Miller Baker’s War on Voting


    The more I look into Tea Party-backed Republican Miller Baker, running for Virginia State Senate in the 39th district against incumbent Sen. George Barker, the more troubling Miller Baker appears. First, I checked out Baker’s biography at McDermott, Will & Henry, where he “co-heads the [Law] Firm’s Appellate Practice group, and focuses his practice on appellate and constitutional litigation.” Among the cases Miller Baker has worked on include several election law cases:

    *Millsaps v. Thompson, 259 F.3d 535 (6th Cir. 2001).  Whether Tennessee’s early voting system violated federal law establishing a uniform day for federal elections.

    *Voting Integrity Project, Inc. v. Keisling, 259 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2001).  Whether Oregon’s vote by mail system violated federal law establishing a uniform day for federal elections.

    *Voting Integrity Project, Inc. v. Bomer, 199 F.3d 773 (5th Cir. 2000). Whether Texas’ early voting system violated federal law establishing a uniform day for federal elections.

    I also checked out Voting Integrity Project, Inc. v. Keisling, where I found Miller Baker as an appellant, arguing that “an Oregon statute that allows Oregonians to vote by mail for a substantial period prior to or as well as on this federal election day violates the federal election laws” and is unconstitutional.

    What is the Voting Integrity Project? Salon Magazine explains:

    The Voting Integrity Project, which has focused on cleaning up national voter rolls, said the problems in Florida have shined the spotlight on widespread voter fraud across the county. “Election 2000 and the ensuing controversy in Florida have focused public attention on the need to combat voting fraud,” the group’s Web site reads.


    VIP chairwoman of the board is Helen Blackwell, also the Virginia chairwoman of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, whose husband, Morton, serves as executive director of the conservative Council for National Policy. It took lumps for being partisan earlier this year from Slate writer Jeremy Derfner. “In fact, almost everything about the Voting Integrity Project makes you wonder. Though VIP’s members assert that they are both independent and nonpartisan, the organization is essentially a conservative front,” Derfner wrote.

    Fascinating, eh? In sum, what this looks like is Miller Baker getting involved, repeatedly, in voter suppression schemes and dirty tricks, all disguised as combating the mythical non-problem of voter fraud (like purple unicorns, “voter fraud” is rarely if ever found, but Republicans and right wingnuts generally LOVE to talk about it!).

    That includes Republicans like Miller Baker, who appears to be on the forefront of what is, when you strip away all the b.s. rhetoric, essentially an ongoing war against voting by people who just happen to have the greatest propensity to vote Democratic. Hmmmm.

    Here’s another example of Miller Baker’s tireless efforts in this regard, with Baker arguing that Tennessee’s early voting law was unconstitutional (restricting early voting is one way, as the Washington Post explains, to “keep young people and minorities away from the polls“). And here’s Miller Baker arguing that online voting (for registered Arizona Democrats) would be discriminatory against people of color in Arizona. But, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Mark Fleisher testified, “the party’s aim was to expand voting opportunities in a state where just 12,800 of more than 800,000 registered Democrats cast votes in the largely uncontested 1996 Democratic Party presidential preference vote.” Whatever. On and on it goes, including this case here in Virginia (which Miller Baker lost, as he often seems to do).

    Oh, and check this out:

    On this basis, you might assume that VIP is a liberal group. The organization encourages that impression. Its first annual conference opened last Friday in Washington with a press briefing about the voting-rights problems with online elections. VIP attorney Miller Baker explained to the few assembled journalists why Internet voting is the iron fist of white supremacy.

    Perhaps so, but Baker isn’t the guy you expect to be making the case. He clerked for two very conservative federal judges, worked in the civil rights division of the Reagan Justice Department, and served as counsel to Orrin Hatch on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Hatch led the Republican effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act when it was renewed in 1982.) A conservative résumé doesn’t mean Baker can’t support an activist interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, but it kind of makes you wonder.


    Since then, VIP has changed its focus from particular (possibly) tainted elections to election policy in general. VIP is critical of Motor Voter. It wants to abolish write-in registration and tighten the rules for absentee voting. Last year VIP sued Texas to prevent early voting and Oregon to prevent mail-in voting. The argument against these progressive voting reforms goes like this: They have opened and will open the electoral process to cheaters, cheaters will discourage honest voters from believing in the system, honest voters will stop turning out, and democracy will collapse.

    Now, put all this together with the fact that Miller Baker is supported by people like “Diaper Dave” Vitter, Ken Kookinelli, and other unsavory (right-wing) characters, and you start to get the full picture here. The bottom line? This Miller Baker character would be a disaster in the Virginia State Senate and should be soundly defeated on November 8 by 39th Senate district residents. Fortunately, they have a far better choice: George Barker, a sane, sensible, honest, hard-working (albeit not “flashy”) Senator who is richly deserving of 39th Senate district residents’ votes. That is, if Miller Baker doesn’t sue to stop them from voting in the next two weeks. (snark)


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