Last night, Rachel Maddow ran an update on the GOP War on Voting. Her report included a number of items we've covered here recently --- such as the protest by former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson who refused to show a Photo ID when trying to vote under TN's new voter suppression law on Tuesday, the Wisconsin court ruling temporarily blocking the state's Photo ID restrictions after finding it likely violates the WI Constitution's "right to vote" clause.
Here's Maddow's full report...
Maddow also covers several stories that we haven't been able to cover at The BRAD BLOG yet. Among them, the new Photo ID restriction law that was passed yesterday in the Pennsylvania Senate and is likely to become law, if not stopped somehow, this November. As Pennsylvania is not one of the "covered jurisdictions" subject to preclearance of new election laws by Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, it would be another excellent candidate, like the one in Wisconsin, for challenge by the DoJ under Section 2 of that act, as our own legal analyst Ernie Canning persuasively argued recently.
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:
“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...
She reported: "Ohio's one of a number of states across the country where you can't get a regular ballot to vote anymore without showing documentation that you didn't have to use to show to vote. Now you can't vote in Ohio unless you can show documentation --- usually with a photo included --- that proves, among other things, your address. So even though this 86-year old, WWII veteran who's been living and voting in Aurora, Ohio for almost forty years, even though he had an ID on him, he was not allowed to vote on Tuesday, because it was not the right kind of ID."
Now, as far as that strictly goes, it's correct. But it's somewhat misleading. It should be noted that Ohio's Voter Identification law has been in place for a number of years, and mirrors similar ID laws in many states where a host of non-Photo IDs --- such as an original or copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or current paycheck --- are all acceptable and largely reasonable forms of ID, in addition to state-issued Photo IDs such as drivers licenses.
In other words, this has been the law for some time in the Buckeye State, and not one of the new laws passed since 2010 by Republican legislatures in their unprecedented attempt to restrict voting rights.
Maddow implied otherwise when she groups the very sad Ohio vet story with others, such as the former U.S. Marine turned away under the TN GOP's new Photo ID restriction, or the one in WI found unconstitutional and put on hold this week by a judge there, or the one passed yesterday by the PA Senate which is likely to soon become law.
It's an outrage that the 86-year WWII vet wasn't allowed to simply sign an affirmation and cast a normal ballot. He was presumed guilty, rather than innocent, under Ohio's existing law. But it's not a new law, and there is a specific reason why it's important to make this distinction right now.
"All of these new laws, passed by Republican legislatures this year, will have the expected effect of suppressing the vote among the poorest Americans this year," she reports, referring to minorities, the elderly and student populations --- all of whom just happen to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates --- who all stand to be disenfranchised this year by the new, purposely restrictive GOP laws.
The voter identification law in Ohio, however, has been on the books for a while. The state GOP did, however, attempt to institute new restrictive voting laws there last year in their HB 194 law which makes receiving absentee ballots much more difficult, and shortens the amount of time for early voting. There had also been a last minute effort to institute strict polling place Photo ID restrictions into that bill at the last minute. That effort was stopped, thankfully, due in no small part to the new Republican Sec. of State John Husted who had worked with the legislature on the bill, but was later outraged to find they'd added a Photo ID restriction to it.
As we noted at the time, Husted posted a powerful statement condemning that proposed addition on the OH Sec. of State's website, saying: "I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes. I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters' ballots from counting."
Husted is to be commended for that. Given the near entirety of the Republican Party right now who are blatantly assaulting voting rights --- at war with them, in fact --- it's important to note, and highlight, one of them when they do not. Particularly, as in this case, when they actually buck their own party and stand up strongly against the disenfranchisement of voters, as Husted did.
After public backlash against HB 194, as it was passed (without the Photo ID restriction), led to a wildly successful petition campaign to put the bill up to a vote on the November ballot for a possible "voter veto", the law was officially suspended for 2012, pending the results of that referendum.
Husted, for the record, has since called for the law to be repealed entirely, which would make the November referendum moot. Opponents of the bill, however, including the former Democratic Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner, would like the unpopular bill (a February poll found 54% of voters would repeal it, versus 31% who support it), to remain on this year's general election ballot.
"It’s obvious that they’ve figured out that this is a bad law all in all, and that they potentially sustain political damage if it’s on the ballot," says Brunner. "But unfortunately, the voice of the people, which is in the Constitution, doesn’t give them any out here. They need to face the consequences of what they’ve done."
So that's where things current stand in Ohio, where it's very important to be very accurate on these things --- particularly in a year when Republicans absolutely are attempting to undermine the legitimate voting rights of Democrats via unprecedented legislative efforts. (See Ari Berman's Rolling Stone article today headlined "GOP War on Voting Targets Swing States" for much more on that.) But here, in Ohio, at least on this one point, we have a Republican Sec. of State who has faced down his own party to do the right thing, and that should be noted for the record.
Other than that small, but important distinction concerning Ohio's law, Maddow, is otherwise entirely on the money in her analysis, particularly as she notes in closing in her report: "If you are the Republican Party looking ahead to what very well may be a razor thin election result this November, then whether or not you win, comes out to who turns out to vote, right? And who doesn't turn out to vote. Who's allowed to vote and who's not allowed to vote."
"If you can somehow find a way to drive up the participation of the wealthiest Americans and drive down participation of poorer Americans," she says, "frankly that's the ball game."
And so it is.
As an aside, for the moment, Maddow's report also references the ridiculously close results in Ohio's GOP Presidential Primary on Tuesday, as currently reported by the OH Sec. of State's website, and the fact that there are still a bunch of untallied, unreported votes there for some unknown reason.
But aside from the questions about those GOP Presidential tallies, there are others that remain about results elsewhere in the Buckeye State, and we'll try to have a bit more on that very soon...
UPDATE: As promised, here now are some of those troubling results out of OH, as mentioned above.