A Republican legislator from Pennsylvania inadvertently confirmed what liberals have long suspected: that so-called “voter I.D.” laws are a political strategy to help Republicans win more elections. While speaking at a meeting before the Republican State Committee in Hershey, Pennsylvania on June 23, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai proudly listed the Republican Party’s accomplishments in the state while the party controlled both the governorship and the legislature. His list included enacting a “Castle Doctrine” act (a “shoot first” law like the one George Zimmerman claimed shielded him from prosecution after killing unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin earlier this year) and regulations that make it harder for women to obtain abortions. Then Turzia added, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania. Done.” Democrats pounced on Turzia’s statement as evidence showing that co-called “Voter ID” laws are really a strategy to suppress liberal votes and help put Republicans in office. Republicans have long argued that requiring citizens to show photo ID at the polls is necessary to maintain the integrity of elections, but opponents point out that voter fraud is an almost non-existent problem. In their practical implementation, voter ID laws have had the effect of wrongfully disenfranchising legitimate voters across the country, and making voting more difficult for members of discrete groups that tend to lean more Democratic, like city dwellers, students, minorities and the elderly.
Johnson & Johnson announced it is ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the embattled right-wing bill mill charged with spreading “shoot first” laws like the one that drew attention in the killing earlier this year of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. J&J is the 19th company to flee ALEC, and held a seat on ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board.” The company made the announcement after a petition and phone campaign by People for the American Way Foundation, the Color of Change and other groups gathered more than half a million signatures asking corporations to end their support of ALEC’s agenda. ALEC has been a driving force behind the spread of voter suppression laws across the country, like the law that led to the purge of legitimate voters from Florida’s voter rolls. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a formal lawsuit against Florida today to stop the purge. J&J issued a statement saying it did not “condone legislative proposals that could serve, even inadvertently, to limit the rights or impact the safety of any individual,” and that it worked with ALEC only on “matters that help create a climate that supports jobs and innovation in the U.S.” Other companies and organizations that have dropped their ALEC memberships include Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kraft, Wendy’s, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Intuit, Mars, Inc., Arizona Public Service, and Kaplan.
Under the guise of preventing voter fraud — a virtually nonexistent problem in Florida — the state of Florida is demanding tens of thousands of American citizens provide proof of citizenship to the state in person or lose their right to vote. Acting on a directive from Governor Rick Scott, Florida’s secretary of state sent letters to 180,000 voters to be stricken from the voter rolls unless they prove to the state that they are, in fact, citizens. Recipients were told they must attend an administrative hearing in person to provide proof of their citizenship. The list includes many people falsely flagged as non-citizens, including 91 year-old Bill Internicola, a World War II veteran who won a Bronze Star for bravery, and Maureen Russo, a 60 year old business owner who has been a registered voter in Florida for 40 years. ThinkProgress estimates that more than 20 percent of the voters flagged as non-citizens in Florida are actually full-fledged citizens. The massive purge of voters by Florida’s Republican administration comes at a time very close to the impending general election this fall, giving falsely-accused voters minimal time to correct the records. The purge also disproportionally affects Democrats. Two thirds of the supposed non-citizens on the purge list live in Miami-Dade County, which leans heavily Democratic. In response to information that legitimate citizens are being targeted for purging from the voter rolls, Gov. Scott defiantly vowed to intensify his efforts to remove voters from the rolls.
Procter and Gamble, makers of Tide clothing detergent, Dawn dish detergent, Bounty paper towels and other well-known products, has become the 13th company to flee the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) amid growing controversy over the group’s political operations. Procter and Gamble is the largest packaged goods company and advertiser in the U.S., and it joins twelve other major companies, including Kraft Foods, Intuit, Blue Cross, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola in opting not to renew its membership in ALEC for 2012. ALEC has been identified as a source spreading “Shoot First” laws, like the one that Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida brought into the spotlight, as well as school voucher bills, anti-immigrant bills like Arizona’s SB1070, and voter suppression laws that are sweeping across the country. A New York Times article reported that the good-government group Common Cause has filed an IRS complaint about ALEC, saying ALEC functions as a lobby group despite its IRS designation as a charity. Federally-designated charitable groups are subject to sharp restrictions against lobbying under IRS rules.
Progressive groups rejoiced after the American Legislative Exchange Council announced April 17 that it was dumping the task force through which the group advanced voter ID laws, “Stand Your Ground” gun laws and other controversial legislation, but progressives may have rejoiced too soon. On April 18, the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) announced it is fighting back against left wing pressure by forming a task force to take over the work of ALEC’s disbanded “Public Safety and Elections Task Force.” NCPPR’s replacement group, the “Voter Identification Task Force,” will continue to push for voter restriction laws across the country, which NCPPR frames as working to advance “ballot integrity.” Amy Ridenour, chair of the NCPPR, said, combatively, “We’re putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we’ll kick it up a notch somewhere else. You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory.” NCPPR is known for sending “fright mail” to senior citizens, junk mail letters on varying letterhead written in a way that seems intended to scare recipients into donating to the group. Amy Ridenour formerly worked with disgraced right-wing lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who served on the board of NCPPR until he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy.