“Since 1775, millions of young Americans have put their lives on the line to defend and support the United States of America,” wrote Mr. Gardner, who adds that voting is the appropriate way to show our collective gratitude.
Mr. Gardner’s plea comes at a time when Republican governors and legislatures in Georgia and many other states are cynically suppressing the right to vote, making a mockery of his words.
Ever since the contested 2000 presidential election, GOP governors and their state legislatures have erected all kinds of obstacles to keep voters away from polling places, mainly African-Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, the poor, the elderly, students, and Americans with disabilities.
They say it’s to prevent voter fraud. But a 2007 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found, “by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.”
It’s true. For five years, the Bush administration’s Justice Department investigated voting fraud and managed a grand total of 86 convictions out of the 300 million of votes cast during that period.
Not one of those convictions was for the crime of impersonating an eligible voter, which is what anti-fraud laws are supposed to stop.
Thus, their intent is very clear. Specious GOP claims serve only to cheat eligible Americans of their franchise while dishonoring the sacrifice of the warriors who fought and died to protect our fundamental right.
Here in Georgia, you need a government-issued photo identity card to vote. What’s the big deal, ask voter ID proponents? Just get a photo ID. But the right question is, if there’s no voter fraud, why is a solution to a non-existent problem needed at all?
The answer comes from conservatives themselves.
Far right blogger Matthew Vadum recently wrote, “It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country.”
The GOP leader of the Pennsylvania House Majority, Mike Turzai, agreed, bragging this week that a voter ID law passed in his state would not protect the integrity of the election but, “would allow Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s GOP-led legislature imposed tighter voter registration deadlines and limited early voting, popular with minorities. Meantime, the state is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for purging voter rolls.
“Elections officials strike millions of names from the voter rolls using processes that are secret, prone to error and vulnerable to manipulation,” warns Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center.
Robert Bauer, who is organizing the Obama campaign’s deployment of thousands of lawyers ahead of the presidential election to help ensure eligible Americans won’t be denied their vote, said, “This is (the GOP’s) response to defeat (in 2008): changing the rules of participation so that fewer participate.”
Thankfully, a man who will participate in the 2012 election is Bill Internicola, 91, a Brooklyn-born World War II Bronze Star recipient and a Broward County voter for many years. Mr. Internicola, a hero of the Battle of the Bulge, was purged by Republicans and forced to show his military discharge papers to Florida voting officials.
When despots seize power they limit or do away with voting and other democratic institutions. Regardless of your political persuasion, you should be worried.
If disenfranchisement can happen to some Americans, it can happen to all of us.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.