The fact that the American Legislative Exchange Council has disbanded its anti-voting-access task force will not dissuade Ohio Republicans who insist on assaulting the franchise.
ALEC, the Koch Brother-funded “model legislation” hook-up apparatus for conservative state legislators and multinational corporations—think MeetMe for plutocrats and their sycophants—scaled back their work on non-economic issues following the Trayvon Martin controversy.
ALEC, by the way, would prefer their model legislation not be referred to as such so much, as it counts itself among those “charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit” organizations that should not have to pay taxes for indulging in politics.
ProgressOhio reported last year in a study on ALEC’s influence that, responding to Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz on the provenance of Ohio’s voter ID legislation, then-ALEC spokesperson Raegan Weber said, “Actually, it would help ALEC out a lot on this issue if they said that they didn’t use ALEC model legislation.”
The study further notes that while the proposed Ohio legislation, part of which has already passed through the Senate along party lines, is more comprehensive than the model, it includes all of ALEC’s goals.
Seitz, meanwhile, further did his bit to limit participation in democracy earlier this fall when he successfully passed Senate Bill 193 through the Ohio legislature to run third parties off of the ballot.
Late last month, U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, cut to the quick in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I am concerned about restrictive legislation concerning voter identification and the reduction of early voting days pending in the Ohio legislature, and seek your assistance,” Fudge wrote. “After this summer’s dismantling of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is even more important that we remain vigilant and promptly address attempts to limit access for eligible voters.”
I advocate going one further. Ohioans and citizens across these United States must not only remain vigilant against attempts to restrict the franchise, but also actively battle toward its expansion.
Democrats have played defense in highlighting facts such as the new voter ID laws potentially costing as much as $43 million over four years.
They have pointed out that photo ID laws are a solution to a virtually non-existent problem.
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer has noted, Ohio county boards of elections referred the names of 115 people to their local prosecutors in the November 2012 election. Another 20 were referred for prosecution by the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
“To put this into context, … that’s 135 referrals out of more than 5.6 million votes cast,” said Husted, before bloviating in Great River state tradition, “No amount of fraud is acceptable. And if you cheat, you will be caught and you will be held accountable.”
Most of these cases, Husted acknowledged, dealt with efforts, intentional or not, to double-vote. And because most of the cases involved casting one or more provisional ballots, he further acknowledged, the discrepancies were largely caught.
So the upshot is that in the rare instances of potential fraud, that had nothing to do with voter identification, the safeguards currently in place worked.
So why are Ohio Republican so bent on eliminating the “Golden Week,” that allows people to register to vote and cast an absentee ballot in the same day, restricting the franchise by advancing identification requirements to include a photograph, and scaling back early voting hours?
“Recent estimates indicate there are over 900,000 eligible voters in Ohio without approved photo identification. As many as one in four eligible African Americans in Ohio do not have the requisite voter identification. If enacted, H.B. 269 would disenfranchise large portions of the African American electorate and limit their access to the ballot box,” Fudge wrote to Holder. “With no indication that voter fraud is a widespread problem in Ohio, this proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the number of people able to exercise their right to vote.”
And this is exactly why progressives need to actively push for expansion of the franchise, expansion of poll hours and early voting, expansion of opportunities to participate in democracy.
The idea of online registration in Ohio is one way. But there are a number of further options.
As the Republicans scale down their tent to pup-sized, those of us expanding ours by fighting for social justice and equality of opportunity might do well to begin with the fundamental act of voting.
Fudge later mentions that these Republican proposals adversely affect low-income voters as well as black people. But they would also affect hispanic people and a large number of young voters, who require more incentives to participate in our nation’s self-governance, not less.
But I would argue that these types of proposals go well beyond impacting various Democratic-leaning minority populations. I would argue that any proposal that seeks to limit the franchise is a direct attack on the fundamental ideals of the American democratic republic and the progress on suffrage we’ve made as a nation.
If Mr. Husted wants voting uniformity as he says, let us strive for uniformity that is a boon to opportunity not a hindrance. Let us strive to reach the ideals of inclusiveness and participation we teach in grade school. Let us reject the setting of deadbolts and fling open the doors of democracy.