Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Politics: Update on the GOP War on Voting

There are now 17 days to go before the election and early voting has started in many states around the country. This seems like a good time to get an update on what has become to be known as the Republican War on Voting.

Most analysts think that many more Democrats than Republican have taken advantage of early voting procedures so far, and this is most likely one of the reasons Republicans have been trying so hard to suppressing voting rights all over the country, by making it harder for people to register to vote, by literally dropping likely Democrats from voting rolls, reducing early voter hours and by making voting more difficult by enacting voter identification laws. I have previously discussed how racial animus fuels this movement to restrict voting.

Of course, the most notorious of these battles in the War on Voting have occurred in some of the most important states, namely Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. I have previously discussed the nakedly partisan actions of the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio to restrict early voting in order to make it more difficult for people to vote in his state.

Ari Berman of The Nation has the deets on Ohio:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected an appeal by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to overturn a lower court decision upholding early voting in Ohio three days before the election. The ruling was a major victory for voting rights—and yet another defeat for voter suppression efforts—allowing Ohio voters to cast a ballot when it’s most convenient and hopefully forestalling the long lines that marred the outcome of the 2004 election in the state. 
That’s the good news. The bad news? Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted swiftly limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 8 am–2 pm on Saturday, November 3; 1–5 pm on Sunday, November 4; and 8am–2 pm on Monday, November 5. That means Ohio voters will have a total of only sixteen hours to cast a ballot during those three days. And before the weekend before the election, Ohio voters will still not be able to cast a ballot in-person on nights or weekends. 
In 2008, the most populous counties in Ohio allowed more time for early voting—both in terms of days (thirty-five) and hours (on nights and weekends in many places). For the three days before the election, early voting locations were open for a total of twenty-four hours in Columbus’s Franklin County (8-5 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday and 8-7 on Monday) and 18 and a half hours in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County (9-1 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday, 8:30-7 pm on Monday). During those final three pre-election days in 2008, 148,000 votes were cast and “wait times stretched 2 1/2 hours,” reported the Columbus Dispatch.

While the Huffington Post reported on the suspension of the most odious aspects of the Pennsylvania voter id law by a judge on October 2:
In a much-anticipated ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered that voters without government-issued photo ID should be allowed to cast regular ballots. 
Simpson's injunction "will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of [the new law] through the general election," the judge wrote. That means that, just like during the primary election, voters will be asked for ID but still be allowed to vote if they don't have it. 
The law as passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor had only allowed people without ID to cast "provisional" ballots, which would be thrown out unless they returned with ID within six days.
The Pennsyvlania legislature is one of several that, after Republicans took control in 2010, passed legislation to make it harder, rather than easier, to vote
The ruling doesn't stop the state and other groups from publicizing false information that voter id is still required in Pennsylvania, so the good guys are going back to court to get that activity prevented under a new injunction.

Meanwhile in Florida, Think Progress reports on Republican Governor's failed attempt to strike as many 180,000 people from the voter rolls has fizzled to a list with just 198 names on it:
Initially, Florida identified 180,000 potential non-citizens to be purged from the voter rolls. That list was subsequently narrowed down to 2600 “sure fire” non-citizens. When it became clear in early June that even the smaller list was riddled with errors, elections officials stopped the effort
According to the Miami Herald, Florida has sent just 198 names to local election supervisors. (Of those, no more than 36 have ever cast a ballot.) But there is already evidence that the latest list still is not accurate.
And just for completeness the Los Angeles Times reported this week that a Republican operative in Virginia was arrested for illegally throwing completed voter registration forms in the garbage:

A man who was being paid to register voters by the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested Thursday after he was seen dumping eight registration forms into a dumpster. 
Colin Small, 31, was working as a supervisor as part of a registration operation in eight swing states financed by the Republican National Committee. Small, of Phoenixville, Pa., was first hired by Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm that was fired by the party after suspect voter forms surfaced in Florida and other states. 
Strategic Allied is owned by Nathan Sproul, an Arizona political consultant for Republicans whose companies have faced charges in past elections of submitting forged forms and of dumping Democratic registrations. None of the charges were proved, and Sproul continues to do get-out-the-vote work for conservative causes this election.
Hopefully the election will not be close enough in any state for the War on Voting to actually determine the result but honestly that is unlikely.

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