Monday, June 26, 2006

Democracy in chains

US Republicans are planning to change the law to stop black, Hispanic and Native American voters going to the polls in 2008.

Don't kid yourself: the Republican party's decision yesterday to "
delay" the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a darn thing to do with objections of the Republican's white sheets caucus.

This is a strategic stall that is meant to decriminalise the Republican party's new game of challenging voters of colour by the hundreds of thousands.

In the 2004 presidential race, the GOP ran a massive, multi-state, multimillion-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of black, Hispanic and Native American voters. The methods used breached the Voting Rights Act, and while the Bush administration's civil rights division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights lawyers began circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the act before the 2008 race.

So Republicans have promised to no longer break the law - not by going legit but by eliminating the law.

The act was passed in 1965 after the Ku Klux Klan and other upright citizens found they could use procedural tricks - "literacy tests", poll taxes and more - to block citizens of colour from casting ballots.

Here is what happened in 2004, and what's in store for 2008.

In the 2004 election, more than 3 million voters were challenged at the polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect".

Denied the right to the regular voting booths, these challenged voters were given "provisional" ballots. More than 1m of these provisional ballots (1,090,729 of them) were tossed in the electoral dumpster uncounted.

A funny thing about those ballots: about 88% were cast by minority voters.

This isn't a number dropped on me from a black helicopter: they come from the raw data of the US election assistance commission in Washington DC.


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