Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Suppressing the vote

Texas' latest attempt to reduce voter turnout this November has been struck down by panel of three federal judges. The GOP controlled legislature passed a bill that would require voters to present a driver's license or other form of government-issued ID before being allowed to vote.

Well, what's so bad about that, you might ask.

Shouldn't everyone have a drivers license? How hard can it be?

If you've got a Texas drivers license then you've got it made in the shade. Need to renew it? You can do it by mail, online or (if you have nothing better to do with two hours of your life) in person. But what if you've never been issued a drivers license? That's where the fun begins.

Do you have a passport? How about a Certificate of Naturalization? What about some document from Homeland Security or Customs and Immigration? No? Now it gets interesting.

Do you have your birth certificate or a State Department Certification of Birth Abroad? How about a court order of a name change? Oh, but that's not all. If that's all you got, then you've got to have two additional pieces of supporting documentation.

US Attorney General  Eric Holder rightfully decreed that the Voter ID bill constituted a poll tax for poor and minority voters that would only serve to deter them from voting in November.

And what about the claims by Gov. Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott that this measure is needed to combat voter fraud? Of the 13 million votes cast in the 2008 and 2010 general elections there were but four allegations of fraud that resulted in one indictment.

So, if it's not fraud, then just what is the new bill supposed to combat? And why are Mr. Perry and Mr. Abbott fighting so hard to get the law upheld? It's because Republicans know they need to suppress voter turnout to ensure victory. Just take a look at the 2008 general election in Harris County.

In a pattern that is duplicated in pretty much all metropolitan areas, voters in urban areas tend to lean Democratic while suburban voters lean Republican. If, as in 2008, the urban vote outnumbers the suburban vote, Democratic candidates tend to win. If, as in 2010, the suburban vote is greater, the Republicans win.

In 2008, the urban vote in Harris County was overwhelmingly Democratic and turnout was significantly higher than in 2004. The result was a near Democratic sweep in Harris County. The opposite was true two years ago.

Those in favor of voter ID laws know that the people who will find it the hardest to obtain the necessary form of identification tend to vote Democratic. When you factor in the more onerous requirements to obtain a drivers license in Texas (and in some other states), the intent of the law becomes crystal clear.

Every election, commentators decry the pathetic turnout. We hear pundits proposing new ideas to increase voter participation. And, now, we watch in state after state as the Republican Party does its best to make it harder for minorities and the poor to vote.

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