11 October 2012

RAG RADIO / Thorne Webb Dreyer : Tova Andrea Wang & Harvey Wasserman on Voter Suppression in America

Author Tova Andrea Wang and journalist Harvey Wasserman were Thorne Dreyer's guests on Rag Radio, produced in the studios of KOOP-FM in Austin, on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

Rag Radio podcast:
Tova Andrea Wang and Harvey Wasserman
on voter suppression in America

By Thorne Webb Dreyer / The Rag Blog / October 11, 2012

Author Tova Andrea Wang and journalist Harvey Wasserman discussed voter suppression and voter theft in America on Rag Radio, Friday, October 5. Rag Radio is a syndicated radio show produced in the studios of KOOP-FM, a cooperatively-run, all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas.

Wang and Wasserman talked about the racially-charged issue of "voter fraud" and the controversy over Voter IDs and the related court cases; the dangers posed by electronic voting machines and the history of alleged election theft in Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere; and the use of voter suppression in partisan politics, almost exclusively (in recent history) by the Republican Party.

Listen to Thorne Dreyer's Rag Radio interview with Tova Andrea Wang and Harvey Wasserman here.

Rag Radio features hour-long in-depth interviews and discussion about issues of progressive politics, culture, and history. It is broadcast live on KOOP Fridays at 2 p.m. (CDT) and streamed live on the Internet, and is rebroadcast on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Sunday mornings at 10 (EDT).

Tova Andrea Wang, a nationally-known expert on election reform and political participation, is Senior Democracy Fellow at Demos. She was Executive Director of the Century Foundation's Post-2004 Election Reform Group, and was staff person to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform. She is the author of The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans’ Right to Vote, a Century Foundation Book published this year by Cornell University Press.

Wang told the Rag Radio audience that "voter fraud at the polling places is virtually nonexistent, as has been proven time and time again," but that efforts at voter suppression, especially on the part of Republican-led state legislatures,  "has been extraordinary. An assault on voting rights that we haven’t seen in many years. Probably not since the civil rights movement in the Sixties."

She also pointed to right-wing groups like the Houston-based True the Vote ("a bunch of white people going primarily to African-American precincts and challenging people") that is "vowing to recruit a million people to go to the polls" and harass potential voters.

"Of course, historically, race has been a factor," in voter disenfranchisement, she said. "But it has always been to some degree coupled with partisanship. It’s no secret to anyone that African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. And so, from the Republican perspective, if you’re willing to go to any lengths to win an election, then excluding blacks from the voting process is part of your campaign strategy."

And now, with polls showing that Latinos are going "probably more than two-to-one" for the Democrats, they "have a big target on them, as people that the Republicans will want to keep from voting," Wang said. "And it all gets tied up in anti-immigrant rhetoric... to make people fearful, even people who are lawful citizens."

Tova Andrea Wang's commentary on election reform has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous other print outlets, and she has frequently appeared on national radio and television programs, including NBC's Today Show and ABC's Nightly News and Good Morning America, and on CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR.

Joining Wang on Rag Radio was longtime alternative journalist Harvey Wasserman, who is the author or co-author of a dozen books. With Bob Fitrakis, he broke a number of stories about the alleged theft of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Their investigative reporting at www.freepress.org prompted Rev. Jesse Jackson to call them "the Woodward and Bernstein of the 2004 election." Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election? is their fifth book on election protection.

Wasserman believes that, "unless Barack Obama is way, way ahead on election day... it is a virtual guarantee that Mitt Romney is going to become president -- because of the voter suppression that could eliminate 10 million or more likely Democratic voters," as has been estimated by the Brennan Center at New York University, and because of "the relative ease by which the electronic voting machines can be flipped" in nine key states with Republican governors.

"We saw it happen in 2004 in Columbus, Ohio. John Kerry was ahead by four points on election night," he said, "and then there was a so-called glitch in the vote count, and the tallies stopped coming. And then suddenly at two in the morning George W. Bush was ahead by two points. That was a flip of six points which is a virtual statistical impossibility."

Wasserman says that electronic voting machines are a special danger because "legitimate monitoring" of them "is not physically possible," and that most "are owned and operated by Republican companies." He thinks that there should at least "be paper ballots as a backup at every polling station."

Another related issue, according to Wasserman, is the Electoral College ("the only college in which George Bush actually excelled"). "We still have in place this anachronism that allows the guy who comes in second to become president," he said. "The electoral college narrows down the number of states you have to steal or buy in order to put someone in the White House," and it discourages political involvement in parts of the country that aren't in play in the presidential election.

"No one else has an electoral college like this. It’s a holdover from slavery."

Harvey Wasserman is also a political activist who, with Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and others, helped found www.nukefree.org. His writing is published at The Huffington Post, BuzzFlash, and CounterPunch, and his reports on election theft and nuclear power issues appear regularly on The Rag Blog.

The news isn't all bad, according to Tova Wang. "A coalition of civil rights groups has been able to have a great impact over the last year, and were able to get a number of governors to veto voter ID laws," she said. "And in some places, like Virginia for example, we were able to soften the type of ID law."

"But there is tremendous confusion" about the laws, and, "between now and election day, we need to educate, educate, educate."

"We have had some success in the courts" against repressive ID laws, Wang says, but "it’s kind of sad that we’re back to relying on the courts for voting rights."

Harvey Wasserman adds, "It's part of our American heritage that people have the right to vote, and we need to get people to come out to be poll workers," and to make sure that potential voters aren't intimidated.

And Tova Wang points out that "we were all excited with a 61 percent turnout in 2008. That’s terrible."

"The problem in this country is that not enough people vote. Let’s talk about what we’re going to do about that, which is the real crisis in our democracy."

Rag Radio, which has aired since September 2009, is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

The host and producer of Rag Radio is Rag Blog editor and long-time alternative journalist Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement. Tracey Schulz is the show's engineer and co-producer.

All Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts and can be found at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

Coming up on Rag Radio:
THIS FRIDAY, October 12, 2012: Peace and Justice activist Tom Hayden speaks on "The Peace Movement, the Drug War, and the Legacy of Port Huron."
October 19, 2012: Singer-Songwriter, Satirist, Mystery Writer, and Politician Kinky Friedman.
October 26, 2012: Historian Martin Duberman, author of Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left.

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