Voting laws wage war on poor

January 8, 2012


So here’s how it is:

You have no driver’s license because you have nothing to drive. You have no passport because you’ve never been out of the country. You have no other photo ID because you have no bank account. You work and get paid under the table, a wad of cash sliding from hand to hand.

It is a life lived in the margins. And if South Carolina and a number of other GOP-controlled states have their way, it will be a life to which a significant new impediment will be added: you will not be able to vote.

Over the holiday, the Justice Department rejected a South Carolina law requiring a photo ID — as opposed to just a voter registration card — for would-be voters. The department called the law discriminatory against African-Americans. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, South Carolina and other states and localities with histories of infringing the voting rights of African-Americans are required to get federal approval before changing their voting laws. This is the first time the feds have rejected such a change since 1994.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has blasted the decision as political. She probably has a point. The law would have disproportionately affected the poor, who are disproportionately likely, for the reasons outlined above, to lack photo IDs. The poor are disproportionately black, and black people are disproportionately likely to vote Democratic. It would be naive to believe that did not enter into the thinking of the Obama Justice Department.

But the inverse is also true. As similar voter ID laws are passed in other Republican-controlled states — including those that are not covered by the Voting Rights Act — it would be naive to believe politics does not also enter the GOP’s thinking. Though lawmakers swear their only interest is to combat voting fraud (which is not known to be a rampant problem), it is difficult not to feel their true intent is to suppress the black vote.

Granted, race is nowhere mentioned in the voter ID bills. It was not mentioned in bills imposing grandfather clauses, poll taxes and literacy tests either. All were officially race-neutral, yet the intention and effect was to bar blacks from voting.

As Richard Nixon once said of his War on Drugs, another “race-neutral” policy that somehow victimizes mostly blacks, the idea is to target African-Americans while appearing not to.

The Justice Department was right to block this law, but it is nonetheless hard not to feel a certain pox-on-all-their-houses cynicism as people who live on the margins are both targeted — and defended — for political reasons, but otherwise go unremarked and unrecalled.

Democrats depend upon the votes of black and/or poor people, but do little to earn them — no jobs training, no criminal justice system reform, no attention whatsoever to the things that delimit their lives. Meantime, Republicans write off the votes of black and/or poor people and do all they can to suppress them.

They are made mute and forgotten even as the public square rings like a cash register and monied interests ka-ching! their way into positions of power and influence with politicians on both sides of the aisle who are ostensibly elected to represent us all — even if we lack a photo ID.

Corporations are people, we have been told. Poor people, evidently, are not.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


budman 6 years ago

how hard is it to get a government ID?

Abdu Omar 6 years ago

It is easy if you have transportation and a birth certificate. but some lack both, but somehow end up with a voter ID card. What more do you need? We have this law in Kansas and the people who are responsible for bringing it to us, use it for the purposes Pitts suggests.

Can't we stop the whole race thing and let everyone live in peace? These limits as to who votes is really not what America is about, is it?

rtwngr 6 years ago

So how do the get a WIC card from the Department of Agriculture?

mloburgio 6 years ago

Fraudulent vote Kobach can't see forest for the trees in hunt to stamp out voter fraud

Funny how Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is worried about voter fraud if the U.S. has some kind of national popular vote for its president but doesn't regard it as fraud when someone who falls short of a majority of the popular vote is nonetheless elected to the presidency.

Kobach and five other Republican secretaries of state earlier this month joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in warning against the national popular vote movement. This is an effort by states to agree to pledge all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally, even if another candidate wins the majority in their states. Meanwhile, Kansas' Kobach continues his crusade against voter fraud, even though he can provide little evidence that it ever has been widespread in Kansas and certainly never enough to influence the outcome of an election.

Call us crazy, but it seems clearly fraudulent to put a person in the presidency who wasn't the choice of a majority of American voters.

By John D. Montgomery/Hutchinson News editorial http://www.hutchnews.com/Editorials/edit-national-public-vote

P Allen Macfarlane 6 years ago

By the same token, why should the wealthy be considered a special class. We are supposed to be a classless society. That supposedly is a hallmark of a democratic society. Instead, it's all about money - who has it and who doesn't. How far we have strayed from those democratic ideals.

ivalueamerica 6 years ago

There is NO wealth distribution.

Obama, and most of the nation, would like the wealthy to pay their fare share of taxes and shift the main burden from the backs of the middle class in a more fare way.

To call that wealth distribution is ignorant and dishonest.

I realize the simple minded who let fox think for them like to repeat soundbites that get them sexually excited, such as socialism, wealth redistribution, Muslim and what have you.

It only makes you an ignorant thoughtless sheep. Nothing more.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Harping and harping over what's "fair" without defining it is ignorant and dishonest.

rtwngr 6 years ago

What do you call it when the government confiscates personal property from one individual and gives it to another? To deny that it is redistribution is ignorant and thoughtless.

jafs 6 years ago

Well, when the government takes taxes and spends them on programs to benefit the general welfare, I'd call that operating in accordance with Article 1, Section 8 of our constitution.

parrothead8 6 years ago

Nobody is saying the poor are a "special" class. They're just people, like everyone else, and the right to vote shouldn't be made more difficult for them than it is for other people.

geekin_topekan 6 years ago

"So the "poor" are a special class of people? The "poor" need special attention? Why?" ++++ Dunno. Ask KKKobach.

cato_the_elder 6 years ago

"Call us crazy, but it seems clearly fraudulent to put a person in the presidency who wasn't the choice of a majority of American voters."

It's called federalism. Look it up. Our country was founded on that principle.

Armstrong 6 years ago

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another Sunday edition of the lefts favorite show - Play the victim. The reality show that requires you to do nothing more then have a pulse. Our lucky winners will get food stamps, welfare,free public housing and much, much more. The entry fee is one democratic vote ( leagal or not it really doesn't matter ) and all these fabulous prizes can be yours courtesy of the working men and women of whats left of the United States of America.

tbaker 6 years ago

Mr. Pitts has shoveled forth yet another pail of dung, and it stinketh most loudly. The man is clearly guided by no intellectual standard whatsoever as his entire argument is a red herring fallacy. Society must balance the need to protect the integrity of elections with that of the plight of this hapless citizen, so lacking the faculties necessary to navigate the impenetrable mysteries of daily life they cannot seem to obtain a photo ID when government outlets to do so abound. If someone is sufficiently motivated to participate in the elective process, they will figure out how to get a photo ID.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Society must balance the need to protect the integrity of elections"

Sigh-- just keep trotting out the lies. Citizens United and black-box computers for "counting" the votes are the real threats to the integrity of elections-- but those are the tools of the wealthy and the powerful, so nothing will be coming out of the next ALEC convention for the talking dummies that have been championing voter ID laws in state legislatures across the country.

"If someone is sufficiently motivated to participate in the elective process, they will figure out how to get a photo ID."

Yep. And if you keep mounting up one disincentive after another to keep those whose votes you want to don't want to count from even being cast, it has precisely that desired result.

Kathy Theis-Getto 6 years ago

Thanks, dalf - good to be back. We are healing from the loss of our father, took some time off from many things.

Keep the faith, buddy.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

"You work and get paid under the table..." Avoiding income tax is a crime.

jafs 6 years ago

Yes it is.

And, aren't the employers also committing a crime there?

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

They sure are and deserve the attention of the law as well as their employees.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

One of the foundations of this country is equal protection under the law. The person paying under the table and the person being paid under the table and then not paying appropriate taxes are both breaking the law. Both should be subject to the appropriate penalties.
If you feel as if only the employer should be subject to penalties, then change the law.

geekin_topekan 6 years ago

Whatever happened until innocent until proven guilty?

If the hate party, the Repubs, want every human being to be handled as a controlled substance from conception to death (whatever happened to less gubment?) than wouldn't that burden of proof be dropped into their hate-filled laps?

If a person is declared automatically as foreign, you me and every AMerican, than it would be the accusers responsibility to prove it to be true. Otherwise, we are all criminals because KKKobach says so, yet the burden of proof is avoided all together. This is not only unconstitutional, it is illegal, but it makes paranoid people feel better about themselves right? Wen I say better, I mean facing a lesser chaos; more in control.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

When you say the Repubs are the party of hate, that's guilty until proven innocent. When you compare Kobach to the Ku Klux Klan, that's guilty until proven innocent.

So are you opposed to the "guilty until proven innocent" argument that you are guilty of?

geekin_topekan 6 years ago

Dance around the issue all you want, where is the burden of proof? On the automatic criminal or every AMerican must prove their innocence without so much as lifting a finger to commit a single act of crime.

Continue your dance though. It is very informative. Irrelevant but informative.

jafs 6 years ago

The idea that we are all created equal is a faith-based statement, not a reality based one.

It's pretty clear to anybody who cares to look at it that people are not, in fact, born equal, either in circumstances or in natural talent, intelligence, etc.

ThePilgrim 6 years ago

As my post-DUI daughter knows, you can get an ID without having a car and without driving.

And Gandalf above is correct, in most cases the voter ID laws are not going to make much difference - especially in Kansas. Anyone who is from Wichita or Western Kansas knows that most of the illegal Hispanics targeted in Kobach's voter ID law have valid ID's, and fake papers including SSN's, provided to them by identity thief rings. Most do not have any problem with getting jobs, even at the large meat packing plants in Dodge and Garden City that supposedly do the government background checks that they claim to perform.

So these folks should have no problem with getting in to vote.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

Let me ask a hypothetical. An illegal immigrant is driving down the highway in a car with expired tags. He is stopped by police who discover his immigration status. He is turned over the federal authorities and deported. The question is this, since he was never convicted of driving with expired tags, would that qualify under your "documented and proven" standard? My guess is that the answer would be no, yet common sense tells us he did in fact drive with expired tags. The point is this, once deported, all crimes committed by that individual then fall out of your "documented and proven" standard. They may have committed identity fraud, tax fraud, or any number of crimes, perhaps including voter fraud, yet all those crimes would be suspected, not "documented or proven". The fact is that an overwhelming number of crimes go unpunished, unproven and/or undocumented. Those crimes may be as simple as speeding or as heinous as murder. Because they are not documented, not proven does not mean they didn't happen. It's the difference between a legal standard and common sense. I have no problem using the legal standard as long as I'm not being asked to put my common sense aside.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

I would say otherwise. I would say that many, many crimes go undetected, unproven, undocumented and unpunished. Everything from jaywalking to murder. That would include voter fraud. I have no problem adhering to a legal standard in a court of law. But we're not in a court of law here. My common sense trumps your demand for documented and proven examples in my mind. In your mind, you can set whatever standards you choose. Just don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. And in the example I gave, the person was not convicted of driving on expired tags. According to your logic, that didn't even happen. He was deported for being in this country illegally. You're free to believe the expired tags infraction never happened. I'll believe different. Let me give you another example. We all enjoy freedom of speech, it's guaranteed in the Constitution. Yet we all know we can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, a clear compromise of that freedom. Has there ever in the history of this country been an example of a person yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? I have no idea, maybe some Constitutional scholar can answer that question. Is that infringement "reasonable"? Generally, we've said yes, it's reasonable. Does the same standard of reasonable apply with voter I.D.s.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there, does it make a sound? According to your logic and that of "observant", the answer would be no since it was not documented and proven (proven in all CAPS). According to my intuition, it does make a sound regardless.
This forum is not a court of law. I have no power to deny anyone their rights to life, liberty or their pursuit of happiness. Again, if you are claiming that there has never in the history of this country been any voter fraud of any kind, ever, documented or otherwise, I disagree.

jayhawkinsf 6 years ago

I'm certain you're wrong. Common sense tells me that there must have been more than one case of voter fraud in the history of the U.S. We've all heard the stories of dead people voting in Chicago. "Vote early and often" as the saying goes. Any of that ring a bell? Or are you dismissing all those claims as not documented? Then things like voter intimidation never existed. The "New Black Panther Party" never wielded bats at a place of voting. ACORN never did anything wrong. The Florida and Ohio voter counts were exactly spot on. Literacy tests were there for the sole purpose of guaranteeing that all voters were literate, not for racial discrimination. Racial profiling and discrimination don't exist expect in the rare cases where it has been "documented", whatever that means.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

See, you proved my point. Are you suggesting that voter intimidation and voter fraud is committed only by one party or one political philosophy?

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