Even as a Pennsylvania judge ruled today to block that state’s new voter ID law from taking effect before next month’s election, some major Bay Area supporters of President Obama’s announced they’ll fund efforts to stop other, similar laws.
The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund announced it’ll give half a million dollars to combat what it calls voter disenfranchisement efforts in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote will receive $125,000 each.
“Our response to voter suppression is strategic,” Douglas Goldman said in a news release. “By supporting these distinct projects, we want to bring a coordinated approach to ensure that voting rights are protected.”
Douglas Goldman – a retired emergency physician, software company founder/chairman, and prominent philanthropist – is the son of Levi Strauss heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman. He and his wife, Lisa, hosted a $35,800-per-person fundraising dinner for President Obama in May at their Atherton home. In thanking them for their hospitality, Obama said, “They have had my back from the get-go, at a time when not many people knew who I was.”
Goldman’s news release today cited a study recently published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which said voter suppression tactics have multiplied since the 2010 mid-term election. Since then, about 38 states have instituted changes in voting procedures and requirements that include: proof of citizenship to register, shortened early voting timeframes, making it more difficult for third-party organizations to register people to vote, and photo ID requirements.
Republicans have claimed the laws aim to curb in-person voter impersonation fraud, but instances of that are extremely rare. Democrats say Republicans are passing the laws to keep young, minority, elderly and low-income voters away from the polls.
“Voter suppression is a wrong that must be righted,” Goldman said. “It is particularly sad to see special interests trying to encroach on America’s historical achievements in voting rights. Every grade-school student can recite the American maxim of ‘one person, one vote.’ Regretfully, however, these efforts direct us towards ‘one affluent, highly educated, longtime citizen; one vote.’ That is wrong! It is not the American way.”
As I’d written in last week’s story about California’s new Election Day voter registration law, Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said Democrats have a partisan motivation, too. “Those voters who are least attached to the system — who move the most, who are poor, who are students — are the groups that have the most problems registering but are also the groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.”
Hasen said “the ideals of equality” suggest letting as many eligible voters as possible cast ballots, but “over history we’ve fought over how broad the franchise would be.” It took constitutional amendments, the Civil War, litigation and legislation to get where we are today, he noted.
Recipients of the Goldman Fund grants intend to use the money to monitor polling places, manage voter hotlines, fund legal strategies, provide public education, and support other activities related to ensuring systematic and accessible voter registration, according to the fund’s news release.
The Goldmans created their foundation in 1992, and it has awarded nearly $60 million to more than 500 nonprofits in seven areas: democracy and civil liberties, education and literacy, environment, health and recreation, the Jewish community, reproductive health and rights, and San Francisco Bay Area institutions. The fund’s assets now total about $170 million.