Monday, April 16, 2012

Mark Sherwood's Parting Gift: Voter Suppression

My soon to be (Republican) ex-Assembly Member apparently noticed on Saturday that Clark County Democrats were holding a convention... And he figured he'd have one more chance to promote his "signature legislation". Seriously, this was the level of conversation he was engaging in on Twitter.

Even though Sherwood is on his way out, he still can't seem to give up his fight against "voter fraud", one of the greatest dumbass "solutions" looking for a problem of our time. Even though voters are 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning and 3,500 times more likely to report a UFO encounter (!!!) than commit voter fraud, for some reason Mark Sherwood can't stop talking about this virtually nonexistent "CRISIS!!!" Is he planning to move to Area 51 soon?

Or is there another motivation? Across the country, Republican led state legislatures have passed restrictions on voting, such as voter ID laws and rollbacks of early voting opportunities. And funny enough, these restrictions hurt low-income voters, communities of color, and students the most. Conveniently for Republicans in these states, these voters tend to be the ones they struggle the most with. Coincidence?

The voter suppression bills that he and several other Republicans introduced last session also happened to match the "model legislation" proposed by ALEC, the increasingly controversial corporate funded radical right group that's been pushing "tea party" backed "model legislation" across the country. And yes, ALEC has "model legislation" for voter suppression. I wonder why?

Oh yes, and did I mention that "voter fraud" hardly ever happens? As always, here's Desert Beacon with the facts.

Conflating potential problems with actual incidences of voter fraud is misleading and serves to promote vote suppression without actually improving voting integrity. Indeed, an organization or party might seek to have the Prematurely Resurrected vote — but, that would require having someone assume the identity of the dearly departed, and then vote in the face of a possible $10,000 fine and 5 years in jail. Since, unlike shoplifting, prosecution is assured and the charges will always be for a major felony, voter impersonation is extremely rare.

How rarely voter fraud is attempted is demonstrated as follows: “A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted. Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots.” [MJ]

A study from Barnard College came to similar conclusions: “The statistics bear me out. From 2002 to 2005 only one person was found guilty of registration fraud. Twenty people were found guilty of voting while ineligible and five people were found guilty of voting more than once. That’s 26 criminal voters — voters who vote twice, impersonate other people, vote without being a resident — the voters that Republicans warn about.”

Given the miniscule numbers of actual cases of voter fraud there is cause for concern about the willingness of courts to uphold vote-suppression statutues with insufficient attention to the actual evidence at hand. “The case for voter fraud—individuals impersonating others at the polls—is largely built on hype and the type of hearsay that should not be permitted in court for the purposes of denying individuals the right to vote. Unfortunately, in four cases so far the courts have been unwilling to police the evidence, take seriously the fundamental nature of voting rights, and protect franchise rights.“ [Schultz, HamlineU, pdf]

Got that? There is no "voter fraud" crisis. All the anti "voter fraud" bills seek to do is engage in voter suppression. And this isn't the first time Mark Sherwood has thrown a temper tantrum over this. Last year, Sherwood joined with Crescent Hardy to push a bill to end early voting in Nevada. Even though Jon Ralston may hate the concept of early voting, the fact of the matter is that it gives legal Nevada voters more opportunity to participate in "small d democracy". So obviously, the radical "tea party" right now hates it.

Even though Mark Sherwood may be on his way out, his dreams of voter suppression may still be "in the mix" in future legislative sessions. Let's hope they go exactly where last year's attacks on voting rights went. (Thankfully, nowhere.)

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