Voter Suppression Laws

Voter Suppression Laws
A new report released yesterday by the Advancement Project finds that voter suppression laws in 23 states have the potential of barring more than 10 million Latino United States citizens from voting in the 2012 elections. The report explains why three types of state laws have been passed to suppress Latino voters in states where they constitute a large proportion of the population: Voter purges, proof of citizenship requirements, and photo ID laws. The study argues why Latino and “communities of color” are most likely to be barred from voting because of these laws. In a conference call on Monday, director of Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program, Katerine Culliton-González, argued that these “voter-suppression” laws are being passed by politicians who are scared of Latinos’ voting power.

“The types of voter restrictions and Jim Crow laws that have been primarily been targeted against African-Americans in the past, have also been revitalized this year,” Ms. Culliton-González said. “There’s a new wave of voter suppression against African-Americans; but this year in particular, we’ve also seen a new wave targeting Latinos, and I think that’s because of the rising political power of the community.”

The study argues why Latino and “communities of color” are most likely to be barred from voting. These groups constitute a large part of eligible voters who may be purged from voter registration rolls in 16 states. Census data shows that 1.1 million Latino naturalized citizens lived in these states.

“More than 75% of the total naturalized citizens in these 16 states were people of color,” the report reads. “During the same five-year period, Latino naturalized citizens made up 51% of all naturalized citizens in the state of Florida and 62% of naturalized citizens in New Mexico—two of the states that are pursuing citizenship purges.”

The report cited a voter purge in Florida that was conducted in April 2012. The state purged people off their voter list that identified themselves as immigrant noncitizens when they applied for their driver’s licenses. The state then realized, nonetheless, that people who were purged may have become naturalized citizens after they obtained their licenses. The state sent 2,600 voters letters requiring them to produce additional documentation to prove that they were eligible voters. Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans comprised at least 82 percent of those 2,600 people on the Florida purge list.

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“In Miami-Dade County, where most of the targeted voters live, more than 98% of 562 people who responded to notice letters proved that they were indeed eligible U.S. citizens and thus mistakenly placed on the purge list,” the report reads.

The report also shows how a state law in Arizona, where Latinos comprise 48.27 percent of the Naturalized Citizen Population, was followed by 31,000 rejected voter registration forms between 2005 and 2007. A federal Court of Appeals ruled that the Arizona law “was pre-empted by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).”

“The NVRA was enacted to increase voter registration in the United States by making it easier, not more difficult, to register to vote,” the report reads. “Arizona has petitioned for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The report argues that in 14 states where legislation requiring proof of citizenship, Latinos have a higher proportion of people living in poverty than any other ethnic group. Among poverty-stricken factors like relying on public transportation, it becomes more difficult for Latinos to obtain such documentation to prove citizenship, making it less likely for them to vote.

The report also cites that in states like Pennsylvania where laws require citizens to have a state-issued ID to vote, people have to produce “up to four underlying forms of identification to prove legal presence, identity, and residency.” CNBC host Jim Cramer tweeted that his father wouldn’t be able to vote because “he does not drive, he is elderly, and can’t prove his citizenship.” A study by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO found that 1.6 million voters or 20 percent of all registered voters in Pennsylvania had no ID or an expired ID. The Advancement Project report found that a greater proportion of Latinos don’t have state-issued IDs than non-Hispanic white people.

“It is estimated that 16 percent of Latinos do not possess a requisite photo identification compared to six percent of nonHispanic Whites,” the report reads.

The report also states that these laws have been passed to minimize voter fraud. The number of cases of voter fraud which are used to justify these laws are very small, nonetheless. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania signed a stipulation attesting that they found zero instances of voter fraud. News21 contacted election officers in all 50 states, requesting every case of voter fraud.

“Analysis of the resulting comprehensive News21 election fraud database turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation,” the report reads. “With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.”

Co-Director of the Advancement Project, Judith Browne Dianis states that their report exposes tactics employed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney supporters to suppress voters who are more likely to vote for President Barack Obama.

“These laws and the policies around purges are part of a bigger effort on the part of some politicians to manipulate the laws and the policies for their own partisan gain,” Ms. Brown Dianis said. “You could see from the target of Latino voters in particular kind of corresponds to what we see in the polls in terms of support for President Obama. That support has been strong and continues to be strong in most recent polling, so we have seen politicians seeking to suppress the votes of Latinos to make gains for themselves and for their party.”

A recent Latino Decisions Poll found that 74 percent of Latinas prefer President Barack Obama while only 21 percent prefer Governor Mitt Romney. A whopping 53 point margin.