Monday, May 12, 2008


When I started to read this New York Times article about a proposed new voter ID law in Missouri, my first thought was "Surely we'll just have to have national ID cards eventually" -- a possibility hinted at in the article. And then I realized that's never going to happen.

Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote....

In most of the states that require identification, voters can use utility bills, paychecks, driver’s licenses or student or military ID cards to prove their identity....

Measures requiring proof of citizenship raise the bar higher because they offer fewer options for documentation. In most cases, aspiring voters would have to produce an original birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport....

Here's a quote from a policy wonk who (naively) raises the possibility of an eventual end to this battle:

"Three forces are converging on the issue: security, immigration and election verification," said Dr. Robert A. Pastor, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University in Washington....

"Whether the U.S. government combines these different initiatives into a coherent plan with safeguards for privacy instead of dozens of separate ID cards that could be the source of discrimination and confusion is the question," he said.

But the point of this isn't to solve the (real or imagined) problem of voter fraud. The point is to win a bit of what Republicans want in every successful battle (in this case, disenfranchising a certain number of likely Democratic voters), but also to keep the issue alive forever, as a source for future GOP fund-raising appeals and the subject of future conservative-turnout-increasing referenda.

That's how the GOP works -- nothing is ever enough. After every Republican tax increase, good people, we're told, are still overtaxed. (Republicans say government is always evil, but won't openly try to essentially abolish it in a Ron Paul way.) After every new law restricting abortion rights, abortion, we're told, is still the great evil of our time. (Republicans won't really fight to ban all abortions nationwide, and even though a McCain Supreme Court would overturn Roe, Republicans insist they'll accept the fact that some states will keep abortions legal.)

And now we see the pattern with alleged voter fraud: the old-style voter-ID laws aren't enough, so we need even tougher ID laws. And when those pass, we'll need something else.

And yet Republicans will never, ever accept a national ID card. That would be fascist.

That would also curtail their ability to keep "voter fraud" a hot-button issue forever. That's what they want, just as they want taxes and abortion to be hot-button issues forever.

So, yes, this Missouri referendum is bad. But there'll be even newer and more inventive ways of exploiting this (non-)issue in the coming years.

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