It looks like Rove & Co. have their work cut out for them, the DoJ having turned down the president's [sic] request that they look into forcing a review of those 200,000 newly registered (Democratic) voters in Ohio. The URL for Robert Parry's piece on this development is just below.
And, nationwide, a number of the GOP's attempts at vote suppression have been slapped down by various courts, as Zachary Roth reports for TPM. (Below that is an article on what's gone down in Colorado.)
All of this is most encouraging--but no good reason for complacency, because with Karl in charge, and with the US press the way it is, you never know.
Pressure from Ohio Republicans and President Bush appears to have failed to get the Justice Department to intervene in Ohio.
GOP Voter Suppression:
More Miss than Hit
Yesterday we posted
a quick round-up of the various voter-suppression schemes being pushed by Republicans in swing states around the country. And after looking at the list, one thing quickly becomes clear: most of the efforts have failed.
There's no one grand unifying theory for why that's true.
In some cases, the courts have rejected GOP efforts to make voting harder:
- In Indiana, for instance, a Superior Court judge declined to support a GOP bid to shut down early voting centers in Democratic-leaning cities in Lake County, and the state Supreme Court chose not to immediately intervene.
- In Wisconsin, a suit brought by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen -- which he later admitted had been requested by the Republican Party -- seeking to force the state election board to re-confirm all newly registered voters was thrown out by a county court.
- In Michigan, a federal appeals court today blocked the Republican secretary of state, Terri Lynn Land, from throwing 5,500 newly registered voters off the rolls because their registration cards were returned as undeliverable, after voting-rights groups sued.
In other states, Democratic state officials or voting-rights advocates have held the line:
- In Nevada, Secretary of State Ross Miller denied a request from the state GOP to require voters to cast provisional ballots if they fixed mistakes in their voting information at the polls.
- In Colorado, a bid by Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman -- who himself is running for a seat in the U.S. House -- to purge 14,000 voters from the rolls was only partially successful. After voting-rights groups sued, a settlement was reached yesterday allowing the voters to cast provisional ballots. According to the Rocky Mountain News, those ballots would "be presumed to be valid unless state and county officials prove otherwise." A lawyer for the voting-rights groups called the deal "a win-win."
In still other places, it's been a combination of both factors:
- In Ohio -- perhaps the most high-profile example of voter-suppression this cycle -- the state GOP sued to force Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide local election officials with the names of new voters whose registration information didn't match other government documents. Brunner resisted, arguing, it appears correctly, that the information would be used to challenge large numbers of voters and cause chaos at the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with Brunner. (The Department of Justice deserves some of the credit here, too, for declining a request by the White House to intervene.)
And in some states, the Republicans appear to have done themselves in through the sheer chutzpah of their behavior, and the resulting outcry:
- In Montana, the state GOP announced plans to challenge 6000 voters in predominantly Democratic counties, based on discrepancies between in their listed addresses. But after even Republicans in the state denounced the ploy, the party backed off, and its executive director resigned.
- In New Mexico, the state party held a press conference at which it released the names, and some personal information, of ten voters, almost all Hispanic, that it said had voted fraudulently in a Democratic primary in June. It was later established that they were all legitimate voters. The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating reports by TPMmuckraker and others that a lawyer attached to the party sent a private investigator to the homes of some of these voters to question them about their voting status -- potentially violating federal voting laws.
Of course, that's not to suggest that Republican suppression efforts haven't been successful anywhere. In Florida
, for instance, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a Republican, has instructed
election officials to reject voter registration applications that do not pass a computer match test. Voting-rights groups say
the system can disqualify voters based on nothing more than a missing middle initial on their voter form. They fear the move could disenfranchise tens of thousands of legitimate voters. (Though even in the Sunshine State, there's a bright spot. GOP governor Charlie Crist on Tuesday ordered
extended hours for early voting centers, after long lines were reported in many parts of the state.)
Of course, the whole point of the voter-suppression game is to throw up as many gambits as possible, and hope that just a few succeed. And there's no way to measure the effect that even the unsuccessful ploys have in generating cynicism about the process itself, and thereby reducing turnout, to Republicans' advantage. So in a close election, it's still possible that voter suppression could make the difference -- as it may well have done
But it's worth noting that -- thanks largely to Democratic control of the secretary of state's offices in some key states; the skepticism with which many courts have looked on efforts to put obstacles in the way of voting; and the role of voting-rights groups and the press in exposing the bankruptcy of Republican claims -- the nationwide GOP voter-suppression effort appears to have been far less successful than the party might have hoped.
Not that we expect them to drop the tactic any time soon.
Colorado Agrees to
Restore Voters to Rolls
DENVER - Tens of thousands of Coloradans who had been removed from the state's voter rolls will be allowed to vote in next week's election and given extra protections so their ballots are counted, under an agreement reached late Wednesday in federal court here.
The voters' names had been removed by Mike Coffman, the Colorado
secretary of state, who said he did so because the voters had moved out of state or were listed more than once on the rolls. But Mr. Coffman was sued by a coalition of voting rights and other groups who said such purges were generally prohibited by federal law within 90 days of an election.
Under the agreement, voters removed from the rolls will be permitted to cast provisional ballots, and those ballots will be counted unless election officials can prove the voters were not eligible. To strike such ballots, county election officials must conduct an extensive records review on each one, a decision that must then be reviewed by Mr. Coffman's office.
"This is unprecedented," said Elizabeth Westfall, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that helped file the lawsuit. "We are really thrilled that there will be this degree of unprecedented scrutiny and protection for these purged voters when they cast their provisional ballots."
Mr. Coffman issued a statement Thursday saying he still believed that Colorado's election practices adhered to federal law and that "our goal has always been to have a system in place where every voter, who has the legal right to cast a ballot, is allowed to do so."
Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University
and an authority on voting litigation nationwide, said the settlement was noteworthy because many states had put the onus on voters to prove that their provisional ballots were legitimate before they could be counted. The settlement shifts this responsibility to the state, Mr. Foley said, and is more in keeping with the spirit of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which calls for election officials to count a provisional ballot if they can determine the voter's eligibility.
, a federal appeals panel in Detroit delivered a similar victory on Thursday for about 5,500 voters who had been dropped from the rolls. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said state elections officials should not remove registered voters from the rolls, even if their voter ID cards had been returned as undeliverable. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union
, the United States Student Association Foundation and the Michigan branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Help for Voters: A list of Web sites that provide information about voter registration.