Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The Voter ID bill won't have any impact on the real problems which have plagued recent elections


“In the past 9 years, neither my staff nor I can recall a single case or complaint of a voter impersonating another voter at the polls — the issue sought to be corrected by mandatory photo identification. And had this been occurring, some voter surely would have complained upon finding that someone else had voted under their name. It hasn't happened....

The bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while expanding the opportunity for fraud in the area that has long been the most vulnerable to this type of abuse — the mailed absentee ballot.”

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, in 2005 letter to Georgia State Senate.

The above paragraphs were the lead to my February 2, 2006, column, titled “The Real Fraud Behind the Voter ID Bill.” Well, not much has changed, except that now the very Democratic (as in “Party”) Attorney General of Georgia, Thurbert Baker, has filed an “emergency appeal” and asked the Supreme Court of Georgia to overturn a trial judge’s order blocking implementation of the latest version of the Voter ID law, the first of which was overturned by a federal judge in 2005.

So what’s the “emergency?” Why was one of the first acts of the newly Republican Georgia legislature, which first took control in January of 2005, to pass a Voter ID law? The answer is that it is an effort to win elections by suppressing likely Democratic voters. This is part and parcel of the same voter suppression effort that during in the past two presidential elections resulted in older voting machines likely to break down and cause long lines being put in use in heavily Democratic districts and precincts around the country, the same reason flyers were circulated in black neighborhoods “reminding” people to vote on Wednesday, the day after the election actually took place.

Historically, after the Civil War, it was the Democratic Party in the South that wanted to suppress voting- in that instance, among newly freed slaves and later, their descendants. Until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965- through the efforts of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, himself from a former slave state (Texas), the Democrats in the South were the bad guys when it came to suppressing the vote. A white voter only had to show up at the polls, and he was handed a ballot. If he couldn’t read or write, no matter. He had the right color skin, so he got to vote. Black voters had to prove their worth- some were asked to recite the Constitution or Declaration of Independence from memory, to the amusement of the registrars who helped suppress their votes.

That all changed in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed to implement the promise of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which went into effect February 3, 1870. Although the 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote, that promise was mainly honored in the breach in the South. After 1965, the promise was kept, and for the last 40 years, no political party tried to suppress black voters.

That all changed when the Republicans took over the legislature in 2005. Until that time, Georgia hadn’t ever had a voter ID bill that would have suppressed the vote. The current bill will most likely impact the poor, the black, and the elderly, all groups which tend to vote for Democrats as opposed to Republicans. Why would the Republicans want to keep legitimate voters from casting ballots? For good reasons. Democrats, after all, weren’t the party that was going to put the elderly out of nursing homes in the summer of 2004 to save a few dollars in the State’s budget. Democrats didn’t engineer and pass a prescription drug law that has confounded and angered Medicare recipients while handsomely rewarding pharmaceutical companies. Drug companies are now reaping in billions more in profits, not least because the Republicans managed to stick provisions in the law preventing States and local governments from contracting for discounts on drugs for Medicaid recipients and preventing patient access to cheaper (and possibly safer) Canadian drugs. Democrats didn’t try to pass legislation allowing rich developers to use eminent domain to put the urban poor out of house and home. These were all Republican initiatives (although they backed away at 100 miles per hour from the eminent domain proposal when they realized it was political death to support that bill- even their rich white constituents hated it).

There obviously is no “emergency.” If the trial judge’s order, called a “stay,” is not lifted, then the July 18th primary election will proceed just like every other primary the last 40 years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. The voters will show up, they will get to vote- and not a single voter will be voting under someone else’s name using fake identification. Not one.

The intelligent citizen (and we have a few, thank goodness) at this point should be asking the next Republican office holder he or she can buttonhole: what’s the deal here? Why are you wasting MY TAX DOLLARS to defend a law that is completely unnecessary? Why did you pass the bill in the first place? Whose ox is being gored here? Who profits?

The answer, which the daily newspapers forget to tell you, is that this is not a Georgia effort. This is a national Republican strategy to protect Republican office holders from defeat in a close election, of which we have had more than a few in recent years, and not just presidential elections. This is another Karl Rove (the President’s brain, he is called- more like the devil sitting on his shoulder, whispering in his ear, if a metaphor is needed) special, designed to disrupt and ultimately destroy democratic government- “democratic” with a small “d.”

As I pointed out in January:

“If the integrity of elections is so important to the Republicans who now control the legislature, why didn’t they require a paper trail for computer cast ballots? Weren’t they aware that many jurisdictions around the country had problems with computer voting in 2004, including one precinct in Ohio’s Franklin County which recorded 4,258 votes for Bush where only 638 voters cast votes?”

It all comes down to numbers. States with Republican legislatures, as far apart as Indiana and Arizona, have introduced similar or identical voter ID laws. Like Georgia, they have no instances of voter ID fraud. But for every poor person, every black person, every elderly voter, every likely Democrat who is a citizen of this country lawfully entitled to cast his or her ballot, whom they can turn away, they have increased their chances of winning the election.

Say what you will about modern Democrats- and even though I am a life long Democrat, I have some harsh criticism for the so called “leaders” of the Party- they have not attempted to destroy democracy. In the aftermath of the Civil War, it was the Republican Party which gave freedom and the right to vote to every former slave, with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Since 1900, they have abandoned that role in politics, and every initiative to broaden the franchise- including the important 1965 Voting Rights Act, has come from the Democrats.

So shame on the Republicans who passed this law and shame on “in name only” Democrat Thurbert Baker who is fighting so hard to put this law back in place in time to turn away legitimate voters from the polls. If they cared so much about protecting our sacred right to vote, they would have come out and passed a law requiring a paper trail for every computer touch screen vote. And they wouldn’t have loosened the restrictions on absentee voting (always more heavily Republican) where real fraud has occurred. If they put in true election refoms, we wouldn’t have elections where George W. Bush can get 4,258 votes in a county with 638 voters. If that isn’t stealing an election and defrauding the voters, I don’t know what is.


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