Columns » Hightower

Suppressing the minority vote




Shouldn't we be encouraging people to vote, including making the process much easier and more accessible than it is now?

After all, voting is a citizen's most basic act of democratic participation, and we're told by editorialists and schoolteachers that it's our civic duty. Yet, Republican officials in many key states have been going all out to discourage voters from casting ballots.

This is un-American!

Well that's exactly the problem, cry GOP politicos, feverishly warning that hordes of non-Americans are swarming into our polling places to pervert our elections with their illegal votes.

Thus, say Republican partisans, we must preserve the sacred integrity of the ballot by conducting sweeping purges of voter lists, especially in Democratic areas, and we must impose a new layer of authoritarian "show-me-your-papers" impediments on darker-skinned voters.

For example, Scott Gessler, the GOP secretary of state in Colorado, excitedly asserted — Joe McCarthy-style — that he had a list of 11,805 non-citizens who were on the state's voter rolls.

To prove it, he targeted 3,900 of them with letters directly challenging them to respond with documentation to prove their citizenship.

The Colorado politico hoped to make a name for himself with this ugliness, but — oops — he only made a fool of himself. It turns out that only 141 of his targets had questionable status, and only 35 of those had ever voted. Even more embarrassing, his hit list of 42 illegal voters in Denver County included 38 who were legally registered, and four whose registration was the result of clerical errors and who had not voted.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the Republican leader of the state house didn't even pretend that his effort to ram a voter ID requirement into law had a more noble purpose than raw partisan politics. The law, he gloated, "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

So much for ballot integrity.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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