Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Endurance To Vote

"The Endurance To Vote"
Submitted for posting by Collin County Democrat Joan Cross
The year was 1962. I had recently moved to California with my young husband. We had married right out of high school and moved to Santa Monica, California. I was determined to get a stellar education and to me that meant UCLA. We, however, were close to poverty; so we got jobs and went to Santa Monica City College until we could declare our residency.

I was bored, but I was quickly infatuated with the 1962 elections that were soon to occupy much of my time. I knew little about California politics, but the handsome young John Fitzgerald Kennedy commanded my attention. I soon knew I was on his team, but it was a hard sell when I wrote my yellow dog Democratic mother., Mom knew her politics, and she agreed with his platform, but he was too young(actually he was born two years before her) and he was a Catholic. Mother was a Southern Baptist, and Catholics were strange to her. She also thought he would never be a faithful man. I adored my mother, but I was finally growing up and this was our first open philosophical disagreement. But mother finally cast her vote for the Catholic, but made me eat my faith in him when woman popped up in JFK’s life. Mother had slept with one man, my dad, and she had no patience for a philanderer; however, she had less patience for the Catholics.

I volunteered to work at the polls when the elections came around and it was here that I learned the power of the vote. The day started with excitement. There was so many protestors and pole dishonesty that we were cautioned to be very careful about who we allowed to vote. Falsified records were everywhere.

I took my job seriously; so when an old, crippled man faced me, I was stoic. I was told that many voters came in disguise. I looked for his records. He was not registered. “I’m sorry. You can not vote for I have no records for you. The old man’s face turned red. “I vote”. “I citizn”. I refused stoically and advised he try another precinct. His anger real, but it shook me a bit when I saw tears in his eyes. “This America” “America is free”. “I find my vote”.
Voter Disenfranchisement

Historically disenfranchised voters, as illustrated by the story submitted by Joan Cross, have often been the target of voter fraud allegations. There is a long history in America of certain groups using allegations of voter fraud to restrict and shape the electorate.

In the late nineteenth century when newly freed black Americans were swept into electoral politics, and where blacks were the majority of the electorate, it was the Southern Democrats who were threatened by a loss of power, and it was the Southern Democrats that erected the so called "Jim Crow" rules that were said to be necessary to respond to alleged "voter fraud" by black voters. Many 20th Century Southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party after President Franklin Roosevelt,President John Kennedy and then President Lyndon Johnson championed voters' rights and the elimination of "Jim Crow" type laws.

Today, the success of voter registration drives among minorities and low income people in recent years threatens to expand the base of the Democratic party and tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. Consequently, the use of baseless "voter fraud" allegations for partisan advantage has become the exclusive domain of Republican party activists.

There is a major difference between Election Fraud and Voter Fraud.

The Politics of Voter Fraud Study by Lorraine Minnite PDF
Voter Fraud is the "Republican talking point" claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others. Republicans claim that ineligible voters such as non-citizens, non-residents, those with fictional identification and, in some states, felons are voting in large numbers. At the federal level, records show that only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.

Election Fraud is a broad term applied to the manipulation of election results through corruption of the electoral process. Electoral corruption is accomplished by suppressing the vote of certain groups of voters or the actual manipulation of vote totals by election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers.

Voter Suppression can take many forms as reported in a Huffington Post article:

In El Paso County, Colorado, the county clerk -- a delegate to the Republican National Convention -- told out-of-state undergraduates at Colorado College, falsely, that they couldn't vote in Colorado if their parents claim them as dependents on their taxes.

In Montgomery County, Virginia, the county registrar issued a press release warning out-of-state college students, falsely, that if they register to vote in Virginia, they won't be eligible for coverage under their parents' health and car insurance, and that "if you have a scholarship attached to your former residence, you could lose this funding."

In Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, Democratic voters received a mailing containing tear-out requests for absentee ballots addressed to the clerk in Caledonia -- the wrong location. In Middleton, Wisconsin, Democratic voters received absentee ballot requests addressed to the clerk in Madison -- the wrong address. Both mailers were sent by the McCain campaign.

Florida, Michigan and Ohio have some of the country's highest home mortgage foreclosure rates. "Because many homeowners in foreclosure are black or poor," says the New York Times, "and are considered probable Democratic voters in many areas, the issue has begun to have political ramifications." If you're one of the million Americans who lost a home through foreclosure, and if you didn't file a change of address with your election board, you're a sitting duck for an Election Day challenge by a partisan poll watcher holding a public list of foreclosed homes. In states like New Mexico and Iowa, the number of foreclosures is greater than the number of votes by which George W. Bush carried the state in 2004.

In the 2006 election, according to the nonpartisan Fair Elections Legal Network, black voters in Virginia got computer-generated phone calls from a bogus "Virginia Election Commission" telling them that they could be arrested if they went to the wrong polling place; in Maryland, out-of-state leafleters gave phony Democratic sample ballots to black voters with the names of Republican candidates checked in red; in New Mexico, Democratic voters got personal phone calls from out of state that directed them to the wrong polling place. Does anyone think this won't be tried again in 2008?

The reason behind Alberto Gonzales' attempted purge of US Attorneys was that some of them wouldn't knuckle under to Karl Rove's plan to concoct an "election fraud" hoax that would put Republicans in control of the nation's voting lists. "We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today," Rove falsely told the Republican National Lawyers Association, an evidence-less problem crying out for a draconian solution. Does anyone think that Rove's move from the White House to Fox has dampened Republican ardor for this ruse?

Acorn has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in U.S. history for the 2008 Presidential Election. Acorn helped 1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.

Unfortunately, just as in 2006, Bogus "Voter Fraud Charges" Aim to Camouflage Voter Suppression. Acorn's success in bringing people into the democratic process, have been greeted with unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate. - After a similar spate of charges against Acorn in 2006, America learned that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired Republican U.S. Attorneys because they refused to prosecute voter assistance groups on trumped up and bogus fraud charges. This was and remains the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led Karl Rove, Gonzales and other top Department of Justice officials to resign. Based on the evidence, career, non-partisan investigators recommended the appointing of a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal laws were violated in the ouster of those Republican U.S. Attorneys.

A recent flurry of activity in the long-standing King Lincoln v. OH Sec. of State lawsuit concerning voting rights violations in the state during the 2004 election has resulted in the judge lifting the stay to allow depositions to be taken of key GOP tech-guru Mike Connell, and potentially others, such as Karl Rove. From
The lifting of the stay comes on the heels of a troubling declaration filed with the court by Republican cyber-security expert and Connell colleague, Stephen Spoonamore who testified that he's concerned a classic "Man in the Middle" cyber hack may have occurred on Election Night in 2004 as Connell's Republican firm handled results reporting for Ohio's Presidential election.

According to Spoonamore, control of Ohio's election system by Connell's firm, may have allowed for the compromise of election results as they were being reported. The structure of the system, as results were allowed to be first diverted to Connell's servers that night, would have been "cause to launch an immediate fraud investigation" in the banking industry, charges Spoonamore, who ferrets out such problems in the financial services industry.

Spoonamore further notes in his declaration, in regard to Connell, that "He has admitted to me that in his zeal to 'save the unborn' he may have helped others who have compromised elections."
The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires each state to gather a list of its registered voters, then cross-reference that list with information from other state agencies. This law is intended to prevent voter fraud by purging the dead, the felons and other ineligible voters from the lists.

States and counties now regularly update their voter registration databases for accuracy, removing people who have moved or died and in some states people who have committed a felony. Updating voter registration databases for accuracy is a necessary and appropriate function, however, when the "clean up" process removes "qualified" voters through software programming error or intentional voter suppression motivations, it is typically termed "voter purging."

A new report by the non-partisan public policy and law institute, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law exposes troubling new insight into the voter registration database "clean up" process. There are no national standards and as a result, the cleaning up of voter rolls is not as precise as it should be and eligible voters are often wrongly removed. The video at left show a recent CBS News report by chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian that raises questions about the way states maintain their voter registration rolls.

The Brennan report calls the nationwide voter registration "clean up" process "chaotic," shrouded in secrecy, riddled with inaccuracies, prone to error and vulnerabilities to manipulation.

During the past two years, The PBS NOW program has investigated the state of America's election system. The NOW program website lists several reports giving evidence that our vote is in danger of manipulation and outright suppression.
Voter Caging
NOW reports on evidence showing that, in 2004, Republicans orchestrated a plan to hold down the Democratic vote in key battleground states. The plan centered on an effort to disqualify voters based on their race and ethnicity.

Taking the Initiative
Each election year, states around the country put ballot initiatives on a range of issues up to a popular vote. In 2006, NOW investigated how national organizations and wealthy individuals are often the driving force behind so-called "local" ballot initiatives.

Down for the Count
NOW looks at how problems with new voting machines introduced in the 2004 and 2006 elections undermine the integrity of our democratic process. Industry experts charge that the government implemented new technology too quickly and without safeguards.

Block the Vote
Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, several states have passed laws severely restricting voter registration and requiring more identification from voters to cast a ballot. NOW reports that the result has been the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, among them the elderly, poor and minorities.

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