is the title of this must read column in today's Washington Post by Pultizer Prize winner Eugene Robinson. I was surprised that it was not featured in today's pundit roundup.
Robinson begins this powerful column thusly:
Spare us any more hooey about “preventing fraud” and “protecting the integrity of the ballot box.” The Republican-led crusade for voter ID laws has been revealed as a cynical ploy to disenfranchise as many likely Democratic voters as possible, with poor people and minorities the main targets.an unconscionable crime - that is to my mind a more than fair assessment.
Recent developments in Pennsylvania — one of more than a dozen states where voting rights are under siege — should be enough to erase any lingering doubt: The GOP is trying to pull off an unconscionable crime.
Robinson focuses on Pennsyvania, whose new law will potentially disenfranchise 758,939 registered Pennsylvania voters who do not have drivers licences, 9.2% of the registered voters in the state. More than 185,000 live in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia, which may be why the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, Mike Turzai, said “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done."
If you watched Hardball last night, guest host Michael Smerconish, whose radio show is often the voice of the white working class in Philadelphia, pointed out how few examples of prosecutions for voter fraud there have been in Pennsylvania. Consider what Robinson offers us, which I will quote below the squiggle:
Prodded by GOP political activists, the Justice Department under Bush conducted an extensive, nationwide, five-year probe of voter fraud — and ended up convicting a grand total of 86 individuals, according to a 2007 New York Times report. Most of the cases involved felons or immigrants who may not have known they were ineligible to vote.Please note again this sentence: Not one case involved the only kind of fraud that voter ID could theoretically prevent: impersonation of a registered voter by someone else. That's the conclusion we can draw from an investigation by the Department of Justice in the administration that covered 5 years and found a grand total of 86 convictions for violating rules on voting, yet not one of this 86 is addressed by the kinds of laws Pennsylvania and other states are imposing.
Not one case involved the only kind of fraud that voter ID could theoretically prevent: impersonation of a registered voter by someone else. Pennsylvania and other voter ID states have, in essence, passed laws that will be highly effective in eradicating unicorns.
Not only should the Obama Department of Justice be going to Court against these laws, so should individual citizens - as I have written before, and remember - I am NOT a lawyer - I think a case can be made that if you deny me the right to vote when I can prove I have lived at the same address from which I have been voting for years because I do not have what you consider sufficient proof of whom I am, you are effectively accusing me of having committed a felony. Heck, maybe someone so denied should sue for defamation of character anyone refusing to let them vote!
In an urban area like Philadelphia, it will not be that difficult to organize to get those people identification. And at the same time, that effort could register additional people who have not voted in the past, and potentially we can increase turnout.
In Florida, that is less possible because of the draconian law designed to prevent 3rd party registration.
These state actions seem in clear contradiction to the intent of the 15th Amendment - after all, this burden falls disproportionally on those of color, even if the law is not in word targeting them. They are clearly in contradiction to a whole host of federal legislation, starting with the Voting Rights Act and one might argue the Motor Voter bill. Given that this registration affects Federal Elections - House and Senate as well as the electors of the President/Vice President - the Federal government has a clear interest in intervening.
I also happen to think that this should become a campaign issue - properly framed, it is one that can swing a large number of independent voters who don't like the idea of discrimination, even if they themselves are not highly partisan.
Robinson concludes his column with this biting paragraph:
In a previous column, I wrote that voter ID was a solution in search of a problem. I was wrong: The problem seems to be that too many of the wrong kind of voters — low-income, urban, African American, Hispanic — are showing up at the polls. Republican candidates have been vowing to “take back” the country. Now we know how.For too many Republicans, their idea of America is not inclusive - it does not include gays, poor people, young people, many elderly people, and certainly not most people of color. Do not let their token people of color, be they nutcase Allen West or the Governors of South Asian background, Bobby Jindal and Nikkie Haley, mislead you. Obama is a Black man holding an office that too many Republicans think he hold illegitimately, and regardless of how they phrase it, the main reason is that he is Black. Thus if they can suppress the Black vote, and the young people inspired by a young, somewhat forward looking President, they hope to roll back programs that empower and sustain people as far back as those of the New Deal, including Social Security.
They know they cannot win an election nationally, or in many states and districts, if everyone votes.
They know the tides of demography are against them
They want to lock down as much as possible now, and then use obstructionism to prevent anything else from being done.
They want power to enrich and privilege them and theirs, and to hell with anyone different or who might have a different viewpoint.
In short, because they cannot win an honest game, they want to change the rules to guarantee that they will win.
We cannot let them.
Read the Robinson.
Make sure everyone you know reads it as well.
And then we need to get to work, not waiting for the Courts to overturn such laws, because given the current makeup of the Supreme Court and what Roberts included in his opinion in the ACA case, we cannot assume that SCOTUS would find these laws unconstitutional (although we can hope against hope that maybe Kennedy and Roberts would be sensible on this issue).
The Republicans are committing a crime against voters, which means they are committing a crime against America, against all of us.
Let's make sure all those people get the id and that we get them to the polls.
If the Tea Party can use anger to fuel turning out its adherents, surely we can use anger at the potential disenfranchisement of so many to fuel getting them the identification they need while those laws are in effect, getting them to the polls, and having them vote to save Democracy from those who apparently hate it.