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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 16, 2016

 

Cokie's Law: Beyond the Beltway

by Tom Sullivan

Digby long ago dubbed it Cokie's Law after newswoman/commentator Cokie Roberts: "It doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there." That's all the justification the press needs to keep reporting a falsehood until "unsubstantiated gossip masquerading as news" becomes something "everyone knows." But the press is late to the game. This has been the M.O. of the right regarding voting for decades.

Cokie's Law is the essential justification for big gummint haters requiring voters to present state-issued identity cards before they can exercise formal power in this country. Because "everyone knows" voter fraud is a problem. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there. I've been writing about this technique for some time:

Gaming election results through precision gerrymandering and repressive voting laws aimed at the poor and minorities is political Viagra® for the flagging demographic potency of the Republican base. Voter data matching exercises are not meant to uncover crimes, punish criminals, or even amass credible evidence. They are the pretext for a party suffering a lack of electoral confidence to throw smoke bombs into newsrooms and yell, “Voter fraud!” By the time the smoke clears and no evidence is found — again — of a “massive” problem, all viewers remember is that they saw smoke and heard cries of fraud. And where there’s smoke there must be a fire, right?
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Does ACORN ring a bell?

Based on creating the public perception of a problem for which there is scant evidence other than "it's out there," Republicans have erected barrier after barrier to voting for groups who tend to support their opponents. Case in point, Arizona, where get-out-the-vote organizers have for years offered to take sealed ballots to polling stations for voters:
In the sprawling urban jungle that is Phoenix, the state’s major population center, many poorer voters without a car struggle to get to the polls and are grateful for the help. For some down-ballot races – when teachers and parents are out lobbying for a bond or special tax to help local schools, say – it’s common for voters to place their completed ballots in a box on their street and for an organizer to pick up and deliver them.

Now, however, this perfectly routine practice has been branded “ballot harvesting” and outlawed under a draconian new voting law passed by Arizona’s Republican-dominated state legislature last month.

House Bill (HB) 2023 wasn’t in force for the 22 March primary but it will be, barring a court injunction, for November’s general election. Anyone caught helping a voter deliver an absentee ballot, with certain exceptions for the infirm, could now face a $150,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

The reason? According to the bill’s sponsors, it is to stamp out the possibility of fraud or voter coercion. “People show up with boxes and boxes of ballots that they have collected somehow,” said Arizona party official Tim Sifert. “The chain of custody is very suspicious. It’s rife with opportunity for mischief.”

Yet the Republicans have been unable to produce a single proven instance of actual fraud – raising the wide-spread suspicion that the real motive is to suppress turnout in a state with a long and inglorious history of voter suppression and, in particular, to suppress the votes of Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans, all of whom lean Democrat.

“There’s no proof of voter fraud in ballot collection,” charged Stacey Morley, a lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association, who argued against HB 2023 at a state house election committee hearing in January. “None of the witnesses who came forward for the other side had seen anything themselves. It was all, ‘I know a guy … ’ I mean, seriously?”
Yes, seriously. Because, ya know, it's out there.

The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton and Sanders presidential campaigns have filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona alleging systematic suppression of minority votes via HB 2023 and other tactics:
The Democrats cite the long lines from last month's presidential preference election as emblematic of voter disenfranchisement in Maricopa County. But their complaints, outlined in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, don't stop there. They argue Arizona's disparate treatment of provisional ballots, as well as a recently passed law that bars people from returning another voter's mail-in ballot, are further examples of other election practices that disenfranchise voters, especially minorities.

"Republicans are using every tool, every legal loophole and every fear tactic they can think of to take aim at voting rights wherever they can," Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.
Ari Berman has been dogged on reporting voter suppression. This week he reported on Eddie Holloway of Milwaukee who presented three forms of government-issued ID (according to in 2013 lawsuit) and was still unable to obtain an acceptable photo ID to vote:
He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting, but the DMV in Milwaukee rejected his application because the name on his birth certificate read "Eddie Junior Holloway," the result of a clerical error when it was issued.

Holloway, who worked as a cook in Illinois but is now unemployed and disabled, living with his family in Milwaukee, got a ride downtown to the Vital Records System to try to fix his birth certificate. Vital Records said it would cost between $400 and $600, which Holloway could not afford.
Charlie Pierce addressed the matter on Thursday, writing:
The Wisconsin law is functioning exactly the way it was designed to function. The purpose of these laws is not to ban certain people from voting; that would be illegal, even now that John Roberts has declared the Day Of Jubilee. The purpose is to make voting so difficult that people go broke, give up trying, or both.
When is the meme going to catch hold that these laws are a massive con perpetrated against democracy itself by people who have no use for it unless it serves the "right" people? That should be out there too.