by Duane Poncy
In October of 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1461, The Federal Housing Finance Reform Act. This bill contained a Low Income Housing Fund, which would assist local agencies in providing much-needed housing for low income families. This bill, however, contained a rider saying, in effect, that any agency which does any kind of work around voter registration would be ineligible for funding. Not only that, but here's the kicker, if they had done any of this kind of work in the previous 12 months to applying, they would also be ineligible.
Almost immediately, Multnomah County, Oregon (where I live) contacted the housing agencies with which it does business, and told them to cease all voter registration work. They are not even allowed to have voter registration forms in their offices for people to pick up.
First, let me point out that, as of the first of June, 2006, this bill is not even law yet. The senate counterpart to this bill, S. 190, has yet to be referred to the floor. In any case, the Senate version does not include this heinous voter registration restriction.
The League of Women Voters, among others, does not believe that the voter registration requirement is even constitutional. Additionally, it is in direct contradiction to the Federal Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires these same agencies to help register voters!
Yet, the mere existance of a simple clause in a House Bill has local governments and agencies cowering in fear -a clause which has almost no chance of becoming law, or standing up to challenge if it did.
Multnomah County, and local housing agencies, in their cowardice, are helping the Bush administration disenfranchise poor people. And why? All because they are afraid that they might not get a slice of the new pork pie cooked up by the Republicans.
Oh, did I mention that it's an election year? Gee, do you think maybe...? Nah, the Republicans wouldn't do that, would they? You bet they would!