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Witch Hunt for the Zombie Voter

Posted on Apr 30, 2012
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By Eugene Robinson

Republicans are waging the most concerted campaign to prevent or discourage citizens from exercising their legitimate voting rights since the Jim Crow days of poll taxes and literacy tests.

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Four years ago, Democrats expanded American democracy by registering millions of new voters—mostly young people and minorities—and convincing them to show up at the polls. Apparently, the GOP is determined not to let any such thing happen again.

According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which keeps track of changes in voting laws, 22 statutes and two executive actions aimed at restricting the franchise have been approved in 17 states since the beginning of 2011. By the center’s count, an additional 74 such bills are pending.

The most popular means of discouraging those young and minority voters—who, coincidentally, tend to vote for Democrats—is legislation requiring citizens to show government-issued photo identification before they are allowed to cast a ballot. Photo ID bills have been approved by Republican-controlled legislatures in Alabama, Kansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, and by referendum in Mississippi. Only one state with a Democratic-controlled legislature—Rhode Island—passed a law requiring voters to produce identification, and it does not mandate a government ID with a photo. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has not decided whether to sign a voter ID bill the legislature sent to his desk.

In theory, what could be wrong with demanding proof of identity? In the real world, plenty.


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As Republican strategists are fully aware, minorities are overrepresented among the estimated 11 percent of citizens who do not have a government-issued photo ID. They are also painfully aware that in 2008, President Obama won 95 percent of the African-American vote and 67 percent of the Hispanic vote. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math: If you can reduce the number of black and Latino voters, you improve the Republican candidate’s chances.

If photo ID laws were going to be the solution, though, Republicans had to invent a problem. The best they could come up with was The Menace of Widespread Voter Fraud.

It’s a stretch. Actually, it’s a lie. There is no Widespread Voter Fraud. All available evidence indicates that fraudulent voting of the kind that photo ID laws would presumably prevent—someone shows up at the polls and votes in someone else’s name—just doesn’t happen.

For a while, the GOP pointed to South Carolina, where Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said that “dead people” had somehow cast ballots in recent elections. But then the state’s election commission investigated claims of 953 zombie voters and, um, well, never mind.

The number of voters came from a crude comparison of records done by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The elections commission actually found 207 contested votes. Of that total, 106 reflected clerical errors by poll workers, 56 reflected errors by the motor vehicles department, 32 involved people who were mistakenly listed as having voted, and three involved people who had cast absentee ballots and then died before Election Day.

That left 10 contested votes—count ’em, 10—that could not be immediately resolved. However, the commission found no evidence of fraud. Or of zombies.

Of course, there are other potential kinds of electoral fraud; crooked poll workers, for example, could record votes in the names of citizens who actually stayed home. Election officials could design ballots in a way that worked to a specific candidate’s advantage or disadvantage (see Florida, 2000). But none of this would be prevented by photo ID, which still hasn’t found a problem to solve—except, perhaps, an excess of Democratic voters.

Even more sinister are new laws, such as in Florida, that make it much more difficult for campaigns—or anyone else—to conduct voter-registration drives. If you thought Republicans and Democrats agreed that more Americans should register to vote, you were sadly mistaken.

Florida requires that groups conducting registration drives be vetted and that registration forms be submitted within 48 hours of when they are signed—an onerous and unnecessary burden that only serves to hamper anyone seeking to expand the electorate. Let’s see, who might try to do such a thing? The Democratic Party, maybe? The Obama campaign?

In the name of safeguarding the sanctity of the ballot, Republicans are trying to exclude citizens they consider likely to vote for Democrats—the young, the poor, the black and brown. Those who love democracy cannot allow this foul subterfuge to succeed.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)
© 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Maani, May 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

Actually, the combination of this “initiative” and some more of the actual fraud we saw in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 are more likely to have an effect on the election results than than almost anything else, including the economy, the SCOTUS decision on the ACA, or even Citizens United and SuperPACs.

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By americanme, May 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

I don’t blame them.

I wouldn’t want some creep with no face cleaning my drains.

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By John M, May 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment

Chicago just passed a law that requires a photo ID to
by drain cleaner

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By SoTexGuy, May 2, 2012 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

Right, the problem of voting fraud or voter fraud is way overstated. The Republicans are making a mountain of a mole-hill. And they are doing it solely for partisan political gain.

And the reason this benefits the Republicans is two-fold:

First; a large majority of American voters are enraged at the very concept of those not eligible to vote doing so. One or one-million.. statistics mean nada. And these same voters look favorably on any initiative that purports to stop illegal voting.

Second; Robinson and the Democrats have framed themselves in a box where they are seen not as protectors of the right to vote but as being unconcerned over possible voter fraud. Actually describing voter fraud as trivial! The majority of American voters hate this attitude.

There’s a list of things, basic everyday things, you can’t do these days without a photo ID. No one is standing up for those effected by the requirement for a photo driver’s license, as just one example. The Democrats made a huge strategic blunder when they decided to ‘just say no’ to voter ID changes. The only positive position for them would have been to get involved and make the changes as easy and palatable as possible. And in the end, if you want grandma to vote and she is having troubles then take her to get the ID and help her vote.

The Republicans are deceptive, wrong-minded and pretty clever.

The Democrats are lazy whiners and not too smart.


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By Lilith, May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Robinson, I understand the frustrations of all this and why people are so cynical, BUT there can be away to circumvent the GOP’s attempt to disenfranchise people.

As I posted earlier, we should shift gears and start helping people not only to register to vote, but at the minimum to hand them the info they need to learn how to get the much needed photo ID. Most people have misunderstandings or fear stopping them, or just the overwhelming problem of simply not knowing where to start or what to do to get one, especially if there are unusual circumstance. People who volunteer to register voters for the democratic party could also hand out a flier that helps walk people through getting that photo ID and/or who to contact for help.

What do you think?

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By azythos, May 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

“Republicans are trying to exclude citizens they consider likely to vote for Democrats—the young, the poor, the black and brown. Those who love democracy cannot allow this foul subterfuge to succeed.”

And what about the way, way fouler subterfuge of getting “the young, the poor, the black and brown” to vote against their interests for a warmongering, mass-murdering, Wall-street-owned, fascist “Party” like the “Democrats”, you foul Propaganda-Abteilung bullshitter?

Anyone voting for any “one” of the “two” dictatorship parties is directly complicit in crimes against humanity, war crimes, no-more-creeping-dictatorship, plunder of 99% of the population and worldwide misery. And should be held to account.

Look up Julius Streicher, propaganda agent Robinson. Not that you will ever acquire the same importance.

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By americanme, May 1, 2012 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

You are ALL zombie voters.

Voting is an addiction.

Just say NO.

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By ForeignAffairs, April 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is advocating a 10-point initiative known as the Voter Bill of Rights.

Her Green Party platform also has many other planks intended to restore and defend the prosperity and liberty of the 99%.

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By Lilith, April 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment

Well, can there be a campaign drive to help people get photo IDs in those states that there are laws? I went through a name change, but did not have the money to renew my license because of 9/11. I should have gotten a photo ID, but I kept procrastinating thinking I was going to be able to get my license soon, which took longer than expected.

I went to vote, and even though I had the document from the court about my name change, I was challenged, but I am a white middle aged woman, and I was given a free pass. Since then I got my new license.

So it can happen to anyone really, and a campaign of people who normally do voter drives instead help people get IDs would go a long way towards solving this.

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By Robespierre115, April 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment

The problem is Obama also expects people to be zombie voters for him.

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