Who Decides If You’re American Enough to Vote? [Reader Forum]

The Colorlines.com community reacts to Brentin and Aura's newest dispatches from the voter ID wars, being fought in your state right now.

By Channing Kennedy Aug 27, 2012

As election season ramps up, so do efforts to control who’ll have a voice on Election Day. Our reporters Brentin Mock and Aura Bogado have been bringing us the news on the ground as it happens, as part of our partnership with the Nation, and it’s not pretty. As Brentin put it in a conversation with Aura and the Nation’s Ari Berman on Thursday, instating voter ID laws to stop voter fraud is like invading Iraq to get the WMDs. In other words, there’s something else going on.

Want to get up to speed about this issue that’s affecting the very workings of the democracy we’ve fought for? Read Aura and Brentin’s most recent updates, listen to their Nation chat with Ari, and watch Brentin on MSNBC talking voter suppression with Al Sharpton.

And if you’re looking for a spot to get started, may I suggest Brentin’s exposé of True The Vote’s "poll watcher" network, accompanied by Hatty Lee’s interactive map. One big takeaway is that the voter ID movement disproportionately disenfranchises people of color, immigrants, the elderly, homeless folks, transgender folks, and many other people with little electoral power beyond their vote. In the comments, reader William McVay puts it in perspective.

I recall similar reasoning used to demonstrate the foolishness of this thinking. Went something like this: "Hey, it is just as illegal for a rich man to sleep under a bridge as it is for a poor man." True equality under the law this is not.

Mike Westman:

[…] Does the elimination of 100 fraudulent votes (a very high estimate) justify the interference and blatantly slanted process these people attempt? Far more hanky-panky is evident with the secretary of state in selected states, and who remembers the ability to manipulate the Diebold and other electronic machines that do not have any scrutiny? I guess the Right believes in victory by any means, and by a million little cuts.

Peter Gatliff drops some history:

The group founded by the Tea Party, i.e. the Koch Family, to watch the polls is called the "King Street [Patriots]" — the street where the Boston Massacre took place. It’s ironic the poll watchers target minorities; the first person to die in the massacre was one Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave turned sailor.

Swiftright Right likely disagrees with many of our readers on politics, but not on the sanctity of the process:

Ah yes, continue cheating, Like in my great state of PA, where the Republicans admitted they could not prove a single case of vote fraud.

I voted for Colbrett’s Republican party in 2008. I voted for them because I wanted lower taxes and tighter abortion laws. It’s 2012 and the Republicans didn’t just raise taxes but they built the legal frame for an entirely NEW class of taxes at the county level. Abortions are still out of control as is state spending.

What did I get for my vote? The comfort of mind that 1 million fewer black, latino and poor people won’t be able to cast their ballot.

And, of course, the flipside of the ‘voter fraud’ canard is the ‘candidate fraud’ one — the idea, just as racialized, that certain kinds of people shouldn’t be allowed to be president. Sally Kohn takes a brief break from shutting down folks on Fox News to fill us in on the Right’s new string of xenophobia-mongering attacks on President Obama.

In the comments, reader newmoon6 points out that Obama’s heritage is an inextricable part of America:

Of course we must concede that President Obama is of foreign blood on his father’s side of his family. But he could not be more American on his mother’s side. You see, Barack Obama’s maternal lineage is made up of both white Americans and African Americans. He descends from white Americans who enslaved human beings and African Americans who passed as white.

His African (American) ancestor John Punch had children with a white woman. The rules of the day were that the children followed the condition of the mother. Since she was free, so were the children. This rule protected white males who routinely raped enslaved Black women and produced children with them. The overwhelming majority of bi-racial children had white biological fathers. To prevent these children from demanding free status based on their paternity, white men mandated that these children would follow the condition of their mothers, thus increasing the enslaved population, providing a financial incentive for rape, and changing racial definitions forever.

Obama’s ancestors were able to escape slavery because of this loophole (their mother being white and free) but they were still considered Black because of the country’s "One Drop" rule. One drop of Black blood made one Black. Obama’s Black relatives continued to reproduce with whites until they were white enough in appearance to "pass" for white and become absorbed into the the larger white community. This is Barack Obama’s family history. It is a uniquely American story, and places him very much within the mainstream of American history and culture.

Amanda Hrabowski:

Y’know, my parents had a variant of the American dream in their home country, too. This "dream" was used to encourage the citizens of that country to work hard, to place blame on themselves, their fellow workers, or the lazy poor or minorities (Jews) if things weren’t working right. Also, to not question the power structure.

In short, it was propaganda. This country happened to be a Communist country. Yet America has values that are virtually identical! My fellow Americans, we are most definitely not unique.

The other day, I read of a woman who refused to sell pastries to people carrying EBT cards, because she didn’t want her tax money being spent on cookies eaten by the poor. Not a peep out of her on the millions and millions of American tax money used for bailing out corporations (many of which were responsible for the mess many of us are in); she was concerned about the fraction of a penny of her money that was used toward food stamps.

In my home country, there was another country that took over my home country. Those who were deemed lower-class were forbidden from buying and drinking coffee and tea, since these were, at this time, luxury items. Rather, they were given chicory and apple peel. The people of this invading country went on to commit one of the worst genocides in known history of humanity.


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