Long Lines to VoteI am so confused about what makes one a patriotic American. I always thought it was things like participating in the democratic process by voting and encouraging other voting-like activities.

So if that’s the case then the opposite of being a patriotic American would be not voting or discouraging other not-voting-like activities in others, right?

HB1770, a bill sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd that comes before the House Elections Subcommittee tomorrow afternoon proposes to make “various revisions to the election laws including allowing a person to email a transfer of voter registration with a scanned signature and increasing maximum size of precincts from 5,000 voters to 7,500 voters.”

Basically, Todd’s bill is Step 1 in a 2-step process that could – if we don’t monitor county election commission meetings very closely – artificially manufacture long lines on election day.

Step 1, let’s load precinct with 2,500 more voters than we allow now. Step 2, let’s allocate fewer voting machines in each of these precincts with the 2,500 more voters. Mix together and then, Viola!, long lines!

And longs lines = discouraged voters who don’t have time to wait. We saw these longs and discouraging lines during the 2004 and 2006 elections and the hope was that we would never see them again.

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On Tuesday, May 12, Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), will ruin our nice (but a little wet) spring and make a motion in the House State and Local Government Committee, to recall two Voter suppression ID bills – HB 0639 by Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) and HB 1838 by Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville).

So why the renewed push to pass legislation that is a solution in search of problem? Especially since both bills were assigned to, and failed to get out of, the now-closed Elections Subcommittee?

Apparently, it’s because these three Tennessee legislators believe in voter suppression, also known as the Paul Weyrich model of democracy:

WEYRICH: “Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome – good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

“Voter fraud,” which is what McCormick, Maggart, and Todd say these bills will prevent, is when a voter attempts to vote more than once or by impersonating someone else.

There are no documented instances of “voter fraud” in Tennessee – and barely any in the rest of the country, as reported by the American Prospect:

“Since 2002, the Justice Department’s Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative has, as [disgraced U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales put it, ‘made enforcement of election fraud and corruption offenses a top priority.’ And yet between October 2002 and September 2005, just 38 cases were brought nationally, and of those, 14 ended in dismissals or acquittals, 11 in guilty pleas, and 13 in convictions.”

The Ophelia Ford case, which Republican legislators are so quick to cite as “voter fraud,” was in fact “election fraud,” a systematic effort by those with power to steal an election through vote manipulation and/or voter suppression. And even though Mark Goins doesn’t know the specifics of the Ford case, we do – three election workers were caught manipulating the vote. Voters had nothing to do with it.

“Voter suppression,” however, does exist and it will be the (intended) consequence if either the photo ID to vote or the citizenship to register bills become law.

I hope the Democrats on the State and Local Government Committee continue to push for examples from Rep. Maggart and Rep. Todd of instances of “voter fraud,” because waving papers around in a committee meeting and saying you have proof is not actually, you know, proof.

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Tomorrow, the Tennessee House Elections Subcommittee meets again and I have a question that I really really hope someone can answer because I really really can’t make any sense of it. OK. Here goes. How can Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville) introduce one bill that supposedly prevents cheating during an election and another that would make it easier to actually cheat during an election?

Todd’s HB1838 “requires citizenship status to be proven prior to registration to vote and requires certain procedures to ensure identity and citizenship status prior to voting,” and his HB1421 would allow “a person to email a transfer of voter registration or email a request for an application to vote absentee” with a scanned signature.

Absentee ballots, by the way, are also exempt from any photo ID law, which was recently passed in the Senate, introduced by Rep. Todd’s colleague, Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville).

So the question is, why does Rep. Todd want to pollute our equitable voter registration system with inherently inequitable legislation? Especially when there’s no proof of an actual “voter fraud” problem?

Seriously, it’s hard enough to get people to vote once let alone risk jail time by voting a second time in someone else’s name. And really, if you’re in this country illegally, is voting in the Tennessee gubernatorial election really going to be the thing you’ll risk getting caught for?

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The Senate State and Local Government Committee meets tomorrow morning in Legislative Plaza Room 12 to discuss two important election bills. The first, SB1999 by Senators Norris and Ketron (companion HB1838 by Rep. Curry ToddR, Collierville), would require “citizenship status to be proven prior to registration to vote and requires certain procedures to ensure identity and citizenship status prior to voting.”

In last week’s meeting they discussed Senator Ketron’s other voter suppression bill that would require photo IDs to vote (SB150) – except of course if you swear that you’re poor or have a “religious exception” to being photographed. Surprisingly, an exchange with Senator Thelma Harper (D-Nashville, the fightin’ 19th!) shows what Senator Ketron really believes – that we should simply “trust” those who require the exception in the case of the photo ID:

Senator Harper: So what is it they’re going to say?

Senator Ketron: “They’re gonna say they object to furnishing a photo ID based on their religion. Now for me to question what their religion is…I…

Senator Harper: I guess the concern that I have is that we want people to register to vote and we want the legitimacy there. But we’re putting an awful lot of stumbling blocks in folks way in order for them to register to vote, change their voter registration, just to move from other states and cities here to register to vote. I just wonder if this is really poppycock and we’re just curtailing the number of people who attempt to vote. I think we should be removing barriers rather than placing barriers in their way.

Senator Ketron: Senator, by them signing it, they signed the affidavit under oath that they are saying who they say they are.

So the question remains, why does Senator Ketron implicitly trust those who claim indigency or religious exemption and not the rest of us? Every time we vote we sign a sworn statement that we are who we say we are so aren’t we setting up an unequal system if some are allowed to continue do this and others aren’t?

Senator Ketron’s latest is SB1999, would require proof of citizenship status prior to registering to vote. Again, we already swear to this – under penalty of law – so why the extra added protection? Do we have an inordinate number of non-citizens clamoring to vote that we – or more importantly, the law – doesn’t know about?

The answer is no. But we do have proof that photo ID laws et. al. disenfranchise legitimate voters. So we can only hope that tomorrow Senators Harper, Haynes, and Finney request actual documentation of voter fraud by non-citizens as Rep. Harry Tindell (D-Knoxville, the fightin’ 13th!) did of Rep. Todd’s companion bill last week:

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