The title of yesterday St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial says it all: “It’s pitch perfect that Voter ID measure tossed as a fraud.” The voter ID measure, of course, refers to the efforts of Missouri’s GOP legislators to place an amendment intended to suppress voting rights by requiring would-be voters to produce very specific types of photo ID (e.g., photo student ID from local universities would not suffice). To no one’s surprise, the folks who tend to lack such documents are overwhelmingly from groups that tend to vote Democratic.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce rejected the ballot language because it was, if you will forgive my understatement, misleading:
Judge Joyce, in no uncertain terms, accused the Republicans who wrote the summary language for the inaccurately titled “Voter Protection Act” of trying to pull a fast one on voters.
A ballot amendment that purports to combat unsubstantiated voter fraud uses fraudulent language? Who could’ve guessed.
But don’t be too hard on our Missouri GOP. Dishonesty on this topic is the norm. Consider: The Department of Justice, which is investigating a similar type of Voter ID law in Texas that has the potential to negatively affect, at the very least, half the state’s Hispanic-American population, has found that the GOP legislators involved in passing the law are very, very averse to having their strategic deliberations made public:
Texas, which sued the federal government in an attempt to have their voter ID law approved, said in a court filing last month that “communications between members of the state legislature, communications between state legislators and their staff, and communications between state legislators and their constituents” should be protected by legislative privilege. The state also tried to prevent officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from deposing legislators who supported the voter ID legislation known as SB 14.
So what’re they trying to hide?
Just to recap once again: We’ve got laws imposed by predominantly GOP legislatures that have the potential to seriously restrict voting rights among groups most of whom tend to vote Democratic. The rationale is to prevent voter fraud, almost no instances of which can be substantiated. Most of the very few fraud claims that have been verified tend to be of the sort that would not be affected by presenting voter ID. Finally, the folks behind these laws not only try to hide their reasoning, as in Texas, but as in Missouri, they try to misrepresent the very intent of the law to those voters who, as the Post-Dispatch notes, aren’t able to hear the right-wing dog whistle:
Republican primary voters know what you’re trying to accomplish, and they’re on board. You want to limit the number of African-Americans in St. Louis and Kansas City and college students in Columbia and elsewhere who might vote for President Barack Obama and other Democrats. And if in the process a few folks in wheelchairs, elderly nuns and legal immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens are denied the right to vote, even better.
Tell the straight truth, and Judge Joyce will approve your ballot language.
Or don’t tell the truth. But the risk that you run is that the stench that emanates from the Republican Party will become so overwhelming that it will destroy our democracy. Remember that, Tea Partiers, the next time you feel inclined to agitate about “big government,” “freedom” and your Alice-through-the-looking-glass vision of the Constitution.