May 15, 2008

Look Ma, No Hoses or Dogs: Voter Suppression Watch

The Supreme Court recently upheld Indiana's voter ID law against a challenge to its constitutionality and in so doing, enabled an entire category of low intensity voter suppression tactics. I said then that what we would now see is a succession of republican led voter ID legislation efforts copying the Indiana approach by passing voter ID laws to address so called voter impersonation fraud. These laws will be pressed forward on the grounds of protecting the integrity of voting. However, these laws will have the effect of suppressing a portion of the voting public, by making it more inconvenient to become qualified to vote. There is a segment of the population that will be deterred from voting by this inconvenience factor. Republicans will be the only ones pressing for these laws because they believe that the people who are deterred are people likely to vote democratic. Its voter suppression without the hoses and dogs tactics of the old days. More like voter suppression by a million cuts.

As predicted, the first wave of voter id legislation is upon us. In Missouri, legislators emboldened by the Indiana decision are forging ahead with their own plans to enact the same law and once again, cannot produce a single example of voter impersonation fraud. Once again, it is being pursued by republicans and it is simply a way to rig the system by imposing inconvenience on low income and elderly voters presumed to vote democratic.

This kind of legislation must be fought state to state. Where it is enacted, efforts should be undertaken to overturn the law or to liberalize other elements of the voting process such as longer polling hours and voting by mail. More defensive response measures include grassroots drives to ensure that every person in our community has valid photo ID using community institutions like the church, community centers and schools. These laws are being pushed and passed for their voter suppression effects, Period. Full Stop, not to prevent voter impersonation fraud. Any supporter of them who says different is woefully uninformed or quite simply is a liar.

Today its voter ID. Tomorrow it will be some other type of reasonable inconvenience imposed on the franchise. Impose enough of these things and you will begin to get significant voter suppression effects in my view. We're the party of better ideas, but we purposely suppress the franchise to shield ourselves from the competition of ideas. It is the gaming of democracy under the guise of law and order and as a republican, it makes me sick.