Against vociferous critics and a skeptical host, Project 21’s Horace Cooper soundly and succinctly justified the need for polling place protections against voter fraud and dispatched the various alarmist attacks on this commonsense safeguard to protect American democracy.
On Al Jazeera America’s “Inside Story” program on 10/15/14, Horace – the co-chairman of the National Center’s black leadership network – rebutted allegations against ballot protections made by Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center and Ashley Spillane of Rock the Vote as well as host Ray Suarez, proving the real threat to civil rights is voter fraud and that simple protections such as requiring valid identification to vote are lawful and popular.
In pointing out to the host why ballot protection laws are necessary and defending them against allegations presented by Weiser they may intentionally discriminate on the basis of race, Horace explained that it is:
part of the legislatures’ responsibilities to see to it that the constitutional right they have to lay out the election rules are carried out in a way that brings confidence in the minds of the citizens in that community as well as the state legislature itself. As it happens – when this is polled – blacks, whites, browns, the entire diaspora of America supports this between 60 and 70 percent… [People] say one of their biggest reasons for not participating is they don’t believe their vote will count, and this measure – when they’re told about it – encourages them to go in and participate because it means that their vote will be more meaningful.
When it was suggested that protections of voting are unnecessary because there are few proven cases of voter fraud, Horace noted that there are many well-respected and commonly accepted laws that also catch few offenders such as federal kidnapping, tax fraud and bank fraud and that courts are not the proper venue to deal with the issue of the validity of the policies. He asked:
Is that really the standard we’re supposed to be living by – that if we only see a few of these things happen, we need to go ahead on and shove that out the door?… There are a lot of criticisms that I hear that are the kind that should be presented to a lawmaker, not the courts. These are policy arguments, not legal questions.
Horace also noted that there appears to be a partisan interest fueling the campaign against voter ID laws. While critics of ballot protections in general complain that they will suppress voting, Horace noted that there is not the same concern about the rural access (distance and numbers of polling stations) for the likely reason that rural voters are largely white and old and that gerrymandering was never an issue until more conservative state legislatures began using the tactic to break up liberal maps that augmented their power. He said “it’s whose ox is getting gored and not a real, legitimate issue about protected rights.”
Horace added about such complaints:
It’s only when it serves this useful purpose to claim that poor, vulnerable groups are being targeted. I’d love to hear about the states where blacks and Latinos actually voted in lower numbers after this occurred now that we’ve had six years since that decision [from the Supreme Court validating such protections] came down.