by Leslie Savan
It’s actually good, from a Republican point of view that party powers like Rupert Murdoch, his Wall Street Journal and Bill Kristol are piling on Mitt Romney as a lousy candidate right now, in July. And it is not just because it gives Romney a chance to shake up his campaign and satisfy his overlords’ demands over the summer. (He’s already begun.) But by squeezing him through the Adjustment Bureau now, the top Republicans can, by November, sing another tune: Romney is a plausible candidate, he can beat Obama. That way, if he “wins” with the help of massive voter suppression, it won’t seem so much like they’ve stolen the election.
I’m not saying Romney can’t win fair and square: Sure he could, especially if the economy spirals downward. But the Republicans won’t risk giving fair-and-square a chance. This is playing out most nakedly in Pennsylvania, where Obama is up over Romney by a Real Clear Politics average of eight points. No problem, says state House majority leader Mike Turzai. In tallying up the party’s achievements last month, he brayed, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
That’s no idle boast. As the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote yesterday, “More than 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have photo identification cards from the state Transportation Department, putting their voting rights at risk in the November election, according to data released Tuesday by state election officials.”
That’s 758,000 already registered voters. They make up 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million voters. Before these enormous (in both sense of the word) numbers came out, the Governor Tom Corbett (R) administration had repeatedly claimed that a full 99 percent of the state’s voters already had the required photo ID, most of them through their driver’s licenses. (Corbett, if you recall, is the guy who told women objecting to a bill mandating ultrasounds for those seeking abortions, “You just have to close your eyes.”)
The Inquirer continues: “The new numbers, based on a comparison of voter registration rolls with PennDot ID databases, shows the potential problem is much bigger, particularly in Philadelphia, where 186,830 registered voters — 18 percent of the city’s total registration — do not have a PennDot ID.” Philadelphia, of course, is a Democratic bastion, and those least likely to have a driver’s license are the poor and the elderly.
Could numbers like these swing swing states toward Romney? Easily. Eric Kleefeld crunched the numbers: “[Pennsylvania] voted for Barack Obama by an 11-point margin in 2008 — a raw vote spread of about 620,000 votes, less than the new figure of potentially disenfranchised voters. Before that, it went for John Kerry by only 2.5 points in 2004, a spread of about 145,000 votes.”
And Pennsylvania is just one state of many actively suppressing the vote — whether with new restrictions on identification, registration, early voting or, as in Florida, voter-roll purges — all in order to stop the virtually nonexistent “voter fraud.” (This week, Governor Rick Snyder, an extreme conservative, actually bucked the trend by vetoing voter ID bills in Michigan.) In a piece called “UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud,” Mother Jones charts the variety of tactics in the war on voting and who it affects where. (And you can find more information at the Brennan Center of Justice: http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voting_law_changes_in_2012/)
You might think that mainstream national media would be screaming daily about the threat to democracy posed by these laws. Not so. Even Googling “voter suppression” and “voter fraud,” you can see which concept has the media’s eye, by three to one. And none of this even begins to count how many votes may be lost or switched by voting-machine shenanigans.
So, better the Republicans grumble about their standard-bearer now in order to puff up the feasibility of his victory later. Because if Romney — and the Republicans in Congressional and state races — do win by voter ID laws’ riding to their rescue, the public outcry might be horrific. Or it could be, if major media were truly on the case.
Leslie Savan is the author of Slam Dunks And No-Brainers: Pop Language in Your Life, the Media, and, Like…Whatever and The Sponsored Life: Ads, TV, and American Culture.
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