The Last Refuge of Scoundrels -- Republicans and Voter Suppression

That one party goes to such lengths to keep people from voting should be a major national scandal and it's disgraceful that it's part of the landscape in which people vote in this country.
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Among the most egregious ways in which the media's insistence on false equivalency between the two political parties manifests itself is in voting itself. There is simply no Democratic equivalent of the varied and repeated and Republican attempts to suppress likely Democratic voters, especially minorities. McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt said just this morning that GOP insistence that there is widespread voter fraud is "bogus" and part of the party's "mythology," undercutting the only fig leaf of a valid rationale for these execrable practices.

While in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent, what is all too real is the GOP's unconscionable effort to stop people with the wrong complexion from voting.

As has been well-documented, Republicans have stepped up efforts across the country to restrict early voting, as in Ohio and Florida, which disproportionately affect African-Americans and others with less job flexibility. Similarly, at least a dozen states have tried, with varying success, to impose new voter ID requirements, the effect of which is to make it disproportionately harder for African-Americans, Hispanics, students and the poor elderly to vote. At least some officials, like those in Pennsylvania, openly bragged that the goal of these laws was to ensure Republican victories.

And then there are the myriad instances across the country, for which there is simply no Democratic equivalent, of sending out misinformation to voters. For example, a mailer was sent out by GOP election officials in Ohio informing voters that election day was November 8. A similar mailing, targeting Spanish language voters in Arizona, also said that election day was November 8. In Cleveland, Clear Channel Communications had sponsored billboards threatening those convicted of voter fraud with felony arrest and significant jail time. Unsurprisingly, these billboards were placed in predominantly Hispanic and Black neighborhoods. After a significant outcry, Clear Channel did agree to take down the billboards, which were paid for by an anonymous donor that refused to disclose itself.

In Virginia, a man working for the Republican Party was caught and charged after having dumped voter registration forms.

North Carolina's state board of elections chief Gary Bartlett recently said that there was more misinformation, voter intimidation and other efforts at voter suppression in the state than he's ever seen. Though many of these efforts have been carried out by nefarious third parry groups that are hard to pin down, it is known that some of the voter intimidation and misinformation has come from an organization called Americans for Limited Government, a group with apparent ties to the Koch brothers.

Even in places where restrictive voter ID laws have been blocked by courts because of their obviously discriminatory intent, as in Texas, there are credible reports that officials are still demanding to see ID.

Of course, these sorts of tactics are not new to this cycle. Most famously, in 2000, Florida improperly disenfranchised thousands of voters by wrongly identifying them as felons who'd lost their voting rights. This work was carried out by a firm hired by then Secretary of State Katherine Harris, under the direction of then governor Jeb Bush, whose brother, of course, won the presidency on the basis of this wrongful voter purge.

And Republican officials carried out an illegal phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2002, in order to tie up the phone lines of Democratic Get Out the Vote efforts there.

This is only the smallest sampling. For more, here's Rick Perlstein and, separately, Adam Serwer on the GOP's repeated election-related skullduggery.

To repeat, there is no Democratic equivalent of the repeated Republican efforts to block people they don't like from voting. Voter ID laws, flyers with false information, threats of criminal charges, restriction of early voting, deliberately misleading and disgusting robocalls, "poll watchers" who are deliberately slowing down voting and using misinformation to challenge valid voters - -all of these are vintage Republican tactics. These typically, though not exclusively, targets minorities and they happen over and over and over again, in election after election. By contrast, Republican voting complaints boil down to transparently bogus claims about ACORN and voter fraud.

That one party goes to such lengths to keep people from voting should be a major national scandal and it's disgraceful that it's part of the landscape in which people vote in this country.

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