MHP   |  October 27, 2012

Conspiracy theories distract from real cases of voter suppression

Melissa Harris-Perry notes the connections people have made between Mitt Romney's son Tagg and the company that owns voting machines, but she moves on to address the substantive cases of actual voter suppression.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> i know from my insistent twitter feed that some of you probably think we've dropped the ball this week in voter suppression . i know you've been seeing headlines like these sounding the alarm about the connection between mitt romney 's big money fund-raisers, his son tag and the company that owns voting machines used in the upcoming election. you panicked about it and you tweeted me about it. i get it. it's understandable in an election year where there has been clear and compelling evidence of voter suppression . but, breathe deep and then deeper. what you'll find is there's not a whole lot of there, there. possible conflict of interest? sure. definitely bad judgment to show a political bias in a political process that should be impartial. absolutely. evidence of a conspiracy, not so much. i know the tag romney has been kind of the story. my worry is when we focus on that we don't talk about what is actually happening, the real things that are possible suppressive efforts in north carolina , virginia, ohio, wisconsin. let's keep our eyes on the ball here.

>> that's right. this whole conversation i have the words of a florida state senator michael bennett ringing in my ears. he said, quote, voting is a privilege. why should we make it easy. i want them to fight for it. this is in defense of the law that florida passed last year to limit early voting effectively taking the sunday before the election out of the possibility of voting on that day which, as we know many african-americans take their congregations to the polls.

>> the souls to the polls.

>> who does he want to fight for whose ancestors who already won that fight, people who have been historically disadvantaged. i think of my grandfather, a farmer who wore a turbine and beards. for years he was denied the right to vote. when he was able to win the fight in the 1960s , we couldn't keep him from the votes. my father lifted him into a wheelchair to take him to vote. he wouldn't say who he was voting for. the right is absolutely sacred. the fact that in 2012 we are having to fight the powers that be to keep those very communities, my community, latinos, african-americans, other historically disadvantaged groups -- the fact we're finding these dlefr ways is deeply troubling and requires us to stand up.

>> i was going to say, there is a positive side, and that's we're winning. most of the laws that have been challenged have resulted in a pro voter outcome. most of the laws have been blocked or blunted. at this point in time, i think all voters should feel confident that there are lots of folks that have got their back.

>> there's only so much time -- there's enough that's happening that's recent in the days before the election day to really hold up that banner, 866, our vote, to have ourselves stand up.

>> at this point it's starting to feel comical. i have an obsession with nbc's "parks and rec." i like the whole idea of small government as a television show . when i heard this tag romney story, i kept thinking about this part of last season's last show. let's take a quick look because it's funny.

>> the newports are trying to install these voting machines at several precincts around time. watch what happens when i vote for bobby newport.

>> good choice. enjoy a voucher for a complimentary candy bar .

>> shouldn't we be awarded for voting?

>> watch what happens when you vote for me?

>> are you sure? take a second and think it over.

>> ben, obviously that's absurd. somehow it doesn't -- the very fact that that the tag romney thing can go viral suggests people have really lost confidence that our system is fair and that people do have a sense that, okay, when i go to show up to vote, it's going to count.

>> i think the absurdity of black box voting machines is ridiculous. it goes counter to every accounting principle there is. you need a paper trail . in vermont we use optical scan. you fill out a ballot, you put it in the machine, it reads it electronically and it's fine. if you want to have a recount, there's something to count.

>> there's a physical thing to count. and the fact of the matter is that on these black box machines, they're online. people hack. computers crash. we all know there's all these glitches with computers. so if that's what you're relying our election system on, it's flawed. it's not something people have confidence in.

>> this is a broader issue. these are not the one-off voter suppressions of this year. ben is bringing up a broader question of our investment in voting technology, our investment in the quality of the process. can that stay on the agenda once we move past whoever wins in ten days?

>> it certainly should. our democracy is more robust. we need voters out there participating and we need to make sure our election officials have the resources that they need. we need to make sure well in advance of elections they have all the provisional ballots they need, the voting machines are working and up to date. the poll workers are adequately trained, that we have enough people to provide language assistance. running an election is an incredibly important task, and we need to make sure that it is something that we invest the resources in to do so we can be comfortable with the outcome.

>> i had a colleague who goes to church with my mom send me an e-mail. she had gone to early vote in jefferson parish in louisiana . it's a good, safe, red state . this is not a contested state. yet she said not only did they insist on her showing her driver's license which in louisiana , it turns out you don't have to show it. they have other ways to have your identity determined, but there was also a police officer standing there with the poll worker who kept insisting that she had to show her voter i.d. to me that sense of intimidation is the thing that deeply concerns me. so again, louisiana , i think we know who is going the take that at the presidential level. that very notion of suppressing the vote by having a police officer standing there, not to protect your vote, but to insist to show something you don't have to show.

>> what i think is important to remember is there are federal and state laws protecting voters against intimidation. we need to put the business of verifying our elections in trained professionals, and one of the problems that i'm concerned about is we're seeing these ideological groups putting bullies at the poll who are designed to target particular types of voters.

>> true the vote, yes.

>> i think they're likely not to be successful. but because this is the time that we come together and someone is discharging their civic obligation, we shouldn't be be draggaling their experience by them having to answer unfounded questions by people poorly trained as to whether or not they're eligible.

>> when we come back, myrna, you said there's going to be a civil rights rain of fire to protect voters. i'm interested in what that might look like. more on voter empowerment in this week in voter suppression when we