Tuesday, April 29, 2008

There's no intelligence in this ID business, either

May I see your passport, please?
This picture doesn't look at all like you, sir.
Well, it's an old picture.
(Heh heh) Precisely.

So the Supreme Court has once again disgraced itself on a matter relating to voting rights and free elections.

On Monday, the Court ruled in favor of Indiana's notorious voter ID law that requires people to produce a government-issued photo ID at the time of voting in order to be able to vote.

I suppose I should feel a touch vindicated, since in the wake of oral arguments I not only predicted the 6-3 split, I pretty much predicted who the six and the three would be. But all I can feel is depressed, frustrated, and angry.

I am angry at the Injustices who knew, who knew, who openly acknowledged that their decision was based on bullshit.
In what the court described as the “lead opinion,” which was written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court acknowledged that the record of the case contained “no evidence” of the type of voter fraud the law was ostensibly devised to detect and deter, the effort by a voter to cast a ballot in another person’s name.
No evidence, indeed:
Advocacy groups, including the Brennan Center [for Justice], say they know of no voter fraud case ever being prosecuted against someone who impersonated another voter at the polls. Indiana's Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita acknowledged there were no prosecutions in his state for impersonating voters....
Moreover, the Brennan Center's statement on the decision noted that its own amicus brief
demonstrated that each instance of purported voter fraud used to justify Indiana's law was discredited or could not have been prevented by voter ID.
Bluntly, the fact is that the law was based on lies and vapor, claiming to address a problem that doesn't exist. But that didn't matter to Stevens, not at all.
The “risk of voter fraud” was “real,” he said, and there was “no question about the legitimacy or importance of the state’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters.”
So because there supposedly is a "real risk" of some sort of voter fraud, a law against one type for which there is no evidence becomes proper. This is not a reason, this is an excuse (the difference being that reasons come before a decision and excuses come after), a cheap sham foisted off as legal reasoning by someone apparently determined to find a way, any way, to justify what they had decided from the beginning.

What's worse,
Justice Stevens said that neither was there “any concrete evidence of the burden imposed on voters who now lack photo identification,”
a statement that can only be described as a flagrant lie.
Across the country, as many as 20 million people lack such identification, most of them minorities and the elderly who don't have drivers' licenses or passports and are unable to afford the cost of obtaining documentation to apply for such identification, advocacy groups say.

In Indiana, more than 20 percent of black voters do not have access to a valid photo ID, according to an October 2007 study by the University of Washington.
This law will disenfranchise voters, there simply is no rational doubt. David Souter knew it, writing in a dissent joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg that
Indiana's "Voter ID Law" threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the state's citizens and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting.
He called the burden "serious" and, tellingly, that
[l]ike the Virginia poll tax the court struck down 42 years ago, he said, “the onus of the Indiana law is illegitimate just because it correlates with no state interest so well as it does with the object of deterring poorer residents from exercising the franchise.”
(Stephen Breyer filed a separate dissent.)

I do not accept, I do not believe for one single instant, that the majority of the Supreme Court did not know this and yet that majority chose to ignore that effect or perhaps even welcome it if not at the least thinking it unimportant. (Stevens wrote that "the interest in orderly administration and accurate record-keeping provides a sufficient justification for carefully identifying all voters participating in the election process," effectively declaring "orderly administraion" of higher value than the right to vote.) This was a disgraceful and corrupt decision by a disgraced and corrupt Court that deserves only condemnation.

And yet, to my deep frustration, there are people in comments at various sites who are defending the decision, who don't see what the big deal is. Many of those people display an astonishing ignorance of what the issue actually is and what the law actually covers - either that or they are engaging in distraction by deliberately conflating the overall issue of some manner of hypothetical voter fraud with the issue of demanding certain very specific forms of photo ID that will have a clear and undeniable impact on the most vulnerable members of the voting public.

Impact? What impact? their argument goes, casually denying the undeniable being SOP for such folks. Because some poor people either have or can obtain the required ID, they say, because some disabled folks and some housebound elderly can meet the requirements, therefore every one of them can and so if they don't, in the words of one, "they don't deserve to vote." I strongly suspect these are the same sort of people who used to say - and, I suppose, still do - that people on public assistance (or, sometimes, unemployment compensation) were just lazy good-for-nothings "laughing" at the rest of us; the "logic" being that anybody can get a job - just look at all the listings in the want ads!

Ultimately their thinking comes down to that of the Court majority: They already have government-issued photo IDs such as a driver's license or a passport, they already live in a world where everyone around them has such an ID, it seems so common an experience that they simply can't imagine anyone not having one except by just not having gotten around to it - so they don't care about the effect of the law because it doesn't affect them, "what's in it for me?" being their only standard of measurement.

And that's the kind interpretation. Because the alternative is that their real purpose - and in some cases I'm sure it is - is to recite GOPper talking points in order to push for even greater restrictions on access to the ballot box among those most disposed to vote Democratic (or at least to refuse to vote Republican). As anyone who has spent any time here will know, I plead no briefs for Democrats - but I will plead briefs against any hindrance of democratic freedoms and rights and I will plead briefs against disgusting, deceitful, dirtbag attempts to advance the disgusting, deceitful, dirtbag right-wing agenda. And make no mistake: Advancing that agenda by silencing those most likely to vote against it is what this is all about. That is the ultimate intent of these laws. And there will be more such laws. And that is what is so depressing.
Project Vote, a liberal-leaning voter registration group, said 59 voter ID bills have been introduced in 24 states — nearly all of them by Republicans — during the 2008 legislative session. Forty are pending. Republican legislators in 11 states also are pushing bills to require proof of citizenship to register to vote.
It wasn't all that long ago that the focus of the courts and of our national political conversation was on how to encourage people to vote, how to enable the disenfranchised to vote. Now, it seems, the focus is on how many roadblocks we can throw in the path of those same people. Times have indeed changed.

There is much work to be done and still more dark times to be survived.

Footnote: The only upside - actually, I should say less downside - in all this is that the fractured nature of the majority, which had two separate opinions each supported by three Justices, means that the issue is not yet completely closed. What was rejected was a "facial" challenge, which sought to have to law blocked from going into effect on the grounds that it was unconstitutional "on its face" and that relief could not wait until after the election because at that point the damage is already done.

Stevens' opinion left open the possibility of a later challenge on the grounds that when put into practice the law actually proves to place nontrivial burdens on a number of voters, making it subject to challenge by people effectively disenfranchised. That doesn't give me a lot of hope because in their opinions the members of the majority seemed determined to downplay both the burdens of the law and the number of people affected, but - especially these days - I find any hope better than none.

By the way, in addition to the post linked up top, I also posted about the case on January 3 and January 8.

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