Voter inclusion, not suppression

July 19, 2012


This one is for Mike.

He is a Houston reader who shot me an email after my recent column equating the GOP push for voter ID laws with voter suppression. I agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder who called that a modern-day poll tax. Mike did not.

“You have to have an ID to write a check,” he wrote, “use a credit card and most other things in life. Saying poor blacks cannot easily get IDs is ridiculous. .?.?. Comparing this to the poll tax? C’mon, be serious.”

Actually, I am. Not that I don’t get why Mike’s argument sounds reasonable to Mike — and to many others who made it. But let us consider it more closely.

First off, I’ve never made the claim Mike attributes to me, i.e., that poor blacks cannot get IDs. No, my point is that when you don’t have a checking account, a credit card or a car, it is less likely you will already have ID.

The name of the game, remember, is not voter prevention, but voter suppression, i.e., bringing down the numbers. In the last presidential election, only 63 percent of eligible voters voted — and that was the best showing in 48 years. Clearly, Americans are not overly enthusiastic about performing this civic duty as it is.

So, if you can add a layer of difficulty to it that requires some voters to catch a bus down to some office, fill out forms and wait in line to get a card for which they will otherwise have zero use, is it so hard to imagine that some won’t bother — and that there will be enough of them to make a difference in a close race?

Remember: demographic trends do not favor the Republican Party. As the Center for the Study of the American Electorate observed in a 2008 report, the GOP is either out of contention or seeing an erosion of support in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the West, the mountain states, the industrial Midwest, and even parts of the South. With its growing Latino population, even Texas may be lost to the party before too many years. “Within the next few decades,” says the report, “white Americans, the only demographic sub-group from which the GOP draws significant numbers of voters, will be in the minority.”

So, while the party posits these laws as a way of fighting voter fraud — a nearly non-existent problem — it takes little imagination to divine a more sinister intent. Sometimes, you don’t need imagination at all.

As in Michigan GOP lawmaker John Pappageorge’s 2004 observation that his party needed to “suppress the Detroit vote” to have any hope of electoral success. Detroit is 82 percent black.

Then there’s the GOP campaign guru in Maryland who was convicted of ordering Election Day robo-calls to black households telling them not to bother voting because Barack Obama had the election sewn up.

And let us not forget Pennsylvania Republican Mike Turzai, who recently crowed how the state’s Voter ID law would ensure victory for Mitt Romney.

Sorry, but there can be little doubt that suppression — not just of the black vote, by the way, but also of the youth and Hispanic votes — is a key goal of this shrinking party.

But what if, instead of suppressing votes, we broaden the electorate? Curtis Gans, director of the aforementioned CSAE, believes the United States should adopt Mexico’s system, wherein the government automatically issues every citizen a biometric ID card.

Such a card, encoded with your personal information — and with safeguards to protect your privacy — would eliminate whatever little voter registration fraud there is. There would be no fraud because there would be no registration. Every eligible citizen would simply swipe her card and vote.

And the GOP would have to make its case before America in the fullness of its diversity, an electorate not whittled down by artificial barriers designed to give one party an advantage over another. Surely that’s something they’d want, right?

C’mon, be serious.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Flap Doodle 5 years ago

The folks on the sinister side of the aisle seem to be banking on massive voter fraud this year.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

You can bet that the ignorant leftists who post on this forum will have no clue as to why snap used the word "sinister." He happens to know the root origin of the word.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

But those same "ignorant leftists" also know that there is absolutely no connection between the etymology of "sinister" and the use of "left" and "right" to describe political affiliation.

Cait McKnelly 5 years ago

Given that the word "sinister" was, in medieval times, used to denote illegitimacy, since bastard children of nobles were given the "bar sinister" on their arms to denote that they had no primogeniture rights, was Snap using sinister to denote a. that it was the political left side of the aisle; b. that it was the illegitimate side of the aisle or c. (using the second definition of "sinister") that it was the evil and threatening side of the aisle?
Inquiring minds want to know. Oh wait, that's right. Critical thinking skills are a threat to the right.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

Thank you for the info. I thought that sinister was from the Latin for left and that was the extent of it.


beatrice 5 years ago

cato, the root origin of using "teabagger" to describe members of the tea party isn't latin, of course, but it is within the conservative movement itself. They used it to describe themselves before others picked up on their use of the word. So does that make it a legitimate term today?

Also, if you think he isn't playing on the double meaning and primary contemporary meaning of "sinister," then you are only kidding yourself. It is his little, cutesy way of name-calling and everyone knows it.

Kirk Larson 5 years ago

Funny how lately we keep coming back to Latin. Sinestra=the left side. Dextera=the right side.

geekin_topekan 5 years ago

With the lowest voter turn out in the free world, how could voter fraud be such a huge problem? That ridiculous notion would suggest that illegal voters turn out in droves with an evil agenda up their dark and sinister sleeves,while the rest of us lay around and watch Faux news.

Couch potatoes are the true fraud in this country. Like our debt economy, their non-votes are what are what drives the winning numbers, not turn out.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

I wasn't making an argument. I was making an observation.

Topple 5 years ago

It's interesting that you harass cato but not observant for "name-calling."

beatrice 5 years ago

Why are citizens without IDs "fraudulent"?

Or are you just making false accusations about voters that you can't support?

By the way, use what ever terms you want, loosely or otherwise, to describe our President -- and I have no doubt there are terms you only use in the privacy of your own home because such terms aren't acceptable in polite society -- that doesn't change the fact that he is the elected President of the United States of America.

President of the United States of America Barack Obama.

bb837988 5 years ago

A car is not a necessity if you live in a city with public transportation. And for many lower income families, the cost of owning and maintaining a car is a lot less important than food. There aren't a lot of banks in poor urban areas. If they do exist, the minimum required to open an account is more than some people have. If you work for cash, you don't need to cash a check. And if you don't have a regular adequate income, you sure don't have a credit card.

For many people, a checking account, credit card and a car are things that are out of reach. And without a need for a picture id, why bother.

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

I have relatives who live in a large city, do not own cars, and do not have checking accounts or credit cards. I am not black. They have no debt.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

Not all blacks, but some blacks. I never learned to drive and I only heard of a state ID card a few years ago. There are people of all races with little or no ID.

jaywalker 5 years ago

"So, if you can add a layer of difficulty to it that requires some voters to catch a bus down to some office, fill out forms and wait in line to get a card for which they will otherwise have zero use, is it so hard to imagine that some won’t bother"

Ah, so it's the Apathy defense; the poll tax isn't really about money, it's about putting a few people thru the "taxing" process of getting an ID. So Pitts believes too many won't bother. Seems he's looking at the wrong side of the problem, then.

The biometric card idea sounds great! Wait.........but isn't that the same thing they're pushing for now? Every citizen has a valid ID? Oh. Yeah. This would be free. Anything for the country as long as it doesn't cost anything, including effort.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Don't you have to have a photo id to sign up for welfare?

bb837988 5 years ago

You have to have documentation required for the program that is being applied for - birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers, etc. You have to prove that you are someone's parent. I don't believe that a driver's license is needed.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

You sure do, one for you and one for every member of your family including social security cards for all.
But, I guess not everyone is on welfare. I believe there is someone at SRS who can help people get these documents together and I know that you can register to vote because I get food stamps and among the papers you have to fill out is one asking if your want to register. Independence, Inc. will help those who quality for there services to get papers together and register. The thing is that I just happen to know of these resources because a friend told me and a lot of people never hear about them.

oldbaldguy 5 years ago

geekin is right. we should be encouraging voter turnout. this is voter suppression. i normally vote republican.

beatrice 5 years ago

If it keeps some people from voting, it is for those individuals. Pure and simple.

Also, it is not evenly enforced. There is no way to ask people mailing in their ballots to show their IDs. That is a system set in place to descriminate against a certain type of voter -- those who actually go to the polls.

The question is, why is it needed since there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud?

beatrice 5 years ago

Hyperbole is the greatest thing ever!!!!

People have been known to make verbal threats of others, which is also against the law. Does this mean we should ask people to show their IDs before they speak?

jafs 5 years ago

I believe there are provisions for mail in ballots - not sure exactly what they are.

jaywalker 5 years ago

beatrice has already had those provisions explained to her. Not sure why she returned to this well.

beatrice 5 years ago

I return to this well because someone who votes via the mail is not required to show their ID in order to cast that ballot. It is a law that is not equally enforced.

beatrice 5 years ago

Once again jay, you are proving yourself incapable of holding an argument with someone who has a different point of view without attempting to insult them.

jaywalker 5 years ago

Wrong again. Once again I've grown annoyed with someone incapable of recognizing facts. Your take on absentee ballots is wholly false, you've been shown this to be so, yet like a dog to vomit.......

Your "point of view" is an ignorance of fact. That's not opinion. It's lazy.

jaywalker 5 years ago

No, it wasn't. It's always been a derogatory slur.

beatrice 5 years ago

Interesting glitch in the system. Twice I have responded to jaywalker's comment "No, it wasn't. It's always been a derogatory slur." and twice my comment has disappeared. I am sure it was not removed for the content of my comment, which was simply "Wrong. It started within the movement itself." It was probably because of the attachment to the National Review article "Rise of an Epithet" by Jay Nordlinger.

So, I've repeated it here without the attachment. I've given you the information needed to find it yourself.

Either that, or I'm being censored!!! That must be it!!! Where is LIberty_One to defend me????

beatrice 5 years ago

Nope, haven't reached my limit. However, thanks for caring.

jaywalker 5 years ago

The issue isn't from whence the term sprang, but whether Tea Partiers referred to themselves by the term. Nordinger's piece spells this out.

beatrice 5 years ago

Yes, they have. However, the true issue should be whether or not it is used with respect for other people, to which I would say it is clearly not. This is why I haven't used the term for some time, and did here once, in quotations, only to make a point. This gets us back to Snap's use of the term "sinister." Think he is doing so out of respect for the left?

That is the point being made.

jaywalker 5 years ago

"Yes, they have."

For the third and last time, NO, they never did. Your own article explains the etymology. The tea party have never referred to themselves as teabaggers. And THAT is the point in contention here, one that began w/ my reply to donttreadonme. Snap's comment has nothing to with it.

beatrice 5 years ago

Check out the very first comments on this article.

tbaker 5 years ago

Requiring someone to have a photo ID in order to vote is not suppressing voters. If that ends up inconveniencing someone to the point they are unwilling to do it and they do not vote as a result, so be it. Performing one’s civic duty has always been a matter of personal choice.

Protecting the integrity of the election process is more important than protecting someone's choice to be lazy.

beatrice 5 years ago

For someone without an ID, it is suppressing their vote, pure and simple. Having an ID is not a requirement of American citizenship, and for many it isn't about being "lazy" -- no matter how superior you feel you are to the elderly who may no longer have access to motor vehicles to take them where they need to get their new IDs.

What else are you willing to toss aside with a cavalier "so be it"? Freedom of speech? Think someone needs an ID in order to peacefully assemble?

In the meantime, please let us know what form of ID our founding fathers used to cast their votes.

jaywalker 5 years ago

" Having an ID is not a requirement of American citizenship"

No one said it was. However, it is required to vote.

"for many it isn't about being "lazy" -- no matter how superior you feel you are to the elderly who may no longer have access to motor vehicles to take them where they need to get their new IDs."

That's why the elderly and infirm are exempt; the elderly don't have to get new ID's and either can vote absentee. Another point you've previously been made aware of.

"What else are you willing to toss aside with a cavalier "so be it"? Freedom of speech? Think someone needs an ID in order to peacefully assemble?"

Ah, the ever ridiculous slide back down the slippery slope. 'Course the difference is that freedom of speech and peaceful assembly are actually included in the Constitution.

beatrice 5 years ago

Whether or not something is directly in the Constitution or is specified in an amendment, a right is a right. People have the right to vote thanks to amendments to the Constitution. Otherwise, that gun of yours ... (oh, I forgot, you find slippery slopes "ridiculous.")

Why is an ID required to vote when we don't have evidence of people trying to vote illegally? I mean, if someone wants to vote illegally, what is stopping them from getting a fake ID?

jaywalker 5 years ago

"Why is an ID required to vote when we don't have evidence of people trying to vote illegally?"

The better question is why hasn't it been required? Of all the things we need ID for, it makes absolutely no sense not to require it when one votes.

And yes, slippery slopes are ridiculous, even ludicrous, when someone suggests requiring ID to vote could be the gateway to requiring ID to speak. That's not a slope. That's K2.

beatrice 5 years ago

"The better question is why hasn't it been required? Of all the things we need ID for, it makes absolutely no sense not to require it when one votes."

In your opinion. I disagree.

You think requiring proof of identification might not lead to other abuses? Well then, you apparently haven't quite caught on to what I and others have meant when we have written "Show me your papers!", have you?

jaywalker 5 years ago

"In your opinion. I disagree."

Wow. Great argument. You really swayed me with that one.

"Well then, you apparently haven't quite caught on to what I and others have meant when we have written "Show me your papers!", have you?"

Caught on?! It's idiocy. Junior high kids can point out the fallacies.

Requiring an ID isn't an "abuse." It's common sense. And it's a small tweak that effects very few, w/ many provisions and exemptions, including access to state and federal ID.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Bea, you keep saying "pure and simple" as if it was some universally accepted idea. Courts have ruled that it isn't overly burdensome. So whom shall I believe. the courts or you?

beatrice 5 years ago

Nice to see you finally came around to accepting the Affordable Care Act ruling.

But I digress ...

People here have agreed that American citizens will be turned away from the polls. It has already happened, and yes, it is that pure and simple. The argument is on whether or not it is the right ruling. I don't believe so. Why? Because it will turn American citizens away from the polls.

beatrice 5 years ago

Compared to the blatant bigotry of taking steps that knowingly will keep citizens from voting?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

I do believe in the rule of law and hence, accept the findings of the Court when it comes to ACA. The same is true for the topic at hand. And should the Supreme Court reverse, I would accept that as well. But until/unless that happens, the rule of law is what is plain and simple.

BTW - Requiring registration might turn some away. As will having elections on traditional working days. As might the weather in areas prone to bad weather in November. As will requiring an ID. And those things will also turn away those who have no right to vote in the first place. Yes, all of those things are true. And they are all reasonable.

beatrice 5 years ago

So you admit that requiring citizens to have IDs to vote will turn some people away from the polls? Then we agree, pure and simple.

jafs 5 years ago

Actually, if we want most/all eligible voters to vote, then we should structure our systems so that they make that easy, rather than difficult.

Having elections on working days rather than weekends doesn't do that.

Or in November - there's no reason we couldn't have them when weather is good and pleasant, like in the spring or early fall, is there?

Registration and ID's may be more reasonable and necessary, in my view.

jaywalker 5 years ago

"It was what the early Tea Party members called themselves."

No, it wasn't. Those that began the movement certainly didn't consider the backlash for their juvenile mantra of "Tea bag the Fools in D.C.", but they never called themselves "teabaggers."

beatrice 5 years ago

Yes, it was the Tea Party members themselves who first used the term, although I will agree they didn't consider the backlash.

jaywalker 5 years ago

They used it as a verb in an propaganda campaign. They've never referred to themselves as teabaggers. That's four.

beatrice 5 years ago

They also used it as a noun to describe themselves. A pictures is worth a thousand words: http://washingtonindependent.com/67191/the-slur-that-must-not-be-named

jaywalker 5 years ago

Need a little more proof than that, bea. That's not bad, but begs too many questions.

beatrice 5 years ago

No, I do not need more proof. I just disproved your "never" claim. Not only did someone manufacture the button, others purchased it and on both sides of that were conservatives. Whether as a verb or a noun, it started within the conservative movement, but clearly people did not call themselves "teabaggers" for long.

Again, I return to the point I made that you dismissed, which is, it is almost exclusively used as an insult today. If one is trying to be respectful of others, they should avoid calling others that phrase.

Now, argue away. Geez.

jaywalker 5 years ago

" I just disproved your "never" claim. "

You've got an elderly man holding up a button he probably doesn't understand from a partisan blog site. Photo shop immediately comes to mind as does staging. Only a fool would consider that rock solid proof.

beatrice 5 years ago

Of course, there is Andrew Breitbart's video "I'm Proud to be a Teabagger." http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2010/04/14/Im-Proud-to-Be-a-Tea-Bagger

Or are you saying Andrew Breitbart wasn't a conservative? Still want to keep with your false claims that conservatives "never referred to themselves as teabaggers"?

beatrice 5 years ago

Well, at least you got #1 correct.

Crazy_Larry 5 years ago

Voter suppression, please...that's the least of our problems.

US Lab Says Electronic Voting Machines Easy to Hack

Crazy_Larry 5 years ago

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Princeton University Exposes Diebold Flaws


jayhawklawrence 5 years ago

So I guess the Republicans who have not yet abandoned the party are okay with this kind of unethical and immoral behavior.

That is a good reason to change...

George Lippencott 5 years ago

Just exactly why is it so difficult for us to ask a potential voter to once in their lifetime obtain a form of identification to use when we really need to know who you really are? We look for ID to travel, to cash checks, to drive cars, to obtain medical care and for a number of other functions. People seem to be able to negotiate the arguably difficult task of obtaining a picture ID for these purposes. Perhaps it would behoove our lawgivers to consolidate all the requirements for such an ID so as to minimize the complexity of obtaining a picture ID. Many other nations have a national ID card. Maybe it is time we join that group.

As to the need for a voter ID, how do we know one way or the other? My experience supported by some level of fact checking suggests we have no way of knowing if there is voter fraud unless the number of votes cast exceeds the voting population of a particular local. We have had acknowledgement in these pages that different counties do not have an organized way to verify if people are voting in more than one local. States seem to have the same problem. There are other forms of fraud that are also unlikely to be detected except by accident or voter stupidity. If you have no way to detect a particular problem then you certainly have no way to quantify it.

Frankly, it would seem to me that if all the people complaining about this requirement were to offer their services to assist those without ID, no one would be inconvenienced in obtaining the necessary credential.

jaywalker 5 years ago

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And amen.

beatrice 5 years ago

Yes, let's pass laws and then insist the onus is on those who object to the law rather than taking responsibility for disenfranchising citizens.

jaywalker 5 years ago

So it's too much trouble for the affected to act, and too much trouble for those it's such a crucial argument to wage. Nice.

beatrice 5 years ago

Make it so citizens -- law-abiding American citizens -- find it difficult to vote. Real nice.

jaywalker 5 years ago

If they were law-abiding citizens they'd follow the law and




beatrice 5 years ago

So now it is against the law to be without an ID in America? Wow.





jaywalker 5 years ago

No. It's the law to have an ID to vote. First graders grasp the concept. Your excuse?

beatrice 4 years, 12 months ago

Show ... me ... your ... PAPERS!

Amerika: Land of the not-so-free, home of the identified.

jayhawklawrence 5 years ago

It has become an established fact that the motivation behind these laws is not for the purpose of preventing fraud but for the same purpose that kansas conservatives tried to rig the elections through gerrymandering. But i suspect you already know the truth and have confidence to promote this lie upon the american people.

beatrice 5 years ago

Some people had IDs and no longer do, for whatever reason. That doesn't mean they are no longer citizens.

One alternative, of course, is to issue a specific ID when someone registers to vote. Now that I could get behind. What is being forced on people now, however, is intended to keep citizens from voting. Period.

George Lippencott 5 years ago

How so? What is the difference from an ID for othe er purposes??

Now if you want to talk timing - well you may have a point there.

woodscolt 5 years ago

"So, if you can add a layer of difficulty to it that requires some voters to catch a bus down to some office, fill out forms and wait in line to get a card for which they will otherwise have zero use, is it so hard to imagine that some won’t bother — and that there will be enough of them to make a difference in a close race?" plagiarizes Pitts right out of the right wing wacko republican ten commandments.

ivalueamerica 5 years ago

There are no valid excuses for this law.

Voter fraud is miniscule and historically and according to most research, this law will disenfranchise more legitimate voters than it will prevent voter fraud.

Voting is paramount those who feel is is justifiable to disenfranchise many voters to eliminate the fraud from a few voters has failed Citizenship 101.

beatrice 5 years ago

Yet another unfounded accusation about another poster from jaywalker.

Now do you see what I mean about your posting habits?

IVA wasn't saying anything to you, yet you turn it into a personal attack. Why? You have demonstrated the ability to contribute to discussions, but far too often, as soon as someone doesn't see the world as you do you attempt to belittle them (and, as in this instance, you usually do so poorly). And you always blame the other person for starting it.

Instead of making it personal and trying to cut someone down in order to build yourself up, why not just try to add to the discussion?

jaywalker 5 years ago

Yo, Hall Monitor, go effeminate yourself. If you can make heads or tails of what Ivalue was saying have at it. My post has absolutely nothing to do with whether she "sees the world as I do", but rather a recommendation that might lend toward an intelligible post.

And I don't cut people down to build myself up, 'bozo.'' I do it because I loathe ignorance. Hence my problem with you, more often than not.

beatrice 4 years, 12 months ago

Rightttttt. You weren't attacking someone with an opposing point of view (yet again), you were making a recommendation. Sure you were.

Feel better about yourself now?

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