Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's About Supression

USA Today ran an editorial earlier this week on Republican efforts in red states to force much stricter voter ID laws, and pulled no punches as to the reason why:

One study in Minnesota, done after an extraordinarily close Senate race in 2008, found a grand total of seven suspicious votes, out of nearly 3 million cast. No charges were filed that year. Those seven cases were exceeded by the dozen or so elderly nuns in nearby Indiana who were turned away from the polls for lack of picture IDs.

The nuns were exercising a surprisingly common choice. An estimated one in 11— do not have government-issued photo IDs. This, of course, is an option they should be free to exercise. They also have every right to participate in elections, and the government has an obligation to allow them reasonable access to the polls.

So does it make sense to place roadblocks in front of them in the name of policing a crime that barely exists? And does it make sense to try to issue IDs to millions of people who apparently don't want or otherwise need them? Many libertarians see this as a route to a national ID card system, which they deeply oppose.

There is also ample reason to doubt the sincerity of states that say they will provide IDs. When Georgia imposed an ID law in 2005, courts barred the state from charging for them, calling such fees a poll tax — an unconstitutional tactic once used by segregationists to keep blacks from voting. But given the true motive behind such laws, it's likely that states will find other ways to make the IDs hard to get. 

Just as Democrats try to help their cause by making it easier to vote through expedited registration and early voting, Republicans see a benefit in lowering the turnout among certain voters. The people most likely to be dissuaded by the hassle of obtaining an ID card — the old and infirm, the young and the poor — tend to vote Democratic. Shouldn't Republicans be looking for ways to expand their appeal to these groups, rather than throwing obstacles in their way?

Of course not.  When only people with the luxury of time and resources have the ability to vote, they are the only people that matter in our representative democracy.  And since the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican, it's painfully clear that the GOP knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to making voting harder.

That's why we continue to see Republicans pull out phantom enemies like ACORN and argue that Democratic party efforts to increase voter turnout must be criminal -- and must be stopped by any means necessary.  I've talked about these voter suppression efforts before at length:

The bottom line is that whenever you hear Republicans complain about "voter fraud", they are complaining that it's too easy for groups that tend to vote more Democratic to vote and want to put in additional hoops to jump through in order to place financial or bureaucratic barriers to voting in front of the poor, minorities, students, and the elderly.

By restricting acceptable voters only to those who have current state issued drivers licenses or IDs, passports, or military IDs, Republicans are protecting America's voting system from those who don't have the money to pay for these IDs.  That would be violating poll tax laws, but the voter ID bills get around these by providing for waivers for the fee to purchase state putting the burden of proof that the fee should be waived on the prospective voter and not the state.

It's very clever, and very much designed to eliminate as many provisional ballots, student ballots, low-income elderly ballots, and minority ballots as possible.  Combined with continued disenfranchising efforts like limiting voting equipment in minority precincts, Republicans are setting up long-term disenfranchisement of traditional Democratic voter groups.

Glad to see somebody in the media is noticing.  This is going on right now in Indiana and Gov. John Kasich has his own plan for disenfranchising thousands of Ohio voters, where Ohio will offer waivers for the voter ID card fees...but only if the voter can prove they need the waiver, and the decisions on that are made by individual country registrars.   It's a poll tax, with the out clause that you have to request a waiver well ahead of time before the election.  For thousands of people who will show up to vote in Ohio next fall, who of course won't be aware of the new regulations and don't have a current ID, their right to vote is revoked.

And that's just what Republicans want:  as few people voting as possible.

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