Friday, May 4, 2012

The Logic of Malfeasance

What do Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have in common?  They are ten states (to date) that require a government-issued photo ID to prevent voter fraud by impersonation.*  Not impersonation by Frank Gorshin or Rich Little, mind you, but by evildoers who would cast a second or illegal or unqualified vote, presumably for nefarious reasons.  Sounds widespread and dire, threatening to our particular system of government, doesn’t it?

“It is more common to be struck by lightning than be impersonated at the polls,” according to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.   That being the case, why aren’t Republican lawmakers—yes, it’s them again—introducing legislation to protect their constituencies from lightning bolts rather than creating laws to deprive far too many of them of their right to vote?

Let’s take this seriously.  Please try!  In the decade between 2001 and 2010, an average of 39 U.S. citizens per year were not only struck by lightning, but killed by it—a worst case scenario, I hope you’ll agree.  But during the same ten years, 115 people died from heat!  Should we demand to know from our elected representatives why, in the face of such ghastly emergency, no plans are in motion to evacuate the South? 

If you think my disquisition is absurd, you’re right.  Absurd because the thinking behind the lawmaking, or, more accurately, the conniving behind the evil-doing, is beyond absurd, beyond belief and beyond the pale.  It’s directly and deliberately discriminatory.

According to the Lawyers Committee, “millions of Americans—including an estimated 25% of African-Americans—are at risk of having their right to vote taken away by these new voter identification laws.”

But what about their constitutional right to vote, you ask?  There is no constitutional right to vote.  Comes as quite a shock, I know, but while the constitution guarantees the right to free speech, empowering us to criticize the constitution’s failure to ensure the right to vote as openly and angrily as we want, it doesn’t provide us with a federally protected right to vote. Constitutional Amendments 15, 19 and 26 specifically prevent denying the right to vote based on race, sex and age, respectively.  But according to the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush v Gore, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College.”  The five-judge majority going even further, as The Center For Voting and Democracy details, “The Court went on to say that Florida’s legislature has the power to take that power away from the people at any time, regardless of the popular vote tally.”  We, the people, are at the mercy, for good or bad, of our states.

As a result of the 2010 elections, twice as many states are under total Republican control (22) as are Democrat states (11), the remaining states divided pretty evenly.  In at least 40 of our states,  “Republicans have introduced laws… that would make voting more difficult for everyone,” but “especially for voters who supported President Obama and other Democrats in 2008.”  

Republicans claim convicted felons in the thousands cast ballots illegally.  But they’re claiming more convicted felons than there were illegal ballots cast —by a landslide!  Two recent studies indicate a yearly average of all of 6 to 17 people—possibly none of them convicted felons—who either pleaded guilty or were convicted of voter fraud.  And voter ID laws would have failed to prevent most of the violations.

Not one, but a multitude of recent studies, including a five-year investigation conducted by the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration, show that voter fraud—of any kind—is a myth.  The DOJ effort produced “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.”  Those few charged with violations by the Justice Department “appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules.”  Many cases in Miami, according to an assistant United States attorney, apparently stemmed from mistakes by immigrants and not fraud.

In a country whose bridges aren’t safe, schools aren’t effective, lawmakers aren’t functional and citizens aren’t exercising their right to vote, our elected representatives  prefer to squander their tax-payer time and tax-payers’ money making sure that the paltry number of miscreants who vote illegally are prevented from doing so.

Twenty-one million Americans apparently do not have government-issued identification, including driver's licenses.  Texas law recognizes a weapons permit, but not a Veterans Identification card or college student ID!  What’s next—a NASCAR card, yes, but an AARP card, no? 

The bottom line: A country with one of the lowest voter participation rates in the world is aggressively seeking to suppress the vote!

I appeal to my Republican readers—if I have any left—why don’t you do something?   Why don’t you let your party’s leaders and representatives know that as much as you’d like to win, this is not the extreme you want to go to in order to.  Or is it?

* Rhode Island—the only state with a Democratic-controlled legislature to do so; South Carolina—blocked by the Justice Department; Wisconsin—temporarily blocked by state judges.