Four hundred and eighty-eight voters, all but four lifelong Democrats, and nearly all Black, had their voting history erased by Shelby County (Memphis) election workers, setting them up for purge from the voter list. These selective alterations appear to target the race of US Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-09).
To alter voting histories for a selected set of voters, putting them at risk for strategically selected and improper removal from the voting list, is to demean them, to treat them as if they have less worth as human beings than they do. And to demean them is to wrong them. What Shelby County's election staff has done, in altering the records, is morally wrong.
Shelby County voters owe a debt of gratitude to Darrick "D" Harris (no relation). This information has come to light because, when I spoke with Harris by telephone recently, he expressed concern to me about his discovery that his voting history had somehow evaporated.
An active Democratic voter and political consultant, Harris had copies of voter databases containing his own voter history. He knows he votes regularly, but as of Oct. 2011, the voter list reports that he has never voted --- not once!...
[NOTE: I interviewed 90-year old Joyce Block from Pennsylvania, the woman discussed in the story below, today (Wed, 4/25) on my KPFK/Pacific Radio show, and she offered a bit of a "good news" update on her story. That interview is now posted here. - BF]
And now it's the voters in Pennsylvania who are beginning to lose their right to vote under new Republican voter suppression laws. The latest story of a citizen having their rights robbed by Big Government GOP disenfranchisement laws is that of Joyce Block, a 90-year old grandmother from Doylestown who has voted for 70 years without a problem --- until now.
We've been reporting for some time on legal voters who are being disenfranchised by Republican-passed polling place Photo ID restrictions around the country. For example, in Indiana there were the 80- and 90-year old nuns who were turned away from the polls in 2008 after that state's first-in-the-nation Photo ID restriction had taken away the rights they'd freely and legally exercised for decades at their own monastery. (They were turned away that year by the poll worker, their fellow sister, who had been forced to follow the new voter suppression law.)
Of course, that same law in the Hoosier State didn't prevent their top election official, charged with overseeing the law, Republican Sec. of State Charlie White, from committing three voter fraud felonies himself. He was found guilty in February of this year and forced to leave office. But these laws aren't actually meant to stop voter fraud. Even proponents of such laws are unable to cite any cases of polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that could possible be deterred by such laws --- which might have been prevented in their state by polling place Photo ID restrictions. These laws are meant solely to disenfranchise perfectly legal, usually Democratic-leaning voters who disproportionately lack the type of ID now needed to vote in states where these laws have been approved.
We told you about 87-year old Ruthelle Frank, an elected town official in Wisconsin who would have to come up with more than $200 for her "free" ID to vote under the GOP's new law there. And then there was 77-year old Bettye Jones for whom it would be strictly impossible to vote at all under WI's law which was, thankfully, recently found to be in violation of the state Constitution by two separate judges in two separate lawsuits in the Badger State.
Down in Tennessee, we told you about 96-year old Dorothy Cooper who was denied a "free" Photo ID, as now needed to vote there, even though she had her birth certificate to prove she was who she said she was. And we also highlighted 93-year old Thelma Mitchell, who used to clean the Governor's office in the statehouse, but was told that her ID was no longer good enough to cast a vote in the Volunteer State.
We could, of course, go on and on and on with such examples, even as we could detail the many high-profile Republicans who have committed voter fraud --- folks like Mitt Romney and Ann Coulter and many others, to name just a few --- who would not have been prevented from committing their crimes even under Photo ID restrictions, because that's not how voter fraud generally occurs and not the sort of voters these laws are meant to disenfranchise. It is, however, a swell way to keep hundreds of thousands, even millions, of perfectly legal --- largely elderly, minority and student (read: Democratic leaning) --- voters from being able to cast their legal vote.
And now, in Pennsylvania, the most recent state where Republicans have approved a polling place Photo ID restriction law --- and where the state's Republican Governor Tom Corbett blatantly lied about it to the media --- we see the 90-year old grandmother-in-law of a local Borough Council president who looks as if she'll be forced to break her perfect 70-year voting record this November, as she too is unable to receive the supposedly "free" ID soon required to vote in the Keystone State...
"I'm shaken up. I mean, I've never done anything like this before," 55-year old former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson said after being turned away from the polling place for refusing to show a Photo ID when attempting to vote on Super Tuesday under a new Tennessee restriction on voting rights passed by Republican lawmakers.
Last week, we told you about Thompson and his protest at the same Nashville polling place where he'd voted for years without incident. It was the first state election in TN in which state-issued Photo ID was required in exchange for the right to vote at a polling place.
Though Thompson presented his voter registration card as sent to him by the state, it was not enough under the new law to allow him to vote on a normal ballot. "I've used this for 37 years," the former Lance Corporal is seen on video telling the precinct supervisor at the poll. "This was good enough for my father. This was good enough for my grandfather, and I refuse to show you a picture ID," he said.
The new law was passed in TN despite tens of of thousands of legally registered --- disproportionately Democratic-leaning --- voters who lack the requisite ID now needed to vote. Many of them are likely to be disenfranchised this year. Among such voters we've reported on previously in the state: 96-year old Dorothy Cooper and 93-year old Thelma Mitchell, to name just two who had been able to vote for decades there without a problem --- even through the Jim Crow era --- until this year.
Today, documentary filmmaker David Earnhardt, director of the award-winningUncounted: The New Math of American Elections, shares his behind-the-scenes video of what happened before, during and after Thompson's protest. [FULL DISCLOSURES: Earnhardt happens to be the brother-in-law of Thompson, and we happen to appear in Uncounted, but it's an excellent film anyway.]
This short and inspiring documentary offers insight into the reasons for Thompson's protest. He explains that he hopes his fight to help restore the rights taken away from Tennessee voters may inspire others to stand up for our democracy, both in his state and elsewhere around the country where similar restrictions have recently been enacted.
In this video, Thompson is seen explaining to media on hand to interview him after he'd left the polling place last Tuesday: "When I took my oath, it was for all people, all Americans --- Republican, Democrat, black, white. It didn't matter what color you were or what religion you believed in. It didn't matter. It was for all Americans. That's what Marines fight for."
"I was willing to sacrifice my vote to stand up today and represent all the people that's not going to be able to vote," says Thompson. "Don't let your right to vote stop because these politicians have passed a law that limits your vote, that's exactly what they want to do"...
* * *
But there is now more to the inspiring story, underscoring again how one person standing up for their rights really can make a difference...
Wow. Ya know, I love RT (Russia's English language satellite/cable TV channel) and the host of today's show, Liz Wahl, but --- seriously guys? Ya can't find a legitimate, even somewhat informed, non-crazy person to defend Republican voter suppression at the polling place?
Maybe not. So, instead, I faced off today with some wingnut Breitbot clown named Seton Motley who is, apparently, the President of an outfit calling itself (ironically enough) "Less Government".
I'm pretty sure this video of our, um, "discussion", and this guy, and his anti-democracy arguments (and his need to call me a "doofus" in the middle of the debate when he runs out of stuff to make up) pretty much speak for themselves. "Enjoy"!...
P.S. One point (among many) I wasn't able to make, due to Motley's continued, obnoxious interruptions, is the irony of a guy who heads an outfit called "Less Government" --- whose motto is apparently "It's a spending problem" --- calling for millions and millions of tax-payer dollars to be spent combating a "problem" (polling place voter impersonation) for which there is no actual evidence.
It's almost as if he's no more concerned about big government, in reality, than he is about real concerns of election fraud. Go figure.
Another story in Maddow's otherwise excellent report, however, is the one about the 86-year old WWII Vet in Ohio who was unable to vote on a normal ballot Tuesday, because his Veteran's ID didn't have his address on it. According to the The Plain Dealer's coverage:
“My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,” said Paul Carroll, 86, who has lived in Aurora nearly 40 years, running his own business, Carroll Tire, until 1975.
“I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country.”
It's a horrible story, but on this one, Maddow appears to have been in slight error in her coverage...
55-year old former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson was turned away from the polls today, Super Tuesday 2012, in the state of Tennessee, after refusing to present a photo ID before voting, as required by a new law recently passed by Republicans.
Thompson was documented by videographers attempting to cast his vote under the new polling place Photo ID restrictions instituted by TN's Republican-majority legislature and signed into law last year by the state's Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
The former Lance Corporal, who left the service in 1978, has lived in Nashville since 2004 when he first cast his vote at the same precinct where he was turned away today. In an act of protest, planned in advance and video-taped by a number of media outlets, Thompson refused to show any more than the voter registration card he has previously used for voting in the state.
Video of the confrontation that ensued is posted below.
"This is my voter registration card," Thompson said as he challenged the poll supervisor. "I've used this for 37 years. This was good enough for my father. This was good enough for my grandfather, and I refuse to show you a picture ID"...
A 93-year-old Tennessee woman who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor's office, says she won't be able to vote for the first time in decades after being told this week that her old state ID failed to meet new voter ID regulations.
Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers' license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.
Thelma Mitchell told WSMV-TV that she went to a state drivers' license center last week after being told that her old state ID from her cleaning job would not meet new regulations for voter identification.
A spokesman for the House Republican Caucus insisted that Mitchell was given bad information and should've been allowed to vote, even with an expired state ID. But even if that's the case, her ordeal illustrates the inevitable disenfranchisements that result when confusing voting laws enable state officials to apply the law inconsistently.
Add Mitchell's story to the rapidly growing instances of long-time voters who are now running into obstacles to voting, such as bad or confusing information in Mitchell's case, or a lack of required documentation in 96-year old fellow Tennessean Dorothy Cooper's case, or potential charges of hundreds of dollars in 84-year old Ruthelle Frank's case in Wisconsin (to name just a very few). All had simply been hoping to cast the same legal votes that they've been legally able to cast for decades --- until now.
All of this comes in the wake of Republican statehouse takeovers in 2010, after which they began to pass laws in dozens of states designed to suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities, and students, who tend to disproportionately vote for Democrats and who disproportionately lack the specific type of state-issued Photo ID now required at the polling place in order to cast their vote.
Expect to see many more such stories in the weeks and months ahead, as those of us who believe in the right to vote actually fight to assure that right may exist again some day for all constitutionally legal voters.
In the meantime, at least there was a bit of good news late last week, as the U.S. Dept. of Justice denied approval of the South Carolina GOP's new disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restriction law, finding that it would lead to racial disparity among voters, according to the state's own statistics.
That bit of encouraging news came about just after the Charlie White, the Republican Sec. of State of Indiana (the first state to institute draconian polling place Photo ID restrictions in 2008), was ordered removed from office by a Circuit Court Judge in the wake of a finding that White was illegally on the ballot in 2010, having committed voter fraud by registering to vote at a residence where he didn't actually live.
Curiously enough, however, the actual case of voter fraud by White --- the state's chief election officer, who is also facing seven criminal felony charges (three of them for voter fraud) --- was not stopped by Indiana's draconian polling place Photo ID law. Only 80 and 90-year old nuns, college students, and World War II vets, apparently, were denied their right to vote by the GOP's voter suppression laws in the Hoosier State, while scofflaws like their own Republican Sec. of State were allowed to vote (illegally) without incident.
Over the weekend, we highlighted a video of a night court judge in Tennessee refusing to jail Occupy Nashville demonstrators after they'd been arrested, bussed downtown by state troopers, and detained for several hours in the wake of a seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a curfew in a public space where protesters had been camping out. As seen in that video, Judge Tom Nelson ordered the protesters released, telling the arresting officer, "You have no lawful basis to arrest or charge these people."
A similar scene played out after arrests on two nights in a row, where the judge refused to jail the protesters.
And now, late today, comes yet another, even larger victory for Occupy Nashville demonstrators, along with a stinging rebuke for the state's Republican Governor Bill Haslam. The turn of events is certainly great news for admirers of the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law and stuff, as the state has "declined to defend the governor's crackdown on protesters" in the wake of a lawsuit filed by demonstrators and the ACLU.
Additionally, the state will not challenge a federal judge's order banning further arrests of the demonstrators for the time being as the parties attempt to negotiate together. The state has even agreed to return confiscated tents, sleeping bags and other property taken from the protesters on the first night of arrests at Nashville's Legislative Plaza...
This story is heart breaking, appalling, and just the first of many similar that we're likely to hear as new voter suppression laws, jammed through by Republican legislatures around the country, take effect before next year's 2012 Presidential election cycle.
Dorothy Cooper is a 96-year old African-American woman from Tennessee. Born before women even had the right to vote, she's now been voting religiously for some 70 years without a problem, even before the Voting Rights of 1965 during the the Jim Crow-era in the South. At least until now.
The newly-elected GOP legislature in her state has rammed through a disenfranchising polling-place Photo ID restriction law which has now made it incredibly difficult for Cooper to cast her legal vote, just like some 500,000 legal and largely Democratic-leaning voters in Tennessee.
As Rachel Maddow details below, Cooper has never had a driver's license. So, at 96 years old, she worked to make her way to the DMV in advance of next year's election and presented her birth certificate and all sorts of other identifying documents in order to receive the supposedly "free" state ID she is legally entitled to receive under the new law so that she can once again cast a vote next year.
However, as Cooper has gotten married since birth and her name has thus changed in the bargain, she was denied the ID, as she was unable to find and produce her marriage certificate to prove that she was who she said she was.
Welcome to your 2012 elections in the "world's greatest Democracy"...
"What is a vote worth?" Venango County, PA's Election Board Chairman Craig Adams, a Republican, asked last week. "If the vote is counted it is priceless. If it is not counted, I don't care what it costs. Let's get a right."
"After months of legal wrangling," Marybeth Kuznik of the non-partisan Election Integrity advocacy group VotePA told The BRAD BLOG last week, Venango County's landmark independent forensic examination of the notoriously unreliable and 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, most often touch-screen) e-voting system finally got under way.
Kuznik explained that the study comes in the wake of the heavily Republican-leaning county having experienced "numerous reports of vote-flipping, candidates missing from screens, write-ins missing, and high undervote rates in their May 17 Primary." Some candidates on the ballots even were reported by the voting machines to have received zero votes...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: The Mighty Mississippi crests in Memphis (but Graceland is spared!); Record drought dries out Texas (the Governor's prayers are not answered); What The Frack? - Flammable drinking water near natural gas wells; Japan scraps nuclear plans; Florida nixes high speed rail, other states rejoice; PLUS: Guess who leads the world in clean energy? (hint: it ain't us) ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): How to profit from the coming eco-pocalypse; Green energy can wean off subsidies; Right-Wing media freak out over nonexistent mileage tax; Study: climate change impacts on SF; Arctic meltdown accelerates; Ambitious renewable energy goals and war-zone realities; US Military: global dominance through solar panels; Republican claims credit for oil price tumble; the Truth about rising gasoline prices; Obama: Clean energy delivers the ‘jobs of the future’; Robot sorts trash for recycling; Self-cleaning, smog-eating buildings; Greening America’s schools ... PLUS: Scaling UP: Renewables Could Meet Most of Energy Needs by 2050 ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Oil companies heart Osama!; Record-breaking storms lead to record-breaking floods --- and exploding levees; Too little, too late?: a new tsunami wall for Fukushima; Big Oil spends millions to protect billions; PLUS: The role of climate change in last week's deadly storms ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Correlation or causation?: energy prices and US recessions; Court upholds CA's rights on federal auto emissions standards; Transparent solar panels to turn windows into generators; Shale gas and fracking unavoidable?; Response to blowout delayed despite PA plan for quick action; Study ranks food pathogens by cost to society; 21st century West to become even drier; Blowout could spill 58 mil. gallons in Arctic; Paper industry profits from pollution tax credits; Recycling resolution targets General Mills; "Mining is a loser" in practically every way; Cleaning up our air for World Asthma Day ... PLUS: The Real Reason Why Coca-Cola Isn't Ditching Bisphenol A ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT:Breaking: 'Catastrophic' sewage spill in TN; Running out of ideas: Japan dumps tons of radioactive water into the ocean as their nuclear nightmare continues to continue; The one year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in WV; Guess what's the fastest growing sector of the economy? (hint: that big glowing ball in the sky) ... PLUS: Transocean execs recieve safety bonuses --- less than a year after 11 men died on their rig in the Gulf ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate deniers' review supports scientific consensus; Sustainability is winning over CEOs; Coal power industry’s deceptive attack on EPA; Coal plants don’t create the jobs they promise: study; Saving bats could prevent huge U.S. farming losses; Future of Pennsylvania is a dystopian wasteland; Water utilities failed to alert public to likely carcinogen; Study: many Quebec worksites contains high levels of asbestos; Right-wing Group Writes Anti-EPA Bills For State Legislatures; Almost Two Dozen Members Of Congress Get Farm Subsidies; Rep. Praises Excessive CEO Compensation; Skeptic Fest Kind of a Let Down for Deniers; The Truth, Still Inconvenient; Confronting climate collapse ... PLUS: Science bites climate skeptics in the ass on the House floor ....