Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back To Basics

The California Primary is next Tuesday. There is a hot Democratic race for Governor, the usual multiple ballot initiatives, and a special election in San Diego to replace Duke Cunningham for that district's House seat. In November, the entire country will go to the polls for the off-year elections, and it promises to be contentious. Voting is one of the key elements in a democracy. Even if less than half the eligible voters actually go to the polls, the right to vote is crucial.

A NY Times editorial comments on the chilling efforts by some to make the exercise of that right so onerous as to negate it.

In a country that spends so much time extolling the glories of democracy, it's amazing how many elected officials go out of their way to discourage voting. States are adopting rules that make it hard, and financially perilous, for nonpartisan groups to register new voters. They have adopted new rules for maintaining voter rolls that are likely to throw off many eligible voters, and they are imposing unnecessarily tough ID requirements.

Congress is considering a terrible voter ID requirement as part of the immigration reform bill. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, introduced an amendment to require all voters to present a federally mandated photo ID. Even people who have been voting for years would need to get a new ID to vote in 2008. Millions of people without drivers' licenses, including many elderly people and city residents, might fail to do so, and be ineligible to vote. The amendment has been blocked so far, but voting-rights advocates worry that it could reappear.

These three techniques — discouraging registration drives, purging eligible voters and imposing unreasonable ID requirements — keep showing up. Colorado recently imposed criminal penalties on volunteers who slip up in registration drives. Georgia, one of several states to adopt harsh new voter ID laws, had its law struck down by a federal court.

Protecting the integrity of voting is important, but many of these rules seem motivated by a partisan desire to suppress the vote, and particular kinds of voters, rather than to make sure that those who are entitled to vote — and only those who are entitled — do so. The right to vote is fundamental, and Congress and state legislatures should not pass laws that put an unnecessary burden on it. If they do, courts should strike them down.
[Emphasis added]

"[A] partisan desire to suppress the vote"? That sounds mighty unAmerican to me.


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