Killing Democracy One Vote at a Time
By Leo W. Gerard International President, United Steelworkers
April 30, 2012
Corporations, 1 percenters and Republicans want to take
America back. And by that, they mean all the way to the 1780s
when wealthy white men controlled the nation.
Because only they could vote.
In the intervening 230 or so years, America became
increasingly democratic, eventually awarding the vote to
white landless males; Quakers, Jews and Catholics; black men;
women; Native Americans, and 18-year-olds.
The wealthy are nostalgic for the power they enjoyed when
most states limited voting to landed gentry. Republicans are
helping them return America to those plutocratic days by
passing voter identification laws constraining suffrage by
the 99 percent. Country club conservatives are converting
voting from a universal right of citizenship to a privilege
exclusive to select society members.
Voter identification laws require citizens to provide
specific documents before exercising their franchise.
Depending on the state, these include a photo driver's
license, a passport or a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
The Brennan Center for Justice and others have calculated
that 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-
issued photo identification. That's 21 million citizens.
A survey by the Brennan Center showed that many Americans,
primarily women, do not have proof of citizenship under their
current name and certain groups, primarily the poor, elderly
and minorities are less likely to possess the documents the
new voter ID laws require.
The U.S. Department of Justice barred implementation of voter
ID laws in Texas and South Carolina after determining that
the restrictions would disproportionately limit minority
citizens' access to the polls. Texas and South Carolina are
among 16 states with records of discrimination, including
voter intimidation and poll taxes. As a result, they are
required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to secure federal
approval before changing voting laws.
In March, a court in Wisconsin declared the Badger State's
voter ID law unconstitutional. And the American Civil
Liberties Union plans to ask a Pennsylvania court this week
to do the same in the Keystone State.
But not all such suits are successful. The U.S. Supreme Court
upheld Indiana's restrictive voter ID law in 2008. And last
year a nearly unanimous Georgia Supreme Court endorsed its
voter limitations. Every judge except the first African-
American to sit on the Georgia Supreme Court bench approved
restricting access to the polls. Thirty states will require
voters to show identification in November, unless their laws
Limiting voter access to the polls is a Republican cause. In
2011 and so far in 2012, nine states passed new or stiffened
old voter ID laws. Republican governors preside over all nine
states. And in all but one, Republicans completely control
the legislatures. Five other states with Republican-
controlled legislatures passed voter ID bills last year.
These will not take effect, however, because five Democratic
governors vetoed them.
Behind every voter-restricting Republican is corporate-
sponsored ALEC. ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange
Council, a right-wing group that sends conservative lawmakers
on all-expenses-paid junkets where they are wined and dined
on ALEC corporate sponsors' dime while they develop "model"
legislation, like the kill-at-will laws that the slaying of
Trayvon Martin made infamous.
ALEC gives corporations veto power over proposed "model"
legislation, a fact that clearly illustrates who is in charge
-- the corporations that provide 98 percent of ALEC's $7
million annual budget.
Corporations embrace voter ID because democracy is downright
annoying to them. The Supreme Court has deemed corporations
to be people, which allows them to secretly spend unlimited
money on political campaigns. But that doesn't assure victory
for candidates that corporations choose because corporations
don't have the right to actually make the choice -- to vote.
The best corporations can do is limit balloting by those
likely to vote against corporate-sponsored candidates. That
would be voters who historically have favored Democrats.
Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise those voters
--- the poor, minorities and those who actually recall the
progressive, popular and successful administration of
Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Republican backers of voter ID are
completely unconcerned that the laws subjugate these
Too bad, they say, for grandma, who has voted in every
election for the past 65 years but doesn't have a driver's
license anymore and because she was born at home does not
have a birth certificate necessary to get a government-
issued photo ID.
Too bad, Republicans say, for the student whose driver's
license address differs from his university address and whose
college photo ID does not have an expiration date.
Too bad, the GOP says, for the urban single mother who does
not have a driver's license or the time or money to apply for
a birth certificate with a raised seal required to apply at
another office for a state identification card.
Voter ID restrictions work for the rich. They've got birth
certificates and photo driver's licenses and passports. Or
they can send a servant or secretary to apply for the
documents. And the more rabble removed from the polls, the
more weighty the votes of the wealthy.
In the Halcyon Days of democracy, the unwashed masses were
actually urged to vote with slogans like: "If you don't vote,
you don't count."
Now corporations, 1 percenters and Republicans are working to
ensure you don't vote because they honestly believe you don't
Follow Leo W. Gerard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uswblogger
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