Voter ID Laws: More Conservative Shenanigans

No sooner do conservatives come to power, but they begin chipping away at voting rights. What choice do they have, after all, given their lack of electoral support. Democrats consistently win more votes than Republicans in congressional elections – the Republican House majority is a creature of gerrymandered districts, and nothing more – it is not the result of greater popularity.

Preventing votes has long been a favorite conservative pastime, going back to Reconstruction, when black men had only recently secured the right to vote through the 15th amendment. The US South had a 100 year tradition of denying suffrage to blacks when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. That law created a special class of states, which were to be subject to special scrutiny because of their poor record of voting rights abuses.

In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court’s four other conservatives decided that the South had grown up, and no longer needed special oversight to ensure that they would not mistreat minorities. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg predicted that abuses would immediately resume. She thought the majority’s reasoning was foolish, and asserted that close scrutiny was precisely what kept miscreant states in line – that getting rid of “preclearance” (their special statutory regime) was akin to throwing away an umbrella in a thunderstorm because you werent getting wet.

As if it were a scripted comedy routine, Texas and Mississippi responded within hours by implementing voter ID laws that adversely impacted minority voting. In the year since that decision, voter ID laws have multiplied. And the Supreme Court has decided to leave the Texas law in place for the coming election.

Voter ID laws invariably function as a poll tax. Such laws take away your constitutional right to vote, and substitute it with a limited right, conditioned upon obtaining particular documents – a process that’s never free, and whose costs tend to be greater for the young, poor, elderly and minorities because they are less likely to have the needed documents readily at hand, and because they are more burdened by efforts to obtain them.

These laws are offered as a means of protecting society from the crime of voter impersonation. However numerous investigations have found that crime to occur so infrequently that it has virtually no chance of impacting an election, even if it were to somehow spike in frequency by a factor of one hundred! On the other hand, voter ID laws powerfully reduce the turnout of legitimate voters. It’s sort of like adopting a new police procedure to reduce homicides – which has the side-effect of killing one thousand people for every homicide it prevents.

And that is precisely why these laws exist, and why they are almost always passed by Republican legislatures and signed into effect by Republican governors. Voter ID laws serve no purpose other than to prevent the young, poor, elderly and minorities from voting – all of whom are more likely to vote democratic. You’d think these laws might set off conservative alarm bells, because they require ordinary citizens to obtain government-issued ID cards as a prerequisite to voting – conservatives, after all, are prone to whining and complaining about the threat posed by Big Government. But lacking any principles whatsoever, conservatives are content to expand government power whenever its convenient.






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