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Activist group Color of Change launched a campaign on Thursday to combat right-wing voter suppression legislation pushed across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Conservatives say that voter identification laws and other legislation are needed to stop voter fraud. But with little to no evidence of any significant voter fraud anywhere in the country, the real intent of the legislation is to suppress voter turnout for groups that typically vote for Democrats, including minority groups.
Interested citizens can visit the Color of Change website to send the following letter to corporations that are funding ALEC's programs:
I want to alert you to the fact that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – which your company funds – is pushing discriminatory voter ID legislation that suppresses the votes of blacks, the elderly, youth and other minorities. Bills based on ALEC’s model legislation have been introduced in 34 states, and have already passed in seven states.
Although proponents of voter ID laws claim the goal is to reduce voter fraud, there is no evidence that such fraud occurs with any regularity in this country. What is clear is that these voter ID laws unreasonably increase barriers to voting access for large numbers of people and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people across the nation. These laws are part of a long history of racist and discriminatory restrictions on voting designed to disenfranchise African Americans and other underrepresented groups.
I presume your company does not want to support voter suppression, nor have your products or services associated with discrimination and large-scale voter disenfranchisement. I urge you to immediately stop funding ALEC and issue a public statement making it clear that your company does not support discriminatory voter ID laws and voter suppression.
In an e-mail to supporters, Color of Change went into more detail about voter identification laws and ALEC:
ALEC’s right wing agenda
The American Legislative Exchange Council is a behind-the-scenes group whose membership consists of legislators and corporations who work together to push legislation that benefits their interests. ALEC crafts model legislation, which its member legislators then introduce in statehouses across the country, without mentioning its corporate ties. The group has written legislation to impose harsher criminal penalties on juveniles, to privatize education, and to break unions.
ALEC is funded in part by the Koch Brothers, the same family that funds the radically conservative tea party. It also receives funding from large corporations, many of which are household names.
"Voter fraud" and discriminatory voter ID laws
Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws say they're needed to stop "voter fraud." The fact is that voter fraud rarely occurs, and when it does occur it does not happen at a scale that would change the outcome of an election. The kind of voter fraud addressed by the ALEC voter id bill happens as infrequently as death by lightning.
Over and over again, the myth of widespread voter fraud is used to justify stronger restrictions on voting and voter registration (like voter ID laws), as well as voter roll purges. It has also been used to attack organizations which register large numbers of low income and minority voters, by painting simple mistakes made during registration drives as organized efforts to commit voter fraud. These kind of made up scandals have helped the right wing convince the public that voter fraud is real and voter ID laws are necessary to protect the integrity of elections.
The truth is that voter ID laws are discriminatory — Black people, Latinos, the elderly, students, people with disabilities, and the poor are all less likely to have the photo IDs necessary to vote under these laws.6 For example, if you've recently moved because of foreclosure or some other economic circumstance, you're more likely to have recently ended up in a new state which won't accept your out of state driver's license. If you don't have a car, you're less likely to have a driver's license in the first place.
In many states, it can be expensive and time consuming to secure the proper ID. Even when the ID itself is free, it often requires supporting documents like a birth certificate which cost money to achieve. There are already stories of voters who have been eligible for years struggling to navigate a frustrating bureaucratic maze in order to vote. Requiring ID to vote amounts to a modern day poll tax. And that's the real purpose of voter ID laws - they are an important part of the modern effort to suppress the votes of groups that usually vote against right wing politicians.
These laws are part of a long history of voter suppression directed at Black folks and other underrepresented groups. No longer is the Black vote suppressed through violence, intimidation and literary tests. It’s now suppressed through laws that make it burdensome and difficult for many Black folks to vote.
Corporate-backed voter suppression
Some of the companies supporting ALEC may simply be unaware that the group is involved in voter suppression. Others might think that voter suppression will benefit their political interests, and hope that they can get away with supporting it because so few people have even heard of ALEC.
We've started reaching out to these companies to make sure they know what they're supporting, and to demand that they stop. Adding your voice to this campaign will help us convince these companies that continuing to support ALEC will hurt their reputation with consumers. We hope that many of them will simply do the right thing and stop supporting ALEC. If they don't, we'll be prepared to shine a spotlight on them and make sure the world understands what they're involved in.