Here’s the disconnect on the efforts to clamp down on “voter fraud” – so-called – in many states around the country.
The right to vote is fundamental to any democracy, even more intrinsic to our way of life than, say, the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms. Yet, while defenders of the Second Amendment fiercely resist laws meant to reduce gun violence – a real problem in this country – backers of the new voter ID laws are happy to pile up new voting restrictions in an effort to combat a problem that simply does not exist.
Many defenders of the Second Amendment, we suspect, back the effort to clamp down on nonexistent voter fraud, perhaps because they believe it is necessary, perhaps because it is meant to depress turnout among the poor and minorities, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Yet it is hard to reconcile the two positions. If, as Second Amendment backers say, the important thing is to enforce existing laws, why should that same standard not apply to a right as fundamental as voting?
In that context, the advocacy for new voting restrictions wouldn’t make sense even if there were a problem with voter fraud. But there isn’t. These laws appear to be made up out of whole cloth in a transparent attempt to depress minority voting strength.
One Pennsylvania pol admitted as much recently. The majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, boasted to a meeting of the Republican State Committee in June that the state’s new photo ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”
The fact is that voter fraud is so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. The laws pending in states such as Texas, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania are equivalent to using a tank to kill a wasp – assuming those laws were actually meant to deal with voter fraud.
But, as Turzai’s comment demonstrates in Pennsylvania and suggests about other states, it’s not about voter fraud. It’s about a shameful maneuver to upend the Constitution in search of election day victories.
Gun violence is a documented and undeniable tragedy in this country. Compared to other nations, ours is a slaughter pen. If, in light of that, it is nonetheless critical not to create new laws but to enforce existing ones, surely the same holds true for a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
So call this a test. The conservative approach should be to limit governmental intrusion to no more than necessary. Indeed, fealty to the concept of democracy should be to take reasonable steps to encourage more, not fewer, Americans to vote. If supporters of these disingenuous laws back off, then it is possible to conclude they believe what they say about restrained government and enforcing existing laws. If not, then they just want what they want and don’t much care how they get it or what gets broken in the process.