- Voter Suppression
Paul Weyrich, an ALEC co-founder and influential operative considered to be the “founding father of the conservative movement” famously laid out the GOP’s voter suppression strategy in a 1980 speech in Dallas:
“I don’t want everybody to vote”, he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Since 2013, after the Supreme Court’s decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, states all over the nation have been passing measures that make it increasingly hard for Americans – especially the powerless African-Americans, the elderly, the young and individuals with handicaps – to practice their principal right to cast a vote. The 1965 law required that lawmakers in states with a history of discriminating against minority voters get federal permission before changing voting rules.
In Shelby County v. Holder, in which Chief Justice John Roberts argued that Section 4 was unnecessary because “things have changed dramatically” in the South since 1965, invalidating Section 4 — which determines the states and localities covered by arguing that a new coverage formula is needed that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to pre-clearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.
After the Shelby County decision, Alabama’s strict voter ID law, passed by the GOP legislature in 2011, was allowed to go into effect without federal approval. This is the very type of voting change–one that disproportionately burdens African-American voters–that would have been challenged under Section 5 of the VRA, which the Supreme Court rendered inoperative. And in 2015 Alabama is making it much tougher to obtain the government-issued ID required to vote by closing 31 DMV locations in the state, many in majority-black counties.
Al.com columnist John Archibald reported that eight of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of black registered voters saw their driver’s license offices closed. “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed,” Archibald wrote, “Every one.” First the state demands that you get a photo ID, and then it makes it harder to do so, particularly in areas heavily populated by African-Americans.
Even past the Deep South, Republican controlled lawmaking bodies around the nation are utilizing the fake non-issue of “voter fraud,” which is basically non-existent, as a reason to make it harder for voters, especially ethnic minorities, the elderly, students and poor people, from enrolling to vote or voting. These new measures incorporate requiring an official personal ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, curtailing early voting, purging voter rolls, wiping out election day registration, eliminating Sunday voting, new restrictions on voter enrollment drives, extra barriers to voting directed against individuals with criminal convictions and shutting down voting sites and more.
It is about time to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (H.R.2867 – 114th Congress (2015-2016)), with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska becoming the first Republican to cosponsor the bill. The bill requires states with well-documented history of recent voting bias to clear future voting changes with the central government, requires federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaws new GOP-led efforts to suppress the growing poor and minority votes.
Automatic voter registration
Additionally, citing a new automatic voter registration law enacted in Oregon in 2015 to register eligible citizens who have driver’s licenses, as long as they don’t opt out, Rep. David Cicilline [D-RI-1] and 45 cosponsors introduced Automatic Voter Registration Act (H.R.2694 -114th Congress (2015-2016))for federal elections at all DMVs.