Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bill Clinton: GOP Voter Suppression Laws a Sign of Desperation

At an event on Tuesday night organized by the Arkansas Democratic Party, former President Bill Clinton offered a preview of his prime-time speech at the Democratic Convention tomorrow. He defended Obama’s stimulus and healthcare plans, and ridiculed GOP efforts to blame Obama for the national debt, saying, “They built it.”
At the end of his speech, Clinton took aim at the GOP for passing laws across the country that will restrict the right to vote for minority, low-income, young and elderly voters, singling out the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio as the worst offenders. Said Clinton:
“Do you really want to live in a country where one party is so desperate to win the White House that they go around trying to make it harder for people to vote if they’re people of color, poor people or first generation immigrants?
“In Pennsylvania, where they passed all these voter ID requirements, the House Republican leader who passed it said it was one of the most important achievements because it will enable Governor Romney to defeat the president in Pennsylvania.
“In Ohio, they passed the whole nine yards. The problem was in Ohio you can actually put this stuff on the ballot pretty easily to overturn it. So they went back in—you gotta give it to Republicans, they’re good. They vetoed it, then they snuck in an end to advance voting. Then they allowed the counties—and every county in Ohio has an election commission of three Democrats and three Republicans—to decide if they were going to go around advance voting. The Democrats, we were for it. So in every county that was Republican, Democrats said ‘OK, we’ll have advance voting.’ And in every single county that is overwhelming Democratic, the Republicans voted against allowing advance voting.
“This is not complicated—America is becoming more diverse and younger and more vibrant. We’re younger than Europe, we’re younger than Japan and in twenty years we’ll be younger than China.”
And, as Clinton told student activists at the Campus Progress conference last year, the GOP is responding to that growing diversity not by courting minority voters but by making it harder for them to cast a ballot. Said Clinton in July 2011:
“One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.…
“Why is all this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”
How successful Republicans are at this voter suppression effort will be one of the major factors that determines the outcome of the 2012 election.

Opinion: Fight voter 'fraud' without voter suppression

quot;Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of these voter
Photo credit: Paul Tong / Tribune Media Services | "Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of these voter identification laws is the lack of outrage from the general public," write Sol Wachtler and David Gould.

The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday in a challenge to the state's new voter identification law. During this past year, more than two dozen new such laws have passed in 19 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. These laws impose various burdens, all requiring voter I.D.s. Some have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts, but others remain on the books.
Proponents of these laws say they prevent fraud by keeping noncitizens from the polls and others from voting in the name of another person. But in most of those 19 states, there was not a single documented case of a person voting in the name of another, and no state could point to more than a handful of any alleged incidents of fraudulent voting. One is drawn to the conclusion that these laws were put in place to suppress certain voter groups. And given that many members of poor minority communities don't drive cars and therefore have no driver's licenses, or cannot afford the fee for voter ID cards, or may not have been born in hospitals, making it harder to obtain birth certificates, it doesn't require genius to discern which voters are being suppressed.

The supporters of the identification laws and their claim of a goal to suppress voter fraud, not to burden the voting rights of traditionally Democratic voters, is as believable as the bygone supporters of the poll tax who claimed the (now outlawed) tax was not meant to suppress the black vote but was an essential means of having a "reliable indicum of continued residence."

Recently Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that the "Democrat Party is encouraging voter fraud," which must be stopped. Of course, he offers no proof of this outrageous charge. In addition, employing the kind of voter fraud these statutes purport to combat is something in which no sentient person or organization would engage. The risk-to-reward ratio is all out of whack. The unlawful voter risks a felony conviction and the political organization that sponsored it risks a ruinous scandal. The upside is one vote.

Stalin reportedly once said that it's not important who votes, it's important who counts the votes. Remember that in the last "election" before his downfall, Saddam Hussein received more than 99 percent of the vote. Do you think he accomplished that illegitimate victory by using identity voter fraud? There are too many far more efficient ways of actually influencing the outcome of an election, where the reward is exponentially greater and the risk is close to zero.

One such way is passing voter identification laws that effectively disenfranchise many thousands of opposition voters with no risk at all. Indeed, the Republican House leader in Pennsylvania was caught on tape bragging that the Pennsylvania voter identification law would be responsible for Mitt Romney winning the state.

In 1964, this country abolished the poll tax by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. A year later, a unanimous Supreme Court invalidated a Virginia statute meant to sidestep the 24th Amendment by allowing for the filing of a certificate of residence six months before the election as an alternative to the poll tax. Would the self-proclaimed "Constitutional conservative," strict constructionists who have spearheaded the state voter identification laws proclaim that the 24th Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decision only outlawed the poll tax, not other nefarious means of voter suppression, the spirit of the Constitution be damned?

Yet, it is not only the spirit of the Constitution that would condemn these voter identification laws. They should also be condemned by the bedrock American belief that voting is one of our most cherished rights. That right should not be burdened absent solid proof of a great overriding need, which has not been proven. Even if identity voter fraud were a significant problem, there are many ways to deal with it that do not result in massive de facto disenfranchisement as collateral damage.

One solution to this "problem," if it existed, would be something we all see every day in stores, doctors offices and at ATMs. Small cameras take the picture of everyone undertaking a transaction. Having your picture taken in coordination with your sign-in at the polling site would chill even the most determined false voter bent on identity fraud. The fly in the ointment for sponsors of the voter identification bills is that the camera method would not disenfranchise even one voter.

If a 7-Eleven can run such a system, surely our boards of elections can do so when the benefit -- protecting our right to vote -- is so important.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of these voter identification laws is the lack of outrage from the public. We are Republicans, and we are outraged. Everyone ought to be.

Sol Wachtler is a former chief judge of New York State and is a professor of constitutional Law at Touro Law School. David Gould is a practicing attorney and a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

Israeli Fallout

It should go without saying, but apparently does not, that the tragic crisis unfolding in the Middle East calls for sober statesmanship rather than political posturing. The jihadist murder of the American ambassador to a newly liberated Libya; the carnage unleashed by the Assad regime on the Syrian people; the emergence of a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt; the conundrum of Iranian nuclear ambitions — the region presents decades worth of complex challenges telescoped into real time.

Responding to these challenges, Mitt Romney mixes crude political theater with neocon bromides. Attacking President Obama for supposedly apologizing to Islamic radicals, he appears unable or unwilling to understand the responsibilities of a president trying to deal with a volatile situation while Americans are in harm’s way.

Romney shows no respect for diplomacy in general. He declares that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers” and maintains that “in an American century, America leads the free world.” His surrogates repeatedly mock President Obama’s “apology tour” and his unfortunate “leading from behind” formulation on Libya. His principal advisers, John Bolton and Dan Senor, are part of a neocon hard core that opposes any policy that would diminish American sovereignty or freedom of action. Yet faced with the vexing issue of whether the Middle East should be further roiled by an Israeli attack on Iran in an attempt to stop its nuclear program, Romney is willing to outsource that decision to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking earlier this week, Netanyahu said that if the Obama administration was unwilling to set fixed red lines that Iran could not cross, it “has no ‘moral right’ to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own.” The fundamental moral and political issue here, however, is whether it is the sovereign prerogative of the United States to make the decision of whether to start a regional war, a war that will certainly require American resources and may well require American troops to finish.

The threat to international security posed by the Iranian nuclear program should not be underestimated and the Obama administration takes the threat seriously. It continues to keep all options on the table, but believes that there is additional time for sanctions to work. Romney is apparently prepared to delegate to Netanyahu the decision to start a conflict that the United States military believes is, at best, premature, that is unlikely to be fully effective, that will send oil prices skyrocketing, that will further destabilize Lebanon and Syria (and possibly the shaky governments in Libya and Egypt), and that will be likely to consolidate domestic support for a deeply unpopular Iranian regime. But the question in the presidential campaign is not whether attacking Iran now or later is a good idea, but whether a decision with enormous geo-strategic consequences should be made by the American president or by the leader of an ally dependent upon American power.

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Moshne Milner / Handout/Israeli Government, via European Pressphoto AgencyA handout image made available by the Israeli Government Press Office showing the commentary by Mitt Romney during his trip to Israel in July 2012. "Mr. Prime Minister, Thank you for your warm hospitality and lasting friendship. Your service for peace is an inspiration. Best wishes, Mitt Romney July 28, 2012."

Strong, even passionate, supporters of Israel should be troubled by the prospect of an Israeli government not only ignoring the policy choices of its powerful ally but also willing to intrude into American domestic politics in an attempt to influence or override the president’s foreign policy. Imagine, for example, that South Korea decided it was going to invade North Korea to destroy its nuclear facilities, potentially triggering a war on the Korean Peninsula that could bring in China and possibly other countries in the region. Indeed, South Korea could take its policy argument directly from Mitt Romney’s Web site:
A nuclear weapons capability in the hands of an unpredictable dictatorship with unknown leadership and an unclear chain of command poses a direct threat to U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in East Asia, threatens our close allies South Korea and Japan, destabilizes the entire Pacific region, and could lead to the illicit transfer of a nuclear device to another rogue nation or a terrorist group.
But Mitt Romney is not suggesting an attack on Pyongyang and he certainly is not offering carte blanche to Seoul.

Analogous situations would be equally untenable. If India decided that, once and for all, it refused to live under the threat of an unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan and intended to invade, we would never tell them it was up to them. If Taiwan had feared an attack from China across the Formosa Strait during the early 1970s, would Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger have told them it was their call rather than ours whether to launch a surprise attack? Even to put the question shows the absurdity of a superpower’s acquiescing to allies on critical questions of war and peace in a nuclear age.

To be sure, Israel is a special ally, but that does not entitle it to make the decision on matters where United States interest and power are inextricably and centrally engaged. It is inconceivable that the United States would permit another ally dependent on American funds and American defense systems to take such a decision unilaterally. It is also inconceivable that we would permit another foreign government to intervene directly and forcefully in our political process to garner popular support for its policies over the objections of the administration.

Yet senior Israeli officials take the view that the Israeli government believes it can defy American wishes and bypass the president. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, “Ehud Barak says that if Israel were to act now against U.S. wishes, the U.S. Congress would still favor Israel over Iran.”Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, who was appointed by Netanyahu, says “the American people and Congress would support Israel right now if it were engaged in a war with Iran.” Netanyahu and Obama appear to recognize that airing their toxic relationship publicly is to neither one’s advantage and both have been walking back stories that Obama refused to meet before the approaching United Nations meetings in New York. They have both called attention to the hourlong telephone conversation they had this week. Attitudes in Israel are fluid, and Defense Minister Barak appears to have moved against an imminent attack (or maybe he hasn’t — as I said, the situation is fluid), but it is remarkable that senior officials of a foreign government would suggest that the president’s judgments could be bypassed and foreign policy should be subject to Congressional or popular choice.

The Romney campaign seems to think that all of this is just fine. “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” says Dan Senor, Romney’s senior national security adviser and someone widely tapped as a future national security adviser in a Romney administration. Romney expresses a similar view, stating blandly, “Prime Minister Netanyahu always has to do what he feels is in the best interests of his own nation.” In his convention address, he accused President Obama of threatening to throw Israel “under the bus.” Apparently, Romney thinks Israel should drive the regional bus, leaving the United States to deal with any crashes.

It is American policy to support Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, and the United States has supported its ally with billions of dollars and sophisticated weaponry. That support should earn reciprocal cooperation and respect for American policy from its ally, not to mention non-interference in its domestic politics. 

Despite all his talk about American power and sovereignty, Mitt Romney seems willing to let someone else decide whether to start what may be the first potential regional war of the new “American century.” That is not real leadership; it is dangerous pandering and a strong indication of a prospective president without a genuine foreign policy compass. Once again, we are left with the question of whether Romney means what he is saying and whether he would govern sensibly. But as we have learned to our great detriment over the last decade, the Middle East is no place for loose talk or lazy thinking.

Eric Lewis is a partner at Lewis Baach PLLC in Washington.

    • AAC
    • NY
    • Verified
    "Mitt Romney seems willing to let someone else decide whether to start what may be the first potential regional war of the new “American century."

    Seems willing? To whom? Certainly not to everyone. This is really coming primarily from one side of the aisle.

    Some of us see this as an absurd accusation.
      • Mira
      • NYC
      This author is out of touch with reality. How is it "outsourcing" or "delegating" to allow *Israel* to decide whether *Israel* should protect its own sovereign interests and the security of its own population? This is some really warped logic.
        • CMR
        • Florida
        If Israel chooses to go to war, Israel should carry the burden alone. The U.S. should stay out of it. As countries around the globe keep reminding Americans, the U.S. is not the world's policeman, period.
          • Miles
          • Santa Monica
          I think that is quite clear at this point that Romney is simply a coward. Time after time he has taken the negative approach, the fear based approach. Jon McCain for example would take the hard but high road. For instance going against his constituency at rallies to correct people of Mr. Obama's character (and Christianity.) Mr. Romney has yet to stand up to any body. In the face of Israels pretense to war and a very complicated Middle East situation with American's lives on the line, he has once more suggested nothing more than a cheap and dirty critique in place of a courageous and possibly difficult vision for America. I wonder why he wants to be president when the job's most important attribute is courage. Only a coward would risk other people's lives for his own political gain.
            • Nothman
            • Tel Aviv
            It may "appear that way to you" from Michigan, but it is pretty clear to me, from Tel Aviv, that far from a majority of Israelis support his policies. And what the majority of Israelis "want us to do" should and must not determine what OUR President believes is in the best interest of OUR country.
              • Martin Chiaravalloti
              • Orlando, FL
              Netanyahu should be working on removing settlers from the West Bank as a good faith showing of his intention to give the West Bank and Gaza back to the Palestintians, not getting invloved with trying to strongarm their most staunch ally into preemptive attacks on Iran! We went through that in Iraq, and we won't do it again anytime soon! 4,500 dead in the sand is 4,500 too many!
                • Christina
                • Italy
                Its time to reassess our aid to israel. Why do we give more us taxpayer $ to israel than any other nation? This disturbs me because there are so many very very needy places we could be helping. Israel is a very competant well off nation and population. We could cut our aid way back and still support them. More olive branches and tolerant gestures toward their neighbors especially the Palestinians would go along way as opposed to sending arms that threaten to kill and bomb.
                  • SZ
                  • Minneapolis
                  It baffled me that the author started off by lumping "the emergence of a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt" with "The jihadist murder of the American ambassador to a newly liberated Libya" and "the carnage unleashed by the Assad regime on the Syrian people". Why would he mention the challenges of dealing with a democratically elected government in the same breadth with terrorism and the barbaric acts of a cruel despot?

                  It baffled me more because the article, otherwise, is a thoughtful critical analysis of the Israel-Iran conundrum.
                    • Michael.M. Eisman
                    • Philadelphia
                    Not being privildged to see all of the intellegence material I cannot make a rational assesment of the situation, but, understand that it will take only one or two atomic bombs to wipe out Israel. Netenyahu is working with a gun pointed at his head (literally). Bland assurances, no matter who they come from, are of little help in this situation. There are raving maniacs in Iran loudly threatening Israel's destruction and building the bombs to accomplish this. Under these circumstances, if you were Bibi, what would you do, and how much would you care about the niceties of diplomacy? If, God forbid, Israel was destroyed, wouldn't our leaders simply shake their heads and say "too bad, but we tried diplomacy"?

                    Finally remember Golda Meir's words that there will be peace between Israelis and Arabs when they want their children to live more then they want ours to die.
                      • Dave
                      • North Strabane, PA
                      For all his talk about American exceptionalism, it seems that Romney is so mesmerized by Israeli exceptionalism that he would defer to it.
                        • Dave Coyne
                        • Goshen IN
                        There is no point in looking for sanity in Romney's approach to Israel. Like George W. and the zealots who control the Republican party and the current regime in Israel, Romney takes his instructions directly from God. There is no room here for rational discourse.
                          • Anita
                          • Palm Coast, FL
                          Israel already HAS nukes, so what's the big deal? If I were Iranian, I'd be fearful of being attacked by Israel or the US, since Netanyahu is either egging on conservatives to wage war or threatening to do just that himself.
                            • jophoenix
                            • AZ
                            little Lord Fontlaroy must have his way
                              • William Turnier
                              • Chapel Hill, NC
                              A now deceased great Israeli intellectual with whom I was very friendly used to say: "The Third World War will start in the Third World." Let us hope we never live to see his words proven correct.
                                • Bklyn25
                                • Columbus, OH
                                Preemptive bombing of Pyongyang is an excellent idea, though this is a discussion for another time and place.

                                Second, Netanyahu does not prescribe any course of action for the United States, a sovereign nation. He seeks only to rid himself of American meddling in the decision making of Israel, another sovereign nation. His demand is only that America clarify the parameters of its meddling—or to stand aside while Israel alone defends its existence as it sees fit.

                                The easiest way for Obama to silence Netanyahu is to keep silent himself.
                                  • Mike
                                  • New York, NY
                                  Today's America can't protect it's own embassies and personnel from Arab mobs celebrating the 9/11 attacks, let alone it's own citizens. That's the sorry state of our nation under the current administration.
                                    • Rlanni
                                    • Princeton, NJ
                                    I don't know if now if the time to bomb IRAN's nuclear facilities I leave that to our president, secretary of state, secretary of defense and CIA head.

                                    I don't accept Lewis's fear of a regional war. No one is calling for a ground war and I don't think one would happen. Iran has few friends in the area --I can only think of Syria--and many who would like to see it taken down a notch or two--Arabia, Jordan. Plus, Israel's attack on Iraq and Syria's nuclear facilities did not result in a regional war. The real question is whether a limited strike would be effective at this point.

                                    I think Israel should have struke a long time ago. When a strike would have been much more damaging and easier. Before everything was moved to hardened underground facilities. As for Iran making the decision to build a bomb--come on already! Why else would they be doing it in underground facilities and playing hide and seek with inspectors?

                                    Israel is a very small country and extremely vulnerable to a nuclear strike. It would take just one nuke to wipe out Israel. And even the most sophisticated anti missile system can be overwhelmed by a dozen missiles in such a small air space. And there is still the threat of one smuggled in by suicide bomber.

                                    So frankly, I am surprised Israel hasn't struke already. As for US involvement, other than intelligence and weaponry we don't have any. There maybe some anti-American demonstrations, but I don't even recall those when Syria and Iraq were struck.
                                      • Geo
                                      • Vancouver
                                      Critical assumptions in the text:

                                      "The fundamental moral and political issue here, however, is whether it is the sovereign prerogative of the United States to make the decision of whether to start a regional war, a war that will certainly require American resources and may well require American troops to finish."

                                      1) While American resources may be required to finish the war there is no requirement for the American's to get involved at all. Netanyahu seems ready to leap into the abyss, dragging all of Isreal with him but that doesn't mean that America needs to follow.

                                      2) That such a war includes the possiblity of a successful finish.

                                      If Netanyahu does attack Iran America's best aid for Isreali's is to offer citizenship to all who want to leave.
                                        • the doctor
                                        • allentown, pa
                                        Romney appears, like the recent Bush, to have such a truncated and undeveloped view of foreign affairs that he seriously suggests that Israel be given carte blanche to initiate hostilites in a complex and volatile region where the U.S. is engaged in the kind of realpolitik that NIxon/Kissinger employed in China. Obama has openly declared the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear armed Iran. He has orchestrated effective economic sanctions, enhanced Israeli offensive and defensive weaponary, and deepened intelligence co-operation between Tel Aviv and Washington. It seems typical of Romney's knee-jerk and transparently craven nature that he roll the dice for a short-term bump in the polls at the expense of our national security. Is he clueless about the fall-out of an Israeli "pre-emptive" strike against Iran? To make this a campaign slogan is irresponsible. The last thing we need need is a candidate as naif as Bush whose national security advisors are channeling Dick Cheney.
                                          • banicki
                                          • michigan
                                          Where is it in the Preamble to the Constitution that it says "We the people of the United States, and its ally Israel, in order to form a more perfect Union......?
                                            • Frazier
                                            • orlando
                                            Romney will agree with anyone against Obama. He forgets Americans aren't stupid
                                              • Patrick
                                              • Long Island NY
                                              Our Israeli friends claim to be the Holy land. Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank are the center of hatred, violence, and intolerance among differing people. The entire world watches what happens there and more importantly, the local region is heavily influenced by all that hatred, violence, and intolerance. I cannot believe Israel is a Holy land anymore, but it can be again. It was a long time ago.

                                              In New York City, there is what we call, the melting pot, in which there are numerous cultures and people's that live and thrive together in peace in a small gegraphical area. There are many different ethnic groups but the majority of New Yorkers proudly consider themselves Americans which bonds them as one.

                                              Also in New York City, there is a great Jewish community ranging from ultra orthodox which I love to liberal cosmopolitans. I extend an invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to spend a week walking the nieghborhoods of New York from Manhattan to the outer burroughs to see first hand how radically different cultures and people have learned they are all one and accept each other, sometimes so well acclimated, that they don't notice their differences through years of cohabitation.

                                              Walk New York Netanyahu, and return to Israel with your opened heart. Show peace to your nieghbors and your distant adversaries will then respect you and you will find peace throughout the region.

                                              Into the melting pot went many metals to create a strong and invincible alloy that shines hope and friendship.
                                                • dubious
                                                • new york
                                                I like Romney but now that I know Bolton is a principal adviser, there is no way I can support him.
                                                  • Jay Casey
                                                  • Arkansas
                                                  Little angers me more than for American politicians to let Israel jerk us around on our foreign policy - often putting us in harms way just because our politicians are afraid of the domestic Israel lobby. And that too many people in the US seem to care more about what is good for Israel than what is good for America. Why do we put up with this?

                                                1. Voter Suppression, Then and Now

                                                  Kevin Stanton
                                                  New Haven
                                                  September 6, 2012, 9:26 pm  

                                                  SUPPRESSING the black vote is a very old story in America, and it has never been just a Southern thing.
                                                  In 1840, and again in 1841, the former Frederick Bailey, now Frederick Douglass, walked a few blocks from his rented apartment on Ray Street in New Bedford, Mass., to the town hall, where he paid a local tax of $1.50 to register to vote. Born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1818, Douglass escaped in an epic journey on trains and ferry boats, first to New York City, and then to the whaling port of New Bedford in 1838.

                                                  By the mid-1840s, he had emerged as one of the greatest orators and writers in American history. But legally, Douglass began his public life by committing what today we would consider voter fraud, using an assumed name.
                                                  It was a necessary step: when he registered to vote under his new identity, “Douglass,” a name he took from Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 epic poem  
                                                  this fugitive slave was effectively an illegal immigrant in Massachusetts. He was still the legal “property” of Thomas Auld, his owner in St. Michaels, Md., and susceptible, under the federal fugitive slave law, to capture and return to slavery at any time.

                                                  It was a risky move. If required, the only identification Douglass could give the registrar may have been his address in the town directory. He possessed two pieces of paper, which would only have endangered him more. One was a fraudulent “Seaman’s Protection Paper,” which he had borrowed in Baltimore from a retired free black sailor named Stanley, who was willing to support the young man’s escape.

                                                  The second was a brief three-line certification of his marriage to Anna Murray, his free black fiancée, who joined him in New York just after his escape. A black minister, James Pennington, himself a former fugitive slave, married them, but on the document he called them Mr. and Mrs.  Douglass was at least the fourth name Frederick had used to distract the authorities on his quest for freedom. He once remarked that a fugitive slave had to adopt various names to survive because “among honest men an honest man may well be content with one name … but toward fugitives, Americans are not honest.”

                                                  Should this fugitive, who had committed the crime of stealing his own freedom and living under false identities, have been allowed to vote? Voting reforms in recent decades had broadened the franchise to include men who did not hold property but certainly not to anyone who was property.

                                                  Fortunately for Douglass, at the time Massachusetts was one of only five Northern states that allowed suffrage for “free” blacks (the others were Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island).
                                                  Blacks in many other states weren’t so lucky. Aside from Maine, every state that entered the Union after 1819 excluded them from voting. Four Northern states — New York, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin — had reaffirmed earlier black voter exclusion laws by the early 1850s. A few blacks actually voted in New York, but only if they could pass a stiff property qualification. The sheer depth of racism at the base of this story is remarkable, since in no Northern state at the time, except New Jersey, did blacks constitute more than 2 percent of the population.

                                                  We do not know when Douglass cast his first vote. It might have been in 1840, in the famous “log cabin and hard cider” campaign mounted by the Whig Party for its candidate, Gen. William Henry Harrison. If so, he likely supported the Liberty Party’s James G. Birney, who represented the first genuinely antislavery party, however small, in American history; it achieved some strength in the Bay State.

                                                  In 1848 he spoke at the national convention of the newly formed Freesoil Party, and after 1854, haltingly at first and later wholeheartedly, he joined and worked for the new antislavery coalition known as the Republican Party, which ran and elected Abraham Lincoln in 1860. To this day, that “Grand Old Party” still calls itself the “party of Lincoln” and still claims Frederick Douglass as one of its black founders.

                                                  And indeed Douglass saw himself as a founder of that party, but only many years after a group of English antislavery friends purchased his freedom in 1846 for £150 ($711 at the time in American dollars). Douglass was in the midst of a triumphal two-year speaking tour of Ireland, Scotland and England; when he returned to America in 1847, he moved to New York in possession of his official “manumission papers.” He was free and legal, eventually owned property and could vote. Valued and purchased as a commodity, he could now claim to be a citizen.

                                                  Who Votes?  A series about the complexities of voters and voting.

                                                  In Douglass’s greatest speech, the Fourth of July oration in 1852, he argued that often the only way to describe American hypocrisy about race was with “scorching irony,” “biting ridicule” and “withering sarcasm.” Today’s Republican Party seems deeply concerned with rooting out voter fraud of the kind Douglass practiced. So, with Douglass’s story as background, I have a modest proposal for it. In the 23 states where Republicans have either enacted voter-ID laws or shortened early voting hours in urban districts, and consistent with their current reigning ideology, they should adopt a simpler strategy of voter suppression.

                                                  To those potentially millions of young, elderly, brown and black registered voters who, despite no evidence of voter fraud, they now insist must obtain government ID, why not merely offer money? Pay them not to vote. Give each a check for $711 in honor of Frederick Douglass. Buy their “freedom,” and the election. Call it the “Frederick Douglass Voter Voucher.”

                                                  Give people a choice: take the money and just not vote, or travel miles without easy transportation to obtain a driver’s license they do not need. It’s their “liberty”; let them decide how best to use it. Perhaps they will forget their history as much as the Republican Party seems to wish the nation would.

                                                  Such an offer would be only a marginal expense for a “super PAC” — plus a bit more to cover the lawyers needed to prove it legal under federal election law — and no one would have to know who paid for this generous effort to stop fraud. Once and for all, the right can honestly declare what the Supreme Court has allowed it to practice: that voters are commodities, not citizens.

                                                  And, if the Republican Party wins the election in November, this plan will give it a splendid backdrop for next year’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of its great founder’s Emancipation Proclamation.

                                                  David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale, is writing a biography of Frederick Douglass.

                                                  People Don’t Vote When No One Asks Them To

                                                  The Democrats selected Julián Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, to deliver the keynote address at their national convention — the same honor that propelled State Senator Barack Obama into the national spotlight just eight years ago — as part of its courtship of Latino voters, whom the President needs to vote in large numbers if he wants to be re-elected. As it happens, as the campaign manager for a young, outsider candidate for San Antonio’s city council in 2011, I learned something simple but crucial: while younger Latinos are increasingly the focus of national political strategists, they are still largely ignored at the local level.

                                                  The issue here is that Latinos have historically voted and been represented in legislatures at disproportionately low rates. In the 2010 mid-term elections, for instance, Latinos comprised 6.9 percent of the electorate, their best showing ever in a mid-term election, but still significantly below their 10.1 percent share of eligible voters. Similarly, a 2008 study by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that Latinos represented only 3.3 percent of America’s 7,382 state legislators. Despite this, because Latinos are the fastest growing population in America and are driving demographic changes in swing states, they remain obvious targets for national campaigns that are eager to exploit every potential electoral advantage.

                                                  In local elections, though, the crass conventional wisdom that I often heard from political professionals was simply, “Latinos don’t vote.” But uncritical adherence to this conventional wisdom often results in a self-fulfilling prophecy: young Latinos are ignored in local races because of their prior voting record, which ensures similarly low turnout in future elections. In 2011, as an inexperienced campaign manager for a young, Latino city council candidate on the south side of San Antonio – a heavily Latino area – I faced this conventional wisdom directly.

                                                  To say I was an inexperienced campaign manager at the outset would be an understatement. Both the candidate, Rey Saldaña, and I were 24 at the time of the election. I first met Rey in 2005 when we were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford. Rey was a San Antonio native, born and raised in the district in which he ran. In high school, he helped lead an initiative to attract the first bookstore to San Antonio’s South Side and spent his college summers back home working for local politicians. And yet, when we started the campaign in April of 2010, Rey had been away from his hometown for nearly five years and had never run for any kind of elected office. I had never managed a campaign and had spent hardly any time in San Antonio.

                                                  Despite our inexperience, we quickly learned that running local campaigns apparently did not involve much ingenuity. We kept getting the same, recycled advice from political veterans: look at the voter rolls for the last three elections, and target those who voted in two of them.

                                                  We soon recognized a feedback loop at play: candidates and consultants continued to target those who had voted in previous elections — bombarding them with mail, phone calls and visits — while pretty much ignoring the rest of the population. Time and again, Latinos and Anglos alike stressed to us that Latino voters, particularly younger ones, would not turn out come Election Day, no matter what we did. Engaging them — and spending precious campaign dollars on them — was quite simply a waste of time.
                                                  Who Votes?  A series about the complexities of voters and voting.
                                                  Whether out of stubbornness, necessity or naiveté, we ignored these instructions. As a heavy underdog, we did not have much choice. Rey’s main opponent, Leticia Cantu, enjoyed the support of San Antonio’s political establishment, including Mayor Castro, and a fundraising advantage that would allow her to amass contributions that would more than double ours. Sticking to a traditional campaign playbook — in which we all targeted the same voters —would surely invite defeat.

                                                  Not only was a conventional campaign strategy a losing one, but it also presented an odd proposition: a young Latino candidate would be forced to ignore his own peers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “consistent voters” that candidates generally target were disproportionately older and whiter than the general population of our district. District Four of San Antonio is large, containing nearly 125,000 residents. As the home to Lackland Air Force Base, it also has a sizable veteran population that often drives turnout in elections. But in 2010 Latinos still accounted for over 80 percent of the district’s voting-age population.

                                                  Rey was a graduate of one of the district’s public high schools  — which had a drop-out rate that consistently hovered around 30 percent — and decided to run in order to help spark development in a district that had seen too little of it. Ignoring younger, Latino voters struck us as not only poor politics, but also as contrary to the entire purpose of our campaign.

                                                  So instead of ignoring young Latinos, we targeted them. Running a predominantly grassroots campaign, Rey spent six months knocking on more than 3,000 doors. Campaign volunteers knocked on thousands more and made even more phone calls. And while we did reach out to the consistent voters using largely traditional techniques we also registered hundreds of new voters and engaged young Latinos and their families.

                                                  Of course, it can be difficult to target voters who have never participated before, which is precisely why strategists often advise against it. Technology certainly played a critical role. Online voter data tools allowed us to identify and contact residents with whom we felt Rey’s message was particularly likely to resonate. We specifically looked for young Latinos in key areas of the district who had voted in the 2008 election, but had never cast another ballot — including Mayor Castro’s 2009 victory. We were told that these Obama voters would never vote in a local race.
                                                  If more candidates ask more young Latinos to turn out, it will demonstrate to the political establishment that the conventional wisdom is wrong, and those in the establishment will need to pay greater attention to the concerns of Latino communities as a result.
                                                  Once we identified these voters — and everyone else where they lived — we used both traditional and nontraditional methods of reaching out to them. We called them, went to their houses and looked them up on Facebook. We spent countless hours individually reaching out to them, largely through Facebook, but also through email or text message, and asked them to not only come out and vote themselves, but to bring their family members. Rey also spent a large amount of time speaking to younger audiences: at schools, community colleges, and at a few local hangouts where we hosted events designed to attract younger residents.

                                                  While some of our communication methods may have varied, regardless of the age or race of the resident with whom we spoke, our message was remarkably consistent: we introduced Rey and asked them to share their concerns. And just as we did with the traditional voters, we dutifully logged, tracked and tried to follow up on these issues. Sometimes the most pressing issues for younger constituents did differ from those of their older neighbors — younger voters cared more about neighborhood revitalization and job development for instance.

                                                  More often than not, though, the most common concerns centered on the doorstep issues that form a councilmember’s primary responsibilities: maintaining the neighborhood’s safety and infrastructure. A quick glance through our campaign log reveals that an address or neighborhood is a much better predictor of the concerns we heard than is an individual resident’s age or race. It turns out that younger Latino voters really were not much different from their neighbors after all.

                                                  Fortunately, our stubbornness paid off. Our rewarding interactions throughout the campaign soundly defeated the notion that young Latinos were uninterested in local politics. As a fellow young Latino from the district, Rey connected with them in a way that others simply could not.

                                                  One story comes to mind. As Rey answered questions from the dozen or so residents present at a local neighborhood association’s candidate forum — a rite of passage for every local candidate — I stepped outside to take a call on our campaign cell phone. The caller was a woman in her mid-30s, who had voted in the past but had become disenchanted. But unlike many other calls, this woman didn’t want to complain; she called to ask a favor. Her daughter was 16 and was a good student. As she had not gone to college herself, the caller was hoping Rey could offer her daughter some advice on the college application process and, in her words, inspiration. Only a few years removed from that process himself, Rey gladly called her back and spoke at length with her daughter. That woman became a strong supporter, personally delivering Rey Saldaña signs to homes throughout her neighborhood.

                                                  While not every interaction was so emotional, the results were staggering in the aggregate. By simply engaging these overlooked voters through phone calls, door-knocks and a few non-traditional campaign events, we saw an 11 percent increase in voter turnout, with roughly one-in-eight voting in a municipal election for the first time. District Four was San Antonio’s only district to see an increase in turnout in 2011, which was particularly remarkable considering that the previous election cycle in 2009 featured a competitive mayoral race at the top of the ticket (when Julián Castro was first elected).

                                                  When the votes were tallied, Rey had won convincingly, leading his closest (and heavily-favored) opponent by 13 points and avoiding a runoff in the process. (A third candidate, a former neighborhood association president, received less than nine percent of the vote.) In addition, more 18- to 24-year-olds, predominantly Latino, voted in the first four days of early voting than had voted in the entire previous election cycle (consisting of eight days of early voting, Election Day and absentee ballots). Rey Saldaña is now a councilman because we asked people whom political professionals routinely ignore to come out and vote — and they did just that.

                                                  Our model wasn’t particularly innovative. With some effort and a little bit of money, candidates can easily replicate this outcome across the country. Indeed, many already are. Time recently highlighted a very similar, and equally successful, campaign run by Daniel Valenzuela, a councilman in Phoenix. As technology continues to make voting data more accessible to all candidates and enhances their ability to communicate directly with voters, campaigns that break from the conventional mold and pursue more innovative strategies will become much more viable.

                                                  If more candidates do buck the conventional wisdom and engage younger Latino voters, states and localities across the country stand to witness greater Latino representation in legislatures and on the voter rolls. The benefits of increased electoral diversity are not merely abstract, either. Consciously or not, elected officials often place greater weight on the concerns of communities that actively vote. Consequently, officials often devote more attention and resources to areas with higher voter turnout. Some may view this situation cynically, but it simply reflects our representative democracy at work. If more candidates ask more young Latinos to turn out, it will demonstrate to the political establishment that the conventional wisdom is wrong, and those in the establishment will need to pay greater attention to the concerns of Latino communities as a result.

                                                  Of course, Latino communities cannot — and should not — be represented by one voice. These communities are as diverse as America itself. One need only look at the differences between Julián Castro and Ted Cruz, the Republicans’ own Texan Latino star, to see the disagreement between these leaders. At the national level, the battle for the Latino vote will be won by the party that actually addresses the problems with which Latinos are concerned — not just immigration, which gets the most attention, but also health care, unemployment and economic growth and opportunity. As Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, said pointedly last week, “You can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”

                                                  But as national campaigns become ever more sophisticated in their exploitation of political preferences, it’s important to remember that local officials often operate outside the realm of intensely partisan politics. While Rey has taken strong stances on high-profile issues — such as providing benefits to domestic partners of city employees and supporting Mayor Castro’s proposed one-eighth of a cent sales tax to fund full-day prekindergarten for low-income children — he has also focused extensively on responding to individual constituents’ concerns and leading lower profile countergraffiti and fitness initiatives. If Rey is a strong voice for his community, it’s because he’s truly a voice from that community. If more Latinos run and encourage other Latinos to come out and vote, that can become an increasingly common occurrence.

                                                  While we were campaigning in San Antonio, the brother of Willie Velásquez — the late founder of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, which has registered millions of Latinos since the 1970s — explained voter apathy to me in simple, but poignant, terms: people don’t vote when no one asks them to.

                                                  Matt Platkin is a student at Stanford Law School.