Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum on the right to vote – as he described it, “the lifeblood of our democracy” – in the face of recent legislative voter id attacks. It was a reassuring commitment to act from the Justice Department (read the speech here, watch it here).
It comes amidst other encouraging election and voter protection news and efforts.
Cedric and I heard about many of these efforts at the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation‘s annual winter convening, where we had the privilege of moderating a session on the topic with presenters Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project, Eric Marshall from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Biko Baker of the League of Young Voters Education Fund.
And here, we’re pleased to share Color of Change’s new campaign targeting the source of much of the voter suppression legislation:
For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting for partisan gain — and now some of America’s biggest companies are helping them do it.
These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Voter ID bills linked to ALEC have already passed in seven states,1 and similar voter ID bills have been introduced in 27 other states.2
Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally, or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to affect the result of elections.3 What is clear is thatvoter ID laws prevent large numbers of eligible voters from casting a ballot, and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people.4
ALEC’s voter ID laws are undemocratic, unjust and part of a longstanding right wing agenda to weaken the Black vote. Major companies that rely on business from Black folks shouldn’t be involved in suppressing our vote. Please join us in demanding that these companies stop funding ALEC:
ALEC’s right wing agenda
The American Legislative Exchange Council is a behind-the-scenes group whose membership consists of legislators and corporations who work together to push legislation that benefits their interests. ALEC crafts model legislation, which its member legislators then introduce in statehouses across the country, without mentioning its corporate ties. The group has written legislation to impose harsher criminal penalties on juveniles, to privatize education, and to break unions.
ALEC is funded in part by the Koch Brothers, the same family that funds the radically conservative tea party. It also receives funding from large corporations, many of which are household names.
“Voter fraud” and discriminatory voter ID laws
Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws say they’re needed to stop “voter fraud.” The fact is that voter fraud rarely occurs, and when it does occur it does not happen at a scale that would change the outcome of an election. The kind of voter fraud addressed by the ALEC voter id bill happens as infrequently as death by lightning.5
Over and over again, the myth of widespread voter fraud is used to justify stronger restrictions on voting and voter registration (like voter ID laws), as well as voter roll purges. It has also been used to attack organizations which register large numbers of low income and minority voters, by painting simple mistakes made during registration drives as organized efforts to commit voter fraud. These kind of made up scandals have helped the right wing convince the public that voter fraud is real and voter ID laws are necessary to protect the integrity of elections.
The truth is that voter ID laws are discriminatory — Black people, Latinos, the elderly, students, people with disabilities, and the poor are all less likely to have the photo IDs necessary to vote under these laws.6 For example, if you’ve recently moved because of foreclosure or some other economic circumstance, you’re more likely to have recently ended up in a new state which won’t accept your out of state driver’s license. If you don’t have a car, you’re less likely to have a driver’s license in the first place.
In many states, it can be expensive and time consuming to secure the proper ID. Even when the ID itself is free, it often requires supporting documents like a birth certificate which cost money to achieve. There are already stories of voters who have been eligible for years struggling to navigate a frustrating bureaucratic maze in order to vote. Requiring ID to vote amounts to a modern day poll tax. And that’s the real purpose of voter ID laws – they are an important part of the modern effort to suppress the votes of groups that usually vote against right wing politicians.
These laws are part of a long history of voter suppression directed at Black folks and other underrepresented groups. No longer is the Black vote suppressed through violence, intimidation and literary tests. It’s now suppressed through laws that make it burdensome and difficult for many Black folks to vote.
Corporate-backed voter suppression
Some of the companies supporting ALEC may simply be unaware that the group is involved in voter suppression. Others might think that voter suppression will benefit their political interests, and hope that they can get away with supporting it because so few people have even heard of ALEC.
We’ve started reaching out to these companies to make sure they know what they’re supporting, and to demand that they stop. Adding your voice to this campaign will help us convince these companies that continuing to support ALEC will hurt their reputation with consumers. We hope that many of them will simply do the right thing and stop supporting ALEC. If they don’t, we’ll be prepared to shine a spotlight on them and make sure the world understands what they’re involved in.
Please take a moment to join us in standing up to corporate-backed voter suppression. And please ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes just a moment:
Thanks and Peace,
— Rashad, James, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
December 8th, 2011
photo credit: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/alec?akid=2315.1263391._IZY8-&rd=1&t=2