The Conservative Crusade To Decrease Voting


It’s no coincidence that conservative state legislatures launched an unprecedented wave of measures to make it harder to vote in the wake of the GOP’s sweeping state-level victories in 2010. With the dexterous hand of the American Legislative Exchange Council providing coordination, and the will to suppress the vote that’s animated the right for decades, the assault on ballot access isn’t really surprising either. But it is based on a deeply flawed premise: Claims of voter fraud are chronically exaggerated, and when organizations actually follow up on initial reports they almost always prove inaccurate or inflated. (President Bush’s DOJ, for all its zeal, turned up fewer than 100 convictions out of 300,000,000 votes cast.) However, for a movement that’s openly declared its hostility toward efforts to increase voter turnout in American elections, it doesn’t matter that there’s no fire behind all that smoke.

With Help From ALEC, GOP’s 2010 Wave Produced Voting Laws That Could Disenfranchise 5 Million Mostly Poor, Young, And Minority Voters

State-Level GOP Gains In 2010 Elections Led To Vast, Unprecedented Push To Restrict Voting Access. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “Voting Law Changes In 2012”: “This year, at least thirty-four states introduced a record number of bills to require photo ID to vote. As Jenny Bowser, senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures, observed, ‘It’s remarkable … I very rarely see one single issue come up in so many state legislatures in a single session.’ […] There are at least two major reasons for this change. The first is the stark shift in the partisan makeup of state legislatures after 2010. As noted, there is typically a sharp partisan divide over the issue of strict voter ID requirements, with Republicans generally pushing more restrictive measures and Democrats generally opposing them. This year, in every case but one, strict voter ID bills were introduced by Republican legislators. Newly elected legislators introduced about a quarter of these bills. As a result of Republican electoral success in state houses across the country in 2010, proponents of strict voter ID bills were able to garner much greater legislative support than in the past. In the 2010 elections, Republicans picked up at least 675 state legislative seats across the country. Republicans therefore controlled both legislative chambers in twenty-six states, up from fourteen earlier in 2010.” [Brennan Center for Justice, “Voting Law Changes In 2012,” 2011, internal citations removed, emphasis added]

In 2011, 14 Different States Enacted “New Laws [That] Could Make It Significantly Harder For More Than Five Million Eligible Voters To Cast Ballots In 2012.” From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “Voting Law Changes In 2012”:

State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws making it harder to register or to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Two states reversed earlier reforms and once again disenfranchised millions who have past criminal convictions but who are now taxpaying members of the community. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The 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.

[Brennan Center for Justice, “Voting Law Changes In 2012,” 2011, internal citations removed, emphasis added]

  • Florida GOP Shortened Early Voting Period, Eliminated Early Voting On Sunday Before Election Day. From the Los Angeles Times: “Barack Obama may have won this crucial state three years ago on the Sunday before election day when ‘souls to the polls’ drives brought a surge of blacks and Latinos to cast ballots after church. Florida had opened the polls two weeks early, and even so, long lines across the state prompted the governor to issue an emergency order extending the hours for early voting. Propelled by waves of new voters including college students, Obama eked out a win with 51%. It will be different next year, a result of changes in the voting laws adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Early voting was reduced from two weeks to one week. Voting on the Sunday before election day was eliminated. College students face new hurdles if they want to vote away from home. And those who register new voters face the threat of fines for procedural errors, prompting the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration drives and accuse the Legislature of ‘reverting to Jim Crow-like tactics.’” [Los Angeles Times, 10/30/11]
  • Wisconsin Passed Voter ID Law, Shuttered DMV Offices, While High Proportion Of Minority Wisconsin Residents Lack Driver’s Licenses. From Rolling Stone: “Republicans in Wisconsin, meanwhile, mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date – requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets. As a result, 242,000 students in Wisconsin may lack the documentation required to vote next year. ‘It’s like creating a second class of citizens in terms of who gets to vote,’ says Analiese Eicher, a Dane County board supervisor. The barriers erected in Texas and Wisconsin go beyond what the Supreme Court upheld in Indiana, where 99 percent of state voters possess the requisite IDs and can turn to full-time DMVs in every county to obtain the proper documentation. By contrast, roughly half of all black and Hispanic residents in Wisconsin do not have a driver’s license, and the state staffs barely half as many DMVs as Indiana – a quarter of which are open less than one day a month. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 more DMVs – many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.” [Rolling Stone, 8/30/11, emphasis added]
  • ACLU Challenged Wisconsin Law, And Judge Blocked It. From the ACLU’s press release announcing amendments to their complaint:

The original suit, filed in December, said that Wisconsin’s practice of only allowing certain types of photo ID is a severe and unjustifiable burden and imposes a poll tax on voters. The amended complaint charges the voter ID law:

• Violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans the use of voting practices that have a disparate negative impact on racial and language minorities. Research commissioned by the ACLU indicates the law has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters, who are more likely to lack photo ID accepted for voting in Wisconsin.

• Arbitrarily prevents veterans who only have a Veterans Administration ID card from voting. Wisconsin deems such identification unacceptable.

• Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Wisconsin’s photo ID law results in the arbitrary treatment of voters trying to get a state ID card.

The Dane County Circuit Court enjoined enforcement of the law on March 12, 2012. [ACLU Release, 3/2/12; Huffington Post, 3/12/12]

Voter ID Laws Likened To A Poll Tax For The 11 Percent Of Citizens Without Government-Issued Photo ID. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “Voting Law Changes In 2012”: “Proponents of strict voter ID laws maintain that they are reasonable measures to prevent fraud by persons improperly casting ballots in the names of other registered citizens, real or imagined. They dispute that such laws will discourage voting by any group, claiming that photo IDs are needed for many aspects of modern life, including boarding an airplane or entering certain government buildings. Opponents maintain that photo ID laws exclude large swaths of the electorate, since 11% of citizens—and an even greater percentage of low-income, minority, young, and older citizens—do not have state-issued photo IDs. They argue that photo ID requirements are similar to a poll tax, whether or not the IDs are offered for free, because to obtain the necessary IDs citizens must produce documents that cost money, like passports and birth certificates.” [Brennan Center for Justice, “Voting Law Changes In 2012,” 2011, internal citations removed, emphasis added]

In 2007, Texas Republican Suggested To Houston Chronicle That Voter ID Laws Would Depress Turnout Among Legitimate Democratic Voters. From the Houston Chronicle: “Voter identification legislation has always been a hot-button issue. It’s even hotter this year because of Democratic gains in 2006, concern about illegal immigration and Dewhurst’s political ambition. He has designs on the governor’s seat, and he has been much more political this session as he tries to shore up support among the Republican base. Republicans like the voter ID bill because they believe it will weaken Democrats, but can argue that it is a reasonable requirement. People need identification to board planes, to rent an apartment, to buy Sudafed, they say. None of those, however, is a constitutional right – voting is. […] Among Republicans it is an ‘article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections,’ [former Texas Republican Party political director Royal] Masset said. He doesn’t agree with that, but does believe that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote.” [Houston Chronicle via Nexis, 5/18/07, emphasis added]

Role Of Conservative “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC)

ALEC Uses Funding From Corporations And Conservative Interests To Bring Conservative Lawmakers And Business Lobbyists Together And Propagate Model Legislation. From Fortune: “The organization [American Legislative Exchange Council], founded in 1973 and funded mostly by corporations and conservative foundations, exists to bring business-friendly state lawmakers together with lobbyists for corporations, including AT&T, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson. It drafts model bills related to its goals of free markets and limited government. Issues that ALEC has influenced include Arizona’s anti-immigration law, tort reform in Mississippi, and the opposition to Net neutrality. […] In the 2009 legislative session, by ALEC’s reckoning, state lawmakers introduced 826 bills the group conceived — 115 of which made it into law.” [Fortune, 1/10/11]

ALEC Spread Voter ID Laws Modeled On Indiana’s Bill To Conservative State Legislators Elsewhere. From Rolling Stone: “By far the biggest change in election rules for 2012 is the number of states requiring a government-issued photo ID, the most important tactic in the Republican war on voting. In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a photo-ID law in Indiana, even though state GOP officials couldn’t provide a single instance of a voter committing the type of fraud the new ID law was supposed to stop. Emboldened by the ruling, Republicans launched a nationwide effort to implement similar barriers to voting in dozens of states. The campaign was coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provided GOP legislators with draft legislation based on Indiana’s ID requirement. In five states that passed such laws in the past year – Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC. ‘We’re seeing the same legislation being proposed state by state by state,’ says Smith of Rock the Vote. ‘And they’re not being shy in any of these places about clearly and blatantly targeting specific demographic groups, including students.’” [Rolling Stone, 8/30/11]

Imposing New Voting Requirements “Has Long Been An ALEC Priority.” From The Nation: “Enacting burdensome photo ID or proof of citizenship requirements has long been an ALEC priority. ALEC and its sponsors have an enduring mission to pass laws that would make it harder for millions of Americans to vote, impose barriers to direct democracy and let big money flow more freely into campaigns. Republicans have argued for years that ‘voter fraud’ (rather than unpopular policies) costs the party election victories. A key member of the Corporate Executive Committee for ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force is Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which began highlighting voter ID efforts in 2006, shortly after Karl Rove encouraged conservatives to take up voter fraud as an issue. Kansas Republican Kris Kobach, who along with ALEC itself helped draft Arizona’s anti-immigration law, has warned of ‘illegally registered aliens.’ ALEC’s magazine, Inside ALEC, featured a cover story titled ‘Preventing Election Fraud’ following Obama’s election. Shortly afterward, in the summer of 2009, the Public Safety and Elections Task Force adopted voter ID model legislation. And when midterm elections put Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature in twenty-six states (up from fifteen), GOP legislators began moving bills resembling ALEC’s model.” [The Nation, 7/12/11]

2009: ALEC’s Member Magazine Offered Tips For Getting Voter ID Laws Upheld In Court. From an article titled “The Challenge of Photo ID” in the June 2009 edition of Inside ALEC: “An analysis of [the Supreme Court’s ruling on Indiana’s voter ID law] suggests several critical elements that must be present in a voter ID law for it to be constitutional. States can improve the chances of a law being upheld in court by including two key parts in any proposed photo ID legislation: Distribution of free voter ID cards […and] Availability of provisional ballots. […] However, there was no requirement that Indiana show prior evidence of impersonation fraud in Indiana to justify a voter ID law.”[Inside ALEC, June 2009, via Center for American Progress]

  • ALEC Eliminated “Public Safety And Elections Task Force” In April 2012. From a press release from the American Legislative Exchange Council: “Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists. To that end, our legislative board last week unanimously agreed to further our work on policies that will help spur innovation and competitiveness across the country. We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus. We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.” [ALEC Press Release, 4/17/12, emphasis added]

Voter Fraud Is Extremely Rare

Despite White House Crackdown On Voter Fraud, Bush DOJ Got Just 86 Convictions Out Of 300 Million Votes Cast – And None For Voter Impersonation. From Rolling Stone:

To hear Republicans tell it, they are waging a virtuous campaign to crack down on rampant voter fraud – a curious position for a party that managed to seize control of the White House in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote. After taking power, the Bush administration declared war on voter fraud, making it a “top priority” for federal prosecutors. In 2006, the Justice Department fired two U.S. attorneys who refused to pursue trumped-up cases of voter fraud in New Mexico and Washington, and Karl Rove called illegal voting “an enormous and growing problem.” In parts of America, he told the Republican National Lawyers Association, “we are beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” According to the GOP, community organizers like ACORN were actively recruiting armies of fake voters to misrepresent themselves at the polls and cast illegal ballots for the Democrats.

Even at the time, there was no evidence to back up such outlandish claims. A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud. [Rolling Stone, 8/30/11, emphasis added]

Voter Fraud Allegations Frequently Overblown. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “The Truth About Voter Fraud”: “Allegations of election-related fraud make for enticing press.  Many Americans remember vivid stories of voting improprieties in Chicagoland, or the suspiciously sudden appearance of LBJ’s alphabetized ballot box in Texas, or Governor Earl Long’s quip: ‘When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.’ Voter fraud, in particular, has the feel of a bank heist caper: roundly condemned but technically fascinating, and sufficiently lurid to grab and hold headlines. Perhaps because these stories are dramatic, voter fraud makes a popular scapegoat.  In the aftermath of a close election, losing candidates are often quick to blame voter fraud for the results.  Legislators cite voter fraud as justification for various new restrictions on the exercise of the franchise.  And pundits trot out the same few anecdotes time and again as proof that a wave of fraud is imminent. Allegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated.  It is easy to grab headlines with a lurid claim (‘Tens of thousands may be voting illegally!’); the follow-up — when any exists — is not usually deemed newsworthy.  Yet on closer examination, many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire.  The allegations simply do not pan out.” [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007]

In Three Prominent Cases Of Alleged Voter Fraud, Actual Fraud Made Up Less Than 1/1000  Of 1 Percent Of Statewide Votes Cast. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “The Truth About Voter Fraud”:


[Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007]

In Upholding Indiana’s Voter ID Law, Supreme Court Plurality Conceded That In-Person Fraud Targeted By The Law Had Never Occurred In The State’s History, Cited Boss Tweed’s 19th Century Fraud For Support. From the plurality opinion of Justices Stevens and Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board: “The only kind of voter fraud that SEA 483 addresses is in-person voter impersonation at polling places.  The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.  Moreover, petitioners argue that provisions of the Indiana Criminal Code punishing such conduct as a felony provide adequate protection against the risk that such conduct will occur in the future.  It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists,11 that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years,12 and that Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor13—though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud—demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.” From footnote 11: “One infamous example is the New York City elections of 1868. William (Boss) Tweed set about solidifying and consolidating his control of the city.” [Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, pp.11-12, October 2007, emphasis added]

Briefs Supporting Indiana Law Before Supreme Court Fail To Provide “A Proven Example Of A Single Vote Cast At The Polls In Someone Else’s Name That Could Be Stopped By A Pollsite Photo ID Rule.” From the Brennan Center for Justice’s analysis of the alleged instances of voter fraud cited in briefs in the Crawford v. Marion County Election Board case: “The briefs — submitted by the State of Indiana, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Attorney Generals of nine states, a national political party, members of Congress, various election officials, and several nonprofit organizations — contain more than 250 citations to reports of election problems. But not one of the sources cited shows proof of a vote that Indiana’s law could prevent. That is, not one of the citations offered by Indiana or its allies refers to a proven example of a single vote cast at the polls in someone else’s name that could be stopped by a pollsite photo ID rule. Even including suspected but unproven reports of fraud, the State and its allies have uncovered remarkably little evidence of any misconduct that Indiana’s law could prevent.  Out of almost 400 million votes cast in general elections alone since 2000, the briefs cite one attempt at impersonation that was thwarted without a photo ID requirement, and nine unresolved cases where impersonation fraud at the polls was suspected but not proven. Nine possible examples out of hundreds of millions — and these nine cases might just as well have been due to clerical error. Not one of these cited reports occurred in Indiana.” [Brennan Center for Justice, 12/31/07, emphasis original]

Huge Disincentive To Commit Fraud, Alleged Cases Are Often Easily Explained

Voter Fraud Risks Five Years In Prison, $10,000 Fine, For Reward Of A Single Additional Vote. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “The Truth About Voter Fraud”: “There have been a handful of substantiated cases of individual ineligible voters attempting to defraud the election system.  But by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare. In part, this is because fraud by individual voters is a singularly foolish and ineffective way to attempt to win an election.  Each act of voter fraud in connection with a federal election risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, in addition to any state penalties. In return, it yields at most one incremental vote.  That single extra vote is simply not worth the price. Instead, much evidence that purports to reveal voter fraud can be traced to causes far more logical than fraud by voters.” [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007, internal citations removed]

Data Errors, Statistical Realities About Names And Birthdates Provide More Likely Explanation Of Apparent Double-Registered Voters Than Fraud. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “The Truth About Voter Fraud”: “The most common source of superficial claims of voter fraud, and the most common source of error, probably involves matching voter rolls against each other or against some other source to find alleged double voters, dead voters, or otherwise ineligible voters. […] Some such matches fail to account for errors or default entries in the underlying data. […] Other matches neglect middle names or suffixes: in the same New Jersey procedure described above, for example, James A. Smith and James G. Smith were presumed to be the same person, as were J. T. Kearns and J. T. Kearns, Jr. […] Even given an exact match, however, two entries with the same name and birthdate may not represent the same individual.  Statistics students are often surprised to discover that in a group of 23 people, it is more likely than not that two will share the same month and day of birth; in a group of 180, two will probably share the same birthdate. In any group of significant size, statistics teaches that there will be many with the same first and last names — and it is likely that at least two such voters will be born on the same day. It should not therefore be surprising, for example, that ‘Kathleen Sullivan’ was most likely listed twice on the rolls of 2004 New Jersey voters not because one woman drove the length of the state to cast a second ballot, but because two women named Kathleen Sullivan happen to share the same birthdate.” [“The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007, internal citations removed]

Among Millions Of Votes Cast In A Given Election, Typos And Clerical Errors By Legitimate Voters Are Nearly Inevitable. From the Brennan Center for Justice’s report on “The Truth About Voter Fraud”: “In a jurisdiction of any significant size, it is unfortunately easy to make an entry in the poll book next to the wrong voter’s name.  For example, despite having died in 1997, Alan J. Mandel was alleged to have voted in 1998; upon further investigation, Alan J. Mandell (two ‘l’s), who was very much alive and voting at the time, explained that local election workers simply checked the wrong name off of the list. The same problem may occur when information from a poll book is entered incorrectly into a county’s computer system, as in Milwaukee in 2004. Or voters — legitimate voters — may make a mistake: a 1994 investigation of fraud allegations in California, for example, revealed that voters accidentally signed the poll books on the wrong lines, next to the names of deceased voters. […] And in Milwaukee, Victor Moy was listed on the rolls as living at 8183 W. Thurston Avenue, but actually resides at number 8153. Because such typos may prevent registrations from being externally validated by information in other sources, officials and observers may believe that registrations are fraudulent when they are, in reality, entirely legitimate.” [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007, internal citations removed]

Some Conservatives Openly Call For Less Voting

Heritage Foundation & ALEC Co-Founder Weyrich In 1980: “I Don’t Want Everybody To Vote” Because Conservative Christian Influence “Goes Up As The Voting Populace Goes Down.” Speaking at the August 1980 National Affairs Briefing of the Religious Roundtable, Paul Weyrich said: “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.” Weyrich would later found the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, among other conservative groups. [Weyrich Remarks via YouTube, 8/21/80;, accessed 4/4/12]

Rep. Steve King: I’m Not Proposing We Change Back, But America Was Better Off When Only Property Owners Could Vote. At a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) had the following exchange with the conservative Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell:

Mr. KING: I just look back at where we sit today, and I think I would direct my first question to Mr. Mitchell, but it could go to anybody, and it is this. As I roll this thing back and I look at American history, there was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was because they wanted the people that voted that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending to have some skin in the game.

Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes, 51 percent of American wage earners don’t have an income tax liability, and it is pretty clear that there are a lot of people that aren’t in the workforce at all. In fact, of our unemployment numbers that run in the 13 million or 14 million category, when you go to the Department of Labor statistics and look at that data, you can add up those that are simply not in the workforce, the different age groups but of working age, add that number to the number of those who are on unemployment, and you come up with a number that was just a few months ago 80 million Americans. Just as of less than a month ago, that number went over 100 million Americans that aren’t working. Now I don’t think they are paying taxes, but many of them are voting, and when they vote, they vote for more Government benefits because that is what comes into their mailbox or into their debit card. […]

So I would direct my question then to Mr. Mitchell and ask do you believe that a balanced budget amendment is a means by which it can offset the disadvantage that the workers, the taxpayers, those who actually fund this Government, have? Does a  balanced budget help set some of that back in order that was sought to be put in order when it was property owners that voted?

Mr. MITCHELL. Yes. I mean, the basic problem here is one of externalities. So this is a problem that is familiar to environmental economists. If a factory is allowed to—in the process of making a product for consumers is allowed to bilge smoke into the air, that is an externality, and they will make too much of the product unless it is internalized. So here what is happening is that this current generation is allowed to externalize the costs of Government on to the next generation. The median voter, as I said before—the costs of reform, the costs of avoiding this kind of economic contraction that we are staring at—those are going to be borne by people like me, the median voter. But the costs of the status quo are going to be borne by my daughter. She cannot vote. And until we can internalize that externality, I think we are going to continue to make the wrong choice because none of you have the incentive to make the right choice.

It is not your fault. You are all good people. You are servants of the public and you are listening to what your constituents and your median voters are saying. And the incentives that they offer you are not right.

Mr. KING. That is a very cerebral answer, and I agree with it.

I would just take us to another step along this way, and that would be—remember now, this is not a proposal. This is an historical observation of property owners only voting. What if that were transferred into a society like today and it were taxpayers that were voting? What do you expect, Mr. Mitchell, would be the result of the public policy that would emanate from such a thing?

Mr. MITCHELL. Well, I think that when more people had skin in the game and when people have to pay for the services that they consume, they tend to consume fewer services. [House Judiciary Committee Hearing, 10/4/11, emphasis added]

Conservative Columnist Vadum: “Registering The Poor To Vote Is Un-American.” In an American Thinker column under the headline “Registering The Poor To Vote Is Un-American,” Matthew Vadum wrote: “Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.  It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. […] Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor.  It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money.  It’s about raw so-called social justice.  It’s about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers.” According to Talking Points Memo, Vadum later clarified that “Of course those who are legally qualified to vote should be allowed to vote but our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to underwrite the destruction of the republic.” [American Thinker, 9/1/11, emphasis added; Talking Points Memo, 9/2/11]

In 2004, Republican Official Apologized For Saying GOP Needed To “Suppress The Detroit Vote” In Order For President Bush To Win Michigan. From Salon: “In July, John Pappageorge, a Republican state representative in Troy, Mich., attended a local party meeting to discuss with colleagues the Republicans’ chances of winning the state for Bush in November. In the course of the discussion, according to an account published in the Detroit Free Press, Pappageorge declared, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.” Detroit, of course, has a huge minority population; about 83 percent of its residents are African-American. Pappageorge’s statement was roundly condemned and he quickly apologized for it, insisting that he wasn’t suggesting anything racist or illegal in calling for a suppression of the Detroit vote. As a matter of politic strategy, Pappageorge was probably right.” [Salon, 9/21/04]

“Voter Caging” By RNC Officials In 2004

“Voter Caging” Is Practice Of Using Returned Mail To Remove Voters From Rolls, And Has High Potential To Disenfranchise Legitimate Voters. As defined by the Brennan Center for Justice:

Voter caging is a tactic that jeopardizes eligible citizens’ ability to vote. The process involves efforts to identify and disenfranchise improperly registered voters solely on the basis of an undeliverable mailing. The most common method involves three steps:

  • send mail to addresses on the voter rolls,
  • compile a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and
  • use that list to purge or challenge voters’ registrations on the grounds that the voters on the list do not legally reside at their registered addresses.

Supporters of voter caging defend the practice as a means of preventing votes cast by ineligible voters. Voter caging, however, is notoriously unreliable. If it is treated as the sole basis for determining that a voter is ineligible or does not live at the address at which he or she registered, it can lead to the unwarranted purge or challenge of eligible voters. [, accessed 4/4/12]

GOP Targeted Minority Neighborhoods In 1982, Leading To Court Case And Consent Decree. From the Brennan Center for Justice: “In 1982, after caging in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods, the Republican National Committee and New Jersey Republican State Committee entered into a consent decree with their Democratic party counterparts. Under that decree and its 1987 successor, the Republican party organizations agreed to allow a federal court to review proposed ‘ballot security’ programs, including any proposed voter caging.” [, accessed 4/4/12]

2004: RNC Was Enjoined From Using Caging List In OH In Part Because Court Found Intent To Target Minority Voters. From “In response to Ohio caging operations immediately before the 2004 election, Ebony Malone, an African American Ohio voter, and Irving Agosto, a Hispanic Ohio voter, filed a motion to intervene in the DNC v. RNC case, charging that the RNC had violated the consent decree. The factual grounds for the complaint were that the Ohio Republican Party sent out non-forwardable letters to all newly registered voters and compiled a caging list from those that were returned. The state GOP proposed to use to challenge the eligibility of all 35,000 voters. The intervenors charged, and provided evidence that, the RNC coordinated and assisted in the caging operation. The Ohio voters claimed standing to intervene in the case on the grounds that, as minority voters, they were among the intended beneficiaries of the New Jersey consent decrees. Judge Dickinson. R. Debevoise of the New Jersey District Court granted their motion to intervene, found that the RNC was involved in the Ohio caging operation in violation of the consent decrees, and issued an order enjoining the RNC from using the Ohio caging list to challenge Ohio voters. This order was entered on November 1, 2004, one day before the presidential election. The RNC appealed the district court order to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit Court and moved for a stay of the injunction. On November 1, 2004, a three judge panel of the circuit court, denied the RNC’s request for a stay. In issuing their opinion denying the stay, the three judge panel held that it was likely that the proposed caging operation would ‘take effect in precinct where minorities predominate, interfering with and discouraging voters from voting in those districts.’” [, accessed 4/4/12]

Then-RNC Official Tim Griffin Was Involved In Voter Caging Efforts In 2004. From Slate: “[Investigative reporter Greg] Palast supplies evidence linking Tim Griffin, then-research director for the RNC, to this caging plot; specifically, a series of confidential e-mails to Republican Party muckety-mucks with the suggestive heading ‘RE: caging.’ The e-mails were accidentally sent to a George Bush parody site. They also contained suggestively named spreadsheets, headed ‘caging’ as well. The names on the lists are what Palast’s researchers deemed to be homeless men and soldiers deployed in Iraq. … As Palast points out—and Griffin himself has observed—the American media barely touched this story, and Griffin has yet to explain the e-mails or the lists. He did tell The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer last March that ‘caging is not a derogatory term. … [I]t’s a direct-mail term. It derives from caging categories of mail in steel shelves and files.’ Still, that hardly explains why he was allegedly caging only transient African-American voters in those shelves or files, which would likely violate the Voting Rights Act.” [Slate, 3/31/07]

Griffin Was Later Nominated To A U.S. Attorney Position Because “It Was Important To…Karl [Rove],” But Was Not Subject To Senate Confirmation. From the New Yorker:

Griffin, who is thirty-eight, was appointed U.S. Attorney in December. A former research director for the Republican National Committee and an aide to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, Griffin had relatively little prosecutorial experience. Nonetheless, e-mails between Justice Department and White House officials show that Bush Administration officials pushed out Griffin’s well-respected predecessor, H. E. (Bud) Cummins, to make room for Griffin, in part because “it was important to . . . Karl [Rove], etc.” Griffin did not undergo a confirmation process before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as is required by the Constitution. Instead, the President appointed him under a little-noticed provision of the 2006 renewal of the Patriot Act, which allows for the indefinite appointment of an interim U.S. Attorney without Senate approval. […]

In congressional hearings last month, Mark Pryor, a Democratic senator from Arkansas, raised concerns about newspaper accounts of Griffin’s political work, which, he said, has “been characterized as ‘caging’ African-American votes. This arises from allegations that Mr. Griffin and others in the R.N.C. were targeting African-Americans in Florida for voter challenges during the 2004 Presidential campaign.”

Last week, Griffin was intent upon defending himself against the charge of suppressing minority votes. “Caging is not a derogatory term,” he said, as soon as he got on the phone. “It’s a direct-mail term. It derives from caging categories of mail in steel shelves and files.” He said that the implication that he had run an operation to suppress African-American voters, which could be a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was “false and close to libelous.” [New Yorker, 3/26/07, emphasis added]

Slate: Caging Allegations Against Griffin “Go A Long, Long Way Toward Explaining Why Karl Rove And Harriet Miers Were So Determined To Get Griffin Seated…Without A Confirmation Hearing.” From Slate: “From the point of view of the ongoing DoJ scandal, perhaps what’s most urgent about the vote-caging claims is that they go a long, long way toward explaining why Karl Rove and Harriet Miers were so determined to get Griffin seated in the Arkansas U.S. Attorney’s office, and to do so without a confirmation hearing. If, as the Justice Department has continued to insist, Griffin was eminently qualified for the position, why did he need to be spared the hearing at all costs? And once it became clear that he would undergo a hearing, why did Griffin sideline himself with the colorful observation that undergoing Senate confirmation would be ‘like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus?’” [Slate, 3/31/07]