The right to vote is a powerful tool which gives Americans, age 18 and older, the right to participate, as equals, in shaping state and national policy. One person, one vote ensures all Americans are treated equally when it comes to their right to vote. Well, that is, sometimes……in some states.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, more than 30 states have passed some form of Voter ID law which penalizes citizens who do not have state sanctioned identification. Many citizens will not be able to obtain these documents for economic or other reasons. Lawmakers proclaim the necessity of Voter ID laws, insisting that voter fraud is “massive” and “rampant” within the United States. National security, they warn, is endangered by voter fraud. Only one problem……there is no statistically significant evidence of voter fraud.
Voter ID laws are a solution for which there is no problem, an answer for which there is no question. There is, however, a logical rationale for the expenditure of millions of dollars and thousands of lawmaking hours invested in this non-problem. The true rationale for Voter ID law is revealed when one lifts the obfuscating fog of rhetoric, to which the American public has been subjected, to reveal the lie which has been perpetrated about voter fraud. Disenfranchisement of voters, through passage of recent Voter ID laws, is designed to benefit a small segment of society that profits from conservative backed legislation.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, recently boasted about passage of Voter ID law in Pennsylvania, gleefully proclaiming: "Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." Turzai’s statement is refreshingly honest. While other GOP luminaries have been claiming “massive” voter fraud as the rationale for voter identification laws, Turzai said it like it is. Voter ID laws support election of GOP candidates by disenfranchising voters likely to vote for Democratic candidates. American voters should be alarmed by the manipulation revealed by Turzai’s statement.
According to the New York Times, April 12, 2007, five years after the Bush administration had begun a crack down on “voter fraud,” the Justice Department had turned up no evidence of any organized effort to skew the vote. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice reveals; in the closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio, there were only four instances of ineligible persons voting, or attempting to vote. Analysis of the 2002 election revealed, only two out of 9,078,728 votes cast were suspect. This is a statistical value of 0.00004%. According to national studies, this number is consistent with voter fraud findings across the Union. The claim of “massive” voter fraud is itself, fraudulent.
According to an American Civil Liberties Union report on voter suppression in America, Voter ID laws overwhelmingly target the least powerful in society including; African Americans, the elderly and students. Voters in these demographics tend to vote Democratic. One might wonder who will be targeted next. Voter ID laws do not protect against voter fraud, they protect against likely Democratic votes.
The summary section of a “Policy Brief on Voter Identification” by the Brennan Center for Justice concludes that fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare. The brief reveals that many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false. The brief states, “…the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda and claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.” The report continues, “…the only misconduct that photo ID addresses is the kind of voter fraud that happens as infrequently as death by lightning. “ Yet, over half of the states in this country have passed these laws with no viable justification.
Although evidence of voter fraud is virtually nonexistent, millions of corporate dollars have been funneled to support state Voter ID law. According to ColorofChange.org, over 30 voter identification laws, which have passed or been introduced at the state level, have been linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a secretive, corporate funded group which generates legislation to be considered and passed by state legislatures (read more about ALEC at www.underthevines.com, 2012/05/15, “A Question of Ethics, the American Legislative Exchange Council and American Law”).
This is not surprising. Big business has found investing in voter disenfranchisement to be smart business expenditure. GOP legislators more reliably support policies, such as lower corporate tax rates and less corporate regulation, which favor the interests of big business. Corporations have found it pays, big time, to support public policy and laws which lead to the election of business friendly politicians. Getting rid of a few million votes which might inconveniently go to Democrats, is good investment policy.
Voter ID laws have been passed primarily in states where legislatures are controlled by the conservative branch of the GOP. Many of these legislatures came under Republican control in the 2010 election when “Tea Party” candidates and conservative Republicans were voted into office. Since 2010, many of these states have passed repressive laws, not only disenfranchising voters, but restricting abortion rights and limiting women’s access to affordable health care. We can logically expect to see more Voter ID laws and more government intrusion into private healthcare decisions should the GOP gain control of more state legislatures in the next election.
The most important fact about Voter ID law enactment is getting little attention. That is; if it is worth millions of dollars to disenfranchise voters, each vote is valuable, very valuable. In the 2008 Presidential race only 68% of eligible voters exercised their right to vote. Many non-voters said they did not vote because their vote did not count. The millions of dollars being spent to disenfranchise voters belie that belief. Your vote does matters! If it did not, the millions of dollars poured into supporting passage of these laws would be put to another use.
A fundamental rule of capitalism states that an item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. According to this indicator, the right to vote is worth millions. Many Americans, 18 and older, are the owners of something so valuable, so powerful, that investors are willing to pour millions of dollars, and legislators to dedicate hours of time, to pass laws to take away the right to vote. This is the true lesson of the Voter ID laws.
Americans, those of you who still possess this treasure, the right to vote, use that power, use that vote. Race, religion, wealth, gender, educational background, nothing, nothing makes your vote less valuable than that of the man or woman standing next to you. Throw the shinning cape of freedom around your shoulders. Wear it proudly. Sling the golden right to vote around your neck and proclaim your intention to honor its value. It is yours and yours alone. The millions of dollars being poured into efforts to disenfranchise voters prove the value of the right to vote. The more people do not exercise the power of their vote, the more easily that right will be removed. Public outrage over passage of Voter ID laws, like nothing else, should end voter malaise and turn out the vote like never before.
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