected violations are enormous. Thus, legislatures may “respond to potential deficiencies in the electoral process with foresight rather than reactively, provided that response is reasonable and does not significantly impinge on constitutionally protected rights.”

Now, I know it has other meanings, but when I see prophylactic I think of one thing, and that is condoms.  So thanks Bush White House for adding sexual imagery to the this vital issue of democracy.

On to the serious issue, is there wide scale voter fraud, or is legislation like this an example voter suppression efforts by the Republican party.

Lets start with some other legal news today to start us on our journey.  Alberto Gonzalez was named lawyer of the year by the American Bar Association.  This is place where I suspect voter sheningans more than I do in Indiana.

I decide to start with Gonzalez, because he came under heat for some US attorney firings.  One of these firings was David Iglesias of New Mexico.  This is what Iglesias had to say on NOW this past July.

NOW: As the U.S. Attorney of New Mexico you were asked to investigate and prosecute instances of voter fraud. What was the nature of this alleged voter fraud?

DAVID IGLESIAS (DI): I was aware that the Justice Department was interested in having U.S. attorneys investigate and prosecute voter fraud going back to 2002. In New Mexico, I wasn’t really aware of that being a potential large scale issue until the summer of 2004. So I set up a taskforce in September 2004 to investigate. I made it state, local and federal law enforcement, and I had made sure that the FBI was involved, and that the Justice Department, public integrity section in Washington was involved. I made sure that there were both Democrat and Republican officials as part of this voter fraud effort because I wanted to allay the fears of New Mexicans that this was some kind of partisan witch hunt.

NOW: And did you find prosecutable cases?

DI: No. We looked at well over 100 cases … Upon reviewing the evidence and looking at the FBI reports, and actually talking to the FBI agent in charge of this, I concluded, as did the public integrity section at main Justice [Department] and at the local FBI office, that we didn’t have any prosecutable cases.

Over 100 cases and none were prosecutable, so where is the fraud??  Like that awful catch phrase in the infomercials, “but wait, there’s more!”  Like this from the Washington Post.

White House officials also criticized John McKay, then the U.S. attorney in Seattle, for not pursuing an investigation after the disputed 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington state. McKay, who was fired, has said that claim was baseless.

But wait, there’s more!  The Boston Globe reports on what happened at the US District Attorney office in Missouri in 2006.

Todd Graves brought just four misdemeanor voter fraud indictments during his five years as the US attorney for western Missouri — even though some of his fellow Republicans in the closely divided state wanted stricter oversight of Democratic efforts to sign up new voters.

Then, in March 2006, Graves was replaced by a new US attorney — one who had no prosecutorial experience and bypassed Senate confirmation. Bradley Schlozman moved aggressively where Graves had not, announcing felony indictments of four workers for a liberal activist group on voter registration fraud charges less than a week before the 2006 election.

In Missouri, Schlozman violated standard policy.

Republicans, who had been pushing for restrictive new voting laws, applauded. But critics said Schlozman violated a department policy to wait until after an election to bring voter fraud indictments if the case could affect the outcome, either by becoming a campaign issue or by scaring legitimate voters into staying home.

So it seems Schlozman was trying to influence the election with bringing the indictments just before a very close election.

So a number of Republican district attorneys got the boot for not pushing hard on voter fraud cases.

What about voter suppression, is that what Republicans, other than the purged attorneys, are actively doing?

Lets start with the exhaustive report (pdf) by the People for the American Way which quotes a Republican Michigan State Representative as being very candid.

This summer, Michigan state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have tough time in this election.” African Americans comprise 83% of Detroit’s population.

Or a repeat of the 2000 felon purge in Florida in 2004, but with a twist, Hispanics will not be purged.

This year [2004] in Florida, the state ordered the implementation of a “potential felon” purge list to remove voters from the rolls, in a disturbing echo of the infamous 2000 purge, which removed thousands of eligible voters, primarily African-Americans, from the rolls. The state abandoned the plan after news media investigations revealed that the 2004 list also included thousands of people who were eligible to vote, and heavily targeted African-Americans while virtually ignoring Hispanic voters.

Well back to attorneygate for another allegation of voter suppression that Monica Goodling discussed in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee from the transcript provided by the Washington Post [emphasis added].

As explained in more detail in my written remarks, I believe the deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision, failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House’s interest in selecting Tim Griffin as the interim U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, inaccurately described the department’s internal assessment of the Parsky commission, and failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote- cadging during his work on the president’s 2004 campaign.

Now, many people have no clue what voter caging is, at least up till Monica Goodling’s testimony at which point people wanted to know what was alleged.  So Salon has a good summary of it here,

Vote caging is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren’t living at (because they are, say, at college or at war). The Republican National Committee reportedly stopped the practice following a consent decree in a 1986 case. Google the term and you’ll quickly arrive at the Wizard of Oz of caging, Greg Palast, investigative reporter and author of the wickedly funny Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans—Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild. Palast started reporting allegations of Republican vote caging for the BBC’s Newsnight in 2004. He’s been almost alone on the story since then. Palast contends, both in Armed Madhouse and widely through the liberal blogosphere, that vote caging, an illegal voter-suppression scheme, happened in Florida in 2004 this way:

The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked “Do not forward” to voters’ homes. Letters returned (“caged”) were used as evidence to block these voters’ right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses. Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and—you got to love this—American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are Black voters.

Why weren’t these African-American voters home when the Republican letters arrived? The homeless men were on park benches, the students were on vacation—and the soldiers were overseas.

Are there laws related to voter registration efforts that haven’t been pursed by the Department of Justice (DoJ)?  Well according to an Alternet article from July, there is:

Von Spakovsky’s 18-page letter is a detailed defense of some of the department’s most controversial recent rulings, such as approving a Texas congressional redistricting plan and a Georgia voter I.D. law that later was blocked in court as a violation of the Constitutional amendment barring poll taxes. Nowhere in the often-technical letter is any mention in section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which is intended to help poor people vote by requiring state welfare agencies to offer the chance to register.

Instead, Von Spakovsky defended an aggressive stance with enforcing the NVRA’s voter purge provisions, which fall under section 8 of the law. “The division could not willfully ignore the list maintenance requirements of the NVRA,” he wrote. “It is the responsibility of DOJ to enforce these laws.”

the article goes on to report what the date shows.

 A just-released federal voter registration report reveals the stakes. In late June, the Election Assistance Commission issued a biennial voter registration report to Congress for 2005 and 2006. The report found that 16.6 million new registration applications were received by state motor vehicles agencies while only 527,752 applications came from state public assistance offices — a 50 percent drop from 2003-2004. The report also found 13.0 million voters were purged nationwide and 9.9 million were put on “inactive” status, meaning these people have to provide identification before receiving a 2008 ballot.

The potential number of public assistance recipients who could register runs into the millions. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s FY 2008 budget, federally subsidized “health centers” will serve an estimated 16.3 million patients, a population where “91 percent are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, 64 percent are from racial/ethnic minority groups and 40 percent are uninsured.” This is the same population who typically seek a variety of federally subsidized public assistance, from food stamps to fuel assistance to welfare.

Another indication of how many poor people could register is Tennessee, whose elections are federally supervised. From 2005-2006, Tennessee registered 120,992 people at public assistance offices — nearly a quarter of the national total, the EAC reported. Tennessee registered more voters than the combined totals of welfare office registrations from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

So Tennessee whose elections are federally supervised, must be meeting the Section 7 requirements.  After all they have 25% of the public assistance registrants in the whole US (while having about 2% of the total population) and more than the combined total of some of the states with the largest population totals.

So when the DoJ comes out in support of the State of Indiana and their Voter ID law and you look at their record, you have to think that is law should be struck down.  Remember this is the DoJ that has:

  1. Purged attorneys that did not pursue voter fraud investigation when the evidence of fraud was insufficient to prosecute
  2. Replaced at least one attorney with another that brought voter fraud indictments just prior to a close Senatorial election in Missouri, against DoJ policy
  3.  Replaced another attorney with someone that was alleged to be part of a voter caging effort to suppress votes
  4. That has not pursued the reduce voter registration efforts from public assistance offices, which the data clearly shows has decreased, which are required by law

I am sticking with voter suppression.

-Josh

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