Pantsless Progressive

The state of Florida has backed down in their attempts to purge voter-rolls of suspected non-citizens. In the settlement of a lawsuit with civil rights organizations, Florida has basically rolled back the entire voter purge, including their initial list of 2,600 ‘potential non-citizens,’ which ended up netting exactly one non-citizen voter, out of the 8.3 million who participated in the 2008 election there.

As per the settlement, Florida will restore to the voter rolls anyone on that 2,600-strong list of ‘potential non-citizens’ who might have been removed. If the county supervisor of Elections cannot confirm their non-citizen status in the recently acquired SAVE database from the Department of Homeland Security, their voting rights will be restored.

In addition, everyone from that list who received a letter stating that they may not be eligible to vote will now receive a new letter, stating that they are registered. The only exceptions to this will be those confirmed non-citizens, of which we so far have 1, though Secretary of State Ken Detzner claims that ‘several’ are being investigated.

Florida Essentially Gives Up on Voter Purge Efforts | Firedoglake

An anti-union state, South Carolina adds to the “race to the bottom” by offering employers cheap captive prison labor. The largest dairy farm in the state will be in a prison. The state aggressively markets its Prison Industries program to private employers, offering to “lease” prisoners or allow businesses to open branches within prison gates.

According to the state Department of Corrections, in one program, prisoners making desks and other office equipment for public agencies can make “a wage of up to 35 cents an hour.” In another program, the state negotiates with private customers, and prisoners earn from 35 cents to $1.80 an hour. And in the Prison Industry Enterprise Program, inmates produce goods for private employers ranging from apparel to cable wires. They are supposed to be paid the “prevailing wage,” and to not compete with private workers. They are allegedly paid from $5.15 to $10 per hour, but must pay for their “room and board,” and have up to 20 percent of their wages confiscated to repay their victims.

The next time you attend a graduation, remember that the gowns worn by the graduates are likely to have been made by South Carolina prison labor. The main gown plant of Jostens, a Fortune 400 company that is the largest manufacturer of graduation gowns in the country, is in Laurens, about 25 miles from the Leath Correctional Facility, a 350-bed prison for women.

According to Josh Levine in a 1999 Perspective magazine article, electronic-cable supplier Escod Industries abandoned plans for a facility in Mexico and moved to South Carolina. The wages of South Carolina prisoners undercut those of Mexican sweatshop workers, and the state offered to subsidize equipment and industrial space.

Rev. Jesse Jackson: South Carolina Shows How Far We Have to Go

Voter ID Laws Revisited


Nonyap has written a response to my Voter ID post that deserves a response from me.  Give it a read if you have time.  But for now, I’ll take some of his/her points in turn:

It takes a little digging to get to the facts behind the stories of - let’s say - a 93 year old woman who used to clean the state government offices who just might be disenfranchised by Tennessee’s law.  But looking at the website set up to describe the changes, its pretty clear to see that her expired state ID will serve her just fine.

Yes, that’s correct.  The article I posted addressed this, actually:

[A] spokesman for the House Republican Caucus said Mitchell was given bad information. Brent Leatherwood said even an expired state ID will allow her to vote.

Asked about why Mitchell might have been confused or received incorrect information about the new voter ID law, Leatherwood said only that the provision that allows for the use of state employee IDs is “pretty straight-forward.”

He said staff would be contacting Mitchell to get to the bottom of the miscommunication.

 According to the law, a State-issued ID should have allowed her to vote.  But for some reason, she was still told it was unacceptable.  And at virtually every step of her subsequent journey into state government, she was unable to obtain another ostensibly acceptable form of Voter ID.  Perhaps the clerk she was dealing with was misinformed.  Fine.  I agree that laws shouldn’t live and die by the mistakes of one inept State clerk.  But a mistaken clerk has the power to disenfranchise someone the same as any procedural hurdle.  These sort of “mistakes” are exactly the types of things that I was talking about when I said that “no law can ever perfectly account or the multifarious vicissitudes of human experience.”  That includes not only the people affected by the law, but the people in charge of enforcing the law.  Lay persons attempting to vote will inevitably discover themselves to be out of conformity with the law for one reason or another, and as a result, will be disenfranchised.  The experience of a 93-year old woman in Tennessee is one of many actual and possible examples of voters being disenfranchised by Voter ID laws.  Consider the statistics from Ohio (cited by a Texas newspaper, whose Voter ID law you mention later in your post):

Recently, election experts at Rutgers and Ohio State universities found that states that had implemented voter ID laws saw a 3 percent across-the-board reduction in voter turnout during the 2004 presidential election. The drop was worse among minorities: African-American turnout was depressed by 5.7 percent and Hispanic turnout was depressed by 10 percent.

This is quantifiable voter disenfranchisement.  People vote less when Voter ID laws go into effect.  One might argue that this drop in turn-out is a result of fraudulent votes being filtered out, but good luck arguing that up to 5.7% of eligible African Americans and 10% of eligible Hispanics are fraudulent voters, much less 3% of the general population (I’m not implying you would, but I wanted to get out ahead of this objection before it was raised).

I also want to mention that the Texas newspaper cited above goes on to point out studies in California, New Mexico and Washington which found that voters over 65 were 8% less likely to have a driver’s license than younger voters.  In other words, there’s a sub-stratum of senior citizens in each of these states that would have to go out and pay for a driver’s license (or State-issued ID card) just to exercise their right to vote.  This amounts to a De Facto poll tax: these people have no reason to pay for a Driver’s license or State ID card other than to be eligible to vote.  They shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege to vote, anymore than your son had to when he sent in his absentee ballots, which you mention later in your post.

Further points:

Supposedly “many students don’t have” either a drivers license or a passport.  Really?  Many students don’t have a drivers license?  I’ll agree many don’t have a passport but I don’t know many college students aged 18 - 22 who don’t have a drivers license.

Many who do implies some who don’t.  Again, we’re not talking about a phenomenon that will disenfranchise wide swathes of the population.  But even if we grant that only 0.5% of eligible voters nationally in the country would be disenfranchised by Voter ID laws, that’s roughly 1,090,271 Americans, using the 2010 Voter-Eligible Population.  Over one million people disenfranchised.  And of course, the problem here will not inure necessarily from students not having driver’s licenses, but being ineligible to vote because they have an out-of-state driver’s license.  Though you address this later in your post:

What these restrictions on college ID’s are really intended to do is stop a practice of allowing a person who does not actually live in a state from registering to vote in that state in the last days and minutes before an election. State Ballots have both local and federal candidates on them. Why should a person who doesn’t live in my state…in my county, have the right to influence the state and county laws he/she won’t be living under?  Should we just have an “honor system” by which the person promises not to vote on local issues, just Federal?

If we accept that this even happens with enough frequency to justify legal barriers to suffrage (some citations would be great on this point), how will a Voter ID law prevent them from doing this if they really want to?  Students and/or organizations with the intent to influence and defraud local elections are already breaking several laws.  And a Voter ID law can do nothing further to prevent this that current laws already do.  Here’s NYC’s rules for same-day voter registration:

To register to vote in the City of New York, you must:

1. Be a citizen of the United States (Includes those persons born in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

2. Be a New York City resident for at least 30 days.

3. Be 18 years of age before the next election.

4. Not be serving a jail sentence or be on parole for a felony conviction.

5. Not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court.

6. Not claim the right to vote elsewhere (outside the City of New York).

In other words, if a college-age voter is voting in local elections, they are fore-going their right to vote at home.  Violating this pledge constitutes voter fraud, and political operatives on both sides are desperate to find it so they can disqualify votes (I recommend reading Scott McClellan’s book to get an idea for how tenacious vote jockeying can get, specifically his chapter on the 2000 election in Florida).  

All this aside, you seem to feel that college students (i.e. short-term residents) have no right to determine local elections that affect long-term residents.  Putting aside the question of whether Voter ID laws actually solve this problem, how is a college student’s interest in local affairs different from, say, a resident who only lives in the area for a couple years?  Should all short-term residents be excised from the ballot locally to represent their limited interest in local affairs?  Many college students go on to take jobs in the area where they went to school.  Some go on to grad school and may be in the area for 5 years or more.  How are these people not living under the same laws as you?  

Furthermore, if we did want to prevent short-term residents from voting in local elections, what’s the cut-off date for when someone should be allowed to vote in a local election?  Six months?  A year?  Two years?  The line will be arbitrary no matter where you draw it; and when drawn, it will apply equally to individuals who intend to stay in the area briefly or for a long period.  So again, assuming that this phenomenon of fly-by-night college-age voters polluting local elections is actually an issue substantial enough to justify Voter ID laws, these laws won’t solve the problem you’re concerned with.  Only a blanket restriction on short-term resident voters would.  And you can see how such a restriction would in itself be problematic.  

Further points:

And despite all the claims that voter fraud is “rare”, you can still hear a great many people claiming that Bush won the 2000 and 2004 elections by fraud when media recounts show that he did not win through fraud (or by the SC ruling).

Voter ID laws have literally zero relation to the type of voter fraud that people accused the 2000 Bush campaign of.  Voter ID laws target the wrongful acts of individual voters.  The fraudulent behavior that the Bush administration was accused of included such things as moving polling places, removing peoples’ names from public voter registration records, and misinforming voters about the correct day of the election.  The alleged wrongful acts of the Bush campaign had literally nothing to do with whether or not people were illegally voting in elections.  They were active attempts by the Bush campaign and its supporters to keep people from voting, not to get ineligible voters to vote fraudulently.

Further points:

Ironically, it is these same folks that are now so vocal in their opinion that tougher Voter ID laws aren’t necessary. And it is the Democrats who are the loudest - I find it ironic that the very article detailing a case in which voter fraud was proven was one in which Democrats were the convicted ones and the contested election of a Republican Candidate over a Democrat Candidate for President is still claimed as fraud even as it is touted about that voter fraud is “rare”. 

Both parties commit voter fraud.  And if you are attempting to locate irony, I will direct you to the fact that the GOP does not require its own Iowa caucus primary voters to show ID during primary elections.  Pardon my sarcasm, but it appears that the problem of voter fraud is important enough to stop in general elections, (the one in which people who vote against Republicans participate), but not in their own party’s internal elections.  Bradblog spells it out (from the link above):

Unlike most primary elections where an official state election board or agency sets the rules and runs the registration and balloting processes, the Iowa Republican Party runs its own state caucuses, determines the rules, tabulates all the votes and announces the results to the public and media themselves. They have complete control over the entire process, and yet they don’t bother to ask their own voters to show a state-issued Photo ID before casting their ballot.

It is this sort of selective policy implementation that makes people cry “racism!” or “voter suppression!” when the GOP deems Voter ID laws necessary to protect the integrity of general elections, but not their own internal elections.  It destroys their credibility on the idea that their support for Voter ID laws is neutral, dispassionate and objective.

(For the record, I have no love for the Democratic Party and do not identify as a Democrat.  I would oppose Voter ID laws regardless of who supports them).

Further points:

There are an estimated 20 million illegal immigrants in this country.  I don’t want them voting in our elections.  I’m sorry if that offends you, but voting is a right (and a duty) that comes with our citizenship.  And voting laws that allow anyone to register to vote simply by signing a form shoved at them by a person strolling through the mall…..well…not good enough in my opinion.

I agree that voting is a right and a duty, but I differ on the severity of the problem of illegal immigrants voting in U.S. elections.  However, let’s grant for a moment that this is true.  Are you so afraid of illegal immigrants voting in elections that you want to make it harder for actual American citizens to vote?  Recall that if we assumed Voter ID laws only disenfranchise 0.5% of eligible voters in America, over 1,00,000 voters would be disenfranchised nation-wide, based on the number of eligible voters in 2010 mid-term elections.  That’s an incredibly high cost to pay to excise illegal immigrants from our elections.  Particularly when the same media that allegedly exculpated the 2000 Bush campaign is now telling us that voter fraud by illegal immigrants is not a problem.  Even organizations that are generally not friendly to illegal immigrants are saying that alleged wide-scale voter fraud by illegal immigrants cannot be squared against the actual number of documented cases of voter fraud. 

I appreciate your thoughtful response.  Like I said, give Nonyap’s whole response a read if you haven’t already, because I did not address all of his points.

Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.

Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote, which many students don’t have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting.

It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.

Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.

NY Times Editorial: Keeping Students From the Polls

Thelma Mitchell cleaned this governor’s office for his entire term. She has been a fixture at the State Capitol for more than 30 years, yet this year she was told ‘you’re no longer allowed to vote.’

I ain’t missed a governor’s election since (Frank) Clement got to be the governor,’ said Mitchell.

The 93-year-old Mitchell voted for the first time in 1931, soon after women gained the right to vote in the United States.

'It meant a lot to me,' said Mitchell.

Mitchell worked as a maid cleaning the State Capitol, specifically the governor’s office.

This week Mitchell found out her old state ID with her picture on it is no longer enough to qualify her to vote.

'When he told me I may be in this country illegally, I said I've been over here all my life,' said Mitchell.

The state’s new voter ID law means Mitchell now needs a birth certificate to get a new picture ID.

Mitchell was born in Stevenson, Ala., in 1918. She was delivered by a midwife and has never had a birth certificate. Her niece is not sure one even exists anymore.

'She's worked here 30 years,' said niece Beverly Jones. 'I mean, she is 93. What more would they want?'

Longtime state employee may be blocked from voting

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA): Each and every voter ID law is a real threat to voting rights in America. Make no mistake, these voter ID laws are a poll tax. I know what I saw during the 60s. I saw poll tax. And you cannot deny that these ID laws are another form of a poll tax. In an economy where people are already struggling to pay for the most basic necessities, there are too many citizens that would be unable to afford the fees and transportation costs involved in getting government issued photo Ids. Despite all the voter ID laws across the country, there’s no convincing evidence — no evidence at all — that voter fraud is a problem in our election problem.

The right to vote is precious — almost sacred — and one of the most important blessings of our democracy. Today, we must stand up and fight. The history of the right to vote in America is a history of conflict, of struggle, for that right. Many people died trying to protect that right. I was beaten and jailed because I stood up for it. For millions like me, the struggle for the right to vote is not mere history, it is experience. [ThinkProgress]