October 2012 Bar Bulletin
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October 2012 Bar Bulletin

The Color of Suppression:

How States Made Up a Voter Fraud Crisis

By Jamila Johnson


Diane Wood received a postcard from the New Mexico Secretary of State in August. Its message was simple: She had been flagged for removal from the voting rolls.

New Mexico was cracking down on "voter fraud." Wood was among 14% of New Mexico voters who had been identified as not being citizens or having some other defect in their voting status. The postcard told her that she would have to prove her eligibility if she wanted to vote.

"It sent a chill up my spine. I take my voting very seriously and have never missed an election," Wood said.

Wood is hardly alone. Across America, letters like the one that showed up in her mailbox recently have been delivered to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters. What makes Wood's experience unique is that she happens to also be the voting rights director for Common Cause New Mexico.

This year is not business as usual, Wood explains. "It's not normal."

New laws and practices have been instituted across the country to stamp out so-called "voter fraud" - a problem that has yet to be documented in the jurisdictions taking action to "stop" it. These activities have had the Department of Justice scattered across the nation bringing and defending lawsuits over activities that raise questions about discrimination in America's institutions and voter suppression disproportionately impacting people of color, immigrants and those of low income.

With the presidential election a month away, it would hardly be a stretch to pronounce 2012 the year of voter suppression challenges.

Identification, Poverty and Race: A New Approach Suppressing Votes

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