In a prior article I shared that at least 180 restrictive bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states. Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, and Florida have received a lot of press coverage lately. What do all of these states have in common? Republican Governors. Currently there are 29 Republican, 20 Democrat, 1 Independent Governors in the US.
To understand the effect this has on the promotion and introduction of voter ID and other voter suppression legislation, we need to explore how ALEC functions.
Over 30 years ago a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty was formed known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their belief is that the states should share co-equal status with the federal government.
in 1986, ALEC made a commitment to form formal internal Task Forces to develop policy covering virtually every responsibility of state government....To date, ALEC’s Task Forces have considered, written and approved hundreds of model bills on a wide range of issues, model legislation that will frame the debate today and far into the future. Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law.
These task forces focus on "initiatives", key areas that they want to direct their energy, attention, and monies to. They assign a member of the legislature as the Public Chair and a corporate member as the Private Chair. This is what connects corporations to state and local government.
One of these task forces is the International Relations Task Force. The members of the International Relations Task Force (IRTF) believe in the power of free markets and limited government to propel economic growth not just in the United States but around the globe.
ALEC is launching “Restore the Balance: An Initiative to Restore Federalism in America.” This Initiative will focus on advancing ALEC’s guiding principles of limited government and federalism by providing state legislators model legislation for their states and model resolutions for petitioning the U.S. Congress that will help to protect their states’ Tenth Amendment rights.
The focus of the Federal Relations program is to build a productive bipartisan working relationship among current and former ALEC members at all levels of government. Bringing state legislative leaders into contact with their congressional counterparts is the cornerstone of the Federal Relations program.
So here's what happens, the majority of ALEC's bipartisan membership are state legislators who happen to be Republican. They work to create these "model" bills like the voter ID and voter suppression legislation being challenged in the courts now. ALEC members are connected to their alumni in Congress. The Senate has 9 (8 Republican, 1 Democrat). The House of Representatives have 88 (87 Republican, 1 Democrat). This is how the conservative agenda is promoted.
Having ALEC and their corporations behind them, the Republican Party has become a formidable force.
This is why we must continue to expose those that support ALEC and keep the pressure of them to drop their membership.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.