Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist began his political career intimidating blacks and Hispanics waiting in line to vote in his home state of Arizona. It was 1964 and Rehnquist, a practicing lawyer at the time, demanded to see identification and conversed with Hispanics to determine if they spoke sufficient English to vote. He was working as part of "Operation Eagle Eye," a Republican plan to suppress the vote.
In 2012, nearly half a century later, the Kochs and Karl Rove have fueled legislation to require stringent voter identification in states they helped pack with Republican lawmakers and governors in the 2010 Republican sweep. They turned that sweep into a below-the-national-radar campaign to suppress voter turnout in this election cycle, including in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
Like cheap paper targets at a carnival shooting gallery, the courts have at least temporarily shot down almost every onerous voter ID law that has passed in the last two years to protect Americans from "voter fraud" that doesn't appear to exist.
Last week began with a scrambled ruling from Republican Pennsylvania State Judge Robert Simpson saying, in effect, that even though he backed the intent of the law, an insufficient number of voter IDs had been processed. At the time, a total of 11,000 people had been issued voter IDs out of a potential 1.2 million who might have been disenfranchised. In an earlier case, Simpson had ruled that the law be fully implemented. When his decision was appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a majority sent it back to Simpson to determine if the law's implementation would result in any citizen's losing their right to vote. The evidence of the state's ineptitude in providing photo ID to registered voters was overwhelming and forced Simpson's decision to stay the law.
The result of all this up and down and back and forth is that the PA Voter ID law is lying in the weeds waiting to be reviewed yet again in December.
Federal judges in Ohio and Florida ruled that both states must restore most of the early voting days that were cut under their new laws. And Wisconsin state judges blocked strict new photo ID laws.
Four years ago, 14,000 votes were discarded in Ohio when voters went to the right polling place but were sent to the wrong table for their precinct. A federal judge has overruled that practice and another judge has struck down part of a Florida law that stopped the League of Women Voters from registering voters.
Federal judges clamped down on a Texas voter ID law that, among other abuses, required voters to get their voter ID from a state motor vehicle office, ignoring the fact that about a third of the state's counties have no motor vehicle office. It would mean more than a 200-mile round-trip excursion for thousands of legal voters who do not drive.
Kathleen Unger, Founder of VoteRiders.com, a non-partisan non-profit that helps voters get the identification required by their respective states, said, "Protecting the right to vote is not a partisan issue. It's an American issue. No citizen should be prevented from exercising this fundamental right. Complicated voter ID laws put state bureaucrats between eligible voters and the ballot box."
All of these latest actions provide only temporary relief from voter suppression efforts in the 30 states with voter ID laws in effect.
You can bet your ballot the Republicans will be back right after Election Day with new challenges to those vote fraudsters that no one can seem to find.
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