Thursday, December 1, 2011

The GOP's War on Voting Goes to Washington

Republicans in state legislatures across the country have spent the past year mounting an all-out assault on voting rights, pushing a slew of voter ID and redistricting measures that are widely expected to dilute the power of minority and low-income voters in next November's elections. Now that effort has come to Capitol Hill, where the House passed a bill (235-190 on a mostly party-line vote) to eviscerate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) — the last line of defense against fraud and tampering in electronic voting systems around the country.

The bill doesn't have much of a future since it isn't likely to come up in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the White House has released a strongly worded statement against it. But that didn't stop the House from spending hours on it anyway -- and it led to Democrats charging Republicans with trying to chip away at voter protections for disenfranchised groups.

Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, "the only reason" anyone would want to eliminate the programs altogether would be to suppress votes among minorities.

"The voters are the same groups who were targeted by Jim Crow laws decades ago," Clay said. "The votes are the same groups who are now targeted by inactive voter lists, and voter ID laws and all of the other new tactics designed for a single goal: voter suppression."

The EAC was created in the wake of 2000's controversial presidential election as a means of improving the quality standards for electronic voting systems. Its four commissioners (two Republicans and two Democrats) are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The commission tests voting equipment for states and localities, distributes grants to help improve voting standards, and offers helpful guidance on proofing ballots to some 4,600 local election jurisdictions. It also collects information on overseas and military voters and tracks the return rate for absentee ballots sent to these voters.

Read the full story @ Mother Jones

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