Now that the Republican government of Pennsylvania has disenfranchised three-quarters of a million citizens for the avowed purpose of enabling Mitt Romney to carry a state he’d otherwise have no chance in, some honest conservatives (yes, there are a few left) are getting queasy. Here’s James Joyner:
There’s essentially no evidence that significant numbers of people are engaging in the sort of voter fraud that would be preventable by requiring photo identification. Which means that we’re essentially disenfranchising large numbers of people to prevent something we’re pretty sure isn’t happening. Given that the people being disenfranchised are disproportionately from one political party and that the people pushing for these laws are almost entirely from the opposing political party, that’s problematic.
Yes, “problematic” is one word for this. There are others, some of them printable.
Joyner concentrates on the pain-in-the-butt of taking hours out a day to wrestle with the DMV. But that grossly understates the problem. To get a driver’s license, you need “verification of birth date and identity.” The Pennsylvania form lists two options: “birth certificate” and “other.” Not sure what “other” means, but getting a birth certificate if you don’t current have a photo ID can be somewhere between difficult and practically impossible.
You also need two proofs of residency. The options are: mortgage documents, lease agreements, W-2 form, tax records, current weapons permit, and current utility bills (water, gas, electric, cable). Cell phone bills don’t count. If you’re a recent high-school graduate without a job and couch-surfing, you’re not likely to have any of those.
Kevin Drum, who’s been making this point for a while, offers the most important summary chart as part of a collection:
As Joyner admits, voter ID was presented as the solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. (Kevin Drum has chapter and verse on this.) Denying the right to vote to a quarter of the black population might justify language a trifle stronger than “problematic.”
Voter ID is perhaps the most important of the current efforts to prevent voting, but it’s not the only one. Florida Republicans, who stole the 2000 election for George W. Bush before anyone had heard of a hanging chad by purging thousands of non-felons whose names resembled those of felons from the voter rolls, intends to pull the same trick this year with citizenship. Several states have cut back on early voting; combine that with providing too few machines in big urban minority precincts, and you can make voting impossible for the people whose votes you’re rather not count.
I caught some flak the other day for referring to today’s GOP as “enemies of the Republic.” But what would you call people who want to convert a temporary electoral victory into a permanent grip on power by denying their opponents the right to vote?