More On Ohio Voter Suppression

August 15, 2006

More information from Salon, on how Ken Blackwell continues to attempt to suppress voters most likely to vote against him in the upcoming elections…

The secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, now the Republican candidate for governor, is using some new vote-suppressing tricks and, this time, he’s got a sweeping if confusing law, HB 3, to back him up. A coalition of voting-rights groups filed suit last month to overturn the law as unconstitutional.

Infamous for such schemes as initially demanding that all voter registration applications be submitted on 80 lb. stock paper, Blackwell also presided over what most investigators regard as the worst election meltdown of 2004. While the allegation that Blackwell helped “steal” the election from John Kerry is debatable, the view that he intentionally suppressed voting by Democratic-leaning groups is less controversial. That the Ohio election was a mess is almost universally acknowledged, although not by Blackwell’s office. His spokesman, James Lee, says, “The critics were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.”

This time around, the law that took effect in May allows the state to pursue felony prosecutions of workers for voter registration groups who turn in registration cards past a 10-day deadline. They face up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine; late returns on less than 50 forms merit a misdemeanor prosecution. At first, Blackwell implied that the workers couldn’t even send in the forms by mail. Each registration worker also has to return the forms personally to the local elections board, which prevents voter registration groups from combining and checking large numbers of forms. “It’s made registration far more difficult,” says Teresa James, Project Vote’s election administration coordinator. In fact, Ohio ACORN, the Project Vote-allied group that focuses on low-income neighborhoods, suspended virtually all voter registration activities for two months. Now it’s gathering less than 20 percent of the 7,000 registration applicants it signed up monthly before the law was implemented.

Even if people do manage to register, most Ohio election boards don’t know that voters are entitled to vote using regular ballots even if their driver’s licenses list old addresses. It’s a confusion created by a series of misleading or opaque directives from Blackwell.

“I think we could very well have a meltdown in November because of these confusing election rules and poll workers not knowing what to do with the new electronic machines,” observes Peg Rosenfield, the Ohio League of Women Voters election specialist. That’s already been shown by the voting crack-up in Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, where the sudden switch to electronic machines in May led workers to lose 70 memory cards from touch-screen terminals and a six-day delay in counting 15,000 absentee ballots.

Key races: Democrats could take the governor’s mansion and unseat Sen. Mike DeWine and four House incumbents.

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GOP Screws Poor Voters In Missouri

August 10, 2006

From The New York Times:

Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection. Missouri’s new ID rules — and similar ones adopted last year in Indiana and Georgia — are intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver’s licenses. Georgia’s law has been blocked by the courts, and the others should be too.

Even before Missouri passed its new law, it had tougher ID requirements than many states. Voters were required, with limited exceptions, to bring ID with them to the polls, but university ID cards, bank statements mailed to a voter’s address, and similar documents were acceptable. The new law requires a government-issued photo ID, which as many as 200,000 Missourians do not have.

Missourians who have driver’s licenses will have little trouble voting, but many who do not will have to go to considerable trouble to get special ID’s. The supporting documents needed to get these, like birth certificates, often have fees attached, so some Missourians will have to pay to keep voting. It is likely that many people will not jump all of the bureaucratic hurdles to get the special ID, and will become ineligible to vote.

Not coincidentally, groups that are more likely to vote against the Republicans who passed the ID law will be most disadvantaged. Advocates for blacks, the elderly and the disabled say that those groups are less likely than the average Missourian to have driver’s licenses, and most likely to lose their right to vote. In close elections, like the bitterly contested U.S. Senate race now under way in the state, this disenfranchisement could easily make the difference in who wins.

The new law’s supporters say its purpose is to deter fraud. But there is little evidence of “imposter voting,” the sort of fraud that ID laws are aimed at, in Missouri or anywhere else. Groups in Missouri that want to suppress voting have a long history of crying fraud, but investigations by the Justice Department and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among others, have refuted such claims in the past. If the Legislature really wanted to deter fraud, it would have focused its efforts on absentee ballots, which are a notorious source of election fraud — and are not covered by Missouri’s new ID requirements.

Because of the important constitutional issues these laws raise, courts will have the final say. Federal and state judges have already blocked Georgia’s ID law from taking effect, and although Indiana’s law was upheld earlier this year, that ruling is on appeal. Missouri voting-rights advocates recently filed suit against their state’s law.

Unduly onerous voter ID laws violate equal protection, and when voters have to pay to get the ID’s, they are an illegal poll tax. They are also an insult to democracy, because their goal is to have elections in which eligible voters are turned away.