Thursday, February 02, 2012

Jim Crow, up close and personal

There was a five hour committee meeting of the Senate Elections Committee, chaired by the gum-chewing and dismissive Ray Vanderveer (R - Forest Lake), at the Capitol yesterday. The subject of the hearing was the Republican initiative to disenfranchise minority, senior, and student voters by imposing a photo voter ID requirement.

The most amazing thing about the hearing was that one of the bill's principal authors, Sen. Scott Newman, sat at the witness table for the entire hearing without taking a break to take a leak. Impressive. He must have quit drinking water last Saturday. It's either that or he's got some serious nerve damage.

There will be more about the hearing in future posts, including some video, but there was one really remarkable thing -- well, other than Sen. Newman's titanic bladder -- and that was the blandishment waived in front of every problem raised by witnesses and Senators who questioned the wisdom of the amendment, it's interpretation and it's meaning:
We'll leave it to future legislatures.
I beg your pardon?

Boys and girls, if all we we were going to do is leave it to future legislatures, we wouldn't need a constitution in the first place.

It beggars the imagination to know that people who think of themselves as serious toss this off as grave and somber thought.

For example. You can find the bill at this link. One tidbit of language from the bill is this:
All voters must be subject to identical standards of eligibility verification . . .
I can think of at least three categories (and so did some of the witnesses and Senators at the hearing) of voters who are not subject to the same standards of eligibility verification today: registered voters who show up on election day, absentee voters, and election-day registrants. Which two will be thrown out?

Some of the Senators in favor of the bill tried to waive this off, saying, "Well, that couldn't be right." But there it is.

But this is not an issue that can be solved by having a future legislature handle it.

This bill would create a pig in a poke [definition provided for younger readers]. There is no way -- and its proponents agree -- to know what the scope of the amendment really is, or to know whose voting rights will be extinguished. But there will clearly be a lot of people who lose the franchise, including many who thought they wouldn't be touched by it.

In coming days, we'll talk about some of them.

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