Monday September 24, 2012

Sheldon Adelson, one of the richest people around, has pledged "limitless" donations to do "whatever it takes" to defeat President Obama. But Republicans have few concerns about letting the wealthy dominate elections. Senate Minor ity Leader Mitch McConnell has consistently praised the Citizen’s United decision, which encourages this unlimited spending.

What’s worse is that Repub licans want to keep these donations secret. Senate Republi cans have repeatedly filibustered Democratic campaign disclosure bills. In July, not one Senate Republican supported the DISCLOSE Act.

But while Republicans protect the voice of the rich, they are going to great lengths to suppress the voice of the less ad vantaged. In state after state, Republican legislatures are passing laws to make it more difficult for lower-in come, minority citizens to vote. Their intent is obvious: to disenfranchise voters who tend to vote Democratic. As the Re pub lican majority leader in Pennsylvania said "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, [is] done." Even in Massachusetts, Scott Brown has opposed the state’s effort to comply with the National Voter Registration Act.

Republicans contend that these rules are necessary to protect the integrity of elections. Yet there is little evidence to support their claim that voter fraud is an issue. In Penn syl vania, the state admitted there have been no prosecutions of voter impersonation. Between 2002 and 2005, the Justice Department prosecuted only 26 cases of voter fraud despite a concerted effort by the Bush administration to prosecute it. As Fox News reported "election ad ministrators and academics who monitor the issue said in-person fraud is rare."

But the evidence that these rules will suppress voting is indisputable. The Pennsylvania Department of State estimated that more than 759,000 voters might not have the required identification. In Florida, where a stringent registration law went into effect, newly registered Democrats dropped from over 200,000 per year before 2008 to just 11,365 in the past year.

To protect elections from isolated cases of voting irregularity, Republicans are content to disenfranchise millions of voters. The presumed impact of these Republican-sponsored laws is not a left-wing fantasy. Federal and state courts are taking notice, overturning discriminatory rules in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin.

The best way to turn around this assault on democracy is to vote Democratic this Novem ber. Across the board, Demo cratic candidates, including Eliz abeth Warren (elizabeth
warren.com/issues/leveling-the-playing-field#voting
-rights) demonstrate that they are for transparent campaign funding, and making it easier, not harder, to cast your vote.

ESTELLE MILLER

Lenox