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Thursday, January 10, 2008
21st Century Poll Tax

The Supreme of the United States is currently listening to a case regarding whether the state of Indiana can legally require voters to show ID as they go to the polls. The law's proponents claim that it will stop voter fraud in that state, but the funny thing is, there has never been one single previous case of in-person voter fraud in Indiana.

This law is so good, it even works retroactively!

Meanwhile, there is strong evidence that fraud does exist in regard to absentee voting, but this case doesn't address that. Opponents argue that requiring a state-issued ID to vote puts an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.

"Just show your driver's license, you babies!"'

But what if you don't have one?

"Then use your state-issued ID card!"

Will you please drive me to the office to get one? And what's more, will you pay for it?

This is really the simplest way to explain the issue, that requiring a citizen to pay a fee in order to be able to vote is effectively a poll tax. Even if IDs are issued at no cost, well, you still need to travel to get one, and in some states, government offices can be hours away, and certainly aren't accessible by public transportation.

The bill obviously affects poor people disproportionately, which is the point, since people with lower incomes are more likely to vote for Democrats, if you go by past voting trends.

"Now you're just being paranoid!"

Maybe, but not about this. It was a Republican-led legislature in Indiana that proposed and passed this law in 2005. There are 400,000 people in that state eligible to vote, who have no qualifying ID, and 200,000 of them are registered to vote. Studies in Georgia and New Mexico show that blacks are 83% more likely than whites to lack such ID, and Hispanics are twice as likely. Anyone care to speculate which party these groups tend to vote for in overwhelming numbers?

It's a clever gambit, and I'll give conservatives credit for coming up with it. But it's still illegal, so that's that. Except...

See the opening sentence.

In days of yore, the Supreme Court listened to a case, and judged it on its own merits, mainly whether or not it was legal or illegal. Nowadays, almost any case you can name starts of at a 4-4 deadlock, based solely on the personal ideologies of the justices. Anthony Kennedy is considered a swing vote, but he's pretty reliably conservative.

I wonder if we will ever see a time when the justices will get back to reviewing a case such as this voter ID scam, and simply say, "This law is illegal. You knew it was when you wrote it up, you knew it when you passed it in the legislature, and you knew it when you were disenfranchising American citizens at their polling places. You have done nothing less than stolen the hard-earned right of people to vote, and you deserve to be castrated with a potato peeler."

That last part is only valid if I can get that whole "cruel and unusual punishment" law passed by the Indiana legislature. Fingers crossed!

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posted at 11:10 AM

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