Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Voter Suppression Working to Eliminate Non-Voter Fraud.

That is right, our governments, state and federal, are working to supposedly eliminate Voter Fraud. But what they are eliminating is suffrage.

At a fair-election coalition press conference at the League of Women Voters' headquarters in Jefferson City, a few nuns came forward to express their concerns that the Catholic sisters in their convents lack the required ID. In fact, before the news conference, Sister Sandy Schwartz of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in St. Louis reported the results of an informal survey of nuns in her order."Fifteen [of 35 voters] did not have state-issued photo IDs," she observed. "This may sound like a good idea at first, but once you stop to think about who would really be affected, this is going to keep a lot of our loved ones from being able to vote."

The strict documentary requirements can be hard for Missouri nuns and other senior citizens, even married women of all ages, in obtaining their birth certificates. A survey by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found that 52 percent of married woman don't have a birth certificate in their current name, and 17 percent of citizens age 65 and over don't have access to any citizenship documents.

At the press conference, Lillie Lewis, an elderly African-American woman, told how she struggled to get a birth certificate in order to secure a state-issued photo ID under the state's rigid "Show Me Proof" law passed in 2005. "I have tried everything to get a copy of my birth certificate," Lewis said, "but Mississippi says they have no record of my birth." So she likely won't be able to obtain a new driver's license, and, as a result, she declared, "My right to vote will be denied."

She was joined at the press conference by the Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who strongly opposed the previous photo ID law. "As Missouri's chief elections official, it's my job to ensure fair elections, and elections cannot be fair if eligible voters are not allowed to vote," said Carnahan. "What we heard today is that getting copies [of the documents needed to obtain a government ID] can be costly, time consuming and sometimes impossible."

The harsh reality of disenfranchisement has already been felt in Arizona, with its sweeping proof-of-citizenship registration requirement passed as part of the anti-immigrant Proposition 200 referendum in 2004. According to Arizona ACORN's Monica Sanschafer, who is heading up an effort to help 20,000 Arizonans register to vote, they have seen the effectiveness of their voter registration efforts cut in half because between 10 percent and 30 percent of low-income and minority citizens don't have the documents needed to register. The law, which has led to more than 38,000 voter registration applications being rejected, is now being challenged in court.

On top of all that, confusing ID requirements and poorly trained poll workers lead to countless voters being turned away: "It's a crapshoot which polling place workers will allow you to vote," notes Linda Brown of the Arizona Advocacy Network.

"All the discourse here is about immigration," Sandschafer observes. "But we're really talking about Arizonans who are Americans and whose legal right to vote is being denied. And while Latino citizens are hit hard, we're finding that all Arizonans are at risk of being disenfranchised by this requirement."

Perhaps no one knows that as well as 97-year-old Shirley Freeda Preiss. She was born at home in Clinton, Kentucky in 1910, before women had the right to vote, and never had a birth certificate. Shirley has voted in every presidential election since FDR first ran in 1932, and proudly describes herself as a "died-in-the-wool Democrat." After living in Arizona for two years, she was eagerly looking forward to casting her ballot in the February primary for the first major woman candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. But lacking a birth certificate or even elementary school records to prove she's a native-born American citizen, the state of Arizona's bureaucrats determined that this former school-teacher who taught generations of Americans shouldn't be allowed to vote.

"I have a constitutional right to vote, don't I?" she asks with her soft Southern drawl. "I didn't get to vote because of a birth certificate. What am I going to do now?"

Her strong-willed 78-year-old son, Nathan "Joey" Nemnich, a World War II veteran, is infuriated. "I'm pissed. She's an American citizen who worked her whole life and I want her to vote," he says. He went down to the local Motor Vehicle Division to get her an Arizona ID and register her to vote, armed with copies of his mother's three drivers' licenses from her previous home in Texas, along with copies of her Social Security and Medicare cards. All that wasn't good enough for the state of Arizona. "The sons of bitches are taking away our Constitution," Nemnich says.

In Arizona and now as seems likely in Missouri, Kafkaesque rules blend with right-wing ideology to block American citizens like Shirley Preiss from voting, collateral damage in the Republican-led war on democracy. "I was very disappointed," she says of the state's roadblocks to voting. "It's not acceptable. I've always voted."

Watch and wonder:

Now I would be willing to bet, and I usually don’t bet, that if the Repubs thought that undocumented immigrants voted for Repubs, we wouldn’t be seeing much of this faux “Voter Fraud” legislation.

So, do you think if Shirley ever gets her right to vote back she will be voting Republican?

I am not saying, I am just saying!

By the way I am not that old and I never had a birth certificate. The Church in which I was baptized burned down a couple of years after I was born with all of the records it contained.

Luckily I had the means and forethought to get a passport before this latest attack on suffrage took hold.


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