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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

 

No perps, just the same old smoke and fears

by Tom Sullivan

“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. I am not willing to defend them anymore.” – retiring Wisconsin state Senator Dale Schultz, the sole Senate Republican to oppose early voting limits
The New York Times editorial page the other day turned it's ire on the voter fraud squad. Specifically, on Texas where the Justice Department and other groups are in court challenging its absurdly restrictive 2011 identity card law. (Almost as absurd as North Carolina's.) The Times states the obvious: These laws are about erecting obstacles to Democratic-leaning voters voting.

The laws’ backers rely on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upholding an Indiana voter-ID law, but at least two of the judges in that case have since admitted they were wrong. Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge who approved the law, said last fall that voter-ID laws were “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” And former Justice John Paul Stevens, who voted with the majority, said that in retrospect the dissent was “dead right.”

Rather than find a way to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Republican lawmakers rig the game with pointless obstacles to voting. The courts are finally catching on, but in the meantime, many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are shut out of the democratic process.

Oh, you have to give the voter fraud squads their due for dedication. Whatever else, they are persistent. The "evidence" they produce to support their claims of rampant fraud are voluminous. What they lack in quality they make up for in quantity. Fraud theorists have never produced actual wrongdoers in numbers to justify claims of widespread fraud. But statistical analyses? They produce those in bulk.

They've got nothing. But we are to be impressed by the sheer volume of the nothing. So much so that we will agree to requiring every American to present a photo identity card before voting. Because nothing says freedom like a government official asking to see your papers.

Striking down Pennsylvania’s voter ID law in January, its state court found "no evidence of the existence of in-person voter fraud in the state.” Plus, the state failed to establish any connection between photo identity cards and the integrity of elections. Courts in Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas ruled similarly.

Wisconsin federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman in April struck down that state's voter ID law for violating the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Adelman found about 9 percent of registered voters – about 300,000 – lacked the government-issued ID required for casting a ballot under the Wisconsin law, enough to change election results.

He wrote, “The evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that this unique burden disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters.” Wisconsin's African American voters were "1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a matching driver’s license or state ID and that Latino voters in Wisconsin were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack these forms of identification.” Shirley Brown, for example. An African-American woman in her 70s, Brown was born at home in Louisiana and never had a birth certificate. Or the veteran who testified that he banks using his veteran’s ID, but cannot use it to vote.

"The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past…" wrote Adelman, ruling that Wisconsin's ID law would prevent more legitimate votes than fraudulent ones.

The voter fraud squad’s repeated declarations of a widespread crime wave are long on anecdotes and short on perpetrators. All smoke, no fire. Their spreading unsubstantiated “wild stories” helps generate support for erecting obstacles to honest citizens sharing in responsibility for governing America.

That is utterly wrongheaded.

Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (D-Denver) expressed a perspective more in keeping with traditional American optimism when he said,

“We think that voting actually is not just a private vote for the person who gets the vote, but a public good, and that the more people who vote, the more legitimate the elected officials are, and that they represent the actual values of the electorate.”

Isn’t that what we all want?