Restricting Voter Rights Is the Threat to Democracy, not Fraud
Claims of fraud are a smokescreen that allows suppression of minority voting rights
June 13, 2012
Across the country, politicians have been chipping away at the bedrock of democracy in the guise of stopping "voter fraud."
Voter fraud, with its connotation of stolen elections, certainly sounds scary. But for all the bluster about fraud used to gin up support for policies that impact the voting rights of Americans, proponents of these voter suppression tactics have failed to provide evidence of any significant voter fraud.
I have said that there are more shark attacks in Florida than cases of voter fraud. Politifact checked it out and found that I was right.
What is happening in more than two dozen states, with Florida being the prime example, is that the claim of widespread voter fraud has been used as an excuse to make it more difficult to register to vote, to cast your vote, and to have your vote counted. That—rather than the chimera of widespread voting fraud—is the real threat to democracy.
These laws are not intended to apply evenly. The voting restrictions enacted in Florida disproportionately impact minority groups, recently naturalized citizens, students, and people who need to get time off from their jobs to vote.
How does reducing early voting days and prohibiting voting on Sunday prior to Election Day address voter fraud? It doesn't. The restriction is designed to make it more difficult for working people to vote and to prevent "Souls to the Polls" programs of African-American churches. (In 2008, in Florida, a majority of black voters cast their ballots before Election Day.)
Florida's county supervisors of elections are refusing to implement Gov. Rick Scott's latest voter suppression tactic—purging citizens from the voting rolls based on inaccurate motor vehicle information.
This is why Congress enacted, and why we continue to need, the Voting Rights Act—to use the power of the federal government to protect the constitutional rights of minorities from interference by state officials.
In the partisan warfare over voting fraud versus voter suppression, the right of American citizens to vote has become collateral damage. The ACLU of Florida, along with our allies like the Brennan Center, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and others, now turn to the courts to stop the assault on democracy.