The Latest GOP Voter Suppression Act

The GOP has a cottage industry that gins up stories about “voter fraud” on a mass scale in elections — without any evidence to support it — promoted by partisan hacks like John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, and wingnut conspiracy web sites like World Net Daily, Breitbart.com, and Info Wars. (Agent Fox Mulder in X Files is a piker compared to these conspiracy mongers). This B.S. is then mainstreamed by FAUX News and conservative hate talk radio.

Screenshot from 2016-01-26 06:42:51Actual “voter fraud” is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. It is a myth, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Leprechauns and Big Foot. Myth of Voter Fraud | Brennan Center for Justice. (h/t Dr. Pepper commercial, “I exist support group.”) Tea-Publicans are to voter fraud what agent Fox Mulder is to aliens from outer space: “I want to believe.”

So once again we are to be subjected to a solution in search of a non-existent problem because Tea-Publicans want to believe in myths that do not exist. Arizona bill seeks to outlaw early ballot collection:

Insisting there must be fraud taking place — there’s just gotta be! — a Republican-controlled House committee voted Monday to make it a felony to take someone else’s early ballot to a polling place.

The 4-2 party-line vote on House Bill 2023 came after a series of speakers, many with links to the Republican Party, said they have heard of situations where groups collect ballots and then choose to turn in only those where the vote is likely to go the way they want. They said that can be as simple as figuring out the political registration of the person whose ballot is being picked up to peering through less-than-opaque envelopes.

More than two hours of testimony, however, turned up no actual evidence beyond hearsay. Even state Elections Director Eric Spencer conceded he could point to no specific instances where someone tossed away someone else’s early ballot, something that is already a crime.

But Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the House Education Committee, said it should not be necessary to wait before outlawing what has been termed “ballot harvesting.”

“It increases the opportunity for fraud to exist,” she said.

And Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it’s irrelevant whether there is fraud or not.

“What is indisputable is that many people believe it’s happening,” he said.

“You can’t really argue with that. And I think that matters.”

Many people believe a lot of things that have no factual basis and are not grounded in reality. In the legal setting, you have to make your case with the substantial weight of the evidence. The same standard should apply for formulating public policy. This fool J.D. Mesnard simply says “I want to believe!” it is happening, so that’s good enough for him. Sorry, fool. That’s not good enough. You have no evidence. Case dismissed.

Arizona is among a majority of states that provide early ballots.

Voters can request to have a ballot mailed to them to be filled out at home. They then can either mail it back in a prepaid envelope or take it directly to a polling place.

But Arizona law also permits a voter to give that ballot to anyone else to return. Spencer said 18 states have specific prohibitions against that.

[Note: Arizona’s political parties have offered to pick up and deliver ballots for years, and it was never an issue. It only became an issue after Latino voter organizations organized for the recall of former state Senator Russell Pearce and successfully recalled that xenophobic nativist from office. Latino voter organizations have continued to assist voters in Latino areas with voting. The true motivation for this bill is Latino voter organizations assisting the “wrong kind of voters” with voting.]

Spencer said his boss, Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan, believes it should be “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

He said the envelopes used by some counties — he did not name names — are thin enough to enable someone who collects them to see how someone voted.

“That creates a big temptation to cheat,” Spencer said.

HB 2023 would leave exceptions for family members, those living in the same household, and caregivers for those living in nursing homes or similar facilities.

There is no question that outside groups are collecting ballots.

Stacey Morley, lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association, said teachers and parent groups will go to homes ahead of bond and override elections to make sure that people who have requested early ballots turn them in. Morley told lawmakers her group’s concern is maximizing voter participation in what are often low-turnout elections.

“We are very concerned this would make our teachers felons,” she said. The measure carries a presumptive one-year prison term for first-time offenders.

Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said she has personally taken someone else’s ballot to a polling place if there is a chance it would otherwise not arrive on time. Arizona law counts only ballots received by 7 p.m. on election day; those arriving later are not counted even if they are postmarked on time.

And Rep. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said there are portions of her rural district which do not have mail delivery, meaning someone who wants to return an early ballot has to make a special trip to the post office.

* * *

A similar provision was approved by lawmakers in 2013 in a package of other changes that foes said were designed to curtail voting by minorities [The Voter Suppression Act from Michele Reagan and Michelle Ugenti]. But legislators repealed it after foes gathered enough signatures [for a referendum] to force the issue to a public vote.

It is unclear whether approval this year will lead to a similar effort. But Will Gaona, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, suggested to legislators that its approval could lead to a lawsuit.

“It may infringe on protected First Amendment right activities,” he said.

The Republic’s Laurie Roberts expressed the appropriate skepticism of this bill. Is Big Foot fixing elections in Arizona? (Our leaders are on it):

Hoping the third time’s the charm, the Arizona Legislature on Monday kicked off its annual effort to address widespread instances of voter fraud in Arizona.

Rampant abuses in which people are going door to door and demanding that you hand over your unmarked ballot in an effort to fix elections.  Shocking instances in which ballots are collected then thrown away if the voter selected the “wrong” candidate.

You know…  all those times when…. well, OK we don’t actually know that this sort of thing is happening. It’s just that, well, you know.

It could happen.

And so comes House Bill 2023, which would make it a felony  — punishable by up to a year in jail — to turn in an early ballot for anyone unless you are a family member, household member or caregiver.

The bill was first passed in 2013, only to be withdrawn after voters mounted a successful referendum drive. Last year, the bill returned but died in the waning hours of the session, roadkill in our leaders’ headlong rush to adjournment.

And now, here it is again. It cleared the House Elections Committee on Monday on a 4-2 partyline vote.

“The need for this bill is pretty straightforward,” state Elections Director Eric Spencer, who works for Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan, told the panel.

I’ll say.

This became an issue after the successful recall of Republican Sen. Russell Pearce in 2012. At the time, Citizens for a Better Arizona mounted a get-out-the-vote drive among Pearce’s constituents. The group collected completed early ballots and delivered them to county elections headquarters, to ensure they would be counted.

Since then, voter-outreach groups have continued to collect early ballots, often in heavily minority areas, in an effort to improve turnout.

There is no evidence that any of those ballots were subject to tampering. No one has uncovered boxes of early ballots tossed into a back alley because they included votes for the “wrong” person.

Either, of course, would already be a crime.

But never let the lack of evidence get in the way of a Legislature determined to fix problems that don’t actually exist. Or, if they do exist, we already have laws to take care of them.

It is, we are told, a matter of integrity.

“You can believe there’s fraud happening or not but what is indisputable is that many people believe it is happening,” Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, told his fellow committee members.

Well, a lot of people also believe in Big Foot but that doesn’t mean the Arizona Legislature should create a task force to go looking for the big guy.

If, however, Big Foot does exist and he tampered with ballots, he already could be prosecuted for a class-five felony.

This bill isn’t really protecting the system from fraud. It’s about protecting the system from the wrong sort of voters – first-time voters and those new to the country, who don’t really understand how it all works. The ones who are working several jobs and just don’t have time to drop off a ballot once they realize they didn’t get it into the mail.

The ones who live in rural areas and can’t make it into town to the nearest post office to drop off their ballots.

In other words, the ones who probably aren’t voting Republican.

Exactly!

2 Responses to The Latest GOP Voter Suppression Act

  1. captain*arizona

    Here is an idea. Instead of the usual liberal whining put an initiative on the ballot to make it a crime to prevent an american citizen of arizona entitled to vote from registering to vote or voting. Maybe the state democratic party can take time out from fund raising fat cats so the paid staffs paychecks don’t bounce to get behind this. I bet kavenaugh or huppenthal don’t dare answer this post!

  2. If they really wanted to avoid voter fraud what they would do is make it a felony to collect another person’s ballot AND FAIL TO TURN IT IN! Clearly they only want to make it harder for voter assistance groups to turn in ballots. Hmm another idea for an inititive?

    The Voter Protection Collection Act — guaranteeing that all ballots harvested must be turned in on time to the proper authorities. Any individual collecting ballots and either throwing them away or destroying them would be subject to a year in jail and $$$ fine per ballot. Ditto for accepting a voter registeation form and failing to turn it in. (I’m thinking of the Republican operative a few elections back who sent people around to register voters and threw away the registration forms for Democratic voters.) Ballot envelopes could have a tear off external receipt, each person who collects ballots would sign and give the voter the receipt, then if the ballot goes missing the voter would have proof that the person collecting the ballot failed to deliver it. This would be a system that would ensure ballots collected actually were delivered and would provide a proper methodology to groups wanting to provide that service for their communities. Include a little wording on vote tampering and you have resolved the Republican concerns without preventing community pick up services from functioning. Easy peasy.

    But let’s face it the rat bastards don’t want to fix the problem, they just don’t want people to vote.