In recent years, we’ve seen a topsy turvy battle over the expansion and restriction of early voting and other reforms intended to make it easier for people to vote and thus expand the number of people who vote. Democrats (favoring more voting) and Republicans (favoring less) each act out of a certain self-interest. But contrary to articles like this one that present this as a mere battling for partisan advantage, the two sides aren’t equal. In a democratic society, efforts to expand the franchise have an inherent political morality on their side. And sites like TPM have routinely and rightly condemned various state GOPs who have gone to great lengths since 2010 clawing back early voting opportunities (and pushing other voting restrictions) to reduce voting by the young, the poor and the non-white. So I bash Republicans in Ohio and North Carolina for restricting early voting. And yet I live in a state in which there’s no early voting at all. In fact, New York state might at best be described as living in a voting world of two or three decades ago.
Someday, after they figure out how to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate, Republicans will probably be embarrassed by how much time they have spent making it harder for Americans to vote. For now, though, the beat just goes on. In a misguided effort to hold on to power despite an ever-shrinking base of older white voters, Republican lawmakers around the country continue to impose all sorts of barriers to the ballot box. One of the most egregious examples is happening in Ohio, a critical swing state in presidential elections and the scene of many recent disenfranchisement attempts.
Editorials: This idea to boost California’s voter turnout is a losing ticket | Los Angeles Daily News
KPCC radio reports that Fernando Guerra, the otherwise very smart director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, is proposing to make everybody who casts a ballot eligible for a lottery. Cast a ballot, and you could win $1 million! No doubt this would draw more people to the polls. But it’s a cheap stunt — cheap if you don’t count the $1 million — that doesn’t address the problem at its root. It won’t make people any more engaged with their communities and interested in public affairs, unless you picture apathetic citizens saying, “Well, as long as I’m planning to indulge my greed, I might as well start reading the newspaper and studying the issues.”
A Florida circuit judge will decide by the end of this month whether Republican legislators violated a state constitutional amendment in 2012 when they drew district maps for seats in the Legislature and Congress. But the recently concluded trial already has demonstrated that lawmakers at minimum violated the public’s trust with their secretive methods. In 2010 voters approved the “Fair Districts” amendments, which stipulated that when state lawmakers meet every 10 years to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries, they could no longer favor incumbents or members of a political party (a process known as “gerrymandering,” which both parties have engaged in when they held the majority).
Last month, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California published a report assessing the early effects of California’s top-two primary system, first implemented two years ago. “To the surprise of many,” it said, “turnout was the second-lowest on record.” Time to update that report: In the top-two primary’s second showing, turnout was the lowest on record. Based on Election Day returns, statewide turnout on Tuesday was 17.8 percent. That number will go up some, perhaps 6 or 7 points, after all the late-arriving mail-in ballots are counted and the provisional ballots sorted out, but the bottom line will still be dismal. In all likelihood, turnout will fall below the previous low of 28.2 percent. And then it can be reported that the first two experiments with the top-two primary resulted in the lowest and third-lowest voter turnouts on record. The problem is, it’s not an experiment. It’s written into the California Constitution and cannot be changed without another vote of the people. It’s time to start having that discussion.
Editorials: District of Columbia attorney general election should be scheduled right away | The Washington Post
While vultures appeared on K Street, chickens were coming home to roost with the D.C. Council this week when an appeals court ruled that the council acted illegally in delaying an election for attorney general. It was not a surprising outcome, given the serial carelessness with which the council has treated this office. D.C. residents should not have to pay the price for the council’s foolishness; efforts must be made to ensure an orderly election. A three-member panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that council members did not have the authority to overrule a charter amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010, that provided for the first election of the attorney general in 2014. The position has been a mayoral appointee. The council pushed to make it an elected office in a fit of pique with former attorney general Peter J. Nickles, but buyer’s remorse kicked in last year, and council members voted 7 to 6 to postpone the election.
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) may be one of the most beleaguered administrative agencies in the country, with many a Washington politician trying to axe it. If Keith Olbermann were running a “worst agency in the world” contest, the EAC might even get more votes than its sister agency, the ever-so-dysfunctional FEC (the Federal Election Commission). The EAC has been under attack from its inception – the National Association of Secretaries of State called for its destruction even before it was up and running. Two full years after the Help America Vote Act created the agency, the commission did not even have an office, let alone a mailing address or a phone number. The EAC’s first commissioners held their meetings in a local Starbucks. The EAC, however, has turned out to be the Bad News Bears. It had a rocky start, and still looks a bit ramshackle to the outside world, but, while almost no one was looking, the agency has initiated a major, positive shift in how American elections are run.
A historic redistricting trial, which some have called the Sunshine State’s version of “Game of Thrones” between Democrats and Republicans, ended this week. For the first time, sitting Florida legislators took the stand — after the Florida Supreme Court ruled they could not claim legislative privilege in such a case. Now we wait for Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to decide whether there was any underhanded scheming or deception when the Republican-led state Legislature carved up the state during redistricting in 2012. Did they violate the state’s new Fair Districts Amendment?
On 2 November, 2010, Facebook’s American users were subject to an ambitious experiment in civic-engineering: could a social network get otherwise-indolent people to cast a ballot in that day’s congressional midterm elections? The answer was yes. The prod to nudge bystanders to the voting booths was simple. It consisted of a graphic containing a link for looking up polling places, a button to click to announce that you had voted, and the profile photos of up to six Facebook friends who had indicated they’d already done the same. With Facebook’s cooperation, the political scientists who dreamed up the study planted that graphic in the newsfeeds of tens of millions of users. (Other groups of Facebook users were shown a generic get-out-the-vote message or received no voting reminder at all.) Then, in an awesome feat of data-crunching, the researchers cross-referenced their subjects’ names with the day’s actual voting records from precincts across the country to measure how much their voting prompt increased turnout.
The area on the Jersey shore where I grew up was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It was many weeks before some of the people could even go home. Life was a mess. And then, a little over a week later, was the 2012 election day. The state made it clear that they would make whatever accommodations it could to help people vote if they were displaced by the storm. So far, so good, but my ears perked up when I heard about “email voting.” Yes, the state announced that voters could email in a vote. This was part of an effort to make all non-traditional forms of voting, including mail-in and fax, easier. In fact, voters were instructed to ignore the part of the relevant web page where it says “The County Clerk cannot accept faxed or emailed copies of a Application for Vote by Mail Ballot, unless you are a Military or Overseas Voter, since an original signature is required.” But certainly such circumstances were sui generis, and no sane state authority would contemplate Internet voting in the normal course of things, right? Wrong.
“AS I set off on a spring journey into the world, my mother embroidered my shirt with two colours: red for love and black for sorrow,” goes a popular Ukrainian song. On May 25th, as Ukrainians went to the polls to elect Petro Poroshenko as their new president, many sported the traditional shirts embroidered with red and black threads. Held in the middle of a war stoked by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and three months after a revolution in Kiev’s Maidan that led to more than 100 deaths—and cost the country Crimea, which Mr Putin annexed—Ukraine’s presidential election was an act of defiance as much as an expression of political preferences.
An increasing number of voters in the US are now required to show a photo ID to vote. Eight states have “strict” ID laws, and several more are considering similar rules: no proof, no vote. Critics argue that minorities, immigrants, and the poor are less likely to have photo IDs and are effectively being disenfranchised. Indiana was among the first states to pass a voter ID law back in 2005. If you ask Indianapolis attorney Tom Wheeler, who works with the Republican Party and Republican candidates, whether the law was necessary, he brings up the 2003 Democratic mayoral primary in East Chicago, Indiana. “The fraud was so bad, that the (Indiana) Supreme Court couldn’t even figure out who won the race,” said Wheeler. But ask Bill Groth, a lawyer who often represents Democratic Party interests, and he’ll give you a different slant. “The state of Indiana later stipulated that there was not a single recorded prosecution for imposter voting fraud in the history of the state,” said Groth. So which man is lying? Neither.
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos recently published a commentary in the Hill claiming that “voting online is the future.” He also accused me of being against Internet voting because I want to “suppress” votes. That kind of ad hominem attack seems to always be the first refuge of those who are unable to argue substantively about a particular issue. I am against it because of the fundamental security problems presented by online voting and the fact that it could result in large-scale voter disenfranchisement. Moulitsas claims that creating a secure online voting system is “possible given current technology.” That is 100 percent wrong and shows how little he understands about the Internet or the voting process. You don’t have to take my word for it — that is the opinion of most computer scientists. In January 2004, a group of well-known computer experts issued a devastating report on the security of an Internet voting system proposed by the Pentagon for overseas military voters. As a result of that report, the project was cancelled. The vulnerabilities the experts discovered “are fundamental in the architecture of the Internet and of the PC hardware and software that is ubiquitous today. They cannot all be eliminated for the foreseeable future without some unforeseen radical breakthrough. It is quite possible that they will not be eliminated without a wholesale redesign and replacement of much of the hardware and software security systems that are part of, or connected to, today’s Internet.”
If you’re in the UK or the Netherlands then chances are you may have seen – or be about to see – a message appear in your Facebook news feed. It reminds you that it’s election day, and has a link to where you can find your local polling station. It also tells you which of your friends have hit the “I’m a Voter” button on Facebook, to show they’ve voted. … Interestingly, research suggests the feature may actually increase the turnout in elections by a small, but statistically significant, percentage. A studypublished in Nature looking at 2010 congressional elections in the US concluded that 340,000 extra people voted as a result. The biggest influencer was not the message itself, but the impact of seeing close friends who had clicked the “I’m a Voter” button.
Editorials: American elections are stuck in the 20th century. Here’s how to change that. | Timothy B. Lee/Vox
In the wake of the disastrous Florida recount in 2000, Congress appropriated billions of dollars for states to upgrade their voting equipment. A lot of states used this bonanza to purchase shiny new electronic voting machines. But those machines haven’t always worked out as well as their backers hoped, and a decade later they’re showing their age. And Congress isn’t expected to provide more billions for states to replace their aging voting systems any time soon. Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s choice to be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer from 2009 to 2012, wants to do something about the problem. He is teaming up with a group called the Open Source Elections Technology Foundation to address the problem. Their plan: develop the software necessary to run an election and release it as an open-source project. Chopra and his colleagues believe that could lead to better election systems while simultaneously saving cash-strapped states money. After every national election, you can find media reports of voting machine “glitches.” Common problems include “vote flipping” (where the voter tries to vote for one candidate but the machine registers it as a vote for another), broken machines, and mis-configured ballots. These issues can cause long lines as pollworkers take malfunctioning machines offline or have to spend time trying to fix them rather than checking in voters.
It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
Voters across the country scored significant victories in the past few weeks. A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act. A Pennsylvania ID law is dead after the governor decided not to appeal a decision ruling it unconstitutional. And two states passed laws expanding voter registration access. Still, fights continue in dozens of states, and a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act is stalled in Congress. At a time of historic dysfunction and congressional inaction, it is not enough to rely on the courts. It is high time for a greater executive role in safeguarding the right to vote. President Obama has the authority to act, and he must. After long lines marred the 2012 election, the president formed a bipartisan commission to identify best practices and new ideas to improve the voting experience. The commission’s final report, issued in January, contained potent recommendations for reform on the state and local level. Obama also spoke out recently on the grim reality of voting restrictions. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” the president told a group of activists in April. These efforts to restrict the right to vote will not go unchallenged, he assured the audience. But if the president’s words are to be more than mere flourishes, he must assert his leadership through executive action. The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a proposal outlining several concrete steps Obama can take to improve elections in America.
There is something incongruent and deeply troubling with the notion of a World War II veteran, someone who risked his life to protect the rights that all Americans cherish, being denied the power of his vote because he voted absentee and then died before Election Day. Regardless of the intent of the law that allowed a citizen to challenge the vote of Everette Harris and have it nullified, it is wrong and the General Assembly should change it. The injustice was made worse by the fact that Harris’ family was not contacted and allowed to argue against the challenge made to the Forsyth County Board of Elections by two voters. The board unanimously agreed to sustain the challenge. “There is a principle at work here that is extremely disappointing,” Harris’ son, Mark Harris, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, told the Journal’s Meghann Evans.
Eliminating the master lever in Rhode Island elections is picking up steam in the General Assembly. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says getting rid of straight party voting may be much ado about not much. The Rhode Island House of Representatives recently voted unanimously to end the so-called master lever, a relic of the state’s urban political machine past. A conga line of statewide elected politicians, from Gov. Lincoln Chafee down to Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, support this change. Good government groups and Rhode Island’s beleaguered Republican Party have been campaigning vigorously to curb straight party ballots. And many in the media, especially the editorial pages of the Providence Journal, have been on a crusade to scuttle it. The master level isn’t even a lever anymore. It was a dubbed the master lever when voters cast ballots in those big boxy metal voting machines that were enclosed in a thick curtain to maintain privacy. With one flick of a lever at the top of the machine, a voter could cast a straight party ticket, without having to click the levers next to the names of each individual candidate. When the state junked the machines for paper ballots that were counted with supermarket-style scanners, straight party voting survived as a single box at the top of the ballot. Thus, a voter who wanted to vote an all Republican or Democratic ticket could do so by drawing a line connecting one box, which eliminates the need to go all the way down the ballot and checking each individual box next to a candidate name.
In one week Ukrainians are to vote in a presidential election scheduled for May 25th. Developments on the ground have left people wondering if the past few days have been the calm before the storm—or whether both sides, uncertain about what to do and unable to muster enough force to prevail, have reached a stalemate. In one dramatic development the commander of rebel forces railed that he had less than 1,000 men to fight the entire Ukrainian army “while tens of thousands are watching calmly on TV, drinking beer.” On the outskirts of Sloviansk, a rebel-held city, there have days of sporadic fighting but no significant move by either side. On May 13th however, rebel forces ambushed a Ukrainian military convoy in a hit-and-run operation, killing seven soldiers. All the same it is becoming increasingly clear that both sides are bogged down. The rebels do not have enough men to defeat the Ukrainian forces deployed around town, while the army does not seem to know how to retake it without causing major civilian casualties. In an extraordinary video released by Colonel Igor Strelkov, the military commander of the rebel forces, “Strelok” says that while he now has enough weapons to fight Ukrainian forces who are preparing a major onslaught, hardly anyone was volunteering to fight. He complained that many of those who did volunteer only wanted to defend the areas around their own homes. Many want to use the resistance, he says, as a cover for banditry. Strelok suggests that many believed that they need not actually fight themselves, thinking that Russia would intervene on their behalf.
It was not so long ago that Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson had so much appeal for Democrats that he carried both Dane and Milwaukee counties. Thompson pushed to get 65% or 70% of the vote, but nowadays, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the parties say, “How do I get to 50% plus one?'” In Thompson’s day, no Republicans advocated for photo ID. But in this era of extreme polarization, where it’s all about getting a higher percentage of your supporters to the polls, GOP legislators overwhelmingly agree photo ID is needed. They deny it’s about creating a barrier for mostly Democratic low-income and minority voters and depressing their turnout. No, no, it’s all about combating voter fraud. That claim was put to the test in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, who heard extensive testimony from both sides before issuing an April 29 decision declaring the state photo ID law unconstitutional. Defending the law was a skilled lawyer, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who had every chance to present evidence proving voter fraud occurs. But if you read his huge final brief, Van Hollen had very weak arguments on that point. “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past,” Adelman’s decision states. Testifying for the plaintiffs was Rutgers University Prof. Lorraine Minnite, who specializes in researching voter fraud. She studied elections in Wisconsin in 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2012, analyzing newspaper databases, news releases by the attorney general, criminal complaints, decisions by state courts, and documents issued by the Government Accountability Board, and could identify only one case of voter impersonation fraud. That case did not involve in-person voter impersonation, which the photo ID requirement is meant to prevent.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz concludes that “illegal voters are participating in Iowa’s elections.” Actually, the report shows there is very little “fraud” by would-be or actual voters. And the report reveals that Schultz got very little of value in return for the criminal investigation that has cost the state $250,000. From the time he entered office in 2011, Schultz set out to plant the idea that Iowa’s elections are vulnerable to fraud perpetrated by illegal immigrants, convicted felons and other miscreants. After more than two years of beating the bushes for evidence of this fraud, Schultz reported last week that of 238 cases investigated, 27 criminal charges have been filed by Iowa county attorneys. Of those 27 criminal prosecutions, guilt was established in six cases, four cases were dismissed, one defendant was found not guilty, one prosecution was deferred and 15 cases are pending. In a state with nearly 2 million active registered voters, this handful of cases hardly constitutes evidence of a major problem of voter fraud.
President Obama warned recently that the “gridlock [which] reigns” in Washington could become “a self-fulfilling prophesy” of cynicism and dysfunction if voters fail to hold politicians accountable at the polls. That same gridlock could make it harder for Americans to vote and have their ballots counted as cast. In a study released last week, Common Cause found that a record number of pending executive and independent agency nominations are stalled on the Senate floor, despite filibuster reform that ended the 60-vote rule for most nominations. The person waiting the longest for a vote is Thomas Hicks, an Obama nominee for the Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”). His nomination has been pending for over four years – since April 2010. Waiting the third longest (over three years) is Myrna Pérez, also to serve on the EAC. This is no accident. It’s part of a larger strategy of obstructing action on the president’s executive nominations. When the report went to print last week, 115 executive and independent agency nominees were pending on the floor. At this point in President George W. Bush’s administration, only 34 were pending on the Senate floor. Under President Clinton, there were just 12. To the Senate’s shame, the EAC has not had a single commissioner since 2011. It should have four, with no more than two from any one political party.
The logic behind laws requiring voters to provide a government-issued photo identification card is simple and seductive: If you need to show an ID to board a plane, open a bank account, get public aid or do any number of other things, it only makes sense to do the same before casting a ballot. That was what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, said in 2011 as he signed a law imposing this new mandate. “There really is no barrier for people,” he asserted. “Particularly in a society where people need photo identification for just about everything else, including checking out a book from the library … it’s a reasonable requirement.” Many of the advocates can’t imagine anyone functioning in modern America without valid proof of identity. So they are skeptical that requiring it could possibly be an obstacle to voting. They also tend to believe that anyone who lacks something so basic deserves no accommodation. These attitudes reflect a failure to understand the lives of many Americans. In the suit challenging the Wisconsin law, which recently was overturned by a federal court, a parade of people attested that they lacked the required ID and, in many cases, couldn’t easily get it.
On behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett (none of whom actually asked for my help) I called Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network, and demanded that he stop trying prevent these three fine elected officials from wasting ungodly amounts of taxpayer money on a problem that does not exist. By which I mean – voter fraud. Last week, a two-judge panel from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the implementation of voter suppression laws in Arizona and Kansas. The laws essentially go beyond the federal voter registration form, requiring those who register to provide proof of citizenship. Wercinski’s organization, along with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, LULAC and State Senator Steve Gallardo has been fighting the law, which led to the state’s plan to create and implement a completely unnecessary and wildly expensive two-track voting system. All for the few and far between cases of voter fraud. “The 10th circuit did a good thing,” Wercinski told me. “But the state seems intent on fighting this ridiculous fight anyway.” Arizona already has spent a ton of money on what top officials pretend to be a voter-fraud problem. They know the problem doesn’t exist. But claiming that it does plays really, really well with some voters.
Shortly before separatist leaders here declared a huge majority had voted in a referendum to break from Ukraine, their press spokeswoman had chortled at the idea that a result would be declared a mere three hours after polling stations closed. “Are you crazy? How would we have time to count the ballots?” said Claudia. Precisely, how indeed? But then despite a series of opinion polls over the past few weeks showing only a minority of eastern Ukrainians wanted to follow the example of the Black Sea peninsula and secede, the plebiscite in Donetsk—one of two of Ukraine’s easternmost regions voting Sunday—was always a foregone conclusion. The procedures in the plebiscite managed by Denis Pushilin, a former casino croupier who is the co-chairman of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, followed the Kremlin’s house rules: the cynical strategies and plays of Russian-style “managed democracy,” not the electoral models outlined by organizations such as the United Nations or the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Editorials: The Debate Over Voting Rights Is Shifting Dramatically. Just Ask Rand Paul. | Ari Berman/The Nation
Last August, after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Rand Paul argued: “I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer.” (For a comprehensive rebuttal, read Andrew Cohen’s “Here Where Rand Paul Can Find ‘Objective Evidence’ of Voter Suppression.”) Nine months later, Paul is saying of voter ID laws: “it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.” He’s conceded that Republicans have “over-emphasized” the prevalence of voter fraud and has called cutting early voting hours “a mistake.” He’s working with Eric Holder and lobbying in his home state of Kentucky to restore voting rights to non-violent ex-felons. This from a guy who ran for office as a darling of the Tea Party and suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional. Paul’s new religion on voting rights is evidence of a broader shift on the issue. In recent weeks, courts in Wisconsin and Arkansas have struck down voter ID laws and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal a Commonwealth Court decision in January overturning his state’s voter ID law
Many years ago, as a college Republican, I spent one summer in Austin working for a candidate in a special election for the Texas Senate. It was a liberal enclave with many college students — unwashed, longhaired, pot-smoking students, it seemed to me — who were predominantly Democrats. The more students who came out to vote, the less likely our candidate was to win. So our campaign strategists came up with a plan. They sent mailings to all the registered voters in precincts near the campus. Many cards came back because the addressee had moved, as college students often do. Voters no longer at the address on file with election authorities were not eligible to vote. On Election Day, a fellow campaign worker and I went to a polling place to monitor voters. When they gave their names, we checked to see whether their mailings had come back. If so, we lodged an objection. The voters affected were not pleased. If we had been asked to defend our actions, I imagine we would have come up with something about upholding the law and assuring the integrity of elections. But the people running the campaign never said anything like that. What they said was that this was a great way to reduce the number of people voting for our opponent. It didn’t help, because he was too popular. But my superiors were not the last Republicans to figure that if you can’t get people to vote for you, you can try to keep them from voting at all.
Conservative iconography is saturated with references to America’s democratic tradition. From Charles and David Koch’s political action committee, Americans for Prosperity, which uses the Statue of Liberty’s torch for its logo, to the ubiquitous presence of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at tea party rallies, it is commonplace for conservatives to drape themselves in the flag and proclaim their allegiance to our nation’s founding documents. But lately, conservative lawmakers across the country have launched a drive that not only contradicts this rhetoric but strikes at the fundamental basis for representative government in America: They are pursuing a raft of measures that will restrict voters’ access to the polls. A heated debate about voter ID laws — measures that require voters to take government-issued identification to the polls — has been taking place for several years. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld the constitutionality of these local voter ID laws, but even the justices were deeply divided on the question; civil liberties groups continue to argue that, as with the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow South, these laws result in the disenfranchisement of poor people and people of color. However, conservatives have now opened another front in the war on the vote with a slate of recent laws that attack provisions such as early voting.
Four North Carolina state lawmakers could be targets of criminal investigations for voter fraud based on controversial standards embraced by some of their own colleagues. Today Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights watchdog group, released findings that show someone with exactly the same first name, last name, and date of birth as each of the lawmakers is registered to vote in another state. The registrants’ middle names and middle initials also correspond. Earlier this year, the State Board of Elections released a report that identified 35,750 North Carolina voters whose first name, last name and date of birth matched registered voters in other states. Some state lawmakers and conservative activists claimed that was proof voter fraud was occurring — a claim that voting rights advocates challenged.