Rig the Vote

By CHARLES M. BLOW, New York Times, January 25, 2013

Excerpt

If you can’t win by playing fair, cheat. That seems to be the plan of Republican lawmakers in several battleground states that stubbornly keep going for Democrats during presidential elections. Thanks in part to gerrymandering, many states already have — and will continue to have in the near future — Republican-controlled legislatures. Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are considering whether to abandon the winner-take-all approach to awarding Electoral College votes and replace it with a proportional allocation. That change would heavily favor Republican presidential candidates — tilting the voting power away from cities and toward rural areas — and make it more likely that the candidate with the fewest votes over all would win a larger share of electoral votes..

Full text

If you can’t win by playing fair, cheat.

That seems to be the plan of Republican lawmakers in several battleground states that stubbornly keep going for Democrats during presidential elections. Thanks in part to gerrymandering, many states already have — and will continue to have in the near future — Republican-controlled legislatures.

Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are considering whether to abandon the winner-take-all approach to awarding Electoral College votes and replace it with a proportional allocation.

That change would heavily favor Republican presidential candidates — tilting the voting power away from cities and toward rural areas — and make it more likely that the candidate with the fewest votes over all would win a larger share of electoral votes.

One day I will have to visit the evil lair where they come up with these schemes. They pump them out like a factory. Voter suppression didn’t work in November, and it may even have backfired in some states, so they just devised another devilish plan.

Pete Lund, a Republican state representative in Michigan, “plans to reintroduce legislation that would award all but two of Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes according to congressional district results,” said an article Friday in The Detroit News.

The paper continued, “The remaining two would go to the candidate winning the statewide majority.”

Lund, who proposed a similar bill in 2012, made Republicans’ intentions completely clear, saying, according to the article: “It got no traction last year. There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him.”

These bills are a brazen attempt to alter electoral outcomes and chip away at the very idea of democracy, to the benefit of Republican candidates.

The Detroit News also reported that, according to an analysis by Mark Brewer, the state Democratic Party chairman: “Romney would have gotten nine of Michigan’s electoral votes and Obama would have received seven in 2012 under Lund’s proposal. Instead, Obama garnered all 16 Michigan electoral votes en route to his national tally of 332.”

Meanwhile, Obama beat Romney in the state by a margin of nearly 450,000 votes.

Virginia’s bill is further along than Michigan’s. It’s already being debated.

For reference, although Obama won the state of Virginia and all of its electoral votes last year, as he did in 2008, according to The Roanoke Times on Friday, “If the system had been in effect for the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, and President Barack Obama would have won four.” Keep in mind that in November, Obama won the state by almost 150,000 votes.

Republicans in Virginia are just as forthright about their intention to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the sponsor of Virginia bill’s, Charles W. Carrico Sr., a Republican, “said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice.” Carrico told The Post, “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.”

Yes, you read that right: he wants to make the votes cast for the candidate receiving the fewest votes matter more than those cast for the candidate receiving the most. In Republican Bizarro World, where the “integrity of the vote” is a phrase used to diminish urban votes and in which democracy is only sacrosanct if Republicans are winning, this statement actually makes sense.

David Weigel of Slate explained the point of the Virginia plan this way: “Make the rural vote matter more and make the metro vote count less.”

Luckily, as the Roanoke paper noted Friday, Ralph Smith, the powerful Republican Virginia state senator, isn’t on board:

“Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it ‘a bad idea.’ Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith’s support, it’s unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor.”

Paul Bibeau, who writes “a blog of dark humor” from Virginia, points out a numerical oddity about the effects of the Virginia law that turns out, upon reflection, to be more stinging than funny: “This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person.”

That is because, as Talking Points Memo says, “Obama voters would have received almost exactly 3/5 of the electoral vote compared to their actual population — 30.7 percent of the electoral vote over 51 percent of the popular vote.”

This is not where we should be in 2013, debating whether to pass bills to reduce urban voters to a fraction of the value of other voters and hoping that someone with the power to stop it thinks it’s a “bad idea.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/opinion/blow-rig-the-vote.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130126&_r=0

The GOP’s Voter Suppression Strategy

The Nation [1] / By Ari Berman [2], November 26, 2012

The following article first appeared on the Nation.com [3].

In a little-noticed yet significant development on election day, Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment that would have required them to present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. It was the first time voters had rejected a voter ID ballot initiative in any state.

In May 2011, a poll showed that 80 percent of Minnesotans supported a photo ID law. “Nearly everyone in the state believed a photo ID was the most common-sense solution to the problem of voter fraud,” says Dan McGrath, executive director of Take Action Minnesota, a progressive coalition that led the campaign against the amendment. “We needed to reframe the issue. We decided to never say the word ‘fraud.’ Instead we would only talk about the cost, complications and consequences of the amendment.” According to the coalition, the photo ID law would have disenfranchised eligible voters (including members of the military and seniors) dumped an unfunded mandate on counties and imperiled same-day voter registration. On election day, 52 percent of Minnesotans opposed the amendment.

The amendment’s surprising defeat has ramifications beyond Minnesota. “There’s been an assumption of political will for restricting the right to vote,” says McGrath. “No, there’s not.” The amendment backfired on the GOP. “Voter ID did not drive the conservative base to turn out in the way that Republicans thought it would,” adds McGrath. “Instead, it actually inspired progressive voters, who felt under siege, to fight stronger and turn out in higher numbers.The minority vote nearly doubled in the state, compared with 2008. Minnesota was a microcosm of the national failure of the GOP’s voter suppression strategy.

After the 2010 election, in more than a dozen states Republicans passed voting restrictions aimed at reducing the turnout of Obama’s “coalition of the ascendant”—young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics. The strategy didn’t work as intended. Ten major restrictive voting laws were blocked in court over the past year, and turnout among young, black and Latino voters increased as a share of the electorate in 2012 compared with 2008. The youth vote rose from 18 to 19 percent, and the minority vote increased from 26 to 28 percent; both went heavily for Obama.

A backlash against voter suppression added to this increased youth and minority turnout. “When they went after big mama’s voting rights, they made all of us mad,” said the Rev. Tony Minor, Ohio coordinator of the African American Ministers Leadership Council. The black vote rose in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, while the Latino vote grew in Florida, Colorado and Nevada. “There were huge organizing efforts in the black, Hispanic and Asian communities, more than there would’ve been, as a direct result of the voter suppression efforts,” says Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, a Latino polling and research firm.

In late September, Project New America, a Denver center-left research group, tested more than thirty messages on “sporadic, less likely voters who lean Democratic” (which included young, black and Hispanic voters) to see what would motivate them to vote. “One of the most powerful messages across many different demographics was reminding people that their votes were important to counter the extremists who are kicking people off of voter rolls,” the group wrote in a post-election memo.

The increase in voter turnout among these key demographics, however, doesn’t mean that voter suppression laws did not have an impact or would not have decided the election outcome if the race had been closer. Court rulings and voter education efforts limited the damage but didn’t stop it. A flood of horror stories poured in during early voting and on election day: voters waiting in line for seven hours in Florida, wrongly turned away for lack of photo ID in Pennsylvania, improperly forced to cast provisional ballots in Ohio. The day after the election, 600,000 early votes and provisional ballots remained uncounted in Arizona, most of them in heavily Latino Maricopa County. According to Hart Research Associates, black and Hispanic voters were two to three times more likely than whites to wait more than thirty minutes to cast their ballot.

In-person early voting declined in Florida because of fewer early voting hours, compared with 2008. Florida voter registration dropped by 14 percent because of the twelve months in 2011–12 when the state shut down voter registration drives. The 1-866-Our-Vote hotline received more than 9,000 calls from Pennsylvanians on election day, many from voters wrongly told by poll workers that a photo ID was required in order to vote. Twice as many voters in Philadelphia as in 2008 had to cast provisional ballots because their names were missing from voter rolls. Of all the swing states, Pennsylvania had the sharpest drop in voter turnout, down by more than 7 percent from 2008, which could be attributable to confusion over its suspended voter ID law.

The 2012 election was a case study in how not to run an election. New voting restrictions and confusion over recent court decisions exacerbated problems lingering since 2000: broken voting machines, an antiquated voter registration system, ungodly lines, misinformed poll workers and partisan election officials.

Obama’s ad-lib on election night about long lines at the polls—“by the way, we have to fix that”—energized the movement for election reform. There are smart proposals in Congress, including the Voter Empowerment Act, but it’s unclear what the follow-through will be. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, a response to the 2000 fiasco in Florida, did little to remedy the nation’s election problems. For example, the US Election Assistance Commission, created by HAVA to help states run their elections, has no commissioners, executive director or general counsel, and hasn’t met publicly since 2011. Last year in Congress, Republicans tried to abolish the agency; Democrats have done little to resurrect it. Before Congress tries to pass sweeping election reform, it should take the baby step of getting an election commission back up and running.

Despite Romney’s defeat, GOP-controlled states appear likely to press ahead with new voting restrictions. In Florida, for instance, Governor Rick Scott put his secretary of state—who supported controversial voting restrictions and an ill-considered voter purge—in charge of determining what went wrong with the election. He should start by interviewing his boss. Until conservatives start courting the increasingly diverse electorate, voter suppression will continue to be the party’s main response to demographic change.

The GOP’s war on voting is far from dead. Just three days after the election, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a conservative challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which compels parts or all of sixteen states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to clear election-related rule changes with the federal government. The case will likely be heard early next year. Veteran Court watchers believe the five conservative justices are prepared to overturn Section 5, which Attorney General Eric Holder has called the “keystone of our voting rights.”

Voter suppression attempts over the past two years prove that Section 5 is still needed. Of the nine states covered fully by it, six have passed new voting restrictions since 2010. “The states that passed discriminatory voting laws were disproportionately covered by Section 5,” says Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The Justice Department successfully objected to restrictive voting laws in Florida, South Carolina and Texas under Section 5 this election cycle. And despite clear evidence of its necessity, the landmark act is under attack: it has been challenged more in the past two years than in the previous forty-five years combined, according to Columbia University Law School professor Nate Persily.

Only a Supreme Court divorced from reality—which this Court may well be—would review the record on voting rights since Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 and conclude that a key pillar of the law is no longer needed. If anything, Section 5 should be expanded to include states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Losing Section 5 would greenlight the very kind of voter suppression that proved so unpopular in 2012.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/gops-voter-suppression-strategy

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[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/photo-id
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/minnesota
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-id
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-id-laws
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-suppression
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/african-american-ministers-leadership-council
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/supreme-court
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/justice-department
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-empowerment-act
[17] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Most American Voters Elected a Democratic House, But We Got a Tea Party Congress

by  MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, November 26, 2012

BuzzFlash isn’t the first site to note that approximately 53,952,000 Democratic votes were cast for congressional representatives, while only about 53,403,000 votes were cast for House Republicans.  (Curiously enough that is about the same popular vote victory that Al Gore won in the 2000 election: 540,000 votes.)

Yet, the Boehner/Cantor Tea Party tilt remains in the House of Representatives.

As PolicyMic explains:

Republican gerrymandering of electoral districts isn’t as sexy to kick up a fuss about, nor does it make for as good memes, but it’s safe to say that elaborate redistricting helped the party to win their current House majority. And to win by redistricting, looks an awful lot like cheating. Professor Geoffrey Stone emphasized that:

“Although the Republicans won 55% of the House seats, they received less than half of the votes for members of the House of Representatives. Indeed, more than half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans House candidates. There was no split-decision. The Democrats won both the presidential election and the House election. But the Republicans won 55% of the seats in the House.

This seems crazy. How could this be?

This answer lies in the 2010 election, in which Republicans won control of a substantial majority of state governments. They then used that power to re-draw congressional district lines in such a way as to maximize the Republican outcome in the 2012 House election.”

Take Pennsylvania, for instance, the Democrats received 2,710,827 votes for congressional candidates; the Republicans, 2,642,952.  Although it was a slim victory, the Dems won the popular vote in Pennsylvania as far as electing representatives to Congress.

Astonishingly, however, due to gerrymandering from the Tea Party tsunami election of 2010, which left the Pennsylvania legislature and governor in full control of the GOP, only 5 Democratic reps to Congress were elected in 2012, while the Republicans will send 13 reps to DC!

In Ohio, Secretary of State John Husted – who unrelentingly tried to suppress Democratic votes in the 2012 election – has denied he was proposing to change the allocation of electoral votes in the Buckeye State to winners of congressional districts.   (Only Nebraska and Maine currently employ such a presidential election system.) But you can’t blame him for launching such a partisan trial balloon, given that his allegiance is to the Republican Party, not the people of Ohio. Under such a system for Ohio in 2012, Romney would have been awarded 12 of the 18 electoral votes in the state (due once again to gerrymandering).

In summary, citizens of the United States elected a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate.  Minus the partisan tactic of gerrymandering, the American people also elected a Democratic House.

President Obama should remember this when he deals with the Tea Party tilt of the gerrymandered Republican House.  John Boehner does not represent the majority of the United States voters; he represents the pathology of a minority.

http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/17656-most-american-voters-elected-a-democratic-house-but-we-got-a-tea-party-congress

Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

by Rick Perlstein, The Nation, November 13, 2012

It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Now, the same indefatigable researcher who brought us Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, James Carter IV, has dug up the entire forty-two-minute interview from which that quote derives. Here, The Nation publishes it in its entirety for the very first time.

Listen to the full forty-two-minute conversation with Atwater: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

The back-story goes like this. In 1981, Atwater, after a decade as South Carolina’s most effective Republican operative, was working in Ronald Reagan’s White House when he was interviewed by Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. Lamis published the interview without using Atwater’s name in his 1984 book The Two-Party South. Fifteen years later—and eight years after Atwater passed away from cancer—Lamis republished the interview in another book using Atwater’s name. For seven years no one paid much attention. Then the New York Times’ Bob Herbert, a bit of an Atwater obsessive, quoted it in an October 6, 2005 column [2]—then five more times over the next four years.

Those words soon became legend—quoted in both screeds (The GOP-Haters Handbook, 2007) and scholarship (Corey Robin’s 2011 classic work of political theory, The Reactionary Mind). Google Books records its use in ten books published so far this year alone. Curious about the remarks’ context, Carter, who learned Lamis had died in 2012, asked his widow if she would consider releasing the audio of the interview, especially in light of the use of race-baiting dog-whistles (lies [3] about Obama ending work requirements for welfare; “jokes [4]” about his supposed Kenyan provenance) in the Romney presidential campaign. Renée Lamis, an Obama donor, agreed that very same night. For one thing she was “upset,” Carter told me, that “for some time, conservatives believed [her] husband made up the Atwater interview.” For another, she was eager to illustrate that her husband’s use of the Atwater quote was scholarly, not political.

So what does the new contextual wrapping teach us? It vindicates Lamis, who indeed comes off as careful and scholarly. And no surprise, it shows Atwater acting yet again in bad faith.

In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”

It is only upon Professor Lamis’s gently Socratic follow-ups, and those of a co-interviewer named “Saul” (Carter hasn’t been able to confirm his identity, but suspects it was the late White House correspondent Saul Friedman), that Atwater begins to loosen up—prefacing his reflections, with a plainly guilty conscience, “Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this?” (Apparently , this is the reason why Atwater’s name wasn’t published in 1984 but was in 1999, after his death).

He then utters his infamous words. The interlocutors go on to kibitz about Huey Long and barbecue. Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class  black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).

“That voter, in my judgment,” he claims, “will be more likely to vote his economic interests than he will anything else. And that is the voter that I think through a fairly slow but very steady process, will go Republican.” Because race no longer matters: “In my judgment Karl Marx [is right]… the real issues ultimately will be the economic issues.” He continues, in words that uncannily echo the “47 percent tape” (nothing new under the wingnut sun), that “statistically, as the number of non-producers in the system moves toward fifty percent,” the conservative coalition cannot but expand. Voila: a new Republican majority. Racism won’t have anything to do with it.

Not bloody likely. In 2005, the political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears demonstrated [6] that a Southern man holding conservative positions on issues other than race is no more likely than a conservative Northerner to vote for a Democrat. But when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions—like whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”—white Southerners were twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote Democratic. As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie [7] (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

Which one particular Republican spinmeister, when he wasn’t preening before political scientists, knew fully well—which was why, seven years after that interview, in his stated goal [8] to “rip the bark off the little bastard [Michael Dukakis]” on behalf of his candidate George H.W. Bush, Atwater ran the infamous ad blaming Dukakis for an escaped Massachusetts convict, Willie Horton, “repeatedly raping” an apparently white girl. Indeed, Atwater pledged to make “Willie Horton his running mate.” The commercial was sponsored by a dummy outfit called the National Security Political Action Committee [9]—which it is true, was a whole lot more abstract than saying “nigger, nigger, nigger.”

For more on the GOP’s effort to roll back enfranchisment, read Ari Berman’s Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act [10].

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

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[2] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E6DF1E30F935A35753C1A9639C8B63

[3] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/28/rick-santorum/Santorum-Romney-claim-Obama-ending-welfare-work/

[4] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/romney-makes-a-birther-joke-while-campaigning/

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[6] http://web.posc.jmu.edu/seminar/readings/4a-realignment/race+party%20realignment%20in%20the%20south%20old%20times%20not%20forgotten.pdf

[7] http://books.google.com/books/about/Whistling_Past_Dixie.html?id=jG5Jhexkjg0C

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/us/gravely-ill-atwater-offers-apology.html

[9] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/2012/0524/From-Willie-Horton-to-windsurfing-Five-top-political-attack-ads/Willie-Horton-erases-a-double-digit-lead

[10] http://www.thenation.com/blog/171199/why-we-still-need-section-5-voting-rights-act

The GOP’s Disgusting New Southern Strategy: Take the Vote Away from Blacks, Roll Back the Civil Rights Movement

By Sherrilyn Ifill,  The RootSeptember 4, 2012  |

This article first appeared in TheRoot.com [3].

Excerpt

…Republican Party efforts to diminish minority voting strength for this year’s presidential election are a sobering reminder that the struggle for full civil rights is not over.…The GOP’s war on voting is a serious attack on the fundamental workings of our democracy…

Richard Nixon’s political “Southern strategy” [12] was nationalized….By the 1980s, Republican political operative Lee Atwater had turned the politics of race and fear into an art formit was Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 that was the real political transformative moment…shook the very foundations of the Southern strategy and left the Republican Party reeling.

…The party has, in effect, abandoned serious engagement with the essence of political activism: trying to persuade voters to support the candidates and viewpoints of one or another political party…

As a result, the Republican Party is now a minority party that still demands majority power…This is why the Republican war on voting should not be viewed solely through the lens of race. Instead it should be seen as part of a larger attack on political participation, with deep historical roots that hark back to the darkest days of American democracy….Republican voter-suppression efforts are a sobering reminder that we are only half a century removed from the time when, in many states, voting strength was based on race, wealth and place…This is what voter fraud really looks like, and all Americans, not just African Americans, stand to lose.

Full text

In states from Florida to Pennsylvania, Republican Party efforts to diminish minority voting strength for this year’s presidential election are a sobering reminder that the struggle for full civil rights is not over. But it’s not only black voters who should be concerned about Republican voter-suppression tactics. The GOP’s war on voting is a serious attack on the fundamental workings of our democracy. It is, at its core, an attempt to negate the important victories of the early 1960s that laid the foundation of our modern representative democracy.

To understand the breadth of the threat represented by voter-ID laws and other new practices designed to suppress votes in Democratic districts, it’s important to realize that the effort to dismantle obstacles to voting rights for black voters in the South during the early 1960s did more than just enfranchise African Americans. It exposed the myriad ways in which key aspects of the American electoral system were fundamentally unfair for all voters. In particular, the disproportionate power afforded to underpopulated rural jurisdictions over the more populous cities was corrected by the Supreme Court in a series of cases that dismantled the framework of unequal voting power that had existed in the South since the turn of the 20th century.

The door opened in 1962 when, in Baker v. Carr [4], the Supreme Court decided that it could rule on cases raising constitutional challenges to state apportionment practices. In that case, the challenge was to Tennessee’s failure for more than 60 years to adjust its state legislative districts, despite massive changes in the state’s population. A year later, in Gray v. Sanders [5], the court outlawedGeorgia’s county-unit voting system, a vote-counting scheme that benefited less populous counties in the state.

In the most important and influential of these decisions, Reynolds v. Sims [6], the court announced the now internationally recognized bedrock principle of voting equality: one person, one vote. These cases rooted out practices advanced principally in the South that, by weighting votes in favor of rural areas, gave land and cattle greater voting strength than people.

The principles announced in those cases are now such a part of our understanding of fairness in representative democracy that it’s hard sometimes to remember that they are only 50 years old. In short, the fight to remove obstacles designed to keep blacks and the undereducated from voting — like the poll tax [7], the literacy test [8] and the understanding clause [9] (in which a registrant would be asked to “interpret” a section of the state constitution) — should be understood within the context of the larger effort to bring equity to a voting system that had been fixed in favor of Southern, rural land-owning elites.

By 1966, after the last of these and other barriers had been removed by the Supreme Court [10] and by the passage of the Voting Rights Act [11], we’d begun the decades-long battle — still under way — to ensure that state and federal officials would enforce the laws that the Supreme Court had upheld. Once these structural barriers to voting were removed, those Southern white Dixiecrats (who formed the base of the modern post-civil rights Republican Party) committed to maintaining their political power and shifted their tactics to adjust to the new normal.

Because black and urban voters now proved a crucial vote in elections throughout the country, the politics of race-based fear increased and spread rapidly to the North. There, entrenched powers also sought to marginalize the potential for new voters to change the political landscape.

Richard Nixon’s political “Southern strategy” [12] was nationalized. Candidates who promised “law and order” flourished after the urban riots in Los Angeles’ Watts and inNewark,N.J. The idea of candidates who would “return”America to its former glory grew in currency. By the 1980s, Republican political operative Lee Atwater had turned the politics of race and fear into an art form, with Willie Horton launched as the poster child for how to manipulate white swing voters.

Despite the reference to Sarah Palin’s vice presidential nomination as a game changer in HBO’s titular movie [13], it was Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 that was the real political transformative moment. Obama’s ability to peel off the support of voters in three states of the old Confederacy [14] — Virginia, Florida and North Carolina — shook the very foundations of the Southern strategy and left the Republican Party reeling.

The party’s initial instinct was to try to undercut the president’s “postracial” appeal, with party leaders asking Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to provide the response [15] to President Obama’s first State of the Union address, and selecting former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee [16]. Both of these decisions soon proved hasty and ill-advised.

Now, it seems, the Republican Party is done with politics. The party has, in effect, abandoned serious engagement with the essence of political activism: trying to persuade voters to support the candidates and viewpoints of one or another political party. Urban voters, blacks, Latinos, young people and now perhaps even a majority of women voters appear beyond the reach or interest of the GOP.

As a result, the Republican Party is now a minority party that still demands majority power. And perhaps this is why the party appears determined to shrink the majority, borrowing from pre-civil rights-era Southern states that used voting and election laws to manipulate the voting strength of the electorate.

This is the context in which we should understand Republican election officials’ decision in Cincinnati last month to limit early voting in urban voting enclaves, while they guaranteed weekend voting and more flexible early voting hours in rural and suburban counties [17]. Ending weekday early voting at 5 p.m. and canceling weekend early voting in Ohio’s most populous cities would ensure that working voters in these jurisdictions became second-class citizens to their counterparts who live outside the metro areas. A recent federal court decision [18] requiring uniform early voting hours for all voters in the state may have reversed this plan.

This is why the Republican war on voting should not be viewed solely through the lens of race. Instead it should be seen as part of a larger attack on political participation, with deep historical roots that hark back to the darkest days of American democracy. Combined with the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United [19] decision, Republican voter-suppression efforts are a sobering reminder that we are only half a century removed from the time when, in many states, voting strength was based on race, wealth and place. These new voter-suppression tactics bring us perilously close to reliving those days.

This is what voter fraud really looks like, and all Americans, not just African Americans, stand to lose.

Sherrilyn A. Ifill is a professor of law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and a civil rights lawyer.

See more stories tagged with:

voting rights [20],

civil rights movement [21],

u.s. supeme court [22],

gop war on voters [23]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/gops-disgusting-new-southern-strategy-take-vote-away-blacks-roll-back-civil-rights-movement

Links:
[1] http://www.theroot.com
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/sherrilyn-ifill
[3] http://www.theroot.com/views/ballot-box-tactic-historical-roots?page=0,0
[4] http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/369/186/case.html
[5] http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/372/368/case.html
[6] http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1963/1963_23/
[7] http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/modern/jb_modern_polltax_1.html
[8] http://www.crmvet.org/info/lithome.htm
[9] http://civilrights.uslegal.com/voting-rights/grandfather-clauses-literacy-tests-and-the-white-primary/
[10] http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_48
[11] http://www.southernstudies.org/2012/08/voting-rights-act-key-to-rolling-back-new-voting-restrictions-in-the-south.html
[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/13/AR2005071302342.html
[13] http://www.hbo.com/movies/game-change/index.html
[14] http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/map.html
[15] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/24/bobby-jindal-respone-to-o_n_169704.html
[16] http://articles.cnn.com/2009-01-30/politics/rnc.chairman_1_michael-steele-party-members-katon-dawson?_s=PM:POLITICS
[17] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/opinion/overt-discrimination-in-ohio.html?src=recg
[18] http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120831/NEWS/308310102/Judge-OK-s-Ohio-early-voting-weekend-before-election
[19] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/06/25/supreme-court-re-affirms-citizens-united
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voting-rights
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/civil-rights-movement-0
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/us-supeme-court
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop-war-voters

 

RNC to Open With Politician Who “Should Be in Jail” by Greg Palast

Truthout | News Analysis, August 27, 2012

Robert F Kennedy Jr. looks over Tim Griffin’s caging emails. (Photo via Greg Pallast)”Tim Griffin should be in jail.” That’s the conclusion of civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after going through the evidence I asked him to review.

But Griffin’s not in jail: he’s in Congress. And Tuesday, he’ll be the first Congressman the Republicans have chosen to bring to their convention podium.

Predictably, I haven’t seen one US press report noting that in 2007, Griffin resigned from the Justice Department in disgrace, ahead of what could have been (should have been), his indictment.

Kennedy thought a couple of other characters should join Griffin in the lockup: first, Griffin’s boss, the man whom George W. Bush gave the nickname, “Turdblossom”: Karl Rove.

And there’s yet another odiferous blossom, Griffin’s assistant at the time of the crime: Matt Rhoades. Rhoades isn’t in jail either. He’s the campaign director of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

(Note: This story is based on the investigations in Palast’s new book, “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps” – with a forward by Kennedy and comics by Ted Rall.)

Kennedy had gone over the highly confidential emails we’d gotten from inside Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (How we got our hands on private emails from the top dogs in the Republican campaign, well, that’s another story. I can say, they were sent directly from the computer of Griffin. Rove, a computer expert, is careful not to have his own.)

“What they did was absolutely illegal – and they knew it and they did it anyway,” Kennedy told me.
What they did was called voter “caging.” The RNC sent letters by the thousands to soldiers, first class, marked, “DO NOT FORWARD.” When the letters were returned undelivered, the Republicans planned to use these “caged” envelopes as evidence the voters were “fraudulent” – then challenge their ballot.

A soldier mailing in his or her vote from Iraq would have that ballot disqualified – and the soldier wouldn’t even know it.

That’s not just sick, it’s a crime, a violation of the Voting Rights Act drafted by Kennedy’s late father. And it was a crime because of whom the RNC caging crew attacked: not just any soldiers, but soldiers of color.

Running a vote-challenge operation based on racial profiling is a go-to-jail felony.

And after the soldiers, the “Turdblossom” gang targeted students at traditionally black schools (away on summer break), homeless men and a few precincts of Jewish voters. In other words, anyone whose politics was Blue-ish.

Look for yourself. Here is one Griffin “caging” list, targeting the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
(go to source for image – Caging lists from GOP emails that Palast uncovered in 2004.)
The emails were dated August 2004, just before the presidential election. “Caging” would cost Bush’s opponent John Kerry more than one state. At the time, Rove was senior counselor to the president, Griffin head of “Research” at the RNC and his gofer Rhoades director of Opposition (read “Smear”) Research.

But they did more. Rove and Griffin were up to their necks in the firing of federal prosecutors. One, the US attorney for New Mexico, David Iglesias, told me the two illegal acts were tied together: Captain Iglesias (he’s a Naval JAG), himself a Republican, said he was fired because he refused to go along with RNC demands that he arrest innocent citizens on fake charges of fraudulent registration. Iglesias was horrified at this Soviet-style tactic. “I thought I was a Jedi warrior, but it turns out I was with the Sith Lords.”

So, Rove had Bush fire him and seven other prosecutors, including Bud Cummins, US attorney for Arkansas. In his place, Bush appointed … Tim Griffin.

Things Go Better With Kochs

Griffin won’t talk to me, nor will Rove nor Romney’s man Rhoades about the racial caging game and the related firing of federal prosecutors.

But never mind: I have his personal emails and the testimony of Captain Iglesias. And that was enough, in 2007, for BBC to put the “caging” evidence and the real story of the prosecutor firing on the air.

By the next morning, Griffin resigned his post at US attorney for Arkansas. He was in tears.

But Tim’s tears were soon wiped away – by the Koch brothers. In 2010, Koch interests dumped $167,183 into Griffin’s campaign for Congress. For $167,183, your average Congressman will wash your car – with their tongue.

Tim won the Little Rock seat, and here he is in Tampa. Despite the fact that he’s an unknown freshman from an unswing state, he’s been given the extraordinary honor of speaking for the entire Republican Congressional delegation.

And now you know why: In Congress, he’s Rove-bot No. 1, owned and operated by Koch Industries.

Why would the Kochs do this for the disgraced Griffin? Answer: It’s what Griffin does for them.

Among other favors, Griffin is the top cheerleader in the House for the XL pipeline – whose approval is vital to the billionaire Kochs making more billions.

But wait! The Kochs don’t own the XL pipe nor the Canadian tar sands from which it comes. So, why do they care?

Well, that’s another story, in another chapter, “XXXL Pipeline” in “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal the Election in 9 Easy Steps,” out September 18. Author’s proceeds from the book go to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund for reporting on voter protection issues, which has partnered with Truthout to bring you these investigative findings – and the comic book inside by Ted Rall.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.  Greg Palast
Greg Palast’s investigative reports are broadcast by BBC Television’s Newsnight. His new book is Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps (7 Stories Press/Palast Investigative Fund).
http://truth-out.org/news/item/11158-rnc-opens-with-politician-who-should-be-in-jail