The accidental truth about voter suppression

Updated

I, for one, welcome a good, solid conservative argument in the political sphere. No one should be silenced, particularly if the best statement of their true priorities that we can get is Republicans accidentally blurting out truths which we all dismiss too readily as gaffes, or obfuscated under tired talking points and misdirection.

There are three excellent examples of this just from this week, and it’s only Thursday.

The first you’ve likely heard about by now: over the weekend, Mike Turzai, the majority leader of Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives was boasting about Republicans’ accomplishments in that majority when he blurted out, in impressively candid fashion, the following:

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” (applause)

Unconscious revelation of the actual motivation behind voter-ID legislation and its  engineered panic over voter fraud? Done! The honesty didn’t last long, as Turzai’s spokesman defended him by citing precisely one example of voter fraud, the “Joe Cheeseboro” incident.

I’m not going to pretend that this is the first time we’ve been able to peek behind the curtain on this issue, and see Republican wizardry for what it is. But to understand how hilarious and alarming it is that a prominent state politician would just admit the political ends to his party’s legislative means, we have to understand how Pennsylvania’s voter-ID legislation would specifically help Romney.

They now require a photo ID with an expiration date: a driver’s license, a college ID (which probably will be brand-new), state ID – all of which the state has assured they’ll make it easy for voters to obtain. But it is a hurdle nonetheless to a constitutional right, set up, ostensibly, because of “Joe Cheeseboro.” Honestly, Republicans just saying that it’s for Mitt Romney would be easier to stomach.

I mean, why not just go the route of former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, who has now endorsed Florida Governor Rick Scott’s effort to do what he pulled off in 2004: disenfranchising voters to steer the presidential election to the Republicans. Remember that Blackwell, while serving in a job which made him responsible for the integrity of the vote, also served as the honorary co- chair of something called the “Committee to re-elect George W. Bush.” That isn’t even pulling back the curtain; there is no curtain.

This time around, he’s being a little more subtle, but not much (folks, Herman Cain is involved). He’s filmed a new low-rent ad (above) with Cain lecturing Attorney General Eric Holder for getting in Scott’s way. Frankly, it’s pretty shameless, but it makes for particularly good comedy when Blackwell reminds viewers, well, that “as Secretary of State of Ohio, I was responsible for the integrity of the vote.” (Who was responsible for the integrity of the spelling of Cain’s name at the end, though?)

Perhaps the most shameless, yet honest part of it is how Blackwell and Cain:

  • use the two New Black Panthers in Philadelphia as bogeymen (a well-worn conservative talking point),
  • imply our voter rights are less than those of Iraqis ( the latest explanation for why we went to war?),
  • and play up African Americans’ struggle for voting rights as a way of currying favor, perhaps, with black voters. 
That struggle produced the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the Texas Republican Party wants to repeal. No, really. Gene Demby of the Huffington Post reports:

The Texas Republican Party has released its official platform for 2012, and the repeal of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of its central planks.

“We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized,” the platform reads.

Under a provision of the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions must obtain permission from the federal government – called “preclearance” – before they change their voting rules. The rule was put in place in jurisdictions with a history of voter disenfranchisement.

This is all done in the name of preventing voter fraud, deemed an “epidemic” by the Texas attorney general (which it isn’t):

Several years ago, Abbott announced there was an “epidemic” of voter fraud in Texas and he launched an investigation. But his investigation and subsequent prosecutions failed to confirm any such epidemic. Abbott found 26 cases to prosecute – all against Democrats, all but one against blacks or Hispanics. Of those, two-thirds were technical violations in which voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed. None of the cases would have been affected by the voter ID requirement.

Blackwell, Texas Republicans, and PA State Rep. Turzai are engaged in these efforts to help elect a man who might himself be guilty of voter fraud. We await their outcry.

While we wait, I encourage you to check out msnbc contributor Jeff Johnson’s report on how black churches are combating voter suppression, which Melissa aired this past weekend. See that report, and the ensuing discussion, below.

 

The accidental truth about voter suppression

Updated