Monday, March 7, 2011

Proud to be an American, Part 1

I’m feeling sour and nasty this morning; I read the following and a bunch of other similar news and wanted to share this. It kind of makes me proud to be an American, especially in these days of the potential for democracy even in the Middle East. Ironic, isn’t it? As they move towards democracy, we move away from it….

In 22 Statehouses Across The Country, Conservatives Move To Disenfranchise Voters

In statehouses across the country, Republican lawmakers are raising the specter of “voter fraud” to push through legislation that would dramatically restrict the voting rights of college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled and the homeless. As part of their larger effort to silence Main Street, conservatives are pushing through new photo identification laws that would exclude millions from voting, depress Hispanic voter turnout by as much as 10 percent, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In the next few months, a new set of election laws could make going to the polls and registering to vote significantly more difficult — in some cases even barring groups of citizens from voting in the communities where they live.
Conservative legislators across the country have said these laws are necessary to combat alleged mass voter fraud. But these fears are completely overblown and states already have tough voting laws on the books: fraudulent voters face felony charges, hefty fines, and even lengthy prison time. In Missouri, for example, voter fraud carries a penalty of no less than 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Yet conservatives have insisted on finding a legislative solution to a non-existent problem. In states like Indiana, where an ID law passed in 2005, both nuns and college students have found themselves turned away from the polls. Similar laws are on the books in eight other states and that number could expand dramatically in coming months. ThinkProgress examined these efforts in eight states:
NEW HAMPSHIRE: In the most egregious example of voter disenfranchisement legislation in the country, state Rep. Gregory Sorg (R) has introduced a bill that would bar thousands of college students and service members from voting in the communities where they live and attend school. According to New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien (R) the legislation is nececessary because there “are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.” A diverse coalition of young veterans, libertarians, conservatives, and progressives have organized against the bill. Both state politicians and local law professors have said the law is unconstitutional, citing “Newberger v. Peterson — a 1972 federal district court decision that ruled the state cannot bar college students from voting in New Hampshire even if they intend to leave after graduation.” Sorg told a public hearing that he had not read the decision and did not “care” for it.
MINNESOTA: Republican representatives have introduced two separate bills in the statehouse that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The more expansive of the bills would end same-day voter registration and create a large electronic database which would scan voter’s IDs. Conservatives have said the bill is necessary to end alleged voter fraud in the state, claims that the Minnesota County Attorneys Association have called “frivolous.” Other groups, including the ACLU and Common Cause, have raised concerns about the bill’s constitutionality, feasibility, and cost. Gov. Mark Dayton (R) has indicated that he will not sign the legislation.
NORTH CAROLINA: Republican legislators have introduced a photo ID bill that the Institute for Southern Studies estimates will cost taxpayers more than $20 million. Once again, the legislation’s target is phantom “voter fraud” — even though in 2008 authorities reported only 40 voting irregularities out of 4.3 million votes cast. The real targets of the bill would be the state’s elderly, disabled and college-aged voters. One state senator has called the legislation a “slap in the face” to the more than 35 percent 35 percent of registered voters who live in isolated, rural counties.

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