By Farron Cousins
November 10th, 2012 8:00am
Now that the euphoria of this week’s election has worn off, its time to get back to business. But Democrats have always had a problem looking backwards, which typically is a nice trait to have, but not when it comes to the massive problem of voter suppression.
In the 2004 election, Democrats remained up in arms for years because of voting irregularities and hours-long lines in places like Florida and Ohio, the two states that handed that year’s victory to George W. Bush. But when Obama won in 2008, Democrats did nothing to fix the problems with our voting system that still plagued us in 2008 (and in 2012.) They seemed to believe that, since they won the presidency, the problems weren’t that bad anymore.
This year’s election tells us that the problems are not only not solved, but actually getting worse.
Many progressives declared victories in the last few months when courts in places like Pennsylvania ruled against restrictive voter ID laws. But what they failed to realize was that the rules were only struck down for this election. Starting next year, those laws will be in full effect, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands voters without photo IDs.
And that’s just the beginning. Restrictive laws have been put on the books all over the country, as the Brennan Center points out:
At least 180 restrictive bills introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.
47 restrictive bills currently pending in 12 states.
23 laws and 2 executive actions passed since the beginning of 2011 in 18 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin).
15 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia). These states account for 210 electoral votes, or nearly 78 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
Of these, 12 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 8 states (Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia).
Photo ID laws. At least thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, and an additional four states introduced legislation requesting that voters show photo identification to register or to vote. Photo ID bills were signed into law in eight states—Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—and passed by referendum in Mississippi. Studies show that at least 11% of eligible voters across America do not obtain a state-issued ID card.
Proof of citizenship laws. At least seventeen states introduced legislation that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote.
Making voter registration harder. At least sixteen states introduced bills to end highly popular Election Day and same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities.
Reducing early and absentee days. At least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities.
Making it harder to restore voting rights. Two states—Florida and Iowa—reversed prior executive actions that made it easier for citizens with past felony convictions to restore their voting rights, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. In effect, both states now permanently disenfranchise most citizens with past felony convictions.
Yes, Barack Obama handily defeated Mitt Romney in spite of the best suppression efforts of Republicans. But that doesn’t mean these problems weren’t an issue, or that they won’t be an issue in future elections. Republicans are now in panic mode, and we can only expect things to get much, much worse in the months and years to come.
And that’s why we can’t assume these problems have fixed themselves. That’s why we have dedicated journalists like Brad Friedman, Ari Berman, and organizations like the Brennan Center who continue to educate, inform, and fight back against the oppressive tactics of the GOP.
Now is not the time to celebrate – now is the time to take action.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com, and the producer of Ring of Fire.