A little bit done and accomplished is better than a whole lot planned.
Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, is doing more than a little bit. To commemorate the March on Washington and the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, she is co-hosting the NCBCP Unity ’12 Campaign organizing meeting.
Melanie has issued a call to action:
We need all hands on deck! Black history has taught us that when we work together in UNITY, we have the collective power to win our fights against injustice and ignite new movements for economic, political and social justice for all people.
On March 15, 1965, President Johnson stood before Congress and declared, “And we shall overcome”:
Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law.
Well, it’s back to the future where there are no uniform standards. Faceless clerks and election officials are making up the rules on who is eligible to vote. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
State officials said PennDOT clerks could now take age and other factors into consideration and grant exceptions to document requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Another source of confusion, for people trying to figure out if they already have the ID they need to vote: seemingly minor differences between names on photo ID cards and names on voter registration lists.
The new law addresses this issue, saying the name on a voter’s photo ID must “substantially conform” to the name on the roll of registered voters, which is duplicated in poll books distributed to every polling place on Election Day.
But the law does not offer any further explanation of what “substantially conform” means - leaving that to election officials at various levels to figure out on their own.
And as reported, election officials’ level of understanding of the new photo ID requirements varies from county-to-county:
Renee Cohen, a Democratic committeewoman in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, wanted to identify Democrats in her precinct who might need help.
She called Montgomery County voter services about two of them: a woman who had used the name “Judy” on her voter registration form, but “Judith” on her driver’s license, and a man who used the initials “C.J.” on his registration, but “Charles J.” on his driver’s license.
Amanda Witman, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, said both situations described by Cohen “would be ‘substantially conforming,’ in our opinion. That’s what we would recommend to the county election directors. But at the end of the day, it is their decision to make.. . . As we interpret the law, the county election directors do make the final decisions on those issues for their respective counties.”
Cohen got a different answer, however, when she called Montgomery County voter services.
I have monitored elections in Ethiopia and Angola, and conducted democracy training in Central Asia. The arbitrary way in which Pennsylvania’s voter ID law is being implemented would never pass the “free and fair” standard to which emerging democracies are held.
With a sustained public awareness campaign, we shall overcome voter ID. But freedom isn’t free. Please make a donation to the Cost of Freedom Project.
A recently released News21 analysis found there is no evidence that voter ID requirements are need. After an exhaustive search of public records, the News21 team concluded voter fraud is “‘virtually non-existent”:
Analysis of the resulting comprehensive News21 election fraud database turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation. With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.
David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business, told News21:
Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections. There is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States.
While in-person voter impersonation is a figment of Republicans’ imagination, it’s easy to imagine the confusion and long lines voter ID will cause on Election Day. A Washington Post poll found that voters don’t know what they don’t know. Jon Cohen, The Post’s director of polling, observed:
From a public awareness standpoint, it’s pretty low awareness, We’re talking about under half of all American adults who have even heard something of this raging controversy.
Last week, the Cost of Freedom Project, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation launched a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the new photo ID requirements.
Please make a donation to support the campaign. Voters can’t get ready if they don’t know they are in the crosshairs.