The conviction of a Republican operative has thrown the spotlight onto who is really committing voter fraud in the US.
Right-wing news outlets have been claiming for years that liberal groups such as ACORN are behind ‘massive’ voter fraud operations. Despite investigations by the Justice Department only showing a tiny number of proven cases (86) over the past decade, Republican legislators in twelve states have passed legislation, on the basis of supposed fraud, restricting voting.
Paul Schurick, an aide to former Maryland Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was convicted last week of attempted voter suppression.
During the 2006 gubernatorial election, Schurick tried to use robocalls to suppress the black vote. 112,000 voters were called a few hours before polls had closed in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message told African American residents to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race.
Wrote York Van Nixon III:
The conviction … reminds those old enough to remember [of] the days when African Americans were required to count the number of jelly beans in a jar before they were given a ballot.
The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney points out that this was not a minor official — Schurick was Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager in the 2010 race and had been his communications director for the four years that he was governor.
Will Crossly, Director of Voter Protection for the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton that the Schurick case was not an isolated example of Republican voter suppression:
“Oh, there’s no question, we saw other efforts in 2010″ he said. “We’ve seen the misinformation campaigns. We’ve also seen voter caging, a process in which they send out post cards to people. If you don’t return the postcard, then they question your residency and add you to a list when you show up at the polls, question whether or not you’re actually qualified to vote. That happened in 1982 in New Jersey. We’ve seen it in Louisiana, 1987. We’ve seen it 1990 in North Carolina. We prosecuted 2004 in Ohio as well as in 2008 in the state of Michigan.”
“They created these lists from people’s names who had been placed on foreclosure and challenged their residency. We went to court over that as well. and so the important thing, we want voters to know that we were watching in the past this verdict today and will continue to watch in the future for these kinds of activities.”
Democrats claim that there is a coordinated voter suppression effort behind the state laws. They point to the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council – funded in part by David and Charles Koch. Last week they held hearings in Congress.
Congress heard from retired Tennessee teacher Lee Campbell and his wife who said they had to fight for their right to a promised free photo ID under a Republican law demanding ID in order to vote. He went to Capitol Hill to complain about what he called a “poll tax” after the DMV tried to charge him $8.
He told the panel about how he and his wife had “experienced first-hand the harmful impact of all these voting changes that are springing up across America.”
Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July:
One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.
Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.
The Justice Department has come under pressure to investigate whether the new state laws violate the Voting Rights Act.
The department has found that Texas’s new redistricting maps for the state house and US House of Representatives are illegal and it is investigating Texas and South Carolina.
In Ohio, it looks likely that voters will toss out a law that shortens the state’s early voting period, bans in-person early voting on Sundays and prohibits boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters.
A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s Law School found that over five million voters – most of them black, young or elderly – could be denied the right to vote next year under the new state voting laws.
Photo by hjl