Wanted to talk about the huge win for democracy enthusiasts in Pennsylvania yesterday, because voter suppression is bigger than a single state or a single law.
Conservatives and Republicans lost this round for two reasons: incompetence and overreach.
Governor Corbett put the law in place months ago, and then he and his appointees did absolutely nothing to facilitate an orderly revamp of the election system until they were sued. Meanwhile, people in Pennsylvania were navigating their way through several state agencies encountering absolute chaos while the litigation dragged on and Governor Corbett and his appointees frantically changed the rules in a futile effort to save the law for the 2012 Presidential election. If conservatives and the corporate entities that back ALEC want to radically change an existing state election system, they should probably work on basic management skills first. When state government fails, and county election officials have to step in, as happened in Pennsylvania (and Florida, incidentally) something is going terribly wrong.
The Pennsylvania law they pushed through is one of the most extreme in the country. It hit the groups and geography they targeted: African Americans, Latinos and young people, urban areas, but it also hit random elderly voters and rural poor people. There are many documents that can be used to ID a voter. There’s a long list of acceptable documents in Ohio. Yet, Pennsylvania conservatives set this up so voters had to travel to one or more state agencies to get a photo ID with an expiration date. Is anyone really surprised they weren’t able to issue hundreds of thousands of photo ID’s in 6 weeks?
This law was so extreme and so incompetently executed that it drew national attention, but it also did something else. It forced liberals and Democrats to organize in Pennsylvania around voter suppression with new energy and urgency. While it wasn’t always true that liberals and Democrats made up the entire voting rights coalition (some Republicans at the national level worked to protect or expand voting rights up until the late 1990s) it is true now. There are no conservative or Republican voting rights advocates anymore. They’re gone. The entire GOP and conservative coalition are aligned with the absolute bullshit that is “voter impersonation fraud”, and they’ve completely abandoned any pretense of caring about voting rights. If you’re organizing around voting rights, you’re working with liberals and Democrats, and any benefits of organizing around voting rights will flow to liberal and Democratic causes and politicians. Liberals and Democrats didn’t draw that tight line. Conservatives and Republicans did. They left.
This sloppy, desperate, blatant effort to suppress the vote backfired, big time, and I couldn’t be happier about that.