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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  • hannah

    Citizens govern. Moreover, they are entitled to have the principle of probity observed — that is, their behavior at all times, not just when there is a suspicion of crime, is presumed to be good. Citizens are entitled to have their word taken at face value. They should not have to prove who they are.
    That identification is often required by private enterprise is a cost of doing business. If the request for information seems onerous, one takes one’s business somewhere else.
    Operating a motor vehicle is significantly different. A motor vehicle is ipso facto a hazardous machine and it is socially prudent to insure that a person actually knows how to operate one without endangering other people. A license is supposed to attest to that.  If it is proved to have been issued in error, it’s taken away.
    That said, this intrusive infringement of citizen rights will be removed in the next legislative session by a legislature which is aware that it has been elected to serve, not rule.
    Unfortunately, some of our representatives have not deserved the trust placed in them. One hopes that the 2012 election has remedied that.

  • Lucy Weber

    As one ages, one’s signature changes.  Mine varies significantly depending on the state of my relatively mild arthritis.  On the furthest end of the scale, the day we realized that my husband’s metastatic bone disease had progressed to the point where he could no longer sign his name was one of the very worst days in his battle with cancer.  He voted several times after that.

    Just as with the picture ID, this solution has enormous potential to impact certain groups– the aging, and the physically disabled.  Of course, accommodation can be made, but why start down this road at all?

    • cblodg

      I suffer from Anxiety and PTSD.  I could literally produce one document I had to sign during an episode in the morning and one I had to sign in the afternoon and you wouldn’t know it was the same person signing the document.  Signatures change as we age or circumstances prompting difficulties arise.

  • tchair

    When the voter presents themselves for the ballot    RECORD THEIR IMAGE AND VOICE.  Now you have a record of voting and if they were a fraud you have proof and you  prosecute…….Problem over at no disruption to the voter !!
    BUT THE DOWN SIDE IS THE GOP CAN’T BULLY VOTERS  

  • RealNRH

    Not only is voter suppression philosophically repugnant, but I think there’s a case to be made that a photo ID requirement may actually have backfired on Republicans. Not in that it may have spurred higher turnout, though I’ve also seen that hypothesis; I’m specifically thinking of one group listed in that less-likely-to-have-ID category that contrary to the diary’s contents is more likely to vote Republican. Specifically, the elderly. The 65+ age cohort was one of Romney’s strongest groups, and one of the strongest groups for Republicans in general. This age group is also the most likely to vote under normal circumstances, so prevented voters from this group are votes that would otherwise have been highly likely, while the dissuaded Democratic-leaning groups are less likely to vote in the first place.

    So, basically, not only are Republicans logically wrong in what they’re trying to do and morally wrong in why they want to do it, it’s possible that they’re also statistically wrong in their estimates of what will be the net result. Unskewing the demographic data, perhaps?

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