OPINION – Four years ago, after the president defeated John McCain, Republican leaders across the nation got the idea that if they made it more difficult for people to vote by requiring them to show a photo ID card before casting their ballots, things would turn around this election.
A dozen states implemented tougher voter laws since Barack Obama was elected. It’s not playing well in the courts or the court of public opinion.
This week, a Commonwealth Judge postponed implementation of legislation that would have required Pennsylvania voters to show a photo ID card before entering the voting booth. A similar Mississippi law was also put on hold while federal officials determine if it violates terms of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I am still not convinced … that there will be no voter disenfranchisement” if the law took effect immediately, a Pennsylvania judge wrote in issuing his decision.
Neither am I.
The reality is that we should be doing all we can to make voting easier, not more difficult, and photo ID verification is not the way to bridge that. I’d rather rock the vote than suppress it. We have voter ID requirements here in Utah, too, but it hardly matters because of the overwhelming Republican majority.
Opponents of the Pennsylvania law claimed that young adults, minorities, the elderly, poor, and disabled would find it more difficult to cast ballots, according to an Associated Press report. The court case was pushed by groups including the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, AARP, and the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP. They, rightfully so, charge that obtaining an official state identification card can often be difficult, particularly when they are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In most states it can take hours to move through the long lines.
To obtain an ID card in Pennsylvania, you must show a U.S. birth certificate with a raised seal, certificate of U.S. citizenship, certificate of naturalization, or a U.S. passport to prove citizenship. To prove residency, you must show two of the following: tax records, mortgage documents, a lease agreement, W-2 form, current weapons permit, or current utility bill to prove residency.
You must also fill out an “Application for Pennsylvania Photo Identification Card” and hand over $13.50 before you smile for the camera.
States where voter ID laws have been successfully challenged include Texas and Wisconsin. A South Carolina law is also under review.
This all dates back, of course, to the post-Civil War era and the influx of Jim Crow laws designed to segregate African-Americans. It took about 100 years for those laws, which ranged from educational to voting issues, to be repealed, trumped by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Now, however, we are stepping backwards as the GOP has looked for an unreasonable advantage this election.
This has been a desperate measure taken by a desperate party that looks like it will lose this election by about the same Electoral College margin as it lost the last one, which is why I look for Republican leaders to push for even more extreme voter restrictions after Democrats escort Mitt Romney to the door in a couple of weeks.
During the nation’s formative years, only white, male, adult property owners were allowed to vote. There were religious prerequisites until 1810.
There were literacy tests, poll taxes were initiated. It wasn’t until 1944 that “white primaries” were eliminated. In 1972 the Supreme Court ruled that lengthy residency requirements were unconstitutional, that 30 days was long enough to qualify to vote in a state or federal election.
There’s a twist of irony attached to all of this in light of a story published Tuesday in the Houston Chronicle that a veteran Republican consultant is under investigation for registering dead people to vote in Florida. I wonder how they arranged voter ID cards for those dead folks. The same consultant, Nathan Sproul, has also done work for the Romney campaign, according to a Salon report.
Nonetheless, the Republican Party is deep into investigating voter rolls in Colorado, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Iowa. What are they uncovering? Hardly a thing. An investigation of Florida voter lists — before Sproul’s efforts to register dead people — was initiated when the GOP claimed that as many as 180,000 voters were not legal citizens. It turns out that only 207 were not eligible to vote, hardly enough to sway a municipal election.
A scrubbing of North Carolina’s books reveals that there were only about a dozen instances where a noncitizen had voted.
In Colorado, more than 11,000 people were suspected of voting illegally as noncitizens. The actual number, however, turned out to be 141.
So, as the numbers rolled in, the GOP had to look elsewhere to try to control the outcome of this election, which is why voter ID laws were passed in, mostly, key battleground states. At least that’s what some politicians have said.
When the measure passed in June, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai boasted: “Voter ID…is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
A recent poll, however, pegged the president’s lead in Pennsylvania at 12 percent.
So much for trying to rig the ballot box.
No bad days!
From the Editor – the following resources are offered to assist Utah residents in voting:
Related post: Utah Lt. Governor’s voter education and outreach
Utah voter registration upcoming deadlines:
- Deadline to register to vote by-mail: Oct. 9
- Deadline to register in person or online: Oct. 22
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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