Monday, May 12, 2008

The Supreme Court Greased Slippery Slope of Voter ID Battle

The conservative Supreme Courts most recent activist decision, and we must always qualify it as such, was the decision to allow voter ID laws to stand in states that have passed them. If you can ignore the partisan, lopsided state legislative votes requiring ID’s, then you will side with the Justices who found that that alone wasn’t blatant enough to reject it. By allowing the politicization of voter ID, the Justices have permitted the incremental expansion of exclusionary provisions.

So let’s apply the conservative argument; when Democrats try to pass laws, the slippery slope is always brought up as a way to amplify the extreme possibilities of crazy add on laws. We can now assume that this principal applies to Republicans. For example, we can point at this New York Times article “Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship”:

“The battle over voting rights will expand as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote…allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court…part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process…measures are being considered in at least 19 state legislatures. In Arizona, the only state that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, more than 38,000 voter registration applications have been thrown out since the state adopted its measure in 2004. More than 70 percent of those registrations came from people who stated under oath that they were born in the United States. The Missouri secretary of state estimated that it could disenfranchise up to 240,000 registered voters who would be unable to prove their citizenship.”

“In most cases, aspiring voters would have to produce an original birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport. From October 2002 to September 2005, the Justice Department indicted 40 voters for registration fraud or illegal voting, 21 of whom were noncitizens.”

We would be protecting ourselves from ten people a year, while disenfranchising up to 240,000 registered voters. A fair trade off?

“Lillie Lewis, a voter who lives in St. Louis, said she already had a difficult time trying to get a photo ID from the state, which asked her for a birth certificate. Ms. Lewis, who was born in Mississippi and was 78 years old, said officials of that state sent her a letter stating that they had no record of her birth. ‘That’s downright wrong. I have voted in almost all of the presidential races going back I can’t remember how long, but if they tell me I need a passport or birth certificate that’ll be the end of that.”

“Thor Hearne, a lawyer for the American Center for Voting Rights, a conservative advocacy group, added that if states actively provided a free form of identification proving citizenship, the number of people who would be disenfranchised would be very low.”

“The number of people who would be disenfranchised would be very low” should not be an acceptable outcome. These preclusionary organizations like the American Center For Voting Rights, which I like to call “antipodal advocates,” love to inject a smattering of chaos into rights clearly stated in our constitution. The added requirements can only be met when a voter pays money to the state for documented proof of their citizenship, a fee easily described as a pole tax.

The Right to Vote:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.— Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1870)… shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.— Nineteenth Amendment (1920). . . shall not be denied or abridged . . . by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.— Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964)

Can you say birth certificate? To get a copy, you have to pay the state money. Without payment, you cannot vote. It’s a poll tax. Am I the only genius here, or is this common sense 101?

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