Thursday, January 18, 2018
Opinion

Here's how to stop voter suppression

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: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18