DonkeyHotey on Flikr
In the News

New Voting Laws and the Drug War are Two Sides of the Same Strategy. Voter Suppression

Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. There is no middle ground. If the Republican Party has to spend 60 years assaulting voting rights, there’s something wrong with their party.

 

The cats out the bag. The “war on drugs” is a sham and should be ended immediately. John Ehrlichman, criminal aide to the loathsome Richard Nixon, revealed to journalist Dan Balm that the purpose of the drug war was  to “disrupt”’ the political potential of black and liberal communities. Fast forward 60 years and we’re confronted with another Republican led effort to accomplish the same ends. This time under the charade of nonexistent voter fraud. Suppress the vote of traditionally Democratic supporters to get more Republicans elected.

Ehrlichman states,

 “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”  

 

Ehrlichman’s admission drops the bottom out of the justification for the drug war. The U.S. only has 5% of the world’s population, yet has a wildly unbalanced 25% of the world’s prison population.  A large share of which being African-Americans. Blacks and whites use marijuana in roughly the same percentages yet blacks are arrested four times as often. Blacks also on average receive harsher sentences than their white counterparts. Not as an accidental by product, but by intent. Put aside for the moment the moral problems with destroying families for political expedience. The people caught in this Nixon-ion dragnet were not just dispossessed of their freedom; they were also stripped of their vote; which was the point. Inmates and people on parole are not allowed to vote. One can’t help but notice the prime similarity with the voter restriction laws sprouting in Republican state legislatures. Voter suppression.

 

Practically, voter fraud doesn’t exist. An exhaustive study in 2012 found only 10 cases of in person voter fraud out of 600 million casted votes. Using this wisp of a pretense, Republican controlled states are willing to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.  In 2012 16 states passed voter suppression laws; FL, GA, IL, IA, KS, MS, NH,OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WV.  Not able to contain himself after ramming through a law in Pennsylvania, House Republican leader Mike Turzai uttered, “Voter ID will allow Mitt Romney to win the state.” Romney didn’t win, but it wasn’t for a lack of Turzai trying.

 

What started in 2012 is coming to fruition in 2016. In the disaster that was the Arizona primary, people stood in line for up to 5 hours to vote because Maricopa County decided to cut polling locations by 70%( 200 to 60) from 2012. There was 1 polling center for every 21,000 voters. In some of the poor and Latino areas, there were no polling centers. When asked who was to blame, with a practiced straight face, Recorder Helen Purcell said, “the voters for getting in line.”

 

Wisconsin risked disenfranchising upwards of 300,000 people due to new voting requirements. Following the same trend, in predominantly Democratic areas, voters stood in line for hours.  Rather proud of his role in making it more difficult for his constituents to vote, Republican Representative Glen Grothman told a reporter,

“Well, I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up, and now we have photo ID, and I think that photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

 

Both strategies, the drug war and regressive voting legislation are two faces of the same strategy implemented by Republican administrations for one end. Suppressing the vote of undesirable demographics; those that primarily vote Democrat.  Paul Weyrich, founder of the Republican think tank, the Heritage Foundation and ALEC, explains, “I don’t want everybody to vote! … our leverage in the election goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Paul Weyrich is right. Democratic voting numbers are down in general, but the drop is more significant in states with voter restriction laws.  If your party is having trouble with democracy. Your party is the problem.