South Carolina Disenfranchises Non-Photogenic Voters
Ahead of its 2012 GOP presidential primary, South Carolina is under fire for having enacted a voter identification law that would require citizens to show poll workers a photo ID before voting. (You know—sort of like having to pay a poll tax and prove your ancestors came over on the Mayflower.)
The law is intended to curb voter fraud, which is more prevalent in South Carolina and other southern states and states with relatively small populations. Some states’ historically corrupt local governments and proximity to the Mexican border have yielded a disproportionate incidence of voter-impersonation fraud, including non-citizens voting, ex-felons voting, and dead people voting. Small populations increase the influence that a handful of invalid votes can have on a precinct’s outcome.
Seven states besides South Carolina require a government-issued photo ID to vote: Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Kansas. Seven additional states require a simple photo ID: Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota, Idaho, and Hawaii. Three states passed photo ID laws in 2011 but were blocked by their governors’ vetoes. Sixteen other states require non-photo identification.
So South Carolina isn’t exactly doing something new and different.
Meanwhile, the Obama camp has been riling up its base by accusing Republicans of trying to disenfranchise minorities. Last month the Obama Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s attempts to implement its law, claiming that the statute violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965—the first time the Department has interfered with a state’s voter ID requirements since 1994. The Department is also taking its sweet time approving Texas’s recently passed voter ID law.
On Monday, Attorney General and chief racial instigator Eric Holder ginned up the controversy again at a Martin Luther King rally in Columbia, South Carolina.
Democrats use this tired old tactic time and again: Take a perfectly neutral, fair-minded policy whose originators don’t consider or mention race in the slightest, then twist it to make it look as though people who support it are bigots. College admissions committees should be color-blind? Racist. Black firefighters should pass the same test as white and Hispanic firefighters? Racist. Voters should produce photo IDs before they vote? Racist.
Opponents of the law argue that, since getting a photo ID costs money, the voter ID requirement constitutes an illegal poll tax. Never mind that it’s free to get a state-issued ID in South Carolina, and that Governor Nikki Haley has supplied taxpayer-funded, free carpools to take people to pick up their free IDs at the DMV.
The Supreme Court concluded, in its 2008 rejection of a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law, that requiring voters to obtain an ID is not an unseemly burden. Tellingly, the plaintiff was unable to produce a single witness who couldn’t meet the voter ID requirement. Even liberal stalwart John Paul Stevens joined the 6-3 majority and penned its consensus decision. (In his dissent, Justice Souter wrote that the state must provide evidence of voter fraud before it could pass a voter ID law, which is like saying that a jurisdiction must provide evidence of identity theft before it can pass a law against identity theft.)
Another nonsensical argument is that South Carolina is using a states’ rights position to defend its law, which it used to defend slavery and racial segregation; therefore, voter ID laws are racist. Yet South Carolina has been battling the federal government recently over other states’ rights issues, such as ObamaCare and the NLRB’s lawsuit against Boeing for moving jobs from Washington to South Carolina. The Palmetto State is currently ground zero for states’ rights defenses against federal overreach, and none of it has a whit to do with race.
The media has also been linking South Carolina’s efforts with all sorts of other “racially tinged” proposals emanating from the campaign trail, such as Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that children could help keep their schools clean, and Rick Santorum’s comment about not wanting minorities to be dependent on government. Tied together with all of this “coded language” and “racial politicking,” the media is invoking a “climate” of intolerance among GOP nominees and prepping for a revival of the “Republicans Hate Obama Because He’s Black” campaign theme for the fall.
What all of these opponents of the law have failed to answer is: Why will the new voter ID law specifically disenfranchise blacks? Are African Americans unable to get driver’s licenses? Do they not have access to hundreds of local federal facilities where an employee will take their picture, put it on a card, and give them an ID? If African Americans can register and get out to vote every two or four years, why can’t they go pick up a one-time ID? Do Democrats not consider blacks capable of taking such steps?
In response to these ridiculous criticisms, state legislatures have bent over backwards to make it easy for voters to get IDs. In addition to Nikki Haley’s Chauffer Service, the Indiana law allows voters without IDs at the voting booth to cast provisional ballots, so long as they bring their ID cards back or get new ones in the next 10 days, or else signed a statement saying they can’t afford one. Are Democrats insinuating that blacks can’t fill out forms?
Voting is a right—but it doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and states may use constitutional means to enforce fair, non-fraudulent voting activity on their turf.
No one’s saying we need voter ID laws in every state, or that such laws can’t vary in strictness. But on this states’ rights issue, South Carolina has determined it needs this law to ensure the integrity of its elections.
We need photo IDs to buy alcohol, drive a car, fly on a plane, get a library card, rent a movie, cash a check, enter federal buildings, and collect welfare. Many of those reviews involve verifying our age, residency, credit history, or citizenship; but presenting a voter ID confirms something more fundamental—our identity. Why are Democrats so scared of voters’ having to be who they say they are when they vote?