Block the Vote 2006
(guest post by Taylor Marsh)
If you can’t win fair and square, steal it. This from The New York Times, no less.
According to an editorial today, J. Kenneth Blackwell is at it again. Not only is this Republican likely breaking election law, but he doesn’t even care, as long as he gets the desired results. It also gives you a glimpse into the real trouble in Republicanland.
If there was ever a sign of a ruling party in trouble, it is a game plan that calls for trying to win by discouraging voting.
The latest sign that Republicans have an election-year strategy to shut down voter registration drives comes from Ohio. As the state gears up for a very competitive election season this fall, its secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, has put in place "emergency" regulations that could hit voter registration workers with criminal penalties for perfectly legitimate registration practices. The rules are so draconian they could shut down registration drives in Ohio.
Shutting down voter registration in Ohio follows a campaign started in Florida, where the legislature passed laws so tightly wound that it has the League of Women Voters walking away from their traditional voter registration drives for the first time in over 60 years.
For the first time in 67 years, members of the League of Women Voters of Florida have stopped going door to door registering future voters. It has become too risky, they say.
It’s not criminals they’re afraid of, it’s a new law that "imposes potentially ruinous fines and burdensome requirements on all organizations registering voters," according to a lawsuit filed in Miami federal court Thursday on behalf of a coalition of civic, public interest and labor groups.
A Florida law that took effect Jan. 1 imposes fines of $250 — on both organization and volunteer — for each voter registration application submitted more than 10 days after it’s collected, $500 for each application submitted after the voter registration deadline and $5,000 per application if it’s not submitted at all.
Proposed as a measure to combat voting fraud, what it’s really doing is derailing civic-minded, nonpartisan groups like the League, said Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, the group’s president.
"Basically, it constricts our ability to carry out our core mission to educate voters and get them involved in the political process," she said.
With an $80,000 budget, 16 lost or misplaced voter registration forms, theoretically, could bankrupt the League of Women Voters of Florida. It could also open up its volunteers to a financial risk many couldn’t afford. So on March 19, Wheatley-Giliotti suspended her group’s voter registration efforts.
The League is not amused with what they see is an attempt to suppress voter turn out, so they’re suing. No wonder Republicans don’t like lawyers, at least those lawyers willing to fight for everyone, not just the wingnuts.
In Ohio, Blackwell has interpreted Ohio’s new law to mean that registration workers, both paid and unpaid, actually hand in their voter registration to an election office. This means that supervisors don’t get them for review, to see what errors there are on the forms. In addition, Blackwell is evidently not accepting registration applications through the mail, in direct violation of election law.
But there is one clear way that Ohio’s election system is corrupt. Decisions about who can vote are being made by a candidate for governor. Mr. Blackwell should hand over responsibility for elections to a decision maker whose only loyalty is to the voters and the law.
"…Ohio’s election system is corrupt"?