How can a person tell when a proposition is an effort at vote suppression? Republicans across the country have offered, and in some unfortunate cases adopted, measures which they say will secure the “integrity of elections.” There are several reasons why this should set off the BS Alarms.
#1. Because they’ve said so. Bastion of ultra-conservative women’s subjugation advocate Phyllis Schlafly who opined that early voting facilitates illegal votes – a term she left undefined – and for which she offered no proof whatsoever. [TDB 2013] Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai told an audience in 2012 that Voter ID would deliver the Quaker State to Romney in 2012. [TPM 2012] Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason said after the election that voter ID helped to cut Obama’s margin by 5%. [TNM] Former North Carolina GOP official Don Yelton lauded that state’s new restrictions as “going to kick Democrats in the butt.” Current gubernatorial candidate in Texas, Greg Abbott, thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to have a GOP controlled legislature gerrymander districts and do so at the expense of Democrats. [TNM] South Carolina state Representative Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) passed out packets of peanuts with cards attached which read, “Stop Obama’s nutty agenda and support voter ID.” The GOP chairman (2102) in the second largest Ohio county, Doug Preisse, advocated cutting early voting hours in Democratic leaning counties and expanding them in Republican controlled areas, saying: “ I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African American – voter turnout machine.” [TNM]
#2. Because none of the vote suppression, gerrymandering, or access restriction suggestions have been paired with proposals to facilitate voter engagement. For example, when Texas enacted its strict voter ID law someone forgot to mention that because of name changes in marriage some 66% of voting age women in the state might lack the proper identification to vote. Did anyone think to suggest that along with the marriage license a county official might offer a voter registration form to the couple so SHE could revise her personal information? Or, when divorce proceedings were finalized, and a name change was recorded, an official could offer the same form? Crickets.
North Carolina’s new voting restrictions forbid the use of a student ID for poll identification. [BrennanCenter] Did any North Carolina official propose that county clerks and voting registrars in locations where colleges and universities are located increase their staffing such that registration and acceptable ID documents could be easily procured? More crickets.
Indiana enacted strict ID provisions in the wake of voter fraud in absentee ballots – not voter impersonation fraud – in one county election. Problems arise for people who are natural born citizens but perhaps because of poverty have difficulty getting access to a birth certificate. [PRI] Did any Indiana official suggest at the time that a voting registrar could access other databases in Indiana and beyond, free of charge, for authentication of a voting registration application? Crickets.
Wisconsin passed Act 23 in 2011 which requires a government issued ID before a person may cast a ballot. Officials said they “fixed” the access problem by creating a free program from the state motor vehicle department so that people wouldn’t have to pay for the documents necessary to register. [Bloomberg] Did any official in Wisconsin put forward a bill to expand the hours and the locations of DMV offices? More crickets.
If a bill which restricts, impedes, or potentially suppresses a citizen’s right to vote, then if it’s not simply an exercise in partisan vote suppression it seems reasonable to conclude that provisions would be included to mitigate or remove the hurdles placed in front of otherwise eligible voters.
On The Home Front
And now we return to Nevada, and the campaign promise from candidate for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske that she will insure the “integrity of elections.” She took a shot at this before, in SB 385 in 2007. SB 385* required photographic identification in the form of a driver’s license, an Armed Forces ID, a U.S. passport, a Native American tribal ID, or a voter registration card issued by a county clerk (at no charge.) Here we go again.
The DMV issue in Nevada has been the subject of numerous posts already, and there’s nothing free about getting a driver’s license in this state – the going price is $41.25. The price for an ID issued by the Nevada DMV is $21.25 for those under 65, and $7.25 for those over 65. [DMV] If an individual in Nevada who uses public transportation, and hence doesn’t really need a driver’s license, wants to vote should the individual have to pay up to $41.25 for the ‘privilege?” Poll tax anyone?
The U.S. passport provision in SB 385 was gratuitous immigrant bashing; my passport shows – me (in an unflattering photo), where I was born, and my birthday. That’s it. That’s all. Mine happens to be a garden variety plain vanilla passport, and the little books cost $110.00. The passport is no proof at all that I am a resident of Nevada, nor would it show I’m voting in the proper precinct, nor that I’m even eligible to vote in the election at interest.
It was all well and good to have the county clerks issue “free” IDs under the terms of SB 385, however the background costs for the most common ID (the driver’s license, DMV ID) aren’t anything close to free, nor would be the documentation required by the clerk or registrar. For the moment let’s stick to the basics for the average person who wants a Nevada driver’s license. The documentation which must be presented to the Nevada DMV is (1) a state issued birth certificate or (2) a valid unexpired passport. What does a copy of a Nevada birth certificate cost? That would be $20.oo if issued by the Nevada Office of Vital Statistics. A birth certificate from California will cost $25.00, from Arizona $20.00; from Utah the going price is also $20.00. Someone born in New York will have to fork over $30.00. Massachusetts is a relative bargain at $18.00.
Under the terms of Cegavske’s SB 385, a county clerk would issue a “free” ID for voting purposes if the person comes to the office with “documentation showing the person’s date of birth,” (birth certificate price at least $20), and evidence the person is registered to vote, and documentation showing the person’s name and address. There’s nothing ‘free’ about this whole process.
And now Barbara Cegavske’s campaigning to be the next Nevada Secretary of State, who doesn’t want to “suppress” anyone – that would be anyone who isn’t put off by the current prices for photo identification like the $41.25 for the driver’s license, or the $110 for the passport, or the $20 for the birth certificate… and who can get to a DMV or voting registrar’s site during working hours…. that wasn’t quite the interest in “engagement” she was demonstrating in 2007.
Republicans across the country have already made it crystal clear that the purpose of voting restrictions is to restrict voting, especially voting while Democrat. The only sop to the suggestion that SB 385 might be a form of poll tax was the inclusion of the free IDs from the county. Nothing in the bill called for an extension of hours for the DMV to handle applications. Nothing in the bill called for additional DMV staffing to deal with applications. Nothing in the bill called for an increase in the number of DMV locations where ID’s could be obtained. Nothing in the bill mitigated the potential costs of obtaining photo IDs for voting purposes. Nothing in the bill offered assistance to women who needed to update their personal information. Nothing in the bill encouraged the university system to either provide appropriate IDs or make it easier for students to register.
Thus the BS Alarm should be going off at a decibel level sufficient to drown out the engine of an F-22 Raptor (150dB). The Republicans have made their intentions very clear, and when there are no suggestions for alleviating the inconveniences it merely serves to reinforce the contention that they mean to restrict voting by women, minority ethnic communities, and young people. Period.
* SB 385 was cosponsored by Senators Cegavske, Beers, Heck, and Raggio.