For Immediate Release: October 2, 2012
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833
IO: Voting Rights Under Assault in 6 of 9 Swing States
Study Highlights Voter Suppression Efforts in OH, FL, PA, WI, VA, NH
Columbus: Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a report today, “Votes at Risk,” which finds that Republican Governors, state legislatures, and other elected officials have systematically pursued voter suppression efforts in six of the nation’s nine battleground “swing states.” Given that Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and New Hampshire account for 94 electoral votes (out of the 270 needed to win the Presidency), lowering overall turnout in those states could have a major impact on the 2012 election. Visit our report page here.
While the precise suppression mechanisms vary from state to state, “photo ID laws in some states; a reduction in early voting hours in others,” the study says they constitute “a concerted and coordinated effort to strip millions of people from the voting rolls before the presidential election.” Targeted are “those most likely to support Democrats –minorities, students, the poor, the elderly, and people with disabilities.”
The report notes that although Republicans routinely justify voting restrictions as necessary to combat “voter fraud,” such fraud is exceedingly rare. Even in the hotly contested 2004 Presidential race, for example, Ohio’s rate of voter fraud “was just 0.00004% —about the same frequency as people being struck dead by lightning.”
Said IO President Janetta King:
“The right to cast a vote freely and have it counted fairly is a fundamental right of every American citizen. To abridge that right, or to make exercising more difficult, is utterly contrary to contemporary American values. For nearly 50 years, ever since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the history of America is the history of making voting easier, not harder. Those who are attempting to turn the clock back for should be ashamed.”
Added IO Communications Director Dale Butland:
“In every state enacting voter restrictions, proponents have argued they are necessary to combat ‘voter fraud.’ But in no case have they been able to show that voter fraud is a serious problem.
So instead, they insist that ‘photo ID’ laws—like those enacted in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin –are not onerous since one must show such an ID before driving a car, boarding an airplane, or cashing a check. Leave aside that some 21 million people, roughly 11% of all voters, including 18% of senior citizens and 25% of African-Americans, lack a government-issued ID. The more important point is while no American has a constitutional right to drive, fly, or cash a check, ALL Americans have a constitutionally protected right to vote.
In other states, like Ohio, voter suppression has taken the form of reducing the number of early voting days, including its complete elimination on the final week-end before the election. Ostensibly, this is for “budgetary” reasons. But since County Commissioners and Elections Board officials say keeping the same number of early voting days as before presents no financial hardship, suppressing the votes of the 94,000 Ohioans who cast their ballots on the final weekend before the election in 2008, many of whom were African-Americans, seems a more likely explanation.”