In gambling circles there is the concept of a 'freeroll.' Not heads I win, tails you lose; rather heads I win, tails nothing happens. With coin flips it would mean that 50% of the time I come out ahead, and 50% of the time we're even -- I end up where I was before. Needless to say this is an awesome position to be in. Nothing to lose and something, potentially very valuable, to gain.
And so it is for Republicans and their voter ID laws. Democrats and civil libertarian groups like the ACLU have spent and will spend vast amounts of effort and money contesting newly enacted laws in Republican-controlled states. They are attempting to defeat ballot initiatives creating voter-ID laws in others. But when it comes down to it, Republicans win no matter how badly they might lose some of the time. That's because they don't lose everywhere. And if they do lose, they have plenty of money to pursue challenges all the way to the Supreme Court, where some say SCOTUS is just waiting for the right moment to strike down the Voting Rights Act and give more power in other ways to the states to curtail voting rights.
Sure, they just temporarily lost in Pennsylvania. Big deal. The law will take effect next year, or there'll be another fight. So they were prevented from putting a voter-ID law into effect in Texas. One did go into effect in Georgia. And Indiana. They just got smacked down in Mississippi? Voters are likely to give them a victory in Minnesota and New Hampshire already enacted an ID law that got upheld by the courts.
Here's a look at how things are going:
In the last two years, the number of states requiring voters to show photo ID has grown from two to eight, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, though courts blocked the photo ID law in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, and are reviewing it in South Carolina.Contrast what is really happening with this rather optimistic quote from the New York Times:
Three states - Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee - passed laws requiring voters to show proof of citizenship to register, the center says. At least 16 states introduced bills to make registration harder by limiting registration drives, changing registration procedures when people move, or repealing the very things California recently approved - same-day and online registration.
"Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened," said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, which is part of the New York University School of Law and opposes such restrictions. "It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws."You can't win if you don't play offense (1). Democrats are not playing offense. The NY Times article is not referring to victories, but successful or partially successful defenses. The only even remotely liberalized voting law that's been enacted that I am aware of is the one noted in California, where same-day registration and voting will be allowed at some unspecified point in the future (once a statewide voter database is set up that is seemingly beyond the ability of California's tech industry to implement).
The fact of the matter is that one way or another, more and more voter ID laws that, bit by bit, restrict how you can vote and who can vote are coming into effect: Republican legislature by Republican legislature, court case by court case, and ballot initiative by ballot initiative. If a first attempt doesn't succeed, they can try again with a different approach, or tweak a clause a judge found unconstitutional. Nowhere that I am aware of are these laws being undone legislatively.
The ultimate result is not hard to predict: grenouille bouillie.
I say it's time to start playing heads voters win, tails Republicans lose. It's time to wake up the frog. How do we best do that?
You may now go back to panicking about the polls.
(1) I suppose technically you could win in football playing just defense with a safety or two, but not in much else.