Sunday, December 02, 2007

Leveraging the Vote

In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is an article highlighting the career of Paul Weyrich, the Gregor Strasser of the American right-wing conservative movement. Unfortunately, the relatively friendly piece (ah, that ol' liberal bias thing) fails to mention Weyrich's role in efforts to suppress the vote in the United States. With a new round of elections slated for 2008, including the all-important presidential election, it's best to remember this quote from Weyrich, given at an 1980 training seminar for conservative right-wing preachers:

"I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the 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."
People for the American Way has documented the career of this anti-American visionary. Here is the introduction to a report on voting suppression efforts by the conservatiove right-wing over the years. Any of it sound familiar? Remember this the next time some glowing piece is written.

There are two ways to win an election. One is to get a majority of voters to support you. The other is to prevent voters who oppose you from casting their votes.

In the 27 years since Paul Weyrich's astonishingly candid admission, the radical right wing in America has developed an array of subtle and overt methods to suppress voter registration and turnout. The methods are targeted to constituencies most likely to oppose right-wing causes and candidates: low-income families, minorities, senior citizens and citizens for whom English is a second language.

Occasionally, attempts at voter suppression are illegal dirty tricks, such as the phone-jamming scheme carried out by Republican operatives against a Democratic phone bank in New Hampshire in 2004.

Some voter suppression is unintentional, the result of applying or misapplying changes in voting laws. However, voter suppression today is overwhelmingly achieved through regulatory, legislative and administrative means, resulting in modern-day equivalents of poll taxes and literacy tests that kept Black voters from the ballot box in the Jim Crow era.

Couched in feel-good phrases such as "voter security" and "anti-voter fraud," these measures limit voter registration, turn voters away from polling places, and cast doubt on the validity of ballots. For example, stringent voter ID rules that require photo ID at the polls sound reasonable, until the estimated up to 12 percent of eligible voters who do not have a driver’s license are figured in. And while "anti-fraud" measures sound good, in truth there is little evidence of organized voter fraud anywhere in the nation, while voter suppression tactics are varied and widespread:

- In Ohio, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has implemented rules to carry out a new state elections law. Blackwell’s rules make it extremely difficult for small churches and other nonprofit organizations to hire and train voter registration workers—and they expose voter registration workers to felony charges for making mistakes.

- In Texas, Congressman John Carter has suggested implementing literacy tests and English-only ballots, despite the existence of a federal law requiring minority language ballots at the polls.

- In Florida in 2004, Governor Jeb Bush was forced to deactivate a list of purported felons who were to be blocked from voting when the news media discovered that the list included Black, but not Hispanic, voters and that many people on the list were actually eligible voters.

- In California this year, nonsensical requirements for matching new voter names to existing state databases (e.g., a "Michael R. Neuman" would not match a "Mike R. Neuman" at the same address) resulted in numerous voter registrations being rejected. Between January and June, 26,824 voter registration forms received by Los Angeles County alone were rejected because of these new restrictions.

- In New Mexico, the number of "provisional ballots," which are mandated under new federal voting rules, that went uncounted exceeded the margin of victory in the presidential race in 2004.

- In Indiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, since the 2002 passage of the federal Help America Vote Act, state legislatures have passed new voter identification rules that would disenfranchise thousands of elderly and poor voters who do not have drivers' licenses or passports. Some of these measures have been blocked, but others are now in effect.

- In Ohio in 2004, precincts in predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods were chronically understaffed and had fewer voting machines than higher-income precincts, resulting in long lines and uncounted numbers of voters leaving the polls before they had a chance to cast a vote.

The Radical Right strategy of turning out base supporters while suppressing the votes of its opponents has often been successful. Legislatures controlled by far-right conservatives now determine the voting laws and how redistricting is conducted in many states. Governors, secretaries of state, and other election officials, supported by the Radical Right, now administer many states’ elections. This report, by no means comprehensive, provides a brief overview of various suppression techniques so that citizens, community activists and the news media can recognize similar attempts as patterns of voter suppression emerge across the country.

4 Swings of the bat:

Dad29 said...

Yah, that stuff musta worked really, really well!

Dems hold majorities in the Senate and House and think they're getting the Presidency in '09.

Obviously, Weyrich is a failure.

John Foust said...

You miss the connection to James Buss, the arrested commenter. On the front cover of the Milwaukee Journal this past Sunday, the Weyrich story leads: "As the so-called father of the religious right, Paul Weyrich is well-steeped in the frictions and frustrations the periodically plague the conservative movement he helped create. [...] 'Where's our Ronald Reagan?' I tell you, if I hear that question one more time, I'm going to take out my rifle.' "

Other Side said...

I guess we needed a West Bend educator feeling threatened enought to call in a report on Weyrich.

capper said...


If that stuff didn't work, Bush would have gone into history as an also-ran.