Friday, August 24, 2012

Truthiness making it hard to vote

n 2005, cable TV comedian Stephen Colbert created the stunt word “truthiness.” It means anything that must be true simply because it feels true, regardless of evidence, logic or facts. Truthiness has been deemed an acceptable word by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the editors of the New York Times crossword puzzle. Now, truthiness is also driving real policy and threatening democracy.
    During the 2008 election, hundreds of thousands of voters who had never registered or voted before took to the polls. Truthiness says that just didn’t feel right. So, encouraged by the American Legislative Exchange Council, many states imposed new burdensome voting requirements.
    In the past two years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 30 states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. Three additional states passed laws to require documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote, though as many as 7 percent of American citizens do not have such proof.
    Seven states shortened early voting timeframes even though more than 30 percent of all votes cast in the 2008 general election were cast before Election Day. Two state legislatures voted to repeal Election Day registration laws, though Election Day registration increases voter turnout by 10 to 12 percent. Two states passed legislation making it much more difficult for third-party organizations to register voters
    It feels truthy that people should prove their identity in order to ensure that elections are not skewed by voter fraud. Yet, despite isolated cases of voter impropriety, there is no evidence of massive voter fraud of the kind that could affect a national election.
    These laws simply amount to voter suppression, a kind of government-initiated fraud whose victims are the American people. In Pennsylvania, 768,000 citizens currently lack the proper identification to vote. If all those citizens did try to obtain that ID, the state could not produce enough documents by Nov. 6.
    Most people assume that efforts to deny the vote are from long ago, a time of poll taxes and literacy tests and the assignment of old, broken-down voting machines to poor inner-city precincts so lines would be long and people would leave without voting. If America is committed to remaining a democracy, however, we must acknowledge President Lyndon Johnson’s truth at the signing of the Voter Rights Act of 1965. He said, “This right to vote is the basic right by which all others without it are meaningless.”         Truthiness aside, the facts show that unless the courts act to stop these new laws, voters throughout the country will return to a time that should be dead and buried.

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