Bees beware? Based on the logic of voter suppression advocates, all bees should be exterminated because we have a one in 75,000 chance of being attacked by a swarm of them. It is a dangerous world out there--for democracy. If we never looked at the odds fear mongering would tear the seams of our most valued activities and principles.
The same logic, tearing at the seams of our democracy, is behind new laws and unlawful actions that could disenfranchise more than 23 million voters because there is a one out of 2.3 million chance that a person would commit voter fraud. The ends do not justify the means.
In conjunction with Brave New Films Foundation, the NAACP has launched a short film exposing the impact of rare events versus the impact that false claims of mass voter fraud have on the voting age population.
Watch the video here:
In August, News21 found only 10 cases related to alleged cases of voter impersonation fraud in more than 10 years--the kind that voter ID legislation would address. Additionally, News21 analyzed the oft-cited 375 cases of voter impersonation fraud and found no evidence of voter impersonation fraud.
This evidence does suggest that there is a need for voter registration modernization that has largely been neglected on the state level. The evidence also suggests that states extend efforts to educate voters on their election rules and procedures--reaching marginalized voters across the state.
Fortunately, these are mandates provided in HAVA, the Help America Vote Act. Unfortunately however, the lack of federal and state funding for HAVA has further delayed full enactment.
Circumstances and evidence aside, unnecessary and disenfranchising voter ID laws are just the tip of the voter suppression iceberg. Reducing or cutting early voting days, placing unnecessary burdens on voter registration, and instituting proof of citizenship on top of unlawful voter purges, felony disenfranchisement, voter deception and intimidation are all suppressive measures that impact the American right to vote.
These efforts stray far from helping Americans vote. Following the historic voter turnout in the 2008 Presidential election, which helped elect the Nation's first black president, a string of states began introducing laws that actively suppress the vote. Consequentially, these laws target voting blocs that showed a marked increase in turnout--minorities and youth in the 18 to 24 year old age group.
To paint a picture, cuts to early voting could have an adverse impact for populations who rely on those hours to vote when they are unable to take off from work--a luxury for those who have access to paid leave and other exceptions. In 2008, about 30 percent of Ohio's voters casted ballots before Election Day according to the Associated Press. For populations that have statistically been harder to mobilize and turnout on Election Day, the attack has been mounted on third-party registration efforts and community efforts like "Souls to the Polls" that were overwhelmingly successful in Florida.
The video exposes shear numbers, and if you dig deeper and divide the more than 23 million voters further the impact is still startling. Felony disenfranchisement laws alone, referring to laws that strip the rights of voters who have been convicted of a felony offense, disenfranchise more than 6 million otherwise eligible voters.
The video asks if we should stop going outside, stop taking baths, kill the bees, and prepare our family and friends for impending death in response to freak incidents. The most important question, however, is should we stop the vote of those wholly eligible to vote in the face of nearly non-existent voter fraud? If the bedrock of this nation's democracy is the right to vote, then the answer has to be no.
Follow Ben Jealous on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenJealous