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The beginning of tyranny.
August 17, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Last year, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's Law School released a report (pdf) detailing new, more restrictive state laws that affect voting rights and are likely to impact the outcome of the 2012 elections. The restrictions "fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities." On August 3rd, 2012, they updated their analysis with a pdf of passed and pending State government legislation. Their conclusion: after a century in which the United States "expanded the franchise and knocked down myriad barriers to full electoral participation... that momentum [has] abruptly shifted."

Analysis
A number of states have passed legislation that do one or more of the following:
* Eliminate early voting
* Made government-issued photo identification requirements mandatory for voting or registering
* Required proof of citizenship for voting or registering
* Newly disenfranchised taxpayers with past criminal convictions.
Etc.

* At least 180 restrictive bills have been introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.
* There are 27 restrictive bills currently pending in 6 states.
* 25 laws and 2 executive actions have passed since the beginning of 2011 in 19 states.
* 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws. These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency. Of these, 14 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 10 states.
posted by zarq (47 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously on Metafilter:

* Our country has never solved anything with less democracy
* The GOP War on Voting
posted by zarq at 9:39 PM on August 17, 2012


And in other news, a judge in Pennsylvania upholds their voter ID law.
posted by Talez at 9:49 PM on August 17, 2012


I'm hoping the DOJ can get this under control before the election.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:50 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The DOJ has been very late to this party - probably too late.

One must suspect that maybe parts of the Democratic Party want to be the minority party for the next few years so the Republicans can get full blame for the upcoming economic collapse. But then, they're assuming that a party that does shit like this to acquire power will EVER willingly give it up. I was actually rather surprised how the GOP let power slip out of their hands in 2006-2008... they're not gonna let that happen again.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:56 PM on August 17, 2012


This is an important issue, but the actual practical effect of these laws is easy to overstate (as onefellswoop is doing, above). Here's an excellent analysis by Nate Silver which might help put it in perspective.

Short version: these laws are very, very unlikely to decide this election.
posted by yoink at 10:02 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Once again the left is handling this all wrong. So the right wants to restrict access to the ballot. Instead of whining and appealing to the courts, the left should learn how power actually works.

Here's a simple proposal: everyone who votes must sign an affidavit that says that if they employ or manage others they do not commit wage theft and if they lease property to others they meet the implied warranty of habitability. After all, committing wage theft or leasing properties in substandard conditions is illegal. Signing an affidavit that says you're not breaking the law is unobjectionable, no? And a ten year mandatory minimum for anyone who commits either of these crimes is unobjectionable too, no? And a rebuttable presumption that a single proven accusation requires a mandatory minimum without a demonstration of scienter is a just way to manage these concerns, I think we can all agree.

Now an activist might argue that we should enforce strict liability and extend this to all immediate or extended family members. So if your cousin rents out an apartment that fails to live up to the housing code - and you vote - you go to jail for ten years. Well, that seems extreme. But I guess I'm a conservative.

You don't like this? You're telling me you don't feel strongly about the rights of renters and you don't like the growing problem that is wage theft? You want rich fat cat landlords and slumbosses to run this country?

See, that's how the left should respond.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:03 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Short version: these laws are very, very unlikely to decide this election.

Oh well, then I guess it's okay.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 PM on August 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


This is an important issue, but the actual practical effect of these laws is easy to overstate (as onefellswoop is doing, above). Here's an excellent analysis by Nate Silver which might help put it in perspective.

Short version: these laws are very, very unlikely to decide this election.


It's possible that Silver's analysis is correct.

But the point is that people are being denied their citizenship right to vote simply because they haven't been able to jump through the correct hoops.

The ability to take the time off work, get to an appropriate ID issuing agency, pay for the ID (which even if offered for free may require background documentation which costs money to obtain), etc is the modern equivalent of literacy testing.

Our democracy is strongest when all who have the right to vote can exercise that right with the least impediment to that exercise. Not everyone who has that right WILL exercise it, but everyone who has that right should be able to do so, and many of these laws put in place measures which keep certain segments of the population from being able to do so.

Whether the results of the election will be affected or not is immaterial. The point is, people will be excluded for reasons which are at best phantoms and at worst paranoid and partisan. It's shameful and should not be happening.
posted by hippybear at 10:14 PM on August 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sorry, I have a hard time staying away from the sarcasm.

Seriously, Laws and Rights are not supposed to be based in probability. It's as simple as that.

I did not think that census numbers should be adjusted based on probabilistic estimates, no matter how good they may be. Count the people. Make serious efforts to count as many as possible, but actually count them. (Supposedly this disadvantages typical Democratic party constituencies.)

And the same goes for voting. Statisticians can analyze this all they want, and I expect people running candidate's elections to use stats to help them plan, but we should get as many people to vote as possible.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:20 PM on August 17, 2012


and are likely to impact the outcome of the 2012 elections

What is your basis for this statement? As far as I can tell it's just made up.

This is an extremely serious issue. But it's still a serious issue even if it doesn't change the outcome of a single race at any level.
posted by Justinian at 10:26 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't being eligible to vote (and thus getting issued a voter registration card) already prove your citizenship? Most I could see is a valid I.D. to prove the card is yours.
posted by Malice at 12:26 AM on August 18, 2012


I think the Dems should agree to a Voter ID law, but make it a federal Voter ID law with federal standards and federal funding and watch the Republicans blow a gasket when they start going apeshit over "STATES RIGHTS!", which are suddenly more sacrosanct than "Voter Confidence" or "Accuracy" or whatever bullshit reason they had for pumping Voter ID at a state level.
posted by PenDevil at 1:01 AM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Laws and Rights are not supposed to be based in probability. It's as simple as that.

Qualifiedly, I agree with you. However, laws and rights are not the same thing.

This post is about electoral outcome.
posted by 7segment at 1:04 AM on August 18, 2012


When talking to people about this issue, I get the impression that it's supported more as a punishment for people who they think are too lazy to get ID than out of any real fear of Democrats winning or illegal aliens voting.
posted by wierdo at 1:21 AM on August 18, 2012


If Democrats or Republicans had something like a clear majority, none of this would matter. The problem is where large differences boil down to a handful of votes. As long as this exists both sides will fight over the margins. Democratic efforts to expand voting have been every bit as partisan as Republican efforts to restrict it.
posted by three blind mice at 1:51 AM on August 18, 2012


Cartoon Blog has a political cartoon that I think is appropriate.

CSMonitor: Federal Court Reject FL's early-voting changes
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:39 AM on August 18, 2012


All signs point to: "Romney is going to fucking win."
posted by clarknova at 3:37 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Give up.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 3:38 AM on August 18, 2012


Democratic efforts to expand voting have been every bit as partisan as...

Partisan? Sure. Evil? Absolutely not.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 3:40 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Democratic efforts to expand voting have been every bit as partisan as Republican efforts to restrict it.

Yeah fuck those Dems for trying to encourage people to vote.
posted by PenDevil at 3:59 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Once again the left is handling this all wrong.

what they need to do is repeatedly accuse those doing these things as anti-democratic and unamerican - "they don't want people voting" - "they don't believe in the american system of voting and government" - "people who limit legitimate voting aren't patriots"

many are doing this, of course, but not enough

repeat questions such as "why don't you want black people to vote?" - "don't you believe that the poor should be able to vote?" - "why are you working to exclude people from our system of government?"

when they squawk and scream and cry foul, do it again - make them live it, eat it and breathe it

there is a lot more at stake in this then whether "our" party wins
posted by pyramid termite at 4:32 AM on August 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


So if your cousin rents out an apartment that fails to live up to the housing code - and you vote - you go to jail for ten years.

good lord - i have 50 to 60 cousins, some of whom i've never met - you can't be serious
posted by pyramid termite at 4:46 AM on August 18, 2012


The PA ID law will give Romney a bump by 2% points. That would not give the state to Obama now, but we still got some months to go.

PA Gov Tom Corbett needs to suck a bad of dicks.
posted by angrycat at 5:18 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


(also the GOP state reps who pushed that through. One gets an impression that those folks are some horrible mutants raised by a farmer in his barn in central PA and never got to school. So one might feel a little sorry for them. )
posted by angrycat at 5:20 AM on August 18, 2012


My concern about these laws is the story they allow conservatives to tell themselves. If you already believe that voting fraud is rampant, and these laws allow Romney to win (say) Florida, then conservatives think, "See, when only real citizens are allowed to vote, they picked the Republican candidate. That proves that there WAS fraud in previous elections." And so, they push for more voting laws, starting an infinite loop...
posted by wittgenstein at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2012


The US has a history of policies and laws based a reactions to conspiracies not based on any sense of reality.
posted by incandissonance at 6:19 AM on August 18, 2012


Short version: these laws are very, very unlikely to decide this election.

Nate Silver seems less informed about the restrictions than I would've hoped he would be, especially before writing about them. The required "government photo ID" to vote is not uniform. In Minnesota, you would not be able to use anything except state-issued ID. No passport, no military ID, no student ID. Furthermore, there will be more legit votes smacked down than voter fraud prevented.
posted by autoclavicle at 6:29 AM on August 18, 2012


Taxation without representation.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 6:33 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



When talking to people about this issue, I get the impression that it's supported more as a punishment for people who they think are too lazy to get ID than out of any real fear of Democrats winning or illegal aliens voting.


I wonder how long it will be until they decide to punish me for being too lazy to get up and go to church.
posted by notreally at 6:56 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Nate Silver's blog, and I've been reading his stuff since 2007ish. In the linked analysis, he says it's just a rough estimate essentially, and that he is open to suggestions to make the model better.

He does not mention or include anything about reduced voting hours, only Voter ID laws.
He does not mention or include anything about voter purges and changes in early voting days, like removing the Sunday before the election.

CSMonitor: Federal Court Reject FL's early-voting changes

As I understand this, it is only 5 counties, and not especially populous ones, that are affected. In all the rest of the counties in Florida, significantly reduced early voting times are in effect. Is that wrong?
posted by cashman at 7:20 AM on August 18, 2012


When talking to people about this issue, I get the impression that it's supported more as a punishment for people who they think are too lazy to get ID than out of any real fear of Democrats winning or illegal aliens voting.

I'm so glad you're fortunate enough to work a job with paid time off so that you can obtain state ID during business hours.

Young people working hourly might have to choose between $25 to buy food or cover rent and voting.
posted by Talez at 7:25 AM on August 18, 2012


I did not think that census numbers should be adjusted based on probabilistic estimates, no matter how good they may be. Count the people. Make serious efforts to count as many as possible, but actually count them.

If you don't use probabilistic estimates, you are not making serious efforts to count as many as possible, but rather conceding that you're OK with systematically undercounting poor and transient parts of the population. Now there are reasons to do it that way -- not least because the SC has ruled that it's Constitutionally required -- but it certainly represents stopping short our best attempt to actually enumerate the population.
posted by escabeche at 7:27 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh well, then I guess it's okay.

It's odd how many of the people who responded to my post managed to skip over the first five words in it: "This is an important issue."

These attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout are, obviously, unethical and the Republicans should be (and are being) pilloried for them. But it's also important to have a realistic assessment of their probable effects: which are unlikely to be dramatic.

It would be grossly wrong to arbitrarily deprive anybody of their right to vote even if doing so in no way changed the outcome of the election.
posted by yoink at 7:48 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In Minnesota, you would not be able to use anything except state-issued ID. No passport, no military ID, no student ID.

If the amendment passes (which isn't guaranteed), I'd expect this to be the center of many, many lawsuits. The text reads: "valid government-issued photographic identification". Passports ought to be okay. Student ID? Is the University of Minnesota part of the 'government'? Private school IDs would definitely be out. Note also that a driver's license that's expired by one day is probably no longer 'valid', no matter how legit you are otherwise.

And wait until the Republicans find out that tribal governments are, in fact, governments.

The short summary is that the amendment introduces a big rat's nest of controversies and annoyances that essentially accomplish nothing, except *maybe* to drive a few DFL-leaning voters away from the polls. And ruin Minnesota's voting procedures, which up until now have been around the best in the U.S.

The Republicans tried to destroy Minnesota same-day registration in court this week and lost, so there's that to take comfort in.

Some important details of this process in Minnesota: the Republicans did a constitutional amendment on this, because a bill to put an amendment before the voters cannot be vetoed by the Governor in Minnesota (Gov. Dayton is DFL, that is, a Democrat). Also, in Minnesota, a constitutional amendment has to be approved by a majority of those voting, not just a simple majority--so even if more people vote yes than vote no, if the number of yes votes is less than 50% of the total of people voting, the amendment does not pass. In short, voting for President or Senate but not voting for the amendment is the same as a 'no' vote on the amendment. People who don't turn their ballots over to vote on the amendment count as 'no'.

I'm cautiously optimistic that this (and the anti-Marriage amendment) will both be defeated, since Pres. Obama and Sen. Klobuchar are on the ballot, and are both popular and leading easily in the polls, and the local Republicans are having financial and organizational problems. Amendment measures are very, very difficult to predict though.
posted by gimonca at 7:49 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I understand this, it is only 5 counties, and not especially populous ones, that are affected.

Collier: 315,839 (Naples)
Hardee: 28,286 (Wauchula)
Hendry: 39,611 (Clewiston)
Hillsborough: 1,229,226 (Tampa)
Monroe: 74,737 (Key West)

These counties combined have more people than Idaho (granted, most of that is Hillsborough).
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:49 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Qualifiedly, I agree with you. However, laws and rights are not the same thing.

Yep, they are two different things.

> This post is about electoral outcome.

This post is about access to voting, which is a right.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:06 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Daily Kos: I was denied free voter ID today: Pennsylvania

Also, Hillsborough is the western anchor of the I-4 corridor, the generally accepted swing section of FL voters.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:49 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm cautiously optimistic that this (and the anti-Marriage amendment) will both be defeated ...

I am also somewhat optimistic about the anti-Marriage amendment. In that case, I think the no vote counting as a NO vote helps us. As the tide is thankfully shifting in the right direction, people on the fence will hopefully just shrug, leave it blank and move on. But, I don't this will be enough to help on Voter Id. It's polling extremely well here, and I'm very pessimistically expecting it to pass.

I just hope that if it does pass, we won't follow it up with any of this vileness.

But even without that, I agree that it will disenfranchise many of the young, the poor and minorities.
posted by marsha56 at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2012


Short version: these laws are very, very unlikely to decide this election.
posted by yoink at 1:02 AM on August 18 [+] [!]


Presidential election. You do realize there are other offices that people vote on, other amendments and issues? City council members can have a huge impact on your life and just a handful of votes can make a difference.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:18 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The right way for the Democrats to win in this fight is to campaign for photo ID to be all you need to vote (completely eliminating voter registration). That would massively increase turnout and leave the Republican arguments dead in the water.
posted by miyabo at 12:59 PM on August 18, 2012


Not everyone with photo ID in the United States is eligible to vote.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2012


Collier: 315,839 (Naples)
Hardee: 28,286 (Wauchula)
Hendry: 39,611 (Clewiston)
Hillsborough: 1,229,226 (Tampa)
Monroe: 74,737 (Key West)

These counties combined have more people than Idaho (granted, most of that is Hillsborough).


But combined is about 10% of the population of Florida, right? So 90% of the population of Florida still had early voting hours removed?
posted by cashman at 1:36 PM on August 18, 2012


(In part)
posted by cashman at 1:37 PM on August 18, 2012


I'm in Pennsylvania and I have no photo ID.

The reason I have no photo ID is that I've been bedridden since 2007 (although now I can get around the house a little), and my last driver's license (which was issued when I was living in California) is now expired.

I can't get a new license because it would require 1. a "Medical Qualification Certificate" (as much as my doctor likes me, if I can't sit up for ten minutes, I'm going to flunk this one) and 2. a road test (see previous aside as to why this isn't going to fly either).

However, I probably could struggle through the process of getting a free state-issued ID with significant physical help from el_lupino, my husband. At least I'm the sort of person who is lucky to have all the necessary documents to do so. But I'm not going to. You know why?

Because I'm in the process of getting set up as a permanent absentee voter. I say "in the process" because we sent the forms in a few months ago, haven't heard anything, and yesterday el_lupino thought to call the state. Apparently they lost the paperwork. And also apparently, the forms are different on the website than the ones we were mailed. el_lupino says he's just going to fill them all out again, walk them over, and put them right in their hot little hands this time.

Guess why we're doing this. Guess what I don't need to have to be a permanent absentee voter.

That's right: a photo ID.

Because what's easier to abuse, absentee ballots or in-person polling places? :P
posted by jocelmeow at 5:31 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah fuck those Dems for trying to encourage people to vote

The real problem with the dems is that they're delusional. They think they can be staid and passive as usual when their opposition has a battle plan and serious organization. They think the failed tactics they've used for the last 12 years can somehow beat this despite the cumulative effect of all the strategic and structural gains the elephants have made.

Obama's was a success in spite of itself. It won't be repeated.
posted by clarknova at 7:44 PM on August 18, 2012


You're a little too sure.
posted by cashman at 9:10 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the veil slips yet again:

Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, which contains the city of Columbus, admitted in an email to the Columbus Dispatch that black voters would now have a more difficult time voting:

I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. Let’s be fair and reasonable.

Preisse was one of the board of elections members who blocked Democratic efforts in Franklin County to expand voting hours to evenings and weekends. According to the Dispatch, he called claims of unfairness “bullshit. Quote me!”

posted by PenDevil at 12:28 AM on August 20, 2012


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