Prior to the 2012 elections, I found myself in a discussion with a colleague concerning Republican efforts at what has come to be known as “voter suppression.” I was informing this person, who is well educated, that voter fraud is not a problem of any significance in the U.S.A. This individual rejected my contention, arguing that he was aware of countless examples of alleged fraud and that the efforts to make voting more difficult were justified.
A fascinating article in Mother Jones from July 2012, which I only just discovered, contains the sorts of ammunition that is needed in this debate, ammunition that really can not only end the argument but open up the real question: Why are the Republicans trying to make it more difficult to vote?
The article, by Hamed Aleaziz, Dave Gilson and Jaeah Lee [“UFO Sightings are more common than voter fraud,” www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/voter-id-laws-charts-maps] contains this little factoid at the end: Between 2000 and 2010 there were 649 million votes cast in general elections; 47,000 UFO sightings; 441 Americans killed by lightning; and 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation.
How is it possible that with no evidence of massive voter fraud that legislators around the nation have moved to narrow voting? The answer, to a great extent, has to do with race. First, the people making the allegations tend to be White and rich. They are playing into the growing fears among many average Whites that the U.S. is becoming a Black and Brown nation, and, to be honest, they are scared.
Second, the criminalization of Black America and the assumption that we are up to no good – as demonstrated most recently in the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin – opens up the door to the belief that African-Americans are somehow involved in trickery and voter fraud.
Yet voter suppression, which is not going away, is about more than the antipathy of many rich Whites for Black people. The voter suppression laws are not aimed solely at African Americans.
They remain part of the larger scheme to neutralize the growing majority in this country, a majority of people of color, youth, women and working people, that threatens the privileges of the rich and (in-)famous. Thus, we not only have voter suppression but we have gerrymandering of electoral districts to ensure that certain districts remain in the hands of Republicans.
Each time that you encounter an elected official who suggests that greater efforts need to be taken to stop alleged voter fraud, please ask them to provide you with documented evidence of a pattern of abuse.
Please ask them to provide you with documented numbers. Please ask them to provide you with proof of convictions.
And, if they cannot provide any of this, please ask them to shut their trap.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.