Thursday, August 10, 2006

Democracy Is On the March Everywhere...

...but the United States.

Generally we think of winning elections at the ballot box. That's just the American way, right? Not necessarily, according to an editorial in today's NY Times. It is also possible to win elections by keeping people away from the ballot box.

Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection. Missouri’s new ID rules — and similar ones adopted last year in Indiana and Georgia — are intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver’s licenses. Georgia’s law has been blocked by the courts, and the others should be too.

Even before Missouri passed its new law, it had tougher ID requirements than many states. Voters were required, with limited exceptions, to bring ID with them to the polls, but university ID cards, bank statements mailed to a voter’s address, and similar documents were acceptable. The new law requires a government-issued photo ID, which as many as 200,000 Missourians do not have.

Missourians who have driver’s licenses will have little trouble voting, but many who do not will have to go to considerable trouble to get special ID’s. The supporting documents needed to get these, like birth certificates, often have fees attached, so some Missourians will have to pay to keep voting. It is likely that many people will not jump all of the bureaucratic hurdles to get the special ID, and will become ineligible to vote.

...Unduly onerous voter ID laws violate equal protection, and when voters have to pay to get the ID’s, they are an illegal poll tax. They are also an insult to democracy, because their goal is to have elections in which eligible voters are turned away.
[Emphasis added]

I thought this country had finally gotten beyond the bigotry of poll taxes, but clearly I was wrong. Supressing the vote is apparently cheaper and more effective than vigorous campaigning, and if it was good enough for our grandparents, it must be good enough for us.

The real voter fraud is that being committed by the Republican legislatures who think up these schemes. Hopefully our judiciary is still independent enough to root out this nonsense and return the voting booths to all voters.


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