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Sanjay Sanghoee Headshot

The New Segregation: How Voting Laws Could Destroy Republicans and America

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The last week has been all about Paul Ryan: his infamous budget, his fiscal extremism, his disdain for social safety nets like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, his rejection of the sensible recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles plan, his love of guns, and pretty much everything else, including his after-shave.

What this has revealed is Mitt Romney's four-pronged plan of attack for the November elections. The first three involve the economy, welfare, and government spending. With Paul Ryan "Rand" behind him, there is no more gray left on these fronts. It's the conservative philosophy of small government, low taxes (although mainly for corporations and the wealthy), and unfettered free markets, versus the liberal philosophy of active government, necessary taxation, and regulated markets, and you can take your pick.

But the fourth prong of the Republican strategy is equally important, and that has to do with eliminating certain voters from the polls. In my piece "Romney & Romney? Why his Pick for VP is Great News for Democrats," I touched on how Ryan does nothing to help Romney secure the votes of minorities, moderates, and independent voters. Add young people to this list, and you begin to understand why the Republicans are fighting so hard for voter suppression throughout the country.

The 2008 presidential race proved just how much power minorities and young voters could exert over an election -- these two segments provided rocket fuel for the Obama campaign that year. Republicans would rather embrace gay marriage and gun control than allow a repeat performance, and so Republican-led legislatures across the country have been enacting tough voting laws to ensure that minorities and young people cannot help the Democrats rule the polling booths this time around. Implicit in this decision by the GOP is its admission that those two demographics are highly unlikely to vote Republican anyway. Conventional wisdom goes that "if you can't beat them, join them," but the Republican strategy seems to be "if you can't beat them, screw them!"

The statistics tell the story clearly. Since 2011, 180 bills have been introduced to restrict voting rights in 41 states; 16 of the states that have passed tough voting laws account for 79 percent of the total electoral votes needed to win the presidency, and; 35 states have instituted Voter ID laws, including several swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida. The Voter ID laws in particular are a major problem since millions of Americans simply do not have an acceptable form of ID, often due to legitimate reasons like not having the time and money to get one, and it does not take a sociologist to figure out how these laws might hit minorities and young people the hardest. Beyond logic, laws must also take into account broader consequences, and these do not.

So, assuming that the Republicans succeed in their plan to disenfranchise millions of voters, including Hispanics, African Americans, and college students who are likely to support President Obama in overwhelming numbers, will this put their candidate in the White House? I highly doubt it, and in fact think that it will hurt their chances instead.

Here is why. While, on one hand, getting rid of pesky minorities and young voters might give Romney-Ryan an edge in some states, the high-handedness and anti-democratic nature of restrictive voting laws will antagonize moderates and independent voters. Even if some of those voters feel that the Republican plan to fix our economy (and there is none, really, since it just involves doing nothing and hoping that God and Wall Street will take care of everything) is better than the Democrats' plan, many are still likely to be so turned off by the machinations of the GOP that they will swing the other way. Moderates and independents vote for the better vision of the country that is on offer, not an ideology, and so if Romney is the kind of candidate who is willing to deny millions of Americans their most fundamental right, then I am betting that his vision will not go over too well. I also believe that women voters will react the same way -- any group that is disenfranchised can relate.

But that's not the only drawback of the Republican strategy. The exclusion of minorities and young people from the polls is a form of de facto segregation and by promoting that, the Republicans are engendering mistrust and ill-will that will follow the party for decades, if not generations. People who are denied the opportunity to participate in their nation's political process will never forgive it, and what is happening will create an irreparable rift between those demographic groups and the GOP. Therefore, even if Romney-Ryan win in November, the legacy of this act will continue to haunt them, and hurt their party in future elections. What is even more ironic is that the GOP is the party of Abraham Lincoln, who fought a civil war to free the slaves.

Honestly, I don't care if the Republicans never win another election again, but I do care that the political ploy of voter suppression (that is basically a temper tantrum) could have deadly consequences for unity in America, and that is bad for all of us. The Republicans have been pretty adept at lowering the standards for political behavior during this election cycle, but this is a new low even for them. They really should look within the soul of their party and reverse course before it's too late.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a former banker and the author of two thriller novels. Please visit www.sanghoee.com for more details and updates.

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