Voter ID laws actually expand voter access

When I poll-watched for the Republican Party in the 2010 general election, my Democratic counterpart mentioned that she was a former United Nations poll watcher. She told me that Europe “did it right,” in that it encouraged the homeless to participate in the electoral process.

I asked her, “How do you determine what precinct they should vote in?” and “How do you know they haven’t voted in multiple precincts?” and “What in heaven’s name do they even know about the candidates or the issues?” Finally, I questioned her about the integrity of the electoral process. That was, after all, why she and I were spending 14 hours at the polls that day. She said that none of that mattered in the grand scheme of things. The important thing was that they participated.

I resisted the urge to ask if they gave out medals and trophies, or just pasted gold stars on their foreheads. We didn’t have a lot to talk about after that.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, raised the issue of voter ID legislation six months ago, then being enacted by various states, and likened it toJim Crow laws. After apologizing for her over-the-top comments, the subject appeared closed. Now that President Obama’s re-election appears doubtful, his attorney general, Eric Holder, has taken up the mantle.

Speaking at the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, Holder asked the political parties “to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, achieve success by appealing to more voters.”

Just what “certain votes” is Holder concerned about? Dead people? Ineligible voters? Illegal immigrants? These are the votes that voter ID laws were designed to identify and eliminate. Although he didn’t say, the venue he chose for his remarks spoke volumes. The nation saw sweeping civil rights legislation enacted under Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. If the black vote is what worries Holder in the upcoming presidential race, he should rest assured. It turns out that states that have enacted voter ID laws have actually seen an increase in minority voting.

But I suspect that fair and accurate polling isn’t what Holder is looking for. He wants his boss to win — at all costs, and electoral integrity be damned. During the 2008 election, a member of the New Black Panther Party, armed with nightsticks, intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place. After Holder’s Justice Department had won the case in all but name only, he asked the court to dismiss it. After months of harsh criticism, Holder finally said that the focus on the Black Panther case demeaned “my people.” By “my people,” I don’t think he was talking about lawyers, Democrats or government employees. His focus was on African-Americans.

While more and more states are enacting laws requiring voters to present photo ID, at least one jurisdiction is moving in an entirely different direction. The mayor of New Haven, Conn., wants his state’s permission to give illegal immigrants voting privileges. I’m sure my fellow poll-watcher from 2010 is thrilled.


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