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July 12, 2014, 4:20 am

Fight efforts to suppress votes

Whether it’s requiring government approved photo identification at the polls or efforts to purge voter lists prior to the November presidential election, Republicans argue these efforts are fair attempts to crack down on fraud.

But the evidence show that these measures are blatant, hyper-partisan efforts to suppress voting that must be fought and exposed.

Pennsylvania is among a growing number of states controlled by Republican state legislatures that have recently passed laws requiring photo identification at the polls.

Republicans argue the laws are necessary to crack down on voter fraud. Yet there has been no evidence provided of significant fraud.

However there has been evidence that new laws requiring restrictive government-issued photo identification could suppress voting.

The United States Department of Justice recently blocked South Carolina from enforcing its photo ID law because it will have a discriminatory effect on the state’s minority eligible voters.

“The DOJ concluded, relying on data provided by South Carolina, that minority registered voters in the state are almost 20 percent more likely to lack issued photo ID than white registered voters,” said Ryan Haygood, director of the NAACP Legal Defense& Educational Fund’s Political Participation Group.

Nationally, 25 percent of Black, voting-age citizens, as compared to only 8 percent of white voting age citizens, lack a government-issued photo ID. There are many reasons behind these disparities including extreme poverty and illiteracy rates and lack of access to transportation and childcare.

Supporters of Florida’s voter purge say it is aimed at clearing voter rolls of non-citizens.

But once again the evidence suggests it is a part of the Republican effort to deter minorities and the poor, who tend to vote Democratic, from casting ballots.

President Obama won Florida by 2.8 percent in 2008 and the state is expected to be a key swing state in the November 6 presidential election.

In a letter last week, the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice warned Florida’s secretary of state that the ongoing search for and purging of non-eligible voters in Florida appeared to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act that protect minorities.

The Miami Herald reported that Florida’s current list of potential non-citizens voters includes many people who are lawful citizens. The newspaper reported that one voter singled out as suspicious turned out to be a Brooklyn-born World War II hero with a Bronze Star from the Battle of the Bulge.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a civil rights lawsuit Friday to stop the purge. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two recently naturalized U.S. citizens from the Tampa area, Murat Limage, a Haitian American and Pamela Gomez, who is Dominican-American. They both received letters from election officials warning they could be removed from the voting rolls based on inaccurate and outdate information.

There has been a history of erroneous purging of voting rolls.

Before the 2000 election, Florida hired a private contractor to conduct a purge of felons from its voting rolls. The purge ended up removing not only the names of felons but also those of citizens who had similar names and birthdates, people who committed misdemeanors in Texas and ex-offenders who had had their voting rights restored.

The Washington Post noted, “The impact of the botched felon purge fell disproportionately on Black Floridians and, by extension, on the Democratic Party, which won votes of 9 out of every 10 African-American voters, according to exit polls. Up to 12,000 voters altogether were purged from Florida’s list of eligible voters,

In 2007, USA Today reported that Louisiana’s secretary of state purged approximately 21,000 voters from the state’s voter rolls. The majority of the voters purged from the rolls were from the areas hardest by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many had been displaced by the storms and had difficulties returning to their parishes. One-third of the purged voters were from New Orleans.

The Philadelphia Tribune has joined local and national effort to help people meet the requirements of the new voter identification laws.

Efforts to challenge voter ID laws and voter purging should also be supported.

A strong voter turnout is imperative in November to send a clear message that efforts to suppress or discourage voters will not succeed.