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“An Electoral Facsimile Of Jim Crow”: Virginia Republicans Move Forward With Mass Voter Disenfranchisement

This morning, I wrote on an emerging Republican plan—in swing states won by President Obama—to rig presidential elections by awarding electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.

In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state.

For this reason, I didn’t expect Republicans to go forward with the plan—the risk of blowback is just too high. My skepticism, however, was misplaced. In Virginia, a local news station reports that just this afternoon, a state Senate subcommittee recommended a bill end Virginia’s winner-take-all system and apportion its 13 electoral votes by congressional district.

Unlike similar proposals in Pennsylvania and Michigan, this one wouldn’t award the remaining electoral votes to the winner (Virginia has 11 districts). Rather, the winner of the most congressional districts would get the final two votes. If this were in effect last year, Obama would have gotten just 4 of the state’s votes, despite winning 51 percent of its voters.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, says the change is necessary because Virginia’s urbanized areas can outvote rural regions, weakening their political strength. In other words, Carrico thinks winning land is more important than winning people when it comes to presidential elections.

It should be said that this scheme, if carried out on a large scale, will guarantee an explosion of recounts. In any district where there is a narrow margin between the two candidates, there will be every incentive to challenge the results. Republicans present this as a way to streamline elections, but in reality, it would complicate them, and drag out the process for weeks—if not months. It would be Florida in the 2000 election, multiplied by 435.

It should also be said, again, that this constitutes a massive disenfranchisement of African American and other nonwhite voters, who tend to cluster near urban areas. When you couple this with the move on Monday to redraw the state’s electoral maps—eliminating one state senate district and packing black voters into another, diluting their strength—it’s as if Virginia Republicans are responding to Obama’s repeat victory in the state by building an electoral facsimile of Jim Crow.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, January 23, 2013

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Elections, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dark Days Of Repression”: Ohio Early Voting Cutbacks Disenfranchise Minority Voters

On Election Day 2004, long lines and widespread electoral dysfunctional marred the results of the presidential election in Ohio, whose electoral votes ended up handing George W. Bush a second term. “The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters,” found a post-election report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. According to one survey, 174,000 Ohioans, 3 percent of the electorate, left their polling place without voting because of the interminable wait. (Bush won the state by only 118,000 votes).

After 2004, Ohio reformed its electoral process by adding thirty-five days of early voting before Election Day, which led to a much smoother voting experience in 2008. The Obama campaign used this extra time to successfully mobilize its supporters, building a massive lead among early voters than John McCain could not overcome on Election Day.

In response to the 2008 election results, Ohio Republicans drastically curtailed the early voting period in 2012 from thirty-five to eleven days, with no voting on the Sunday before the election, when African-American churches historically rally their congregants to go to the polls. (Ohio was one of five states to cut back on early voting since 2010.) Voting rights activists subsequently gathered enough signatures to block the new voting restrictions and force a referendum on Election Day. In reaction, Ohio Republicans repealed their own bill in the state legislature, but kept a ban on early voting three days before Election Day (a period when 93,000 Ohioans voted in 2008), adding an exception for active duty members of the military, who tend to lean Republican. (The Obama campaign is now challenging the law in court, seeking to expand early voting for all Ohioans).

The Romney campaign has recently captured headlines with its absurd and untrue claim that the Obama campaign is trying to suppress the rights of military voters. The real story from Ohio is how cutbacks to early voting will disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio’s most populous counties. African-Americans, who supported Obama over McCain by 95 points in Ohio, comprise 28 percent of the population of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County but accounted for 56 percent of early voters in 2008, according to research done by Norman Robbins of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates and Mark Salling of Cleveland State University. In Columbus’s Franklin County, African-Americans comprise 20 percent of the population but made up 34 percent of early voters.

Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it’s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans. (According to the Board of Elections, 82% of early voters in Franklin County voted early on nights or weekends, which Republicans have curtailed. The number who voted on nights or weekends was nearly 50% in Cuyahoga County.)

“I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,” Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends. Noted the Cincinnati Enquirer: “The counties where Husted has joined other Republicans to deny expanded early voting strongly backed then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, while most of those where the extra hours will stand heavily supported GOP nominee John McCain.” Moreover, budget constraints have not stopped Republican legislators from passing costly voter ID laws across the map since 2010.

The cutbacks in early voting in Ohio are part of a broader push by Republicans to restrict the right to vote for millions of Americans, particularly those who voted for Obama. “The Republicans remember those long lines outside board of elections last time in the evenings and on weekends,” Tim Burke, Democratic Party chairman in Cincinnati’s Hamilton County, told the Enquirer. “The lines were overwhelmingly African-American, and it’s pretty obvious that the people were predominately—very predominately Obama voters. The Republicans don’t want that to happen again. It’s that simple.”

Ohio in 2012 is at risk of heading back to the dark days of 2004. “Voting—America’s most precious right and the foundation for all others—is a fragile civic exercise for many Ohioans,” the Enquirer wrote recently.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, August 8, 2012

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maine GOP Chair: We Must Make It Harder To Vote Because ‘Democrats Intentionally Steal Elections’

For nearly four decades, Maine has been one of eight states which provides same-day voter registration to voters at the polls. This policy of enfranchising the greatest number of Maine voters is likely to end, however, now that the GOP-controlled state legislature has passed a bill ending same-day registration and Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign it. Worse, state GOP Chairman Charlie Webster explained it was necessary to disenfranchise the thousands of Maine voters who take advantage of same-day registration every election year in order to save Maine from one of his paranoid fantasies:

“If you want to get really honest, this is about how the Democrats have managed to steal elections from Maine people,Webster told a columnist for the Portland Press Herald in a piece published Friday. “Many of us believe that the Democrats intentionally steal elections.”

Sadly, Maine’s voter disenfranchisement bill is only the latest example of the Republican war on voting that began almost immediately after the GOP took over several statehouses this year. Numerous GOP state legislatures have rammed through “voter ID” laws which disenfranchise thousands of elderly, disabled, and low-income voters. Republicans typically justify these voter disenfranchisement laws by claiming that they are necessary to combat voter fraud at the polls, but in-person voter fraud is only slightly more common than unicorns. A recent Supreme Court decision upholding a voter ID law was only able to cite one example of in-person voter fraud in the last 143 years.

Nor are voter ID laws the only front in the GOP’s war on voting. As Jonathan Chait explains, their efforts also include measures “restricting early voting, shortening poll hours, [and] clamping down on students voting at their campus.” And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) even plans to  gut his state’s public financing program — a program designed to make candidates less dependent on wealth donors — in order to pay for a voter disenfranchisement law.

Yet, while the Maine GOP may have won a skirmish in the war on voting with their repeal of same day registration, it is anything but certain that they will win this war. The state’s Democrats hope to invoke Maine’s “people’s veto” process, which allows the voters to repeal a newly enacted state law by referendum. To invoke this procedure, they must collect just over 57,000 signatures before a 90-day window closes.

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, June 13, 2011

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Maine, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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