Voter ID still bad for the masses

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Some folks didn’t take kindly to my calling voter ID laws a scam in last Sunday’s column. So, in their honor, this week I’d like to add a few more words. Let’s start with “racket” and “fraud.”

The necessity of early deadlines for physically printed content, and the 24-hour news cycle combined with Internet availability, often means that a Sunday column, written Thursday or Friday, will not contain information from the days in between. This was the case for my column last week, when I discussed a GAO report on the stifling impacts of voter ID laws.

After the column was completed, a federal decision was made on Wisconsin’s voter ID laws. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling was especially interesting because its earlier dissent was written by 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner, a Ronald Reagan appointee known for his right-of-center conservative/libertarian bent, who also wrote the 2007 opinion that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law — a view that was later affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for the patchwork of voter ID laws throughout the nation.

In his Indiana ruling, Posner upheld voter ID due to a vacuum of evidence or data regarding the law. He makes clear in his latest (and truly scathing) dissent that the vacuum has been filled. If Posner or the U.S. Supreme Court knew then what it knows now about voter ID laws, the landmark Crawford case would have been decided differently.

Just how blunt was Posner?

“Some of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid, such as the nonexistent buses that, according to the ‘True the Vote’ movement, transport foreigners and reservation Indians to polling places,” he wrote. “Even Fox News, whose passion for conservative causes has never been questioned, acknowledged that ‘Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud.’”

The “net effect” of voter ID requirements, he said, “is to impede voting by people easily discouraged from voting, most of whom probably lean Democratic.”

The nation’s High Court underscored an April decision by Federal District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, which was subsequently reversed by the 7th Circuit. Not a rule on the constitutionality of the Wisconsin law, the Justices nonetheless it blocked implementation of the law.

As I wrote last week, voter ID is a scam. It gives the uneducated some misguided and false sense of security that elections, never under threat by voter-impersonation, are protected while actually disenfranchising certain populations of voters — the very voters that have traditionally voted against the brand of politicians that have enacted voter ID laws.

Posner and the four additional Seventh Circuit Justices joining in the dissent agree. “There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by people likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens,” he wrote.

“Unless conservatives and liberals are masochists, promoting laws that hurt them, these laws must suppress minority voting and the question then becomes whether there are offsetting social benefits — the evidence is that there are not.”

This was exactly the point of last week’s column — “the larger question continues to be if such fraud is widespread enough to justify requirements that disenfranchise eligible and registered voters.”

No, that case has not been made. Voter ID is not only a racket, fraud and a scam, it’s a proven racket, fraud and scam.

LATE UPDATE: The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously struck down that state’s voter ID law this week, stating the requirement is unconstitutional. The law was enacted by the GOP-led state legislature last year, which overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe to establish the law. It was challenged by a group of voters who said they’d be disenfranchised under the law, and Pulaski County Circuit Judge initially struck the law down in May but stayed his ruling on appeal to the High Court. Voting for the 2014 elections will begin Monday in Arkansas.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on Oct. 19, 2014.