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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

If Republicans can't win fair and square, they'll win by only allowing people likely to vote for THEM to vote
Posted by Jill | 7:42 AM
Editorial, New York Times today:

Missouri and at least 19 other states are considering passing laws that would force people to prove their citizenship before they can vote. These bills are not a sincere effort to prevent noncitizens from voting; that is a made-up problem. The real aim is to reduce turnout by eligible voters. Republicans seem to think that laws of this kind will help them win elections, but burdensome rules like these — and others cropping up around the country — pose a serious threat to democracy and should be stopped.

The Missouri legislature is, as Ian Urbina reported in The Times on Monday, on the verge of passing an amendment to the State Constitution that would require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. In addition to the Missouri amendment, which would require voter approval, Florida, Kansas, South Carolina and other states are considering similar rules.

There is no evidence that voting by noncitizens is a significant problem. Illegal immigrants do their best to remain in the shadows, to avoid attracting government attention and risking deportation. It is hard to imagine that many would walk into a polling place, in the presence of challengers and police, and try to cast a ballot.

There is, however, ample evidence that a requirement of proof of citizenship will keep many eligible voters from voting. Many people do not have birth certificates or other acceptable proof of citizenship, and for some people, that proof is not available. One Missouri voter, Lillie Lewis, said at a news conference last week that officials in Mississippi, where she was born, told her they had no record of her birth.

Proof of citizenship is just one of an array of new barriers to voting that have been springing up across the country. Indiana adopted a tough new photo ID voting requirement, over objections from Democrats that it would prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot. The critics were right. In last week’s Indiana primary, a group of about 12 nuns in their 80s and 90s were prevented from voting because they lacked acceptable ID.

As with Missouri’s proposed amendment, the driving force behind strict voter ID requirements in general is not a genuine effort to prevent fraud, since there is virtually no evidence that in-person voter fraud is occurring. It is, rather, the Republican Party’s electoral calculations. Barriers at the polls drive down voter turnout, especially among the poor, racial minorities and students — groups that are less likely than average to have driver’s licenses, and that are more likely than average to vote Democratic.

Voter ID requirements sound good in theory. After all, one of the perqs of citizenship is the right to vote. But when we live in a country where in most elections, barely half of those elegible even bother to show up at the polls, is this really a problem? Does anyone actually believe that illegal immigrants, for whom the LAST thing they want is to be discovered, are going to show up at the polls and expose themselves to authorities?

The husband of a friend of mine was born in Jersey City, in Hudson County, NJ. It seems that for a number of years, workers at the Hudson County Office of Vital Statistics were entering phony birth records, and the state's response was to declare the birth certificates of anyone born before 1965 to be invald. Now you can go to the state's Bureau, but the onus is now on YOU, if you were born in Hudson County during that time, to prove who you are. It's guilt until proven innocent. And if you are in that limbo, you cannot renew your driver's license, you cannot obtain a passport, and if we had this kind of voter ID requirement here in NJ, you would not be able to register to vote.

Obtaining the kind of identification required to pass muster under this sort of voter ID is a pain in the ass for those of us who have cars and who can take time off from work. What of those who are infirm, or don't have access to transportation, or who will be fired if they need to take time off work, because after all, workers at these state agencies don't work evenings and weekends? According to Republicans, having those disadvantages (which largely means you are poor or elderly) is grounds for disenfranchisement.

You'd think that since Republicans are so certain of the correctness of their ideology, they wouldn't be so afraid of what happens if all American citizens exercise their right to vote.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
It's time, NOW, for the Democratic Party (if it can do so legally) and all of its allies to start ID Assistance programs, where logistical, legal, and maybe even financial help is given to those who need it to obtain legal ID. It doesn't preclude continuing to fight this clear attempt to abridge the franchise, but it's both good for the party (ensuring folks likely to vote for them are prepared) and also great PR.

Too bad the Villagers (except maybe Howard Dean) would never go for such a thing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
It doesn't help the democratic cause when their congressional candidates tell voters in a meeting that they don't need to be citzens to vote. As happened in San Diego by democratic candidate Busby.

Blogger Jill said...
Except that's not what happened.

Here's what did (from SignOn San Diego, dated June 3, 2006):

"If an election can turn on a sentence, this could be the one: “You don't need papers for voting.”

On Thursday night, Francine Busby, the Democratic candidate for the 50th Congressional District, was speaking before a largely Latino crowd in Escondido when she uttered those words. She said yesterday she simply misspoke.

But someone taped it and a recording began circulating yesterday. After she made that statement at the meeting, Busby immediately said: “You don't need to be a registered voter to help (the campaign).”


Busby said she was invited to the forum at the Jocelyn Senior Center in Escondido by the leader of a local soccer league. Many of the 50 or so people there were Spanish speakers. Toward the end, a man in the audience asked in Spanish: “I want to help, but I don't have papers.”

It was translated and Busby replied: “Everybody can help, yeah, absolutely, you can all help. You don't need papers for voting, you don't need to be a registered voter to help.” "

What she was saying was that you don't need a voter ID card or other documentation to work on a campaign -- all of which is true. Francine Busby chose her words extremely badly, but she did NOT mean to say that you don't need to be a citizen in order to vote.

But why let the truth get in the way of your agenda? It's so inconvenient sometimes.