THE BLOG
08/20/2012 11:53 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

Latino Voter Suppression and the Paul Ryan Choice

The pundit class has spent the past few days speculating about how there is a "game change" now that Mitt Romney has decided to attach his fate to right wing ideologue Paul Ryan.

Some obvious assessments are that "game change" Paul Ryan assures that Medicare and Social Security will be front and center in the campaign debates.

But for Latino voters and minorities there are far more dangerous implications in the Ryan choice. In the new Citizen's United campaign finance reality, the right wing is now clearly set to fund, anonymously, the largest voter suppression campaign in American electoral history. And, nominating Paul Ryan assures that they will be able to raise big bucks from folks like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers to pay for it.

The Paul Ryan's budget and his vice presidential campaign is a once in a lifetime investment for the wealthy; it contains over $4 trillion gifts for the mega-rich, including a reduction in the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 25, while requiring 90% of Americans to pay more taxes.

Whether or not this massive tax reduction becomes part of Romney's final budget proposal is irrelevant. By choosing Ryan, Romney has signaled to the right wing mega-donor base is that he is firmly committed to sustaining a pattern of tax giveaways that began under Ronald Reagan and continues today with the devastating impacts of the George W. Bush tax cuts.

Top this off with nominating the poster boy for Social Security privatization, and the message is clear. This is not "read my lips" time. This is a red meat feast invitation for Wall Street robber barons and those who want to put government in a bathtub and drown it.

So, the appeal will be on to open up fat checkbooks for the hidden billion dollar shadow campaigns masterminded by Karl Rove and his allies.

Let's be clear, there's only so much money that can be spent on TV air time. At a certain point all these TV ad expenditures become just noise. For the Democrats, this election will be all about who is better at turning out the base. And for the Republicans, who is better at suppressing working families' votes.

The Republican vote suppression strategy was recently revealed in a slip by Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai, "Voter ID which will allow Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania, done!"

This revelation is the tip of the iceberg of a massive voter suppression plan that is in motion nationwide. For example:

  • In the first few months of 2011, 34 Republican stronghold states have proposed voter ID laws.
  • Despite the fact that over 21 million Americans do not have government-issued ID, even drivers
  • licenses, voter ID laws have become law in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
  • In Pennsylvania, it has been estimated that the voter ID law under challenge in the courts could result in disenfranchising over 750,000 citizens, mostly elderly, poor, and persons of color who do not have "acceptable" government identification cards.
  • In Florida, the U.S. Justice Department is suing the Florida Secretary State to stop the purging of up to 180,000 names of registered voters, based upon a comparison of outdated information such as drivers license applications. In its letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detner, the Justice Department stated that Florida's voter purge could, "have resulted in native-born citizens, including a decorated World War II combat veteran being sent letters demanding that they affirmatively prove their citizenship."
  • Similar suit from the U.S. Justice Department against South Carolina and Texas are also pending.

But the all time award of shame for voter suppression and civil rights violations clearly goes to Arizona, the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and SB 1070.

The AFL-CIO has called Arizona "The Model State for Voter Suppression". Arizona is where the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-inspired Proposition 200 was passed in 2004 requiring photo ID to register to vote and to vote at the polls. (The proof of citizenship to register to vote recently has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Former Arizona Secretary of State, now Governor Jan Brewer was responsible for purging 100,000 (mainly Latino) voters after the 2004 election; and in 2005, one in three Phoenix residents found their voter registration applications rejected.

As Election Day approaches, hundreds of millions of dollars will be raised anonymously in the wake of the Ryan announcement; and these funds will likely be channeled into a voter suppression project of historic proportions. Imagine thousands of Republican lawyers, staffers and interns dispatched to public polling places in swing states, with badges identifying them as "Sworn Counsel," carrying signs stating "It is a felony to cast an illegal vote."

Will the right wing really try to win the 2012 election by voter suppression?Yes, if progressive civil rights organizations are not vigilant, and fail to take them to court.

Recent research in all 50 states has found that "that voter fraud is in reality a politically constructed myth intended to further complicate the voting process and reduce voter turnout." (See "The Myth of Voter Fraud," by Lorraine C, Minnite, published by Cornell University Press.) In fact, a just completed nationwide study of alleged voter impersonation cases since 2000 found only 10 cases out of 146 million registered voters.

There are powerful legal remedies available to citizens to challenge the voter suppression efforts orchestrated by the right wing.

The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution and protected by the 15th Amendment, which provides that, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Couple this right to vote with the remedies for civil rights violations that occur under color of law (available under 42 United States Code Section 1983) which provides in part: "Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."

The U.S. Supreme court has ruled that such civil rights claims against local officials can be brought in state as well as federal court. This means that any local official in any state, be they Secretaries of State, registrars of voters, county clerks, or law enforcement officials who violate the voting rights of a citizen can be sued in state courts.

Let this be a notice and warning from civil rights advocates everywhere:

No one will be allowed to deny Latinos and other minority groups their voting rights without facing severe legal consequences. This means legal consequences for every official at any level of government who attempts to suppress the vote by allowing voters to be intimidated at the polls, by misleading voters about their poll locations, by tolerating TV ads, robo-calls and mailers designed to confuse voters about their rights -- or by colluding in any way with these voting rights violations.

Romney's Ryan selection could really mean that the right wing has placed a key bet on voter suppression, and that they will use Citizen's United money to depress the liberal votes. However, with vigilant supporters of voting rights in critical states -- watching every move of the voter suppression squads -- these enemies of democracy will be defeated. And, most assuredly, they will answer for their lack of patriotism in court.