Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, June 11, 2007

  It's Just A Little Liberty, Get Over It: vote suppression vs. the fraudsters

From one of my favorite political blogs, Desert Beacon, comes this excellent discussion of an important Senate bill, S. 453. It seeks to eliminate the myriad vote-suppression tactics that have proliferated in recent decades. These tactics are a national scandal.

Indeed, I have first-hand experience with them. On Election Day 2004, my wife and I received a call from the George Bush re-election campaign, purporting to be part of their get-out-the-vote operation. But they already knew it would be a cold day in hell before either of us voted for that man. No, they were playing another, altogether disgraceful game: The caller gave us the wrong polling place to go to (in another town, miles away). My county Clerk of Elections told me that evening that she'd received "many" complaints like mine that day, all relating to fraudulent information given out by Bush campaign callers.

It's time to put a stop to this and every despicable tactic to suppress votes. For democracy to thrive, citizens need to be encouraged to vote, not the reverse.

I'm pleased that Desert Beacon has agreed to let me crosspost here his discussion of the Senate bill intended to put a stop to some of the worst abuses.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a session on S. 453, a bill to prevent deceptive election practices and voter intimidation at the polls, on June 7, 2007. Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, recounted examples of deception and intimidation in Orange County, CA, Baltimore, MD, and in Virginia; and, indicated that the NAACP is in strong support of the proposed legislation. [JudSenTest]

Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, added details about deceptive practices discovered in his state, and also urged passage of the bill. [JudSenTest]

Gansler's testimony was augmented by that of John Trasvina, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who noted that the vote suppression activities reported by MALDEF in Tucson, AZ in 2006 -- which the organization reported on the day the activities occurred -- have never been investigated by the U.S. Attorney's office. [JudSenTest]

And, then came the fun: Peter N. Kirsanow before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the last panel urged that "voter registration fraud" and other bete noires of the Bush Administration be added to S. 453, the "Prevention of Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation in Federal Elections Act." Kirsanow's statements, made as an individual and not in his capacity as a member of the Civil Rights Commission, constitute an almost perfect litany of Republican obfuscation of voting issues. [JudSenTest] TPM Muckraker "Dead People Voting: the real problem," links to video of Kirsanow's presentation.

Kirsanow's contentions:

The Civil Rights Commission determined that there were "only two ostensible instances of perceived voter intimidation" in the 2000 election in Florida six months after the election. On the contrary, the "potential felon" purge of Florida voting rolls removed thousands of eligible voters, primarily African Americans. The state dropped the purging system after media reports emerged revealing that the 2004 list included thousands of eligible voters, heavily targeted African Americans and virtually ignored Hispanic voters. [PFAW]

2. A "subsequent media analysis showed at least 2000 votes were cast illegally in the Florida election." Media analysis (or a compilation of repetitious reports) does not substantiate the charges; and, the 2006 EAC review observed that allegations did not translate into formal complaints or prosecutions. [EAC] There is no factual substantiation for this claim.

3. An Ohio voter registration drive paid registration workers with crack cocaine in 2004. This story has been around the block several times. Unfortunately for Kirsanow it was true of only one man in Defiance, OH, and he was caught by local officials well before the election. [CNN] Instead of the "thousands" implied by the staccato banter of Mr. Kirsanow, the total number of cards the man filled out turned out to be 124. [Toledo Blade] On the other hand there were 976 voters "purged" from Ohio rolls until a federal appeals court upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss all 976 allegations of voter registration fraud brought by the Republican Party. [NPR]

4. A non-citizen in Philadelphia registered to vote, and the individual did not vote; although Kirsanow alleges someone else used the ballot -- with no substantiation for his claim. Note, that Kirsanow admits there was ONE illegally registered immigrant.

5. St. Louis' black community voter registration drive yielded 3,800 new voters, all of which were fraudulent. Mr. Kirsanow seems to have forgotten that in 2002 the Justice Department reached a settlement with the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners which resolved the issue -- against the Commission which had improperly removed voters from the rolls. [FA]

6. John Sample testified to the Senate Rules Committee that there were more registered voters than citizens in Alaska. This would be the same Cato Institute-John Sample who edited "James Madison and the Future of Limited Government" for Cato Press, and wrote "Welfare for Politicians: Taxpayer financing of political campaigns" also for Cato. When, where, and to what Mr. Sample testified is not provided in Mr. Kirsanow's account.

7. Voters in Florida, Kentucky, North and South Carolina are registered in multiple jurisdictions. "The bill is silent on this deceptive practice." If someone moves from one state, or jurisdiction, to another and registers to vote in the new location -- with no intention whatsoever of voting from the previous address -- this is hardly a "deceptive practice." Further, Mr. Kirsanow ignores completely the July 2004 request by Republican officials in Kentucky to have the party put "vote challengers" in predominantly African American precincts. [PFAW]

8. Mark Hearne "adviser to the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform" has noted ballots cast by ineligible persons dilute or cancel out votes of eligible voters. "This bill does not address the deceptive practices that make this possible." And, we know that Mark Hearne and his American Center for Voting Rights have folded the tent, as described in Slate's "The Incredible, disappearing American Center for Voting Rights" and Mr. Hearne has cleansed his resume of affiliation with the group.

What's a little liberty? However, Mr. Kirsanow was not the only panelist to oppose the passage of S. 453. Washington lawyer William B. Canfield offered perhaps the most egregious argument that could possibly be presented against the measure:

"The bill would criminalize non-violent behavior where voter intimidation or campaign deception were proven in court. Assuming, as I do, that voter “intimidation” is, on it’s face, repugnant, it isn’t, by it’s nature, a crime that deprives a victim of life or liberty…why then should it be subject to a criminal rather than a civil penalty?" Doesn't deprive a victim of liberty? What is a more essential element of liberty than the act of voting in a democracy?

Recommended Reading:

"Complaints abound over enforcement of voter registration law" McClatchy June 6, 2007

"Post-Dispatch: ACVR's Thor Hearne blames the BradBlog for his demise: Imagine what we could have done if the GOP gave us the million dollars Thor had?" BradBlog June 7, 2007

"The Fraudulent Fraud Squad: The incredible disappearing American Center for Voting Rights" Slate May 18, 2007

"Election Crimes: an initial review and recommendations for future study, December 2006" U.S. Election Assistance Commission

"The Long Shadow of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America" PFAW 2004

"Efforts to stop 'voter fraud' may have curbed legitimate voting" McClatchy One of the supporters of the Bush Administration policy, Hans von Spakovsky, is now facing Congressional scrutiny as the White House has nominated him to serve on the FEC. *

* Nominations to the Federal Election Commission June 13, 2007 Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Nominees: Robert D. Lenhard, Maryland; David V. Mason, Virginia; Hans von Spakovsky, Georgia; Steven T. Walther, Nevada [Reid]

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