It’s a given that the Republican majority Arkansas legislature will pass Voter ID legislation. Republicans stacked the relevant committees in both the House and Senate.
Rational arguments about the perils of this legislation won’t deter the Republicans. They will have no proof that Voter ID is necessary to combat fraud of any meaningful sort. (No, absentee vote buying doesn’t count. Voter ID laws don’t address that.)
It would be nice if the angry Rep. Bryan King would at least be as honest as the famous Pennsylvania Republican leader shown above. Voter ID laws are intended to make it harder to vote and easier to elect Republicans. Tight early voting laws are also intended to make it harder to vote. Fewer polling places, particularly in major urban areas, are intended to make it harder to vote. Vote obstacles Such as IDs for people who’ve never had a driver’s license; limited early voting; harder access hit poor people hardest. Poor people tend to lean Democratic. They also tend to be disproportionately minority group members, who lean even more dramatically Democratic.
So at least be honest about your aim, Rep. King.
If we must have voter ID, could we move toward more mail-in voting? Could we guarantee easy access to IDs? Could we guarantee there’ll be no cost in obtaining these new IDs? And, particularly, can we find ways to avoid the Catch 22 that may disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters in Arizona.
Haven’t heard about it? Arizona, which is Republican controlled, has voter ID. It has also had some vibrant voter registration drives, particularly among Latino voters. Let the New York Times pick it up, in an article published Saturday:
Three days after the election, the outcome of several races remained a mystery in Arizona as officials struggle to count a record number of early and provisional ballots, many of them cast by voters who believed they had registered but whose names were not on the voter rolls at the polling place.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett revealed the magnitude of the situation: 631,274 votes remained uncounted, he said, more than in any presidential election in memory and enough to anger voting- and immigrant-rights advocates, who have called on the Justice Department to investigate. (By Friday, there were 524,633 uncounted ballots. There are 3.1 million registered voters in the state.)
Legally registered voters signed up to get ballots by mail, but never got them. People who were supposed to be on the rolls, having registered in time, didn’t appear there. People who didn’t have IDs at the polls must make another trip before the deadline to county offices to prove themselves or their vote won’t be counted.
It’s a scandal. Except that all these obstacles are working exactly as Republicans intended. The denial of the franchise seems likely to affect minorities most. With a 78,000-vote lead for the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, you can see why it’s vital for Republicans to be sure, to the extent possible, that only people like them vote.
This is coming to Arkansas. The only hope and it’s rooted in experience is that Republicans will overreach with voter legislation so punitive it will provide room for a lawsuit. Even Republican judges all over the country have seen through many of these ruses as efforts at vote suppression. It will be interesting to see if there’s a single Republican Arkansas legislator with a conscience when these bills roll around or if the most punitive path is rubberstamped by every one.