Here’s the open line, but let’s talk ballot issues. At the moment five statewide questions face voters and each one has enormous importance. Perhaps most important for the nation is one getting the least attention and the most dangerous — Issue Two, the legislatively-referred amendment to require a photo ID to vote.
Through years of propaganda, Republicans have convinced voters of non-existent identification fraud in voting to pass voter ID measures. They are vote suppression measures intended to keep the poor and minorities away from the polls. And it works. It might have been critical in narrow Trump victories in three swing states with such suppression laws in place. Polls suggest I’m wasting my time complaining in Arkansas, but complain I must.
An op-ed today in the New York Times explains the Republican lie about vote fraud and shows by example — disenfranchisement of longtime black voters — what it’s really all about.
In 1992, nonwhite voters made up 13 percent of the American electorate. By 2012 that figure had risen to 28 percent. That growing share of the electorate favored the Democrats. A poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in the late 1980s found that only one in two black Republicans thought his party cared about problems facing the black community. In the 2000 presidential election, nine in 10 black voters, 62 percent of Hispanic voters and just over half of all Asian voters backed Al Gore.
The Republicans’ response to this? Block people of color from the ballot box. Consider the brutal clarity of Paul Weyrich, a founder of the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which eventually helped write voter suppression legislation that spread like a cancer across the country: “I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said in a 1980 speech to conservative preachers in Dallas. “Our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.” The Republican Party learned that voter suppression, done ruthlessly and relentlessly, could deliver victory.
So that’s Issue Two.
But every issue on the ballot this year has enormous consequences and how a politician views this is a measure of what interests they’ll represent at every level, from quorum court to the governor’s office and Congress. That’s why I decided to undertake a project this weekend asking the five candidates for Little Rock mayor whether they support or oppose each of the five ballot measures. We are thirsting for dynamic leadership here. The direction that dynamism might lead is important. Does he want easier access to the ballot or harder? Easier access to the courts or harder? And so on.
I hope all will answer quickly and succinctly. But a failure to answer will be a measure, too. Each one of these issues has meaning at the city level in this state.
ISSUE ONE: Limits on lawsuit damages and attorney fees, a shift of power on court rulemaking.
ISSUE TWO: Voter ID
ISSUE FOUR: Casino gambling expansion. Legalization and expansion of existing casinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis and addition of casinos in Pine Bluff and Russellville. (Remember that the current Little Rock City mayor has fought casinos by the Quapaw Tribe in this county.)
ISSUE FIVE: An increase in the state minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 by 2021.
I hope to be able to report in a week on my mayoral survey.