Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Changing, Not Usurping, The Right to Vote

Here’s some interesting facts about voting.

One: Vote fraud is nearly non-existent.

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

In Miami, an assistant United States attorney said many cases there involved what were apparently mistakes by immigrants, not fraud.

In Wisconsin, where prosecutors have lost almost twice as many cases as they won, charges were brought against voters who filled out more than one registration form and felons seemingly unaware that they were barred from voting.

Two: When voting irregularities are present, it’s normally due to human error, not fraud:

When The Wichita Eagle looked into the local cases on the list, the newspaper found that almost all were honest mistakes: a parent trying to vote for a student away at college, or signatures on mail-in ballots that didn’t precisely match those on file. In one case of supposed “fraud,” a confused non-citizen was asked at the motor vehicles bureau whether she wanted to fill out a voter registration form, and did so not realizing she was ineligible to vote.

Three: Voting laws are specifically designed to disenfranchise the (supposedly liberal) youth:

College campuses across the nation are teeming with students ready to exercise their right to vote, one of the few perks that comes with turning 18. Yet, instead of encouraging students to take part in this rite of passage, some states are imposing voter ID requirements that make it much harder for them to vote.

The fact that some Republicans see these new voter restrictions as a good thing shows their complete disregard for the democratic process. Moreover, it is demonstrative of their reasonable fear of losing the upcoming presidential election.

At first glance, the laws do no seem that restrictive. The new laws are requiring voters to present government-issued IDs, such as a passport or drivers license. However, when considering that a significant portion of students only carry a form of student ID, it becomes an issue. Additionally, other laws being endorsed by Republican lawmakers regarding voter ID can be interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state drivers’ licenses; thus, excluding more students from being able to vote.

Four: Voting laws are also targeting the elderly, poor and black:

The report calls the laws “coordinated efforts to suppress the growing voting strength of communities of color, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. It says the laws are part of a historical cycle of expanding rights for minorities, especially blacks, followed by attempts to restrict those rights. As an example, it cites the days of poll taxes and literacy tests that followed the passage of the 15th amendment, which gave former slaves the right to vote.

Five: There are, however, problems with voting laws…and they are not due to students, elderly, or black:

The United States’ voter registration system is in chaos — about 24 million registrations are no longer valid and nearly 2 million dead people are still on voter rolls, according to a new report Tuesday.

Along with the one of every eight voter registrations that is not valid or has significant inaccuracies, there are 2.75 million people currently registered to vote in more than one state, the Pew Center on the States study found. And the millions of problematic registrations aren’t the only issue — researchers estimate at least 51 million eligible U.S. citizens aren’t registered to vote. That’s nearly one in four, or 24 percent of the eligible population.

Additionally, about 12 million records have incorrect addresses, meaning it’s unlikely any mailings can reach these voters, the research in the report shows.

Yet, there is an answer:

The slow and ineffective paper-based systems are also expensive, Pew found. It costs the U.S. 12 times more to maintain a voter list than it does for Canada, which spends just 35 cents to keep up its list in an election year. And in Canada — which has innovative technology and data-matching methods in place — 93 percent of the eligible population is registered, the survey points out.

Part of the problem in the U.S., researchers say, stems from many states still using paper-based systems. Millions of paper applications have to be printed and election offices must do the data-entry by hand — which means most states face an expensive, inefficient process of updating voter rolls each election year.

The fix is online voter registration, according to Pew. “It is in fact more secure than the traditional paper methods of voter registration,” Becker said.

“Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” Becker added in a statement. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”

Becker pointed to Maricopa County in Arizona as a prime example of a place that has successfully transitioned to an innovative system — with online voter registration, the county has saved more than $1 million over five years.

The solution? We need a concerted effort, through contact with our representatives in Congress, to ensure a speedy conversion to a legitimate, fair, non-discrimatory – and above all, uniform – reform of our voting laws. It’s time to bring our voting laws into the 21st Century.


Ballots In a Foreign Language?

Over at The Muche, lilMike has (once again) started a discussion regarding the voting rights of Hispanics in general, and Puerto Ricans in particular. Specifically, the right of said citizens to be able to read ballots in Spanish in order to better understand political issues facing them. Mike’s referencing a federal court case here in Volusia County, Florida, in which a settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed two years ago by Crimilda Perez-Santiago. From the Orlando Sentinel:

DeLAND – On the eve of a federal trial, Volusia County and a group of Puerto Rican-born west Volusia residents have reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit over bilingual ballots.

Five residents and the Volusia County Hispanic Association filed suit against Volusia County for not providing a Spanish-language ballot during the 2008 election.

Details of the settlement are still being negotiated but to end the lawsuit, the county could pay $99,995 to LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the legal defense organization representing the plaintiffs, said Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall.

The county would also agree to provide interpreters and bilingual poll workers at certain precincts, and to provide bilingual ballots in 2012, McFall said.

The agreement would have to be approved by the Volusia County Council, which is scheduled to discuss the settlement on April 15.

McFall said that if the case had gone to trial and if the county had lost, it would have cost Volusia County half a million dollars.

John Garcia, spokesman for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said the organization would not comment on the pending settlement. PRLDEF is an acronym for the group’s original name Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that under the Voting Rights Act, they were entitled to a ballot in Spanish because they were raised in schools in Puerto Rico where Spanish is the dominant language.

Although Volusia County already provides some assistance to Spanish-language residents, it didn’t provide bilingual ballots.

Volusia County has about 18,000 registered voters who are self-described as Hispanic, McFall said.

Entwined in the stereotypical protestations that “English is the national language!” and “I think that anyone who wishes to become a citizen of the US needs to be able to speak English well enough to function among English speaking people!” one sees an obvious lack of knowledge – an ignorance, if you will – of our laws. In stating his disapproval of the court case, Mike states:

I think it’s simply a community activist organization shopped for an aggrieved “victim” to push their particular political agenda.”

Now…that statement may or may not be true. However, it certainly shouldn’t marginalize the fact that Americans of Hispanic heritage in this nation are provided the necessary protections based upon population to be able to view ballots and election material in a language other than English:

The law covers those localities where there are more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens in a single political subdivision (usually a county, but a township or municipality in some states) who are members of a single minority language group, have depressed literacy rates, and do not speak English very well.

It’s fairly obvious that following the 2010 Census, Volusia County (and most likely, every county in the State) will need to follow these requirements. Unfortunately, lilMike didn’t verify this fact until he had riled the populace:

Although it does seem pointless.  It sounds like the census from 2010 will probably have every county in Central Florida with bilingual ballots.  So that will happen regardless.

As is often the case, I wonder just who, exactly, is pushing disinformation* in an attempt to “push their particular political agenda“!

*Merriam-Webster: Disinformation:  false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.