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The GOP's Voter Suppression

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Much like it does every four years, the debate on who should be allowed to vote has once again resurfaced. Predictably, the minority vote, youth vote and poor vote are going to be discouraged by Republicans wherever they can get away with it, even as the courts wave red flags and call foul.

Jim Greer, former Chair of the Florida Republican Party, went on Al Sharpton's show to boldly cast the nearly transparent curtain aside from the ugly face of the Wizard of Florida. In Florida, as in other states, it's not the Democrats' imaginations that are creating voter suppression issues; rather, it's the systemic and predictable way in which Republicans are trying to discourage people likely to vote Democrat. They do this by creating arbitrary and unevenly enforced laws to create confusion and ultimately discourage the other guy's voters.

After an electoral spanking last cycle that was largely the backlash to neoconservative overreaches in the Bush Jr. years, Republicans were reflecting on how to deal with the surge of new and minority voters. "I sat in on many meetings where it was discussed how to make sure what happened in 2008, when Obama brought out the college-aged voters, the minority voters, never happened again," said Jim Greer.

Greer talked about how he was invited into many discussions as the head of the GOP in Florida, so he knows where some particularly rotten bodies are buried. There were discussions that early voting was going against Republicans, and so they should shorten it to prevent African American churches from organizing to bring out the vote for early voting. Greer had even given sworn deposition that there were discussions on suppression, but never once in his 3 1/2 years as GOP Chair of Florida had he seen a meeting on voter fraud; he went so far as to call it a "marketing tool of radical Republicans" in state government.

Every bit of evidence is predictably falling into a narrative that these laws are the Republicans doing their best to discourage certain demographics of voters, and not a reaction to a legitimate problem. Some of the laws have been bad enough that the courts have struck them down, with stunning examples of Latino and African American disenfranchisement and voter registration discouragement attempts coming from Florida.

These measures collectively form a shady, underhanded attempt at disenfranchisement that is poorly hidden at times, but then there are others when Republicans actually celebrate it in public. Michael Turzai, Republican Representative in Pennsylvania, said that voter ID laws were one of the factors handing Romney the election in Pennsylvania, and they are "done."

Republicans using all the marketing tools (i.e. FOX News) at their disposal to claim that voter fraud is a problem, but it really isn't. For example, the Brennan Center has placed the voter fraud rate at .00004% in Ohio last election. Republicans say that you can't tell how many cases of fraud there are, but anyone who's calculated crime, such as the police and FBI, knows that you get a good estimate from what you see. If what you're seeing is one fraudulent vote per million, maybe there's two or three others in what's known as the "dark figure of crime" that criminal justice statisticians talk about; however, the data simply doesn't allow for anywhere near the numbers that would require a serious debate on voter fraud prevention. Anyone who has studied statistics should know this.

In the past, the disenfranchisement rolls have exceeded the margins of victory, arguably handing elections to candidates. This is one of the factors leading to the hail of rotten tomatoes when Bush Jr. took his victory lap to the White House in 2000. With the election in a dead heat, every vote counts. If money pipelined from Sheldon Adelson won't help buy enough votes for Romney, maybe they can still figure out some way to torch some of Obama's votes in a manner befitting the dignity and morals of a Rove-style electoral butcher.

The courts have stepped in here and there, striking down regulations like a 48 hour 3rd party registration requirement that chased the League of Women Voters out of Florida. There was, however, a flurry of legislative activity to directly or indirectly make voting more difficult, be it to provide too few resources to ensure 10 hour long lines like last election, or requiring ID that poor people, minorities and college students are unlikely to have. Not every one of these laws has been struck down, nor will they be.

In a world where we have election day on Tuesday and rent due Wednesday, living paycheck to paycheck and even shift to shift, having to decide between voting and working will make a grim difference in November. At the very least, it raises the bar for people to overcome the indifference that plagues roughly half our voters, disproportionately benefitting the sleazy politicians who fought to have it put in.