Sunday, May 15, 2005

The GOP's Attack On Voting Rights

Rep. John Conyers Jr.
May 13, 2005

190: The number of days since Election 2004 and the second consecutive presidential election in which the integrity of this nation’s democracy was questioned. This past November, this country witnessed a flawed election process in which there were biased election officials, overt voter suppression tactics and improper ballot counts and recounts. We know too well the stories about the illegal demands for voter identification, the voting machine shortages, the voting machine malfunctions and the improperly disqualified provisional ballots. More than six months after the election, now is the time to ensure that our second very sad election in a row does not become a third. There is agreement in America that real election reform is necessary and a consensus and focus is needed to guarantee such election reform.

12: A conservative count of the number of election reform proposals currently pending in Congress. While we must continue to assess and debate the accounts of Election 2004 improprieties and irregularities for the sake of history and truth, we must move forward. We need to come to agreement on what election reform should encompass and pursue that agenda with a single-minded focus. The Republicans have made clear the parameters of an election reform bill they will advance this Congress—one that does nothing or even takes us backwards by imposing onerous new requirements on voters. As we go back and forth on paper ballot or no paper ballot and assign ourselves to the pro-theft camp or the anti-theft camp, are we devoting the same energy to developing a consensus about what must be done to reform elections?

22: The number of times the phrase "voter identification" or "voter ID" was said at the first Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform hearing on April 18, 2005. The mantra of Republicans is that dogs, dead people, and cartoon characters are allowed to cast fraudulent votes. Republicans are advancing that strict voter identification requirements are the means to eliminate such voter fraud and state legislators are passing voter identification legislation as fast as they can with little debate or delay. In recent months, Indiana and Georgia have enacted voter identification requirements that have been characterized as some of the most severe and unreasonable voter identification requirements in the country. Several other state legislatures have similar legislation pending. At this first Carter-Baker Commission hearing, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Barbara Arnwine told of the real-world consequences of these measures: More than 10 percent of eligible voters currently lack government-issued photo ID, and would be arbitrarily disenfranchised.

6: The number of days the American Center for Voting Rights, a new, "non-partisan," "voting rights" organization, had been in existence before it was called to testify by Republican members of Congress before a House Administration Committee hearing on March 22. The American Center for Voting Rights was formed by a lawyer for the Bush-Cheney campaign and the notoriously anti-voting rights Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, who described the group as a non-partisan, voting rights advocacy group. He testified and submitted a report on Ohio election irregularities, which highlighted the Mary Poppins Conspiracy in this country. If you haven't heard about it, the Mary Poppins Conspiracy consists of many, many ineligible voters—using the names Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jive F. Turkey—fraudulently voting in elections.

Unfortunately for advocates of this conspiracy theory, a precinct has yet to report that a citizen by the name of Mary Poppins showed up on Election Day and voted. Searches for Dick Tracy votes and Jive F. Turkey votes have also come up empty.

598: The number of days left in the 109th Congress to pass election reform legislation. The debate over whether voting machines were hacked or there was deliberate suppression of minority votes will continue. We should all agree—given the shoddy, unaccountable and unverifiable state of our election machinery and procedures—that, unless we act, the next close election will prompt the same debates and public confidence in our democracy will suffer a potentially fatal blow. Of even more importance, we must be vigilant as Republicans try to roll our voting rights backwards.

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