During my time in the Association of American Editorial Cartoonist convention last month, I learned from other cartoonists about an issue that I had not been paying much attention to. During a session where the cartoonists met two members of Congress, several cartoonists confronted Republican House Whip Kevin McCarthy on the efforts of the Republican Party to pass laws that would suppress certain voter groups in several states in the country. I had read a little of this issue, but before then, I was more concerned about the spending of Super Pacs and its effect on the national and state elections. After the session was over, I talked to a few cartoonists who gave me more details about the voter suppression laws that are being passed across the nation. Many of these laws are being passed in swing states that could be deciding factors in the election. After doing a little research, I found that many groups are fighting these voter suppression laws across the nation.
The American Association of Retired Persons is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that uses the collective voice and the collective power of the 50 and over population to change the market based on their needs and to improve society. The AARP was founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus, PhD, a retired educator from California, and is based in Washington, D.C. The AARP have fought voter suppression laws in several states, an example being their fight in Virginia in their website:
Help Stop Voter Suppression in Virginia!
The State Senate is considering a bill that could make it harder for you to cast an official ballot. If passed, this bill will disproportionately affect older Virginians. It’s just not fair!
A voter who is unable to provide an acceptable ID will not be permitted to sign an “Affirmation of Identity,” and will be forced to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted after Election Day, once candidates have conceded or declared victory. This creates a disincentive for older people to go to the polls.
SB 1 is based on the unfounded assertion that voter fraud is a significant problem. Yet there is currently no evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Virginia.
AARP Virginia opposes SB 1 and recommends you do too. Will you take a minute to urge your Senator to vote NO? Tell your Senator to be fair to older voters and allow their votes to count on Election Day.
A youtube video of Bill WIlson, AARP, at the Rally Against the Photo ID Bill in the NC Legislature. April13, 2011
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. The group encourages its members to educate and lobby citizens about government and social reform legislation.
The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and it was designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. The League of Women voters have fought against votor suppression laws in several states. A July 18, 2012 blog in the League of Women Voters website states:
When held up to legal scrutiny, there is no evidence of voter impersonation at the polls. However, millions could be disenfranchised and lose their right to vote because of photo ID laws enacted in a number of states.
The League of Women Voters is involved in lawsuits to overturn photo ID laws in several states. LWV South Carolina and LWV Texas have intervened in the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act pre-clearance cases mentioned in last week’s blog post, and LWV Wisconsin and LWV Pennsylvania are involved in state challenges.
Each of these cases reflects two simple truths illuminated in the courts –
Not one state has produced any evidence of anyone impersonating someone else at the polls.
Court evidence does show hundreds of thousands of current registered voters do NOT have the required ID they need in order to vote and are at risk of being disenfranchised.
Let’s take a closer look at each state –
In Wisconsin the court documents show that as many as 9.3% or over 301,000 do not have a driver’s license or state ID.
In Pennsylvania the State Transportation Department estimates that three quarters of a million registered voters do not have a required photo ID.
In Texas an expert witness stated research showed as many as two million voters could be disenfranchised if the photo ID law were to go into effect. The state could not show even a single instance of voter impersonation at the polls.
In South Carolina elections officials say 217,000 registered voters do not have the required ID needed to vote and again not one instance of voter impersonation was found.
Of course, proponents will say that these registered voters can obtain a free photo ID from the state. In reality voters may need to pay for underlying documents (a birth certificate and/or marriage license) in order to obtain the state ID.
Nelda Bishop, President of the League of Women Voters Utah, discusses voter suppression laws
After a federal judge blocked portions of legislation that made it harder to sign up voters, the League of Women Voters says it will resume a push to register voters in Florida
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is dedicated to ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The NAACP was founded in 1909 by a multiracial group of people, including W.E.B. DuBois, Ida Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Jane Addams, Mary McLeod Bethune, William Dean Howell, and Mary Ovington. The NAACP has been fighting voter suppression laws in various states and released a report called Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America which highlights legislation designed to block access of voters of color. The NAACP website states these facts on voter suppression:
On December 5, 2011, the NAACP released a new report revealing direct connections between the trend of increasing, unprecedented African American and Latino voter turnout and an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color.
The report, Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America, details a plethora of voter suppression initiatives, most of them pushed in states with large African-American populations and where voting turnout has surged. The joint report by the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund examines scores of legislative proposals, ballot initiatives and voting laws enacted or proposed since the 2008 election.
Copies of the report will be sent to the federal and state agencies that monitor, administer and enforce voting rights, including the US Department of Justice, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Election Assistance Commission, as well as Secretaries of State and Attorneys General in all 50 states. In addition, the report will be delivered to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate, and entities within the United Nations.
"It's been more than a century since we've seen such a tidal wave of assaults on the right to vote. Historically, when voting rights are attacked, it's done to facilitate attacks on other rights. It is no mistake that the groups who are behind this are simultaneously attacking very basic women's rights, environmental protections, labor rights, and educational access for working people and minorities," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "Voting rights attacks are the flip side of buying a democracy. First you buy all the leaders you can, and then you suppress as many votes as possible of the people who might object."
Successful registration, education and get-out-the-vote campaigns in the last Presidential election cycle helped overturn electoral barriers and generated Black voter turnout at record high numbers across the country. Calling the response "historic in scope and intensity," the report highlights voting barriers that range from new and enhanced voter identification requirements to provisions that will curtail voter access to registration. Other proposals challenge mass registration drives, limit voting periods and tighten the ability of newly registered voters to cast ballots.
The report maintains that the vote-blocking measures are not only a threat to individual voters, but are also an assault on Latino and African American communities that are enjoying demographic growth and the prospects of majority voting status in many districts.
In collaboration with Brave New Foundation, the NAACP has put together a new video about the impact of the voting right attacks on communities of color
A NAACP video of the myth of voter fraud and the danger of voter suppression laws
The National Council of La Raza is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States and works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. NCLR traces its origins to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, where a group of young Mexican Americans in Washington, DC called NOMAS (National Organization for Mexican American Services), met with the Ford Foundation to help create local grassroots groups, and for national advocacy on behalf of Mexican Americans. The NCLR has also fought voter suppression laws in various states. In a blog by Rafael Collazo in the National Council of La Raza website, Collazo writes:
The rise of voter suppression laws in the United States is a deep concern for the Latino community. We are gearing up for the 2012 election cycle, but laws such as Florida’s HB 1355 have seriously hampered voter engagement efforts. Such a law will most certainly present a challenge to NCLR as we begin our work in earnest this coming January.
Voter suppression has also grabbed the attention of some members of Congress. Today, the senior Senator from Florida, Bill Nelson (D), asked Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation into these new laws. In a press advisory, Nelson’s office indicated that they are asking the Justice Department to find out if the voter suppression law in Florida and the more than a dozen other states with similar laws are “the result of a coordinated effort to suppress voter turnout among millions of seniors, young people and minorities in next year’s presidential election.”
Mr. Holder’s justice department is already investigating Florida’s law in certain counties that were found to be out of compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Sen. Nelson’s request, however, would broaden the scope of that investigation to include more than a dozen other states that have implemented similar laws.
We are especially concerned about how such laws will affect the Latino voting population in Florida and the several other states that have decided voter suppression is a priority. In Florida alone, there are 1.6 million Latinos currently registered to vote—that’s more than 13 percent of the state’s entire registered voter population. In 2008, Latinos made up almost 12 percent of all of those who voted in Florida. And, next year (and each year for the next 20 after it), 500,000 Latinos will become eligible to vote in the entire United States. We think this is encouraging news for our community, but the reality is that there are some elected officials who see these numbers as a threat. They will do anything they can to preserve their power, even if that means disenfranchising an entire community.
The situation has become so critical in Florida that the non-partisan League of Women Voters, concerned about violating the misguided law, recently announced that after 72 years they would not be running their regular voter registration drive.
A National Council of La Raza video on voter registration
The American Civil Liberties Union works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. In November 1919 and January 1920, in what notoriously became known as the “Palmer Raids,” Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up and deporting so-called radicals. Thousands of people were arrested without warrants and without regard to constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. In reaction to these egregious civil liberties abuses, a small group of people formed the American Civil Liberties Union. In the website of the ACLU, they make this statement about voter suppression:
During the 2011 legislative sessions, states across the country passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely.
Three additional states passed laws to require documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, though as many as 7 percent of American citizens do not have such proof. Seven states shortened early voting time frames, even though over 30 percent of all votes cast in the 2008 general election were cast before Election Day. Two state legislatures voted to repeal Election Day registration laws, though Election Day registration increases voter turnout by 10-12 percent. Finally, two states passed legislation making it much more difficult for third-party organizations to register voters – so difficult, in fact, that some voter registration organizations are leaving the states altogether.
Despite this frenzy of state legislation to counteract so-called voter fraud and to protect the integrity of our elections, proponents of such voter suppression legislation have failed to show that voter fraud is a problem anywhere in the country. Aside from the occasional unproven anecdote or baseless allegation, supporters of these laws simply cannot show that there is any need for them. Indeed, despite the Department of Justice’s 2002 “Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative” promising to vigorously prosecute allegations of voter fraud, the federal government obtained only 26 convictions or guilty pleas for fraud between 2002 and 2005. And other studies of voter fraud consistently find that it is exceedingly rare – a 2007 Demos study concluded that “voter fraud appears to be very rare” and a 2007 study by the Brennan Center found that “by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” The Voting Rights Project will continue to fight these laws that disenfranchise millions of eligible voters without any legitimate justification.
Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, talks about today's voter suppression laws
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. Founded in 1974, the AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, civic participation and voting rights, economic justice for workers, language access to services, census policy, affirmative action, youth rights and educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking. The AALDEF had a May 29, 2012 press release that stated:
In response to a wave of state laws that threaten voting rights of Asian Americans and other voters of color, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is offering a series of legal trainings in multiple cities reviewing voters' rights, voter registration, and election rules for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
"The onslaught of voter identification laws has led to confusion over how the voting rights of Asian Americans will be affected, said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF. "We want to ensure that community leaders know how to protect the ability of all voters to elect a candidate of their choice."