Battleground state Ohio is shaping up to be the focal point of voter suppression efforts in anticipation of the November election. After an investigation into allegations of unlawful voter purging in Ohio, the anti-voter Tea Party group “True the Vote” is under congressional investigation for trying to remove thousands of voters from registration rolls nationwide.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) initiated the investigation shortly after Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) urged the Justice Department to step up enforcement of federal voting laws. Cummings is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Cummings sent True the Vote founder Catherine Englebrecht a letter notifying her of the investigation. “At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression,” Cummings told True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht in the letter. “If these efforts are intentional, politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.”
News of the investigation came just before a federal appeals court ruled that the state of Ohio extend early voting hours to all residents. Republicans in the state had tried to eliminate early voting hours as part of their campaign to “end voter fraud.”
Conservatives may have enjoyed early legislative victories in their efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters, but those victories have largely not been sustained by the courts. True the Vote’s efforts to purge voter rolls, in addition to plans to intimidate voters on election day by asking for ID are undemocratic to their core. It is no coincidence these battles are the most heated in swing states with moderate-to-heavy electoral college votes: Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin.
It’s tragic that these groups have in many ways already called the legitimacy of the November election into question with their thinly veiled attempts to disenfranchise minorities, women, veterans, students and the elderly. And it’s just as tragic that no matter the outcome in November they’ll press on with these campaigns. This is not about “protecting elections” it’s about undoing civil rights gains of the past forty years.
Photo from Keith Allison via flickr.