By Ruth Conniff on February 08, 2013

In an incendiary new report, "Rig the Vote: How a National Effort to Attack Voting Rights Landed in Wisconsin", the Center for Media and Democracy and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund show how Republicans and rightwing groups across the country are working to undermine elections and ensure a Republican lock on electoral college votes in states that have historically voted Democratic.

Among the nefarious vote-rigging efforts explored in the report: Republicans hope to take their gerrymandered redistricting plans nationwide--changing the rules so that electoral votes in swing states are awarded based on Congressional districts, not popular vote totals.

This could guarantee that Republican candidates like Mitt Romney, even as they lose the popular vote, get enough electoral votes to become President against the will of the majority of American voters.

In 2010, Republican legislatures were able to redraw Congressional districts to heavily favor Republican candidates in states where the popular vote historically goes to Democrats.

Now, in Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, all of which went for Obama in 2012, Republican-controlled state legislatures are pushing forward plans to change the system to award electoral votes by Congressional district.

Had those plans been in place in 2012, the report finds, "Mitt Romney would have won the Presidency."

In case there is any doubt about why Republicans are pursuing this scheme, the report quotes Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who "stated explicitly that the plan is only intended for 'states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red.'"

In red states like Texas, where the same strategy might yield a few electoral votes for Democrats, the legislature is not pursuing it.

The report focuses specifically on Wisconsin--but the vote-rigging schemes it outlines are the same across the country.

That's because they are the product of a coordinated strategy by national rightwing groups--not homegrown politics.

Most of the bills discussed in the report were written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which pushes rightwing and corporate interests in all the states.

ALEC drafted voter I.D. legislation, which has come up in state after state, "shortly after the highest general election turnout in nearly 60 years swept America's first black president into office with strong support from college students and people of color."

In the guise of preventing election fraud, voter I.D.bills, along with bills to end same-day registration, aim to suppress the vote by these same groups.

The state of Wisconsin had both the second-highest voter turnout in the nation in 2008, and some of the best election practices in the United States for 2008 and 2010, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts which praised Wisconsin for the integrity, accuracy, and accessibility of its elections systems.

Yet Republican state officials are currently busy trying to change all that.

Governor Scott Walker has announced his intention to end same-day registration in the state, justifying it on the grounds that it would make life easier for elections clerks.

But, the report notes, municipal clerks throughout the state as well as the state's chief elections officer have made clear that ending same-day registration would create a "bureaucratic morass."

Voters would have to go to the DMV and social service agencies for provisional ballots, and return for a second visit with proof of eligibility.

This system, in addition to burdening voters and elections officials, would make Wisconsin more like the states that scored the lowest in the Pew measure of best election practices--with tens of thousands of provisional ballots delaying results, unresolved elections, and poor turnout.

The same issues arise with the new voter I.D. laws.

In-person voter fraud is practically nil. Yet voter I.D. laws continue to be a priority for state legislatures.

Two Wisconsin judges struck down voter I.D. in the state as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote since, as the report notes "disenfranchising 300,000 people would not be outweighed by the 'benefits' of stopping a problem that is statistically insignificant."

"The people's fundamental right of suffrage preceded and gave birth to our Constitution," Dane County District Judge Richard Niess wrote in his March decision striking down Wisconsin's voter ID law. "Not the other way around."

The same principle could be applied to all of the Republicans' nefarious vote rigging schemes.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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