We were supposed to be beyond this. In 2000, George W. Bush’s freakishly thin margin of victory over Al Gore once more thrust the twin problems of voter access and voter legitimacy into the national spotlight. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 was meant to establish uniform, upgraded standards for registration and voting--but, this year, a new wave of conflicts over residency requirements, citizenship requirements, and legal cases invoking the Republican chestnut of “voter fraud” suggest that the issues that brought us the long national nightmare of the Florida recount won’t die easily.
Determining voter residency has been a primary source of discord. Ordinarily inconsistent voter registration requirements have become even more confusing following the screwball pitch of the home foreclosure crisis--which had a disproportionate impact on swing states. “The same communities that might be the target of predatory lending practices are likely to be targeted for vote suppression,” said Wendy Weiser, deputy director for democracy at the
These voters have legal cover: Foreclosure alone “is not an indicator” that the state can use to deny someone the right to vote, says Weiser. But the Detroit Free Press continues to report “persistent rumors” that citizens who lost their houses through foreclosure won’t be allowed to vote.
Residency requirements have also affected students across the country. Virginia Tech students were recently told (incorrectly) they might lose residency-based scholarships, or their status as dependents if they registered as students in the state. During the primary season, a group issued an improper blanket challenge to about 900 students in Georgia and the Republican party of Montana has just mounted a similar challenge to 6,000 registrations from individuals based on strict residency requirements in that state. Subsequent purges could also affect servicepeople who had mail forwarded to
Proof of Citizenship
The shifting demographics of the American Southwest have yoked the issue of who votes to the tense politics of immigration. “I think that there’s a lot of fear and trepidation about these changes,” says Nina Perales, southwest regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Racialized prosecution, Spanish-language intimidation, and misinformation at polling stations have been widely documented: In Orange Country, California, for example, letters were sent to Latinos declaring (incorrectly) that even legal immigrants weren’t allowed to vote; in Fort Worth, Texas in 2007, an official-looking placard written in Spanish and English sent readers to voting booths on a Saturday.
But a more complex and insidious line of voter exclusion relates to ID laws. States like
Allegations of Voter Fraud
Reports suggest that, in a dozen key swing states this year, there are about 1.5 million more Democrats registered than in 2004--and 60,000 fewer Republicans. So it’s not surprising that, while pleas for lenience and accessibility come from the ground-game obsessives in the Democratic Party, efforts to trim the rolls have been launched by the GOP. Late last week, in response to a McCain campaign suit, a federal appeals court ordered the Democratic Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to "provide access to a state database showing new voters whose registration information does not match” state DMV or Social Security records. Inspectors would search for inconsistencies of any kind, potentially unregistering up to 200,000 voters, who would then be forced to cast provisional ballots (a stopgap remedy that surged in use after HAVA passed). Brunner contested the utility of this requirement, as a large percentage of the purges completed to date in
Add this tale to the boiling pot that is ACORN, the nonprofit community organizing group with ties to Barack Obama. ACORN, which claims to have registered 1.3 million people this election cycle, is under federal investigation in But even voter fraud may not be the earth-shattering calamity that the Republicans have made it out to be. Weiser points out that only 38 cases of individual voter fraud have been litigated between 2002 and 2005--suggesting that this longtime Republican complaint is more bluster than anything else. Dayo Olopade is a political reporter for The Root.
But even voter fraud may not be the earth-shattering calamity that the Republicans have made it out to be. Weiser points out that only 38 cases of individual voter fraud have been litigated between 2002 and 2005--suggesting that this longtime Republican complaint is more bluster than anything else.
Dayo Olopade is a political reporter for The Root.