THE REAL VOTER FRAUD: After the 2010 election, a wave of GOP-sponsored laws were passed across the country, cutting back early voting, getting rid of election day registration and forcing voters to show photo IDs. The clear intention of the laws, ostensibly passed to combat “voter fraud,” was to impede traditionally Democratic voters at every step of the electoral process.
A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice provides the best measure yet of the potential impact of this on the next election, estimating that these “new voting laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
According to the report, “States that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012— 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.” It happens that of the country’s twelve most competitive swing states, five of them (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio) “have already cut back on voting rights.”
The Brennan Center notes that “these new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities”—in other words, those most likely to vote against the GOP. Other conclusions from the report:
§ New photo ID laws will be in effect in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, which have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million, more than 10 percent of whom do not have state-issued photo IDs.
§ New laws in Florida and Texas all but outlaw voter registration drives. At least 8 percent—or 176,000—of the voters were registered through drives in Florida in 2008. At least 5 percent—or 26,000— of Texas voters did so via drives.
§ In Florida, Georgia and Ohio in 2008, nearly 8 million people voted early. An estimated 1–2 million cast their ballots on voting days that have now been eliminated.
To read the report, see brennancenter.org. ARI BERMAN
LAW ENFORCEMENT: New York Police commissioner Raymond Kelly made news in September when he issued an internal memo ordering the NYPD to follow the law regarding arrests for marijuana possession. It is noteworthy that cops are obeying the law only because for years they have disregarded it.
The ten years that Michael Bloomberg has been New York’s mayor and Kelly its police commissioner have seen a dramatic increase in arrests for marijuana possession, which went from under 10,000 in the mid-’90s to more than 50,000 last year. Nearly 90 percent of those detained have been people of color, despite research showing that the majority of marijuana users are white. Many people describe illegal searches where police officers tell people to empty their pockets—or the officers just reach into their pockets—which is prohibited by the NYPD’s patrol handbook. The practice often occurs during a “stop and frisk”; any marijuana found by police is confiscated, and officers later claim to the court that the substance was open to public view—the condition defined by law as necessary to charge someone with a misdemeanor. It is this statute that Kelly has now ordered his cops to observe by directing them to arrest people only if they display the marijuana voluntarily.