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Hullabaloo


Friday, February 12, 2016

 

Voter ID and GOP women: acceptable losses

by Tom Sullivan

GOP-sponsored voting restrictions passed across the country in recent years will come into full force as the primaries roll on. Laws such as North Carolina's massive 2013 election law, for example, ostensibly passed to combat all-but-nonexistent voter fraud. The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) is awaiting the judgment of a federal court, much like the federal court that last Friday overturned the GOP's congressional redistricting in the state. Republicans weakened some of VIVA's provisions just days in advance of going to court. Why? Because they knew.

We will begin to see soon who the casualties are. Some of the effects were felt this month by Reba Bowser, 86, of Asheville, North Carolina. A staunch Republican, Bowser attempted to comply with the new voter identification requirements put in place by her party's state leadership. She went with her son, Ed, to obtain a photo ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Peter Onge of the Charlotte Observer takes up the tale:

On Monday, they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in west Asheville. There, they laid out all of Reba’s paperwork for a DMV official – her birth records from Pennsylvania, her Social Security card, the N.H. driver’s license she let expire because she no longer wanted to drive.

But there was a problem. When Reba got married in 1950, she had her name legally changed. Like millions upon millions of women, she swapped out her middle name for her maiden name.

Reba Miller Bowser, the married name she'd used for decades, had never been an issue before, not in applying for driver’s licenses in other states or for flying to foreign countries. Until now. The computer kicked out a discrepancy and the DMV denied her application.

The DMV failed to mention a provision in the new law that would allow Reba to sign a name-change affidavit. Bowser's daughter-in-laws was none too pleased. Her son got the point:

It’s an issue that the Bowsers haven’t followed much, at least until it snagged Reba. But now, Ed says: “I’m thinking how this affected an 86-year-old woman with limited transportation and resources. You think about extending that to poor communities and minority communities.”

That’s what Republicans were thinking, too, when they crafted the voter ID law. They knew the hassle they created would mostly affect the people who vote for their opponents.

But that is where most of these tales of woe and intrigue stop. Dahliah Lithwick speculated in 2013 that these laws designed to suppress the votes of Democrats might also disproportionately suppress the votes of Republican women. With the focus on how voter ID laws affect Democrat-leaning groups, this is an effect the press and studies routinely miss. It speaks volumes about the Machiavellian nature of the GOP's vote suppression effort. I wrote about it in regard to North Carolina's voter ID law for Crooks and Liars three years ago:

Democratic voters are the GOP’s primary but not its only targets. VIVA is a weapon of mass disruption that will harm Republicans as well.

In a report issued in April, the NC State Board of Elections estimated that 176,091 registered Democrats are without the state-issued photo identity card most will have to pay $20-$32 for before they can vote under VIVA. Plus 73,787 unaffiliated and 1,126 Libertarian voters. Among registered Republican voters, 67,639 have no photo identity cards. Over 2/3 are women.

See, GOP leaders are playing the percentages. They figure that VIVA's voting restrictions will hurt more Democrats than Republicans -- and they will hurt Republicans. Still, Republican leaders calculate that, in the end, the net result will help them hold onto power. Indefinitely.

But the real story North Carolina and the rest of the country misses is that Republican leaders consider any of their own voters hurt by these vote suppression measures collateral damage. Acceptable casualties. Expendables.

And two-thirds of them women. Meet Reba Bowser.

"You see? I kill my own men." – supervillain Cassanova Frankenstein, Mystery Men (1999).