Friday, November 17, 2017
Opinion

Here's how to stop voter suppression

RECOMMENDED READING


This one is for Mike.

He is a Houston reader who shot me an email after my recent column equating the GOP push for voter ID laws with voter suppression. I agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder who called that a modern-day poll tax. Mike did not.

"You have to have an ID to write a check," he wrote, "use a credit card and most other things in life. Saying poor blacks cannot easily get IDs is ridiculous. … Comparing this to the poll tax? C'mon, be serious."

Actually, I am. Not that I don't get why Mike's argument sounds reasonable to Mike — and to many others who made it. But let us consider it more closely.

First off, I've never made the claim Mike attributes to me, that is, that poor blacks cannot get IDs. No, my point is that when you don't have a checking account, a credit card or a car, it is less likely you will already have ID.

The name of the game, remember, is not voter prevention, but voter suppression, that is, bringing down the numbers. In the last presidential election, only 63 percent of eligible voters voted — and that was the best showing in 48 years. Clearly, Americans are not overly enthusiastic about performing this civic duty as it is.

So, if you can add a layer of difficulty to it that requires some voters to catch a bus down to some office, fill out forms and wait in line to get a card for which they will otherwise have zero use, is it so hard to imagine that some won't bother — and that there will be enough of them to make a difference in a close race?

Remember: Demographic trends do not favor the Republican Party. As the Center for the Study of the American Electorate observed in a 2008 report, the GOP is either out of contention or seeing an erosion of support in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the West, the mountain states, the industrial Midwest and even parts of the South.

With its growing Latino population, even Texas may be lost to the party before too many years. "Within the next few decades," says the report, "white Americans, the only demographic subgroup from which the GOP draws significant numbers of voters, will be in the minority."

So, while the party posits these laws as a way of fighting voter fraud — a nearly nonexistent problem — it takes little imagination to divine a more sinister intent. Sometimes, you don't need imagination at all.

As in Michigan GOP lawmaker John Pappageorge's 2004 observation that his party needed to "suppress the Detroit vote" to have any hope of electoral success. Detroit is 82 percent black.

Then there's the GOP campaign guru in Maryland who was convicted of ordering Election Day robo-calls to black households telling them not to bother voting because Barack Obama had the election sewn up.

And let us not forget Pennsylvania Republican Mike Turzai, who recently crowed how the state's voter ID law would ensure victory for Mitt Romney.

Sorry, but there can be little doubt that suppression — not just of the black vote, by the way, but also of the youth and Hispanic votes — is a key goal of this shrinking party.

But what if, instead of suppressing votes, we broaden the electorate? Curtis Gans, director of the aforementioned CSAE, believes the United States should adopt Mexico's system, wherein the government automatically issues every citizen a biometric ID card.

Such a card, encoded with your personal information — and with safeguards to protect your privacy — would eliminate whatever little voter registration fraud there is. There would be no fraud because there would be no registration. Every eligible citizen would simply swipe her card and vote.

And the GOP would have to make its case before America in the fullness of its diversity, an electorate not whittled down by artificial barriers designed to give one party an advantage over another. Surely that's something they'd want, right?

C'mon, be serious.

© 2012 Miami Herald

Comments
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trumpís latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included ó along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election ó an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Editorial: U.S. should resume processing visas for Cubans

Editorial: U.S. should resume processing visas for Cubans

The health attacks reported on American diplomats in Cuba deserve a serious investigation, and the Cuban governmentís cooperation in the case will ó for better or for worse ó shape the emerging relationship between the two nations. But the Trump admi...
Published: 11/13/17

Another voice: This little-discussed part of the GOP tax bill proves what itís really about

Republicans insist that their tax reform is designed to help the middle class and curb the use of tax loopholes. But a little-discussed provision tells a different story. That provision is the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which would serve ...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17
Editorial: Eaganís departure from HART a loss for Tampa Bay

Editorial: Eaganís departure from HART a loss for Tampa Bay

Katharine Eaganís departure as the chief executive of Hillsborough Regional Transit to run the transit agency in Pittsburgh reflects the sorry state of transportation in Tampa Bay. While there recently has been encouraging movement on several fronts,...
Published: 11/09/17

Another voice: Donít get too cocky, Dems

For months, the Virginia gubernatorial race has been seen as a bellwether of the Democratic Partyís capacity to rebound from its stunning loss to Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest, and the results were about as good as Democrat...
Published: 11/09/17

Editorial: Remarkable support for Penny for Pinellas

A 55 percent win in any election is a solid victory. Constitutional amendments in Florida must win 60 percent of the vote to be approved. And tax referendums are often hard to pass by any margin. That makes it all the more remarkable that the extensi...
Published: 11/08/17
Updated: 11/10/17