Thirteen states have passed laws making voting more difficult
For years Republicans have been nothing short of determined to restrict voter access to the polls. The New York Times has picked up the story today, reporting new laws tightening voting rules have been passed in thirteen states where Republicans control the state legislatures. Some of the states passing new laws include Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The new laws are alleged to be necessary to prevent voter fraud, in spite of there being very few actual cases of voter fraud to justify such onerous requirements to vote. The outcome is likely to keep more citizens with the legal right to vote from participating in elections than keeping any illegal votes from being cast.
“Remarkably, most of these significant changes are going under the radar,” he added. “A lot of voters are going to be surprised and dismayed when they go to their polling place and find that the rules have changed.”
Most of the measures would require people to show a form of official, valid identification to vote. While driver’s licenses are the most common form, voters can also request free photo IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles or use a passport or military identification, among other things.
A few state bills and laws also shave the number of early voting days, a move that Democrats say would impact Democratic voters once again. In the 2008 presidential election, a majority of those who cast early votes did so for President Obama. In Florida, the number of days is reduced but the number of hours remains the same.
While it is good to see the Times pick up the reporting on this issue there is an important link they did not cover. The thirteen states are part of a national strategy aided in large part by a group we have recently been learning more about - the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Alexander Zaitchik in The American Prospect on May 4, 2011:
"It's clear when you look at the national picture that the Wisconsin bill is part of a nationwide push to erect barriers to civic participation for people who already have barriers," agrees Democratic state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys. "Voter ID goes along in perfect congruence with the attack on unions. It's another policy priority that has nothing to do with jobs and everything to do with destroying the organizations and weakening the voices of the middle class and the poor."
The forces shaping the push for voter ID understand well the continuing need to sound "high minded." The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which coaches conservative lawmakers on how to craft and sell business-friendly bills on issues ranging from education to energy, has drawn up model voter-ID legislation that Republican legislators in many states have used as a starting point. (Strangely listed under the Homeland Security section on ALEC's model legislation page, the model bill is called the Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.) A June 2009 article in the organization's monthly magazine, Inside ALEC, offered detailed advice on how Republicans can advocate for voter-ID bills in ways that "broaden the appeal" and reduce the effectiveness of court challenges. At one point, the article explains that states need not "show prior evidence of impersonation fraud" to justify voter-identification amendments. In other words, legislators should proceed with their public cries about voter fraud even when the only fraud in sight is the one staring back at them in the mirror.
People for the American Way (PFAW) has also been looking at ALEC and published an in depth report, ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures. The founders and funding for ALEC are very familiar to most folks who have been following the various strategies of the right.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon. In the same year, he helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country. One year later, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.
ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.
Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. According to the American Association for Justice, over eighty percent of ALEC’s finances come from corporate contributions.
Campus Progress has the best piece of work tying ALEC to changes in voting laws. They have an "ongoing investigation into attacks on young people's access to voting." From Conservative Corporate Advocacy Group ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts:
Many of the state proposals appear to stem from model legislation known as the Voter ID Act (also known as Photo ID) that was developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council.
In a 2009 public report [PDF], ALEC described Voter ID legislation as “proactive” and offered up examples of states successfully passing the legislation as providing “a helpful guide” for other states to follow.
ALEC’s efforts seem to be working. Out of the eight states that have legislators currently listed as members of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force, five are either considering or already have laws that were graded harmful to student voting. New Hampshire and Wisconsin, the two states currently considering the most extreme version of the law, both have ALEC members represented on the committees. And in Wisconsin, that member is Rep. Scott Suder (R-District 69), the state’s Majority Leader, who ushered the legislation through the Wisconsin State Assembly. That legislation includes provisions similar to the ALEC model legislation, which Campus Progress obtained from a source outside of ALEC. This copy shows that the model law was approved by the ALEC board of directors on Aug. 27, 2009.
The war between those believing voting is a right and those deeming it a privilege will likely continue into the future for some time, in the legislatures and in the courts.