Voting

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’― Isaac Asimov

In democracies, the powers that be do what they can to remain the powers that be. In early America that meant restricting the vote to white men – sometimes just property-owning white men. Since then voting has been expanded to include former slaves and their descendants, women, and eighteen-year-olds. At least on paper.

In 1870, the 15th amendment was ratified. It gave blacks 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.”

Yet, it took another 95 years – and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – to guarantee that right.

This act banned the capricious use of literacy tests, morality judgements, and the like, to bar minorities from the ballot box. And it required states and local jurisdictions, those with a history of abusive voting laws, to get ‘preclearance’ from the US Department of Justice for any change in their voting procedures.

It worked quite well for awhile. Then the Supreme Court hobbled the VRA by declaring major parts of it unconstitutional in the 2013 Shelby County vs. Heller decision. And the local authorities gleeful got back in the vote suppression business.

They dreamed up an exotic new tactic – the ‘war on voter fraud’. Republican state governments used this non-existent threat to fair voting as an excuse to create voter ID laws. Laws that required people to prove who they were to vote. It seems quite reasonable – except people using someone else’s identity to vote are almost non-existent . It’s so rare as to be irrelevant.

Real voter fraud needs the intercession of election workers, ward bosses, and in the case of the 2000 presidential election Florida’s Secretary of State. Individuals running around pretending to be other people isn’t going to change any outcomes – it’s way too inefficient. Stuffing ballot boxes, or losing bundles of votes – that will make a difference. And no ID law will stop that.

And just in case you thought the motive of these identity zealots was pure respect for the mechanics of democracy, consider who ID laws penalise – minorities, the poor, and urbanites – aka Democrats.

None of the acceptable IDs are free. In effect, if you do not have an ID for another reason, if you need an ID just to vote, you are effectively paying a poll tax. Supposedly illegal under the VRA.

In Texas, the politics of voter ID are laid bare by an election law that allows the use of a concealed gun permit, but bars a student ID, as a legitimate ID to vote. Now ask yourself which way the two groups tend to vote.

The Alabama DMV has just discovered a need to save money. It has closed 31 local offices – overwhelmingly in minority areas. Minorities can still get IDs – if they take time off from work to travel miles to the nearest open DMV office. The Governor claims it is just a coincidence, and people complaining about it should mind their own business.

The powers-that-be do everything they can to remain the powers-that-be. Using their position to control the process. The real election fraud in Amerca is that election rules are written, and election districts drawn, by the people who benefit from those rules and geography. It is naive, disingenuous or absurd to claim that guarantees a fair process.

mandela

 

 

 

 

 

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