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Campus Progress Keeps the Heat on ALEC as New Information about its Influence is Revealed

As we’ve been reporting here at Campus Progress, the right to vote is under attack in 2/3 of states across the country.  Despite a lack of evidence to support their claims of “voter fraud,” conservative legislators are introducing and passing bills which require voters to show specific types of photo identification at the polls. (Ironically, when fraud does occur it’s usually linked to absentee ballots, and not in person. But few of the Voter ID bills address this issue.) Those who are most at risk for disenfranchisement under these new laws are young people, people of color, low-income people, the disabled and older Americans. It's voter suppression, plain and simple.

Last March, Campus Progress exposed the fact that the model “voter ID” law used by several of these state legislatures was drafted by a Washington, DC, group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), affiliated with right-wing donors and corporations. ALEC says its mission is to promote “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” so obviously we’re a bit baffled as to how suppressing the right to vote – the cornerstone of our democracyfurthers ALEC’s stated agenda.

This week, the Center for Media and Democracy launched a new website, which contains a wealth of information revealing the overwhelming reach of ALEC’s influence in state legislatures. The site contains details on over 800 pieces of model legislation “secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).” As the site’s authors explain: “These bills and resolutions reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Only by seeing the depth and breadth and language of the bills can one fully understand the power and sweep of corporate influence behind the scenes on bills affecting the rights and future of every American in every single state.”

For more information on the impetus behind this groundbreaking new project, check out this letter from Lisa Graves,executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, as well as this article in The Nation.

In an effort to keep the pressure on ALEC, Campus Progress has contacted the corporations that are a part of ALEC’s private enterprise boardwhich includes Exxon-Mobil, Kraft Foods, cigarette maker Altria, and the Koch brothers’ companyto alert them of their companies’ affiliation with an organization connected to the suppression of voter rights. We sent letters, emails, and faxes requesting meetings with them to discuss steps they might take to oppose Voter ID and support voting for all Americans. So far, we have gotten responses from some of the companies, and some have been fairly positive. It is our hope that they will take active steps toward making it easier for all people — including their customers, employees, and shareholdersto vote.

The bottom line is that this is going to be a tough fight, and we are going to need your help to ensure that we all make our voices heard to stop voter suppression and counter the effects of voter ID laws. We will be posting more information here on our site when we’re ready for next steps, but in the meantime, be sure to keep checking back often for our weekly voter suppression updates, and more original reporting on ALEC and voter ID laws. 

Katie is the Communications and Outreach Manager for Campus Progress.

Angela is the policy and advocacy manager for Campus Progress. She graduated from Western Michigan University.

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