The issue of voting rights—to be specific, the Republican campaign to make it harder for minorities, students, and the poor to vote this fall—took center stage in primetime on MSNBC tonight.
The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday laid out the nationwide scope of the Republican effort. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Rachel explained, at least 180 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in state legislatures since the start of 2011. Fourteen states, accounting for over 70 percent of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency, have passed new restrictive voting laws.
Some of these laws involve strict ID requirements. Others are restrictions on early and absentee voting. Still more, including in the key battleground state of Florida, aim to make it harder to register new voters.
As we noted earlier Wednesday, that’s not all Florida’s doing to restrict voting rights. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is also purging the state’s voter rolls. He says its to remove non-citizens, but the list being used appears to be riddled with inaccuracies, making it all but certain that eligible voters will be removed, and requiring them to go through a laborious bureaucratic process to be reinstated—a process some voters surely won’t undertake.
Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project, a voting rights group, told Rachel her organization had today written to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging the Department of Justice to stop Florida’s purge on the grounds that it illegally targets Hispanic voters.
“The list is about 60 percent latino voters,” said Browne Dianis.
She added that federal law also bans such purges so close to an election. “And why?” asked Browne Dianis. “Because we know that it’s often done for partisan gain. And that’s what we believe is happening now.”
As justification for these restrictive measures, of course, Republicans cite the threat of voter fraud. And they’re not above some hyperbole on that score. Rachel highlighted recent comments by RNC chair Reince Priebus, who said he was so concerned about voter fraud in the upcoming Wisconsin governor recall race that the GOP needs to do “a point or two better … to overcome it.”
As Rachel pointed out: “That means he’s talking about something like tens of thousands of votes. Extra votes that Republicans need to make up because of all the Democratic vote fraud.”
In fact, of course, the GOP has produced almost no evidence that such voter fraud—as opposed to voter registration fraud—exists. Remember, when people hand in voter registration forms with the name “Mickey Mouse,” the Disney character doesn’t actually show up to vote.
On Hardball, Rep. John Lewis joined Chris Matthews to sound the alarm.
“There is a deliberate systematic attempt to win or steal this election before it takes place,” the Georgia Democrat, an icon of the civil-rights movement, declared. “With the voter ID, ending early voting, making it almost impossible for young people, for students, for our seniors, for minorities to participate, for the disabled to participate. It’s a sin. Its obscene.”
Lewis pointed out that in Texas, an ID for a gun permit allows you to vote but a student ID doesn’t. Guess which party that’s likely to favor.
Indeed, the Republican war on voting rights is so nakedly partisan that even the mainstream media are starting to call it out. Joe Williams, a reporter with Politico, the ultimate inside-the-Beltway publication, told Matthews it’s hard not to suspect that the GOP is actively trying to suppress the Democratic vote.
“It looks like there’s an effort to sort of place the thumb on the scale,” said Williams.
And he added that Republicans are also making it harder for voter registration groups to do their work. “There’s also been a crackdown on third party organizations—League of Women Voters, NAACP, anybody who does active voter registration drives now has to overcome a second hurdle and make sure that their organization is strictly set up for a social program,” Williams said, referring to the Florida law.
“A lot of interesting things are happening,” Williams added. “It’s hard not to see it when you take the big picture view here.”
Matthews agreed, declaring in his sign-off message: “There will be a rebellion in the streets if this election is decided by an outrageous, in-your-face denial of the most basic freedom: the right to choose our country’s leader.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project. We regret the error.