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GOP Pushing Voter Suppression Laws To Impact The 2012 Presidential Election (VIDEO)

Roland Martin talks with Spencer Overton, author of Stealing Democracy and Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice about the GOP’s attempts to suppress the African-American vote in 2012.

MR. MARTIN: Welcome back. Republicans have already made it clear that their primary goal is to make sure Pres. Barack Obama does not return for another four years. Washington, D.C., is at a standstill; and nothing is getting done. But a lot is being done across the country. While we’re focusing on the shenanigans in the House and the Senate, state governments are passing laws that will make it more difficult for poor folk, students, African-Americans and other folks to vote. They call it “voter fraud” – trying to protect [against] voter fraud – but I’m calling it what it is: voter suppression.

Here’s what Harvard professor Charles Ogletree had to say.

[VIDEO CLIP.]

PROF. CHARLES OGLETREE: Thirty-five states have changed their voting procedures –
MR. MARTIN: Right.

PROF. OGLETREE: — since 2008 – because of Barack Obama.

MR. MARTIN: Right.

PROF. OGLETREE: And that means we will not be able to vote if they don’t know if they’ve changed the dates, they’ve changed the times, you have to have a government I.D. If you or I were at Morehouse, or our sister were at Spelman, they would not have a government I.D. If they were at Georgia Tech, or at University of Georgia, they would have a –
MR. MARTIN: So, that[?] –

PROF. OGLETREE: — go- — a –

MR. MARTIN: — public school, private school.

PROF. OGLETREE: — absolutely!

MR. MARTIN: Right.

PROF. OGLETREE: It makes no sense, but it’s disenfranchising thousands of us.

[END OF VIDEO.]

MR. MARTIN: Now, here to show us exactly how it’s being done and what we can do about it is Spencer Overton, author of Stealing Democracy, as well as Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, whose new report identified up to 5 million people who will find it harder to vote, if the Republican governors and state legislators get their way.

Well, folks, welcome to the show.

MR. SPENCER OVERTON: Thanks so much.

MR. MARTIN: Now, Nicole, your report says that some 3.2 million folks will be affected by the new voter I.D. laws, and so who’re we talking about?

MS. NICOLE AUSTIN-HILLERY: We are talking about the very people you mentioned during your introduction, Roland. We are talking about students, poor, minorities, elderly people, people with disabilities. Those are the people who’re going to be most affected by these changes.

MR. MARTIN: Now, we saw this week a story out of Tennessee, where you had this elderly Black woman. She brought six or seven different pieces of identification.
She brought phone bill, light bill – all kind[s] of stuff – and they said, well, because she didn’t have her marital certificate, they wouldn’t give her a voter I.D.

MR. OVERTON: Right. Tha- — that’s the big problem here in terms of particular people being excluded. And we’re talking about 20 million Americans who don’t have D- — I.D., possibly. That’s more people than Delaware, New Mexico and 14 other states combined, so we’re talking about a lot of people.

MR. MARTIN: Now, here’s what I’ve been laying out, and no one can explain it to me. Show me where a Republican-led legislature and governor is trying to expand voting. Because I get the sense that all of this is about contracting. Nowhere did I see where someone’s actually trying to increase the people who are voting.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: And that’s exactly what our study shows, Roland. The
Brennan Center, just this past Monday, released a report, “Voting Law Changes in
2012.” It’s the first comprehensive report really looking at what’s been going on inn these states, and what our report shows is that, counter to what had been happening in previous years, what is actually going on is exactly that: a contraction of – of voting laws that have the effect of ensuring that fewer people actually get their right to vote and get access to the ballot box.

MR. MARTIN: Now, Spencer, when you hear Republicans say, “Oh, we want to protect against voter fraud” –

MR. OVERTON: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — in some places, the voting fraud is so minimal. And then where there is voter fraud, they actually get caught.

MR. OVERTON: Right. There was a study done in Ohio, and for every 20 million ballots cast, there was one improper vote. So, just a small –

MR. MARTIN: Wait a minute.
MR. OVERTON: — per- –

MR. MARTIN: Out of 20 million?

MR. OVERTON: — out of 20 million ballots, one improper vote. So, just a very small percentage here of – of fraud that even exists out there. And so, basically, what people are saying is, “We’ve got to throw out the baby, because the baby has a drop of bath water on the baby’s arm.” A- — and, unfortunately, perhaps it’s because some of these folks don’t like the way the baby’s going to vote, and so they’re happy to throw out the baby.

MR. MARTIN: Nicole, I ha- — I’ve had some African-Americans say, “Look, we” – “we need a[n] I.D. to get into a club, to write a check, to use our card. So, what’s the big deal having an I.D. to vote?”

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: Well, for one thing, there’re several barriers to people actually getting I.D.s. In some states, there’s actually a cost to getting an I.D. There’re some people who literally will be prohibited from getting I.D.s. There are people in large cities in the United States – say, for instance, New York City – where people simply don’t get government-issued I.D.s because they don’t drive, for instance. It’s not a city where they need cars.

MR. MARTIN: One of the things that I’ve been focused on on this show is not just here’s the issue of voter suppression; but, “Fine, there’re obstacles. There’re barriers. How do we get around them?” And so who is out there working, working hard and diligent[ly] to make changes in terms of, “Oh. So, fine. You[‘ve] got a voter I.D. law?
How are we getting folks actually to get the voter I.D.s?” What – what’s going on, on the ground?

MR. OVERTON: I’ll defer to you, and then –

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: Sure.

MR. OVERTON: — I’ll talk.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: There are lots of things going on across the country, Roland, and as well, on the congressional level. For one thing, there are many organizations that work with constituents, that work with community groups, that are actually trying to help people in their jurisdictions.

MR. MARTIN: Um-hum?

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: They are trying to ensure that people have the information that they need so that they are knowledgeable and they know, “well, here’s what’s required in your state.” And there are organizations who are saying, “We will help you to meet these requirements, to follow the steps so that you can get your I.D.” – things as simple as if you need a ride to a particular location where you go to get that I.D., we will mobilize and help people to get there; and even as high up as Congress. As a result of our report that came out on Monday, the CBC has reached out to us and has said, “We want to co-“ – “We want to talk to you about what we need to do to address these issues and what we need to do to ensure that constituents in our districts are able to handle these changes.”

MR. MARTIN: Now, Spencer, also, if you don’t have the I.D., you can still vote absentee ballot. And so are people saying, “Fine. Okay. You have that barrier. Let’s push folks to get absentee” –

MR. OVERTON: Yeah.

MR. MARTIN: — “ballots”?

MR. OVERTON: You’re – you’re – you’re right that that is the case in terms of absentee in some places. Also, when you go to the polls, you could vote a provisional [ballot], possibly, but then you[‘ve] got to show up with your I.D., and it’s a hassle here – right? I- — it’s important, if you can, to go ahead and get an I.D. and just to not be intimidated, ‘cause part of this is just a scare – right? “Hey, they don’t want you to vote. Stay home.” So, the big thing is you[‘ve] got to step up to the plate and vote. You shouldn’t use this as an excuse to stay home. That’s number one.

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MR. OVERTON: Number two, as Nicole has said, we’ve got to take action, whether it’s a petition drive, getting involved in the local NAACP, and taking real action to fight back these laws. There are still laws pending in –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MR. OVERTON: — about 45 states, and you can get involved and active to fight back and – and to keep – to – to – to keep back some of these – some of these laws that are coming down the pipe.

MR. MARTIN: Well, one of the things that we’ve done – for instance, on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” what we did was, with my segment – they had the bill in
Ohio. They had –

MR. OVERTON: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — to get those 231,000 signatures. Well, we pushed it. They were able to get more than 300,000. That law could not go into effect. It’s on the ballot for November 2012. So, one of the things that we’re also going to be doing is that as these measures come up, letting our listeners and viewers know, “Okay. This is the next state on the horizon.”

MR. OVERTON: Right.

MR. MARTIN: You know? And so it’s a matter of using our infrastructure, because I say, “Fine. You want to put the barriers up? We still will find a way to beat you at the ballot s-“ – “box.”

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: Exactly.

MR. OVERTON: Exactly.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: And – and educate people, Roland.

MR. MARTIN: Absolutely.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: I mean that’s one of the important things about the work that we do at the Brennan Center. We are a nonpartisan organization, but we are very bullish on getting information out – information like this report.

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: We have all kinds of links and information on our website, and we are very bullish on educating the public about all of these –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: — issues.

MR. MARTIN: [A] few seconds, Spencer.

MR. OVERTON: Folks should not be complacent simply because we have an African-American present [sic] d- — president. This is the first time in over a century that we see a concerted, multi-state effort to roll back voting rights and make it harder to vote.

MR. MARTIN: Absolutely. Spencer and Nicole, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

MS. AUSTIN-HILLERY: Thank you, Roland.

MR. OVERTON: Thank you.

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