The Second and the Twenty-Fourth

You may have seen this meme floating about (h/t Mare):

Via Facebook/Join the Coffee Party Movement

Via Facebook/Join the Coffee Party Movement

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both agree criminals and terrorists should not have to show an ID to buy an assault rifle because it is an infringement on their constitutional rights.

But Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both agree a 92 year old senior trying to vote without the proper ID is a threat to our democracy and could destroy our free election system.

Leaving aside the atrocious font, the argument still isn’t quite right. It offers sort of a caricatured summary of the argument in favor of voter ID laws, and doesn’t note the constitutional implications of requiring people to get an ID that they would not otherwise need solely for the purpose of voting. That’s pretty much a poll tax, which is pretty unambiguously unconstitutional. Anyway, here’s my own caricature of the usual response to this meme from the pro-voter-ID-law crowd: Continue reading


Wendy Davis Totes Saved Greg Abbott on Election Day…..Or Did She?

Domenichino [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsTexas Attorney General, presumptive 2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee, and general dweeb Greg Abbott might not have been allowed to vote Tuesday because of a voter ID law that he vigorously endorsed. His driver’s license has a different name than his voter registration. One says “Greg Abbott,” while the other says “Gregory Wayne Abbott.” Since we have to ensure that people have the same name on both documents (or else the terrorists win or something), this would have prevented him from voting altogether, but for an amendment to the law from State Senator and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Her amendment allows a person to vote anyway if they sign an affidavit confirming that both names are correct.

Of course, in-person voter fraud is not exactly an epidemic. One of the most prominent organizations supporting voter ID laws, True the Vote, states on their page “The Reality of Voter Fraud,” that “64 percent of Americans believe voter fraud is a serious problem.” Note that this is an opinion poll, not a statistic on actual investigations or convictions for actual voter fraud. The page goes on to cite more opinion polls, mostly Fox News and Rasmussen, but no actual statistics that would, you know, show actual voter fraud. They do add in a bit of anecdata, with the obligatory slam on ACORN, and a single incidence of alleged voter fraud, Hazel Woodard James of Forth Worth. James was indicted for conspiracy to arrange in-person voter fraud in May 2012:

Hazel Woodard James, 40, is accused of arranging for her son — who was not a registered voter — to vote on behalf of his father. The incident reportedly came to light when the father showed up later in the day to vote in the same precinct, 1211, for which James is now running to be chairwoman.

Now, I’m not trying to minimize the severity of the allegations against James, in part because I don’t think the severity can get much more minimal. Allegedly illegal, of course, but not exactly cause for a major overhaul of the voting system.

I tried to find any information on James’ case after early May 2012, but nothing comes up in a Google search, the Tarrant County Clerk (which would have the case if it is a misdemeanor) has no records, and the District Clerk (if it’s a felony) does not have online search capability. I don’t know if she was convicted or acquitted, if she entered a plea, if the state dismissed the case, or even if the state ever pursued a case in the first place. The news media saying she was “indicted” doesn’t tell me much of anything. I will try to follow up on this. At any rate, Greg Abbott does not have the best track record when it comes to identifying actual convictions for voter fraud in Texas, and neither do other proponents of voter ID laws.

My theory, which I completely made up from my own imagination, is that Greg Abbott wanted to get turned away at the polls, which would make him a martyr to the cause of fighting in-person voter fraud. Wendy Davis screwed all of that up, though. He would have proudly ridden across the plains of Texas, tilting at the mighty windmills of fraudulent voters for the greater cause of liberty—if it weren’t for that meddling Wendy. I say we should support Greg Abbott in his quixotic quest, perhaps by encouraging him to do something about Texas’ serious unicorn problem.

Photo credit: Domenichino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Hello, I’m the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I Don’t Believe We’ve Met.

578107_78992564As we all know by now, presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks that just under half of the country does not take full responsibility for their own lives, blah blah blah. No need to rehash all of that here. The meme has, rather interestingly, coincided with another Republican cause célèbre, voter ID laws. (Note to right-wingers: I will understand if you are uncomfortable using the French phrase “cause célèbre.” If you prefer, you may use the alternate phrase, “freedom fame.”)

Specifically, a Pennsylvania Republican is not concerned about possible disenfranchisement from the law he is sponsoring, apparently because people without photo ID just aren’t taking enough responsibility for their lives:

As Pennsylvania’s strict voter ID law returns to the lower court for reconsideration, its original sponsor, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA), told KDKA Radio Wednesday morning that his law will only disenfranchise “lazy” people, like the ones Mitt Romney was talking about in the leaked video of a private fundraiser.

When pressed on the issue, Rep. Metcalfe had this to say:

“I don’t believe any legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on the according responsiblity that goes with that right to secure their photo ID will be disenfranchised. As Mitt Romney said, 47% of the people that are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors’ hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can’t fix that.” [Emphasis added]

He is both right and wrong, but let me first say this: Republicans, you have a problem with the word “legitimate.” Seriously, you should consider not using that word for a long while.

Now then, Rep. Metcalfe is right that the state cannot compel a “lazy” person to take an interest in politics or society. I would think that would be obvious. Here’s the rub, though: the state cannot compel a person to jump through arbitrary hoops to participate in society. Rep. Metcalfe is placing the blame on people who have lived their lives, by all accounts perfectly well, without the documents that he now says they need in order to vote. I call bullshit.

The people affected by Rep. Metcalfe’s proposed law would need to obtain documentation, typically at a cost, in order to participate in their own democracy. Study after study has shown that voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. The only reason certain people would need to obtain a driver’s license or other photo ID, therefore, would be to vote. It would be an expense solely associated with the act of voting, and there is a name for that: a poll tax.

Meet the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1964:

SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Efforts to make people incur expense as a condition of voting has quite the dirty history in this country. Let’s not tiptoe back into our utterly-backwards past whilst trying to blame it on a mythical “lazy” class of people, okay?