Voter suppression and its impact on polling data

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Pres. Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a poll watcher. Every time a new poll comes out, I have to check it out. I stare at the numbers with my eyebrows furrowed and my eyes squinting as if I stared long enough, the numbers would miraculously shrink if they are in favor of Mitt Romney, or increase if they are in favor of President Obama. Watch as I may, I realize that polls, like the minds of us all, change moment to moment. Knowing that, I still watch every time a new one appears.

Until today, I never linked the possibility of what voter ID laws and other voter suppression tactics could do to skew the numbers.  In response to recent polling data that shows President Obama ahead in the key states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, Charles Blow of the New York Times wrote an article last night that said:

Pennsylvania has passed a highly restrictive photo ID requirement for its voters. A study conducted by professors from the University of Washington and the University of New Mexico found that more than a million registered voters in Pennsylvania and 757,325 people who voted in 2008 lack a valid ID under this scheme. More than a third of registered voters are unaware that a photo ID law even exists.

This means that a lot of people who say that they are likely to vote may not actually be eligible to vote. (Arguments in a suit contesting the Pennsylvania law are being heard this week .)

Now to Florida and Ohio: both states have cut their early voting periods. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than a million people who voted in Florida and Ohio in 2008 did so on days that have been eliminated. [….]

That’s eliminating the right to vote for over two million voters in just those states. The Brennan Center states in its 2012 Summary of Voting Law Changes:

At least 180 restrictive bills introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.

47 restrictive bills currently pending in 12 states.

24 laws and 2 executive actions passed since the beginning of 2011 in 19 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin).

16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia). These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.

Of these, 13 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 9 states (Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia). [….]

This is serious and deeply disconcerting that a major political party in the U.S. is committing fraud and is poised to steal an election by disenfranchising voters who don’t share their ideology or who traditionally don’t vote for them. Whatever happened to standing on one’s integrity, sound judgment and leadership skills? Whatever happened to who can best create value for all of America’s citizens?

Such ideals do not appear in the conduct of the New Republican Party. What they have shown and continue to show us is they’re not in office to govern in a way that creates value for Americans by engaging in a meaningful and open dialogue, even among themselves. Instead, they are in office to impose their ideology on the rest of us. If successful, this country would be thrown into a chaotic mess far worse that anything we have witnessed under any previous administration.

Strong words but maybe not strong enough. Look at the strategy Republicans discussed in 2009 to win the next election. Former Florida Republican state party chair Jim Greer said in a deposition taken in May 2012 as part of his ongoing corruption case that, “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” and that party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party.” [….] The deposition was released several days ago and while some may say Greer’s just engaging in a bit of sour grapes because of the riff between him and his party, I believe him. Besides, some Republican law makers are now boldly claiming that the voter ID laws will make sure Romney wins.

I have faith in the American people and I believe that regardless of political beliefs, most Americans will take a deeper look into what is happening and will ask themselves what kind of leadership can be gained from anyone whose only method of governing is to say “my way or the highway.” That’s not governing based on sound judgment, leadership and integrity, that’s bullying. It’s the kind of bullying that extends beyond bluster and bravado often heard to express a point of view in the halls of Congress. It’s the kind of bullying that says if you won’t do it my way, I will destroy you.

Forget party affiliation. Americans are going to ask themselves, “Why vote for someone whose policies aim to crush the middle class by attacking teachers, firefighters, police officers while sending other jobs overseas. Who threaten other countries as if ready to do battle with them while simultaneously proposing more taxes on the military and their families. Speaking of taxes, Republicans voted in the House to give another huge tax break to the rich ($87,000) by forcing the rest of us to cough up $2000 more in taxes to pay for it. Regardless of one’s political party, the majority of Americans are not going to vote for these folks come November. Republicans realize that and that’s why they are desperately seeking other, nefarious ways to suppress the vote.

Reflecting on the mood of voters in 2007 and 2008, we all wanted someone to go to Washington and fix it. We wanted someone to willingly reach across the aisle and say what the majority of Americans have in our hearts, namely, we are all in this together. I firmly believe that’s what we got when we elected President Obama. Despite mine and others’ fascination with polling data, coupled with the horror of the potential impact of the voter suppression laws, I believe we’ll all make the kind of choice that selects a leader who has and continues to display leadership based on creating value for us all.

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