Fear Tactics Used to Promote Voter Suppression in 2011

This week, newly elected Republicans took office in several states, many of whom have big plans for the future of voting rights. Unfortunately, as we blogged and reported last month, these changes have little to do with actually assessing and improving state of elections. In fact, many of these officials used anti-immigration and voter fraud fear tactics to win their seats, and now are threatening to restrict access to the ballot via legislation or state ballot before 2012 elections.

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All Voters are Unequal: Voter ID Law Exposed as Unfair, States Still Follow Suit

When an appellate court shut down Indiana's unequal mandate for polling-place voter ID, it sent a clear signal that--partisan politics aside--election laws should be assessed on whether or not all voters are given equal access to the democratic process. Yet, despite violations of law and the fact that absentee voting is more susceptible to voter fraud activity than in-person voting, other states continue to emulate what was one of the country's toughest voter ID laws.

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Remembering Katrina, Forgetting The Gulf

Most of this post is from a Blue Moose Democrat piece that highlights some good coverage of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina but laments that we only pay attention to the still struggling-Gulf Coast on the storm's anniversary and ignore that suffering the rest of the year. For the most part I stand by that point, but before getting to it, it is worth noting two encouraging things the President said in his weekly raido address yesterday. First, I was planning to ask readers to write the President and ask him to visit New Orleans several months after the anniversary in order to create attention for the issue rather than piggy backing off anniversary attention - but he beat me to it, promising to visit New Orleans before year's end. Second, he pointed out in his speech that already this year, eleven of his Cabinet officers to the region to, as the AP puts it, "inspect progress and to hear local ideas on how to speed up repairs." Bravo. Maybe we finally have a government that pays attention - indeed, the new head of FEMA, Craig Fugate, is earning bipartisan praise for cutting through the red tape that held up recovery under Bush and Blanco. If only journalists and the nation would follow that lead. Anyways, here's the post as it was written before the radio address, highlighting some great links about the recovery and struggle:

This weekend is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reaching Category 5 strength. I got my start as a blogger because of Katrina, launching "Wayward Episcopalian" as a personal journal during the three months I worked for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's Office of Disaster Response in 2006. My first foray into the liberal blogosphere started when I began cross-posting the blog's Katrina content to Daily Kos, MyDD, and Democratic Underground after returning to New Hampshire in January 2007.

Four years on, New Orleans and Mississippi are still struggling. The media will give this issue a fair amount of coverage over the next few days, but it's a shame they don't pay attention during the rest of the year. I'm a bit guilty of that myself, but it's because I covered it so much for so long that I burned out on the issue. And yet, my "Katrina fatigue" is nothing compared to the 12,000 people still homeless in New Orleans and living in abandoned buildings, twice the pre-storm homeless population. And my Katrina fatigue is nothing compared to the families who see devestation everywhere they look every day with no out and spend all day focused on battling their insurance companies.

I posted a brief recovery update at Wayward earlier this week which included a Morning Joe interview with Rep. Maxine Waters about her hearings in New Orleans and a Levees.org e-mail about Sen. Mary Landrieu asking the Pentagon to investigate the levee failures. In addition to that post, be sure to visit NPR.org to see maps, graphs, and four short but important videos showcasing abandoned neighborhoods and interviews with struggling locals - all forgotten by their nation. Yet while these videos show that neighborhoods, tourism, and employment are all suffering, they also showcase the fact that New Orleans is now one of the best cities in the county for college grads to find work in a struggling economy. (On a side note, this sort of extra content is EXACTLY the opportunity the Internet affords journalistic organizations like NPR and the New York Times, and I wish more people would take advantage of it - it's just as important as the stuff you hear on the radio or read in the actual paper.) When you're done at NPR.org, visit Climate Progress to read "The Storm of the Century (so far)," a quality history of the storm and a personal account of a relative in Pass Christian, Mississippi. And returning to NPR's bread and butter, the radio itself, here's a good story called "The Gulf Coast's Recovery: Uneven And Uneasy."

"I get up every morning and look this way," says Stephanie Bosarge, a longtime resident of Coden, Ala. "It's all gone. Everything's changed. That piece of slab there was our den, that's where we had all our Christmases."

Bosarge walks through the weeds on her family's property. She still lives just next to where her mother's house and the family's oyster business, Nelson and Sons Seafood, used to stand. The shop was over here, and as you see, what's left [is] the concrete slab," Bosarge says. "She had nine kids, and the majority of us all worked right back here at one time or other. It was the mainstay for the family."

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I'm Depressed on This Anniversary....

I should be feeling better--after all, Obama did commemorate Katrina and the flood in his radio address this morning. To his credit he also brought up levees and coastal restoration. But only time will tell if these words will be backed up by action or be mere empty words.

I have been upset and feel as if I'm almost physically ill. I cannot help but flash back, see the scenes of rescues and of the afflicted at the Superdome and the Convention Center and think of how so many suffered during Katrina and the federal flood and are still suffering. And I can't help but wonder if Obama really cares about New Orleans. Because when I remember what happened during the flood and Katrina which turned the lives of so many upside down and think about the fact that Obama won't be going there (which he wasn't going to do anyway even if Ted Kennedy hadn't passed) I'm depressed.

And others are also turned off by the fact that Obama has paid so little attention to Louisiana and her problems and those of her neighbors in the Gulf Region--a wound which Obama's absence from Katrina observances has rubbed salt into. More below the fold...

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Politics and Media Feed Voter ID Battles; Efforts to Make Voting More Accessible Go Under Radar

Cross posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog

By Erin Ferns

Although there are other election reforms - good and bad - that deserve the spotlight, voter ID remains a hot button issue for legislators and the media, primarily in Southern states. These battles are drawing as much attention for their political divisiveness as for the unfair burden they put on voters.

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