Your State Doesn’t Want You to Vote

This is a guest post from Joan Fitz-Gerald, President of America Votes.

Two cases presently before the Supreme Court will determine whether the states can enact new obstacles to voter registration and whether states with a history of voting rights violations no longer need approval to enact changes to voting laws, nor need federal approval over the decisions of local elections officials where previous infractions had occurred.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the plaintiff (Shelby County) is claiming that the formula for determining a need for pre-clearance status prescribed in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is outdated and unfairly targets Southern states. Historically, preclearance has been implemented in the jurisdictions where violations were the greatest as a protection for all of their voters. “Preclearance” has provided the opportunity for remedy before an election takes place rather than answering complaints from voters who were denied their right to vote.

If there is an undue burden, does that pale in comparison to the burden placed on citizens who historically were not been able to exercise their right to vote?

The second case, Arizona v. the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, has met with less publicity but could have a real impact on the availability and ease of registration for citizens. The Motor Voter law (National Registration Act of 1993) acknowledged that a barrier to voter registration is a barrier to voting. Millions have benefitted by availing themselves of the convenience of registering to vote at motor vehicle offices when they get their drivers license or other convenient locations other than obscure county offices. It increased mail-in registration and enabled registration drives that are universally common today.

The registration form for federal elections simply requires a signature by the voter swearing that they are a citizen of the United States under penalty of perjury. A 2004 Arizona law additionally mandated showing proof of that citizenship, thereby creating a state-made barrier to voting for many citizens.

It has been estimated that as many as 13 million Americans do not possess such documents and, if the Arizona law were in enacted in the other 49 states, these citizens would not be able to vote.

Over the past 2 years, we have seen numerous attempts to limit access to voting by right wing majorities in state legislatures from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania. For our part, America Votes stands at the forefront of pushback efforts in these states and the rest of our 19-state network. With over 300 partner organizations, our national and in-state coalitions are working to coordinate the progressive community’s response to partisan state officials’ voter suppression campaign, otherwise known as the “War on Voting.”

In 2012, America Votes cemented its position as a leader of the voter protection effort in response to numerous state-based Voter ID and voter purge measures. Looking ahead, America Votes is absolutely committed to protecting and expanding the right to vote in 2013 and beyond. In states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, our coalitions will pursue proactive voter protection initiatives to ensure this hard-fought right – the foundation of our democracy – is not superseded as the path to conservative electoral gain. The battle is not yet won, but we are prepared to fight until voters are no longer the target of conservatives’ “War.”


Related Stories:

Voting Rights at Risk in Upcoming Supreme Court Case

Let Others Do Your Voter Suppression Dirty Work, Supreme Court Tells Republicans

Which State Makes Voting the Most Difficult?



Jim Q.
Jim Q.3 years ago

True enough that those in power committed the acts I mentioned. But they are simply people, like you and me, and, as all would admit, we are all subject to those same abuses of power.

Please tell me how requiring an ID substantially hinders the exercise of the vote? It doesn't prevent people from getting government aid, or using bank checks, or checking out books from the library.

Rose L.
Rose L.3 years ago

@ Kevin, "I also cannot believe you are foolish enough to defend slavery with the fantastical conclusion that it was somehow "okay" because some slave owners were not as cruel as others."

Kevin, you know that I certainly did NOT "defend slavery". As a matter of fact, I said that "slavery was, and still is, wrong". I merely defended the Southerners as a people. A people that had a right to live - the soldiers that fought for the Confederacy were, for the most part, good & brave men. Robert E. Lee is one of my heroes, as you may have read on my profile page. I am not ashamed of that. Those of us that are the descendants of Confederate veterans have a right to honor our ancestors whether you like it or not. I do not have time to re-post what I have already written. But I stand on the words that I wrote.

There is no need to get nasty & curse. All I can surmise is that you must have been one lousy "professor" that most likely browbeat your students if their view of history differed from your own as you insisted that only YOU knew history. What a shame.

By the way, you are the one that is peddling BS, along with a narrow mind and your own brand of hatred. I am on to better conversions, so if you must, please feel free to have the last word.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Jim Q. the "fraud" you are discussing has to do with who COUNTS the votes, not with people casting them.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Voter I.D. laws are intended for voter supression. That is simply A FACT. If those so concerned with non-existant voter fraud (i.e. people voting who shouldn't) all they would have to do is set up a program that provided an I.D. when a person registered to vote. To date NO ONE has come up with such a plan (because that would circumvent the TRUE intent of these laws, which is to disenfranchise legitimate voters.

Jim Q.
Jim Q.3 years ago

Susan, you have a much greater confidence in the honesty of men and of the government than do I. There were many precincts in the last election that were found to have numerous deceased persons on the active voter rolls, many were found to be ineligible (see the Florida matters), and, in some precincts, over 100% of the registered voted (and all for one candidate, which beats all statistically valid applications!) In my own past, I personally got to vote in a place to which I had just moved days before, still registered in my old district. I just told them I had and I got a ballot -- ridiculous!

If you think people are too honest to vote more than once for their desired result, you do not understand human nature. Recently, two NY elected officials were indicted for planning election fraud. Something valid IDs would hinder.

In a 1992 US Senate election, I represented one of two Republican candidates. When the numbers came in far from what we polled and predicted, we investigated and found 5,700 ballots misaligned in one county, another where the local poll manager forbade voters from getting the "other" parties ballot. We lost the US Senate by less than 2,000 votes and that local state senate by 127. So, fraud is there -- we must do something to control it.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

I also cannot believe you are foolish enough to defend slavery with the fantastical conclusion that it was somehow "okay" because some slave owners were not as cruel as others. What kind of logic is that?

Certainly, some Southerners opposed slavery, if you look at all 15 slave-holding states only 25% of the population even owned slaves, although in the deep South in states like South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, etc. the amount was closer to 50%.

Despite the fact that "most" Southerners did not own slaves, eleven states chose to secede from the Union to defend the institution of slavery (even though Lincoln's ONLY stated goal at the time was to contain the spread of slavery to the states it already existed in).

No, Rose, save your "Lost Cause" nonsense, no reputable historian accepts such contentions.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

There is no credible evidence to support the contention that the South would have ended slavery on its own. Quite the contrary, at the time of the Civil War, slavery in the deep south was flourishing and showing no sign of ending. Four million slaves worth more than four billion dolloars (and unbelievable amount when adjusted for inflation) were not going to be given up by slave-holding class of the South, which also controlled all of the Southern state legislatures.

No Rose, you are living in a fantasy world. I am a historian, I deal with historical facts, not with bullshit fantasies or apologist nonsense, which is all that you are posting.

The eleven states which formed the Confederacy fought a war to maintain slavery. It resulted in the deaths of over 620,000 individuals. Your attempts to rationalize that fact and to portray the South as victim, along with your reprehensible and totally fantastical nonsense about Reconstruction is unacceptable to any legitimate historian.

If you don't want to be "belittled" I would refrain from posting racist "Lost Cause" bullshit as historical fact.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Rose - the "Lost Cause" is a mythological retelling of the Civil War, it is a fantasy promulgated by liars who could not deal with the Confederacy's defeat and the fact that the war was fought for slavery. It can be traced back to a 700 page apologia written by Edward Pollard immediately after the war entitled "The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederacy."

It was further promulgated by the Southern Historical Society founded in 1869 and their publication arm "The Southern Historical Society Papers" which published in some form from 1876 until 1959.

The Southern Historical Society had no desire to record history, rather it, and associated organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was formed in 1894, the United Confederate Veterans, formed in 1889, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, formed in 1896, sought to create a historical memory that would rationalize and glorify the antebellum South and the Confederate cause.

The Lost Cause movement rationalized the war in a way that was sympathetic to the former Confederacy and attempted to do so by the control and manipulation of the historical record.

Brian F.
Brian F.3 years ago

Rose L Your absolutely correct, in that the North had slaves and the state of New Jersey had slaves up until the start of the Civil War. So the North was just as guilty as the south, and yes probably more slaves came through New York at first. In the earlier years the northeast coast was a hub for incoming slave ships. But things changed, the northern abolutionist movement grew, religious
opposition to slavery, and public opinion changed. I understand the south has a right to conduct it's business as it pleases and resented the North sticking it's nose into it's business and telling it what to do, but I believe Lincoln had a moral imperative that justifies his order that the south end slavery.

Rose L.
Rose L.3 years ago

part cut off from below:

Brian, history proves that yes, there were some slave owners who did unspeakable things to their slaves, but it also proves that there were others that not only treated their slaves well but considered them to be part of their families (remember, the slave owners needed their slaves in good condition. Regardless, we both know that slavery was (and still is) wrong.

Last but not least, you wrote: "You're simply trying to deflect the blame/shame of the horrible institution of slavery onto the north.."

Excuse me, Brian, but the real deflectors would be you, Kevin, and everyone else that tries to pin the blame/shame on the South. I merely pointed out the truth that the North SHARES the same history of slavery as the South. And I also pointed out that the North has not been eternally punished for the Northern sin of slavery, while the South has been nothing BUT punished. It continues to this day with different rules such as those that apply to voting. This article is proof of that!