Here We Go Again

by digby

There's a big voter disenfranchisement scheme unfolding in Missouri this week. It could be a very big problem --- they want it in place before November:

Missouri, the battleground state that has accurately picked the Presidential winner in every election since the 1950s, now faces an unprecedented peril this week: the theft of the voting rights of at least 240,000 of its citizens (nuns included) and the sure loss of the swing state of Missouri to Republicans in the Presidential race in November. And If Obama, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party loses Missouri, he will likely lose the fall election as well.

Unfortunately, the wily "Thor" Hearne, the St. Louis-based voter-fraud propagandist and Republican lawyer who has been the leading GOP operative promoting vote suppression since 2000, has been working closely with the key Republican legislator promoting a new constitutional amendment requiring photo ID. Republicans are rushing to pass the measure before adjournment this Friday and bring it to voters in August, in time to stop enough blacks, the poor, the elderly, students and the disabled from voting Democratic in November.

As John Hickey, the executive director of the advocacy group ProVote, told me, ""If you exclude 240,000 people from the electorate, that is plenty to swing the election in Missouri," with state-wide races having razor-thin victory margins as little as 21,000.

This is one state where it really could make the difference.

Thor Hearne is one of the preeminent vote suppression experts in the Republican party. I've written about him many times. Brad Friedman has been following his every move for years. His involvement means this is a serious move to steal Missouri.

We know this hits African Americans and Latinos hard and it's designed to make them think twice about putting themselves through this legal hassle. But there's another group that's going to be hard hit by this ---- the elderly. And in Arizona, where they now require proof of citizenship, even though they've been voting for 60 years, they are now just out of luck:

The devastating personal impact of denying people the right to vote because they can't get hard-to-get photo ID and birth certificates is best illustrated by a heart-breaking story I reported earlier in the week . I spoke to 97-year-old Shirley Preiss about her efforts to vote in Arizona after having voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since FDR in 1932. I quote an ACORN organizer about the use of immigrant-bashing as a lever to block American citizens from voting, then I went on to tell Shirley's story. It bears repeating, because what happened to Shirley could happen to every poor person, disabled person, elderly person and minority who doesn't have the ready access to the funds, time and ability to navigate bureaucratic hurdles to obtain government-issued embossed birth certificates and other ID:

"All the discourse here is about immigration," Arizona ACORN organizer Monica Sandschafer observes. "But we're really talking about Arizonans who are Americans and whose legal right to vote is being denied. And while Latino citizens are hit hard, we're finding that all Arizonans are at risk of being disenfranchised by this requirement."

Perhaps no one knows that as well as 97-year-old Shirley Freeda Preiss. She was born at home in Clinton, Kentucky in 1910, before women had the right to vote, and never had a birth certificate. Shirley has voted in every presidential election since FDR first ran in 1932, and proudly describes herself as a "died-in-the-wool Democrat." After living in Arizona for two years, she was eagerly looking forward to casting her ballot in the February primary for the first major woman candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. But lacking a birth certificate or even elementary school records to prove she's a native-born American citizen, the state of Arizona's bureaucrats determined that this former school-teacher who taught generations of Americans shouldn't be allowed to vote.

"I have a constitutional right to vote, don't I?" she asks with her soft Southern drawl. "I didn't get to vote because of a birth certificate. What am I going to do now?"

Her strong-willed 78-year-old son, Nathan "Joey" Nemnich, a World War II veteran, is infuriated. "I'm pissed. She's an American citizen who worked her whole life and I want her to vote," he says. He went down to the local Motor Vehicle Division to get her an Arizona ID and register her to vote, armed with copies of his mother's three drivers' licenses from her previous home in Texas, along with copies of her Social Security and Medicare cards. All that wasn't good enough for the state of Arizona. "The sons of bitches are taking away our Constitution," Nemnich says.

In Arizona and now as seems likely in Missouri, Kafkaesque rules blend with right-wing ideology to block American citizens like Shirley Preiss from voting, collateral damage in the Republican-led war on democracy. "I was very disappointed," she says of the state's roadblocks to voting. "It's not acceptable. I've always voted."