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Apr
2014
14

Quoting LBJ, Obama Slams GOP-Led Voter Suppression Efforts

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On Friday, President Obama wrapped up a week of commemorating progress made by the civil rights movement with a fiery speech in which he lashed out at Republicans who seek to restrict voting rights through unnecessary legislation.  

Aided by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, several state legislatures have pushed for voter ID laws which studies show disproportionately discriminate against socio-economic demographics that traditionally lean left.  Obama told the crowd at the meeting of the National Action Network:

“The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.

Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote,” he said.

Obama notes that the push for tougher voting regulations has come solely from the right.  Voter suppression is now an ingrained campaign strategy for the GOP, led partially by a strong push for model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

To persuade the general public that the non-issue of voter fraud needs urgent attention, many Republicans have taken to flat-out lying, hoping no one will notice.  Speaking to Fox News, pundit Dick Morris claimed that “probably one million people voted twice in the 2012 election.”  Quoting a questionable study about North Carolina that permeated conservative blogs, Morris made false assertions:

“It’s most important data I’ve read in a year,” Morris said on Fox News’ Hannity. “The elections commissioner there, Kim Strach, did a study of those who voted in North Carolina who also voted in another state in 2012 and she found 35,500 people voted in North Carolina and voted in some other state.

“And only 27 states pool that data. Texas, California, New York and Florida did not pool their data. So you’re talking about probably over a million people that voted twice in this election. This is the first concrete evidence we’ve ever had of massive voter fraud. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. This proves it.”

Punditfact deemed Morris’ statement to be “false.”

As if the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon vs. FEC decisions do not take broad enough steps to disenfranchise the electorate, conservative state legislatures have pursued voter ID without so much as a blink.  At the National Action Network meeting, Obama accused the GOP of doing so because of a growing divide between Republican policy and the interests of American citizens. Via Yahoo:

“The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud,” he said to applause from the crowd.

“But it’s a fact this recent effort to restrict the vote has not been led by both parties. It’s been led by the Republican Party,” he continued. “If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength. That’s a sign of weakness.”

A perfect example of this Republican solution in search of a problem comes from Wisconsin.  Truth-Out writer Brendan Fischer notes that the state ranked near the top in their ability to run elections when ALEC-alligned Republicans pressed for a “fix” for the voting process:

In the 2012 elections, Wisconsin ranked second in voter turnout, just behind neighboring Minnesota. Both states allow election day registration and adequate time for early voting (a combination that studies show increases voter participation), and both had turnout well above 70%.

Overall, Wisconsin ranked third among the 50 states, according to the Pew study, based on criteria like voter turnout, average wait times, and voter registration policies. Pew also ranked Wisconsin among the highest-performing states during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

Wisconsin has high rates of participation, short lines and no problem with fraud, yet Republicans have remained uniquely fixated on enacting sweeping changes to how the state’s elections are run.

Wisconsin will resemble those held in one of the worst-run states, Florida, if the GOP-led legislature has its way.  Many of the strategies Wisconsin may adopts — such the elimination of early voting — failed Florida in 2012 and are now being replaced.  Voter turnout was low there, especially among groups that traditionally vote Democrat.  More from Truth-Out:

According to the Pew study, Florida voters waited an average of 45 minutes to cast a ballot on election day — an increase of more than 16 minutes over 2008. That gave the state the longest wait times in the country; additionally, an estimated 200,000 people decided not to vote at all rather than wait in line.

This week, Florida officials acknowledged the state’s poor performance in the Pew study, but said that the problems that caused long lines have been cured — thanks to the state reinstating early voting last year.

In his speech to the National Action Network, President Obama quoted former President and voting rights champion Lyndon Johnson to express his disappointment in this broad Republican initiative:

“About this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote,” Obama said, quoting the former president.

“The principle of one person, one vote is the single greatest tool we have to redress an unjust status quo. You would think there would not be an argument about this anymore.”

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