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The Struggle for Voting Rights in 2010

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It seems extraordinary that Americans must still struggle for their right to vote. A new group in Texas -- the Diversity League of Houston -- is leading the struggle there. More about this group in a moment. But it's staggering that after all these years there are still reactionary forces working to suppress the voting rights of those they suspect of opposing their radical, right-wing policies.

African-Americans were given the right to vote with 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870. After a century, many blacks were still barred from voting by lynch mobs, bigoted literacy tests, poll taxes and such. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, adding further guarantees. Women in America were finally granted the franchise in 1920. And yet the struggle continues election after election as right-wing thugs take to the streets (and to the offices of their co-conspirators among voter registration officials) to deny the franchise to qualified American citizens.

Last month I posted a piece at HuffPost detailing the lies of a group in Houston, Texas - the King Street Patriots -- who have raised a substantial anti-voting rights war chest. Conspiring with the Harris County voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, the group doctored photos and made up stories about people registered to a vacant lot. It is all part of a plan to deny the right to vote to American citizens.

The group unveiled its plan just prior to a suspicious fire that destroyed all of Harris County's voting machines. There's still no word on whether the fire was intentionally set.

Back to the Diversity League of Houston. On its new website you can view a brief video pointing out the lies and deceptions of King Street Patriots, a group tied to the notoriously reactionary Koch brothers' front group, Americans for Prosperity.

The group formed after the KSP joined with Vasquez to attack a non-partisan voter registration effort. Vasquez is now being sued by the Texas Democratic Party. And Fred Lewis, a lawyer and ethics advocate behind the voter registration effort, has filed a defamation suit against the King Street Patriots, who have knowingly spread countless malicious lies about Lewis and his group.

Voter suppression efforts are commonplace, of course. The Right has been trying to deny the right to vote to damn near everyone who disagrees with their anti-democratic agenda. Remember Florida, 2000? Or Ohio? Voter caging -- sending letters to voters and then denying them the vote when return letters are not received -- is underway throughout the country.

Karl Rove pioneered the odious "felons list" scam in Texas in 1982. Turns out their list of felons included many non-felons - a candidate for state representative was named on the error-filled list. The list was withdrawn, but the message was sent: Would-be Voters Beware.

There's something terribly wrong with this picture. The Right, claiming to act on behalf of democracy, is assaulting the fundamental basis of democracy -- the right to vote. It's hard to imagine how they reconcile their terrible acts. Hard, but not impossible.

In their narrow views, the right to vote belongs only to the "right" people -- that is, people that look like them, live in gated communities like they do, go to the same churches they do and follow whatever arbitrary and authoritarian rules are demanded of them.

Voter suppression is the most under-reported political scandal of our lifetimes. It's no longer acceptable to shrug it off as old dirty tricks that happen every cycle. It ought to be made a federal felony punishable by a significant prison term.

Voter suppressors are burning the American flag -- except it's not the symbol of democracy they attack, it's the substance.

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