by Jeremy Leaming
Last fall Risa L. Goluboff and Dahlia Lithwick nailed the slew of new onerous voter ID laws in a piece for Slate detailing the “ugly parallels between Jim Crow and modern vote-suppression laws.”
The two noted that a few other commentators had also noticed the parallels between these new laws and ugly era of Jim Crow. The majority of the voter ID laws make it much more difficult to vote, and many have been enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures.
As this blog has noted time and again, the proponents of these laws claim the country’s elections are ridden with voter fraud and that the laws are only about protecting the integrity of the democratic process. But this blog has also pointed out the wobbly evidence of voter fraud. And in their piece for Slate, Goluboff and Lithwick say that voter fraud is a “problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers.”
Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt in a recent ACS Issue Brief also took on the claim that these new voter suppression laws were justified by rampant fraud, saying there are more reports yearly of UFOs.
The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin wonders why many journalists feel compelled to trumpet or give credence to proponents’ claims of voter fraud. “Voter fraud simply isn’t a problem in this country,” he writes. “Studies have definitively debunked the voter fraud myth time and again."
What do exist, Froomkin notes, are the blatant efforts to use photo ID laws to depress voter turnout, mainly among communities of color, low-income people, students and the elderly. These laws make it extremely difficult to obtain the proper form of ID. A report by The Brennan Center for Justice shows just how costly it is for people in a slew of states to attain the proper ID.
Attorney General Eric Holder likened some of the new voter ID laws to the poll tax of the Jim Crow area. It caused howls of indignation among rightwing pundits. But the Brennan Center’s report bolsters Holder’s assessment. These new laws are onerous, and will if allowed to stay in place act as a poll tax.
Many reporters, however, can’t bring themselves to report what’s really going on. Not only do they often tout claims of voter fraud, they repeat other pro-voter ID laws’ talking points, such as the oft-repeated claim that we live in a society where picture IDs are required for lots of actions, so what’s the big deal.
For instance, photo IDs are likely required for boarding an airplane or, as Levitt wrote, buying Sudafed. Levitt, however, continued that those actions are not constitutionally protected. Indeed as many others realize, voting is rather integral to democracy. It’s either daft or lazy to equate voting with purchasing a decongestant or an airplane ticket.
The nation’s superrich loves the status quo – a government that can only pass legislation that bolster its interests. So rightwing lawmakers nationwide are taking action to help ensure policymakers in Washington remain beholden to their interests. One tool to do so is the rigid voter ID law.
Froomkin blasts those reporters for being cowed, for not calling these voter ID laws what they are – efforts to suppress the vote. He says:
Modern American journalists strive for impartiality, but there is a limit. Mainstream journalists shouldn’t be afraid of being accused of taking sides when what they’re doing is standing up for basic constitutional rights. Indeed, the greater danger is that readers condemn them – or even worse, stop paying attention to them – for having no conviction at all, and no moral compass.
[image via KClvey]