Thursday, September 08, 2011

Warren's dirty war on democracy

Warren Limmer's bill would disenfranchise thousands

Senate photo
I read an article in Rolling Stone online the other day, and it reminded me of Sen. Warren Limmer's bill from last session. The article was The GOP War on Voting, and the bill was Limmer's bill to require a photo ID to vote (there were other disenfranchisement provisions in the bill, e.g., making registration harder, too).

Although it could be called Warren and Mary's dirty war on democracy, because Rep. Mary "Jesus in the Conference Room" Kiffmeyer introduced companion legislation in the House, it was Limmer's bill SF509 that was passed and vetoed by the governor.

Kiffmeyer is the chair of Minnesota's American Legislative Exchange Council delegation, and according to his staff, Limmer "used" to be a member of ALEC. Voter ID is one of ALEC's big initiatives. Here's the Rolling Stone article's description of Republican voter disenfranchisement efforts:
Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.
Well, not so disconnected, of course, as the article recounts:
In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.
The hysteria of legislators like Limmer and Kiffmeyer is just that, hysteria, designed to manipulate people into thinking there is a real problem:
A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 [under Republican Attorneys General and U.S. Attorneys] failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud. "Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere," joked Stephen Colbert. A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a leading advocate for voting rights at the New York University School of Law, quantified the problem in stark terms. "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning," the report calculated, "than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."
The answer to why Republicans are making such a big deal out of this is clear, if we but remember the stirring words of of Paul Weyrich, again quoted by Rolling Stone:
Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
That's one of the more honest things a modern-day Republican ever said.

Some form of voter ID requirement as constitutional amendment is likely to wind up on the ballot in 2012. The proponents are both mendacious and craven. The initiative is anti-little-d-democratic, racist and classist. It is none too early to start identifying it as such.

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