Monday, July 9, 2012

Voter ID Laws = Voter Suppression

As a former Field Organizer for the Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign, the greatest voter mobilization effort the country has ever seen, I can see first hand the diabolical plot of the GOP in enacting the controversial voter ID laws that have sprung up all over the country.

Take a city like Philadelphia where I was an Obama organizer. Philadelphia has also become ground zero for the voter ID debate. The Obama campaign knew in 2008 that if it wanted to win the state of Pennsylvania, an important swing state, it would have to win Philadelphia. It would need to win the state’s most urban city by an overwhelming margin, in order to essentially offset the rest of the mostly rural state. For that to occur Philadelphia organizers had to awaken a vote that had never been tapped into. The campaign began conducting massive voter outreach in ways that had not been done previously. Informing convicted felons that they did in fact have the right to vote in PA, despite many believing they could not and making it as easy as possible for individuals to register to vote by circulating forms in the streets and mailing them on behalf of voters became successful tactics. It was not just in our best interest to ensure voters were registered so that we could win an election, but in order to fully live up to this country's promise as a democracy. This is particularly important as the US imposes democracy on countries throughout the world.

But the failure of America's promise has never been more apparent than in the blatant attacks on American citizens and their right to vote. Some citizens have been voting since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. 

It has never been more important for everyone to vote than in 2012 for this current election cycle. The policies that will come from the next presidency will affect many of us for the rest of our lives. We saw in 2010 during the mid-term elections a shift in political power as the Democrats lost Senate seats across the country. Additionally in Pennsylvania the poor voter turnout paved the way for Republican candidate Tom Corbett to become the state's new Governor. Corbett has become the driving force behind the voter ID laws, which threatens to disenfranchise at least 10% of voters in PA, predominantly minorities, students and the elderly. These are votes that Obama counted on in 2008.

GOP lawmaker Mike Turzai said it best for folks that think voter ID is a necessity and that voter fraud does in fact exist.

“Voter ID which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” Turzai said in a speech to supporters, confirming that the voter ID laws are being developed specifically to suppress the vote of anyone who is not republican. 

The fact is that voter fraud virtually does not exist. Over the last decade there were less than 10 reports filed in the entire country. To put that in perspective there were more reports of alien sightings in the last decade than voter fraud.

It certainly is no secret that the Republican party has always gone to extreme measures in attempting to suppress the vote. From tactics such as providing voters in Dem populated areas with wrong voter information, to just simply throwing votes in the trash (Florida, 2000 election).  

Pennsylvania is not only a prime example of the voter ID laws' damaging effects in political elections, but also a sad example of what can happen when apathy takes over and voters forfeit their power as a result. Since Corbett took office last year he has made hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to education funding and entitlement programs. These are programs that are needed now more than ever. Instead Corbett has pushed hundreds of millions of dollars into prison funding. No better way to ensure the failure of a society than to stop educating its people and thus ensuring that they fill the prisons being built.

Voting is more than choosing a candidate to represent your district or electing someone because they gave you a free hotdog or shook your hand. These elected officials have the power of our lives in their hands. The decisions they make will alter the course of our lives. We had a choice in 2010, but many of us chose not to choose. In 2012 many of us may not have that choice. 

What does this say about the current state of our alleged democracy?

Watch video of Michael Eric Dyson discussing voter ID laws last week:

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