“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
That wise observation comes from the great political savant, Groucho Marx. It describes precisely the Republicans’ current effort to keep people from voting.
North Carolina’s present election record should be commended. In the past 20 years, the state has made it easier for citizens to register and to vote.
Consider these reforms:
* Multiple locations to register and to vote. Libraries and deputized groups or individuals can register voters, and the number of early voting sites have expanded. There were 250 early voting sites in 2004 and 368 in 2008.
* Expanding the number of days in which citizens can register. In 2007, the state was the first in the South to allow registration and voting on the same day. In times past, a citizen had to register 25 days before Election Day.
* Expanded early voting, up to 17 days before Election Day. In the 2008 election, 61 percent of the 2.4 million voters cast absentee or early voting ballots.
The purpose of these reforms is to encourage people to get out and vote. The state has seen dismal turnouts in times past. The state and nation hardly match voter participation in other democracies such as France (80 percent), Germany (71 percent) and Great Britain, (66 percent).
North Carolina recorded a 70 percent turnout in 2008, a record in modern times. And there were very, very few voter fraud cases. The election reforms worked.
So why are Republican controlled legislatures here and elsewhere trying to restrict and curtail voting?
Their claim to prevent fraud is bogus. And they know it. North Carolina’s voter fraud, like the nation’s, is “extremely rare,” to use a phrase from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. Indeed, only one voter impersonation at the polls was found in the last 10 years.
The whole idea of requiring photo identification and other voting obstacles has been pushed for years by conservative organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their unspoken agenda is to suppress votes from poor people and minorities who tend to vote Democratic, especially blacks. It’s no coincidence that these voting restrictions are popular in most Southern states.
Groucho Marx got a laugh with his observation, but the current wave of Republican sponsored voter identification laws is nothing short of unethical and Machiavellian voter suppression. Shame on them.