Opinion: Republicans Should Address Voter Suppression Concerns

Discrimination, fear, and intimidation are alive and well this election year. The unprecedented attacks against African Americans and Latinos right to vote, by well-funded and highly organized groups linked to the Tea Party and other right wing groups, has resulted in both communities joining forces to defend our constitutional right to vote.

We're fighting back against these attempts to disenfranchise us. Together, members of the Latino and African American communities are marching at a GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s strategy to disenfranchise poor communities by suppressing our vote.

Key battleground states have become the vortex of Tea Party and Republican-led efforts to suppress black and Latino votes. After the U.S. Department of Justice recently blocked efforts by tea party Republicans to institute discriminatory, anti-democratic voter ID laws in Texas, these same politicians and groups continue their attempts to block black and Latino voter participation in this year's critical election.

In Colorado, New Mexico and other contested states, Republicans and Tea Party-backed “poll watchers” are conjuring up “voter irregularities” and trying to purge voter rolls in a manner favorable to their right wing agenda. And in Florida, possibly the definitive swing state of this election, Governor Rick Scott ordered a review of voter rolls to eliminate "non-citizens" because of alleged voter fraud, supposedly finding 182,000 people who were voting illegally. Many of those identified as non-citizens were able to prove their citizenship and the Miami Herald found that Latinos were disproportionately represented on the Florida list.

Recent research in all 50 states has found that that voter fraud is a myth intended to further complicate the voting process and reduce voter turnout among Latinos and African Americans. In fact, a just completed nationwide study of alleged voter impersonation cases since 2000 found only 10 cases out of 146 million registered voters.

In recent months, Latinos have been subjected to many forms of harassment: voter purges, voter ID laws, the threat of closing polls, targeting of nonprofit groups that conduct voter-registration drives, and automated calls designed to confuse people. At the same time, we are also facing a political witch-hunt in which proof of citizenship laws aimed at undocumented immigrants are used as the excuse to instill fear and confusion among Latino voters.

In the face of such oppressive acts, Latinos are joining African Americans in taking action. We are united in denouncing and marching against Republican-led efforts to criminalize and suppress our voices and degrade our democracy. Given the close races this election year and given the history in Texas, Florida and other states, we are speaking out and marching against this injustice, and calling on all communities across the country to join us in monitoring, documenting and, if necessary, calling out this calculated effort to invalidate our votes.

These efforts to suppress the vote of our communities are nothing new. African Americans know well the tried and true methods of voter disenfranchisement, intimidating voters, sowing confusion and have a long history of fighting these efforts. Latinos have also come to know and understand that we are also the targets.

At the same time we know that together, we have the power and urgent necessity to combat these anti-democratic practices that are clearly designed to block the flow of democratic and demographic history. As our numbers in the polls grow, so have efforts to diminish our political impact. As efforts to undermine our vote grow, so does our resolve to fight these efforts and transform our country in the process.

We call on the Tea Party and other Republican groups to denounce these attempts to rob Latino and black voters of our right to vote. Window dressing by spot lighting Marco Rubio, while giving a backroom stage to the mean-spirited, anti-Latino Republican face of Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio and anti-immigrant policy architect, Kris Kobach, will get the GOP nowhere when it comes to the Latino Vote. As the demographic clock ticks, Republicans must win at least some of our votes to remain politically relevant in the new and very diverse political future of the United States. Rather than remain silent, the Republican Party must make a loud and clear statement denouncing this voter suppression.

Failure to do so sends a clear message – African American and Latino voters not wanted.