Tag Archives: Voter Suppression

Devil in the Details of the Nation’s Democracy

“Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting.”  Joseph Diebold, ThinkProgress, 6/27/13

In the fragile infrastructure of voting rights the devil is inexorably mucking in the details.  The devil of voter suppression is on the prowl not only in those immediately affected states but also throughout the nation, including sacrosanct Minnesota.

And so we gird our loins for the post-Supreme Court blow to the Voting Rights Act.  The pattern of pernicious tactics we saw in the 2012 election is unleashed.  The well-orchestrated and funded drive to suppress the hard-won rights of American citizens marches on its swift and steady course to thwart the will of the people.

An early challenge – and opportunity – is the vigorous campaign to elect a new Secretary of State.  Mark Ritchie who has been unswerving in his commitment to fair and free elections, has announced he will not run again for this complex and powerful position.  The list of announced candidates suggests just how important the office is.

In fact, a critical challenge to voters is to understand the authority of the Minnesota Secretary of State position.   (http://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=4) Management of elections is just one of a roster of responsibilities of the office.  Still there are countless ways the elections process for which the Secretary of State is responsible can be manipulated intentionally or by benign neglect.

As in every aspect of government, technology is shaping the electoral process. Suppressors, working in concert state to state, would inhibit the process under the devilish guise of efficiency or security. Voters need to pay attention to the ways in which such pernicious Ideas flow with alacrity and momentum through the states.

Minnesotans are justifiably proud of having trounced the Voter ID Amendment to the State Constitution.  Now, complacency is the enemy of the people.  The ID requirement was just one arrow in the quiver of the determined vote suppressors.

Voters Face the Veiled but Pernicious Intent of Voter ID Amendment

Crying wolf – for real.

Well fed wolves in sheeps’ clothing are pulling the wool over the eyes of naïve voters in state after state.  Good people are following like lambs to the slaughter a well-orchestrated, determined and pernicious drive to skew the election of 2012 – and elections to come.

Though by nature Minnesotans are not mean-spirited we may have too much confidence in the wise and independent judgment of some elected officials who may themselves be innocents in a national crusade to purge the rolls.  We quibble with the legislative process and grump about Legislative intransigence.  Still, Minnesotans are accustomed to wrapping ourselves in the virtual security blanket of good government.  We tend to our own business and trust that others will butt out of our open democratic processes.

If we were around in the 60’s we have vivid memories of the terrible struggle for voters’ rights in the South.  Still, we are shielded so that for most 21st Century Minnesotans passage of the voting rights amendment is a legislative blip from another time and place.

Most Minnesotans have always known same day registration and a hassle-free – even pleasant – experience at the neighborhood voting site.  Reading the wise words of former Secretary of State Joan Growe in last week’s StarTribune was a great reminder of the intent and effective application of state law we take for granted, a law by which Minnesotans abide and that has effectely protected the system from fraud.

Still, one of the two Amendments to the State Constitution that will face us on November 6 is the quietly stealthy Voter ID Amendment, the silent killer of an open electoral process.  We know, but somehow want to ignore, this blatant intrusion on freedom of many of our friends and families to exercise their inalienable right to have a voice in the democratic process.

Though the tide appears to be turning, the  we ignore the implicit threat at our peril.  Polls continue to indicate that Minnesotans, particularly young voters, are oblivious to the pernicious underpinnings of the Voter ID amendment.  If you’re able bodied, enjoy discretionary time, and are the proud owner of a valid ID, you’re safe.  No problem.  Let’s face it – that’s an alibi, not a reason to ignore the clear and present danger.

For the elderly and American Indians who lack a valid state-issued ID (excludes a tribal ID), for people with disabilities, for those who never had or cannot afford the cost of a birth certificate, for those who don’t have time to go through the hoops, and for those who lack transportation to the county clerk’s office, the amendment is an insurmountable obstacle.  Prior restraint or fear of confrontation can be a barrier to felons who have a right to vote but an instinctive fear of encountering the System.

What Minnesotans should fear is the intrusion of a well-organized cadre of wheelers and dealers whose intent it is to skew the electoral process by barring access to the voting booth to those they fear will vote “wrong.”  For these manipulators this small but significant segment of the general populace is understandably inclined to vote for Democratic candidates who they believe will protect their hard won rights..

Everyone has heard the stories – the problem is we remain complacent, blithely ignoring reality as we wrap ourselves in the security of living in a good government state.   In our innocence we are disinclined to look for culprits or to probe the source of malicious maneuvering with the facts by the media.

The pernicious implications of the Voter ID and inherent but subtle.  The Voter ID Amendment is a lethal tool that doers of evil can and will use with abandon.

Young voters, ask your grandma or a visually impaired friend or an documented immigrant mom about the implications of passage of the Voter ID.  Learn the facts and cast a vote that’s informed not instinctive.  Seasoned voters, have one of those facts of life talks with the young people in your life.  This is not the time for sheepish surrender to the inevitability of voter suppression.

Advocates Offer Powerful Exploration of Voter ID Amendment

The Advocates for Human Rights to Discuss Civil Rights and Voter Disenfranchisement at World Premiere of Appomattox at the Guthrie Theater 

Minneapolis, MN (September 19, 2012): The Advocates for Human Rights will join the Guthrie Theater on October 2, 2012 for a performance of Appomattox, a new play about freedom, human rights, and race. Robin Phillips, executive director of The Advocates, will moderate an expert panel after the performance addressing current issues of civil rights and the Voter ID ballot initiative in Minnesota. 

The two-act play begins in April 1865, with Ulysses S. Grant meeting Robert E. Lee to sign the treaty to end the bloodiest war in U.S. history. The days preceding the signing are depicted through the eyes of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, Julia Grant, Mary Custis Lee, and others. The second act opens in February 1965, when St. James Baptist Church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson is shot by an Alabama state trooper during a peaceful protest for civil rights. The play then follows President Lyndon Johnson and his push to pass the Voting Rights Act through Congress.  

“The arts are a natural place to discuss human rights issues,” says Phillips. “Appomattox addresses civil and human rights issues that have shaped the United States throughout its history, including the right to vote. Today in Minnesota, the right of citizens to vote is once again threatened. The proposed Voter ID amendment on the ballot in Minnesota would, for the first time in the state’s history, narrow suffrage. Voting is a human right, not a privilege. The Advocates for Human Rights opposes the amendment.” 

The proposed Voter ID amendment would narrow suffrage because many thousands of Minnesotans, who are currently eligible to vote, do not have a government-issued photo ID. According to the Minnesota League of Women Voters, those least likely to have a government-issued photo ID include: 

·    18 percent of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.

·    15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID.

·    18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name.

·    10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID.

·    25 percent of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID. 

For more information please contact:

Robin Phillips                                                    Sarah Herder

Executive Director                                            Director of Education   

(612) 746-0859                                               (612) 746-4691

rphillips@advrights.org                                     sherder@advrights.org 

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The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, is dedicated to the promotion of internationally-recognized human rights. To learn more visit theadvocatesforhumanrights.org.


Eroson of Voters’ Rights – A Slow Rising Tsunami

The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people.   (Thomas Jefferson)

Over time the founding fathers, women, Native Americans, African Americans, felons who have paid their debt to society have placed great value on the hard won right to vote.  In the wake of the Voting Rights Act the electorate focused on exercising right rights;  good government groups and state officials  moved on, focusing on getting out the vote – voter registration drives, collaboration, poll watches, elimination of barriers ranging from the responsibility of employers to allow workers leave time to accommodations for language or physical impediments to voters’ exercise of their Constitutional right.

That was the calm before the storm.  Today we are experiencing a sea change in voter rights – actually not so much a visible tsunami as a mighty undercurrent that scoops up the debris of race and class – even age – discrimination.   Largely dispersed beneath the relative calm of the electoral process, voter suppression surfaces as “white caps” – primarily state-level initiatives that are, in fact, a determined drive to purge  those whose vote might stem the tide favored by the have’s.

In its waning days the Minnesota Legislature passed the law that places the Voter ID Amendment on the ballot for November.  In spite of valiant efforts on the part of good government groups such as the League of Women Voters, church groups, the AARP and the ACLU – even Jesse Ventura – the Amendment failed to set off storm warnings among the well-credentialed populace.   The subtle campaign to winnow voter ranks was maneuvered in large part by State Representative Mary Kiffmeyer (IR Big Lake) whose years as Secretary State taught her just how to steer the voting process.

At this writing several groups (ACLU, LWV, Jewish Community Action and Common Cause Minnesota) have petitioned the state Supreme Court to strike down the proposed Constitutional Amendment; the opponents argues on the semantic confusion that the ballot question falsely declares that the state will provide free ID to eligible voters.  Far more pernicious is the implicit presumption that the Amendment, if approved by the voters, will threaten hard-won voter rights such as same-day registration and possibly restrict voter registration initiatives.

Precedent abounds.  Aggressive limits in a host of states sound the alarm that voter suppression, clothed in the innocent garb of voter ID, is a driving and coordinated force.  Florida lives up to its justified reputation for election shenanigans, well-earned in the Gore-Bush debacle of 2008.  The ruckus in Florida swirls around the diabolical initiative to halt voter registration drives while 180,000 Floridians have learned from authorities that they are off the roles because they are not citizens.   Though Florida takes the lead in voter suppression it is a bellwether of national campaign that is well-organized, coordinated and financed.  At close view it looks a lot like a tsunami in slow motion.

In truth this is not about voter ID but “electorate cleansing.”  The effort is insidious, implicit, ubiquitous and amorphous.   A serious probe of the depths of the well-orchestrated campaign exposes Minnesota as more of a pawn than a player.  Showing an ID at the polls is not much of a bother for the have’s – until we see it as the tip of an iceberg that shuns the sunshine of an open process.

In Minnesota voter rights supporters can find countless refuges in the storm.  It is useful, if risky, to cite but a few;   — the state and local League of Women Voters have decades of experience and a local presence for voter information and support.  The Voter Participation Project sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits educates and promotes through their network of nonprofit organization. Faith communities are taking action across denomination lines to defend voters’ rights.

As always, the Secretary of State is the pivotal player in organizing and monitoring the electoral process.  Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will launch MCN’s 2012  “Promote the Vote” campaign on Wednesday, June 13, 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Avenue North, St. Paul.  Free and open to all.