Voter Suppression Amounts To U.S. Silent Coup d'état

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[The View From Washington]

A coup d'état is defined as a strike against the state.  It is the sudden, illegal ouster of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment. 

In a typical coup the military is used to depose the existing government and replace it with another body, civil or military. It consists, according to military historian Edward Luttwak "of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder."

Americans are very familiar with coups.  The American government has been involved in overthrowing foreign governments for years. In 1893 American marines overthrew Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii.  In 1909 President Taft ordered the overthrow of Nicaraguan president Jose’ Santos Zelaya.

In 1953 the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt and General Norman Schwarzkoph, Sr. masterminded the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. In 1954 there was the Guatemalan coup, in 1963 there was the South Vietnam coup, in 1973 there was the US backed coup in Chile, and in 1991 there was the US coup in Haiti that removed democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, just to name a few.

Historically the American government has used American media to promote and rationalize the need for “regime change” in foreign countries.  Misinformation, distortions, and lies have been presented as truths in order to convince Americans that “dictators” must be overthrown in order to protect American security, American interests --usually business or access to resources-- or to stop the rise of a socialist or communist leader.

Today ultra-conservative interests are engaging in similar tactics.  They are not using the military; it is a bloodless coup. A small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus is attempting to effect regime change by corrupting the American democratic process. Under the pretext of “voter fraud” ultra-conservatives are working fervently to decrease the number of legally registered Americans that will be able to vote in the 2012 election by enacting laws requiring voters to show government issued photo identification at the polls.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “More than 5 million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year — a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.”  Too many in mainstream media are blindly reporting this false “voter fraud” issue as fact and not asking those who are promoting it to provide evidence to support their claims.

The logic is clear and makes perfect sense.  Only those legally registered to vote in American elections should be allowed to do so. Any appearance of voter fraud in the process taints the outcome and jeopardizes the democratic process.  Laws need to be put in place to ensure that only eligible registered voters exercise the franchise.

Even though the logic makes sense, the problem with the new voter ID laws being enacted is that they are addressing a problem that does not exist. According to Mother Jones, “The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters…” 

In Pennsylvania, the latest state to approve ID laws, the state attorneys signed a stipulation agreement acknowledging that there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.” Simply put, there’s no data to support the claim. They passed a law to address a problem that does not exist.

Another problem with the new voter ID laws is that they have a discriminatory impact on the electorate.  Most of the legally registered voters that will be impacted by the new laws are primarily seniors, people of color, those with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. According to the Citizens Without Proof report, “…11% of voting-age American citizens—and an even greater percentage of African American, low-income, and older citizens—do not have current and valid government-issued photo IDs.”  Preventing these demographics from voting is the real motivation behind these laws.

According the Brennan Center for Justice, “16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia). These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.”

Also, at least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting. It’s no coincidence that of those states listed above all but three (Illinois, New Hampshire, and West Virginia) have Republican governors with Republican controlled legislatures with New Hampshire having a Democratic governor with a Republican controlled legislature.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed to protect the effected constituencies in many of the states that are passing ID laws in violation of the Act.

Why are ultra-conservative Americans undermining the American democratic process under the hypocritical pretext of protecting it? One person one vote is the cornerstone of Jeffersonian democracy.  So much so that American soldiers are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice defending it at home and promoting it abroad.

By passing these unjust Voter ID laws and changing other voting processes they are engaging in attempted regime change. They are violating the most cherished Constitutional protection in a bloodless coup d'état against America’s first African American democratically elected president.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer and Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "Inside the Issues with  Wilmer Leon," and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.   email:

© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC.

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