Here we go again.
Every few years or so, the nation debates the over-demagogued issue of whether or not requiring identification at polling precincts is somehow an impediment to one’s right to vote.
This time, it’s Alabama in the middle of the debate.
If you haven’t heard, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced earlier this year that because of budget cuts, 31 part-time satellite driver license offices will be closing. These closures are being used by some politicians to say it will be more difficult to obtain identification required to vote in Alabama as a result, especially if you are an African-American. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is the most recent.
Over the weekend, Clinton addressed the Alabama Democratic Conference at a $150-per-ticket event in Hoover, castigating the state government’s Republican lawmakers and likening the decision to the Jim Crow era.
“Here in Alabama, without the right kind of ID, it’s nearly impossible to vote,” Clinton said. “It’s hard to believe we are back having this same debate about whether every American gets a chance to vote. This is a blast from the Jim Crow past.”
So, in the eyes of Clinton and other Democrats, requiring photo identification to vote is akin to government-mandated segregation?
First of all, classifying the entire voter ID issue as some sort of racial issue minimizes the efforts of those who really did make a difference during the Civil Rights struggle.
Hundreds of Civil Rights leaders marched in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery under the threat of violence. Fifty years later, demagogues claim that making a trip to your county’s Board of Registrar’s office to apply for a free voter identification card is too much to ask.
At one point in Alabama’s history, in rural places or when a lot of people couldn’t read or write or had a fear of the government, perhaps a legitimate argument could be made about the merits of voter identification.
But it’s not the 1960s anymore.
Also consider this: Clinton and her ilk cry foul when it comes to voting rights, but what about the explicit Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms?”
If you apply the standard that ID laws restrict someone’s ability to vote, then what about any sort of requirement to own gun a license or permit? In some places, it is very difficult to get a pistol permit. In New York City, it can take up to eight months to get a gun license, at a cost of $450.
If it required the same effort to exercise the right to vote as it does to exercise the right to keep and bear arms, we really would arguably have a Jim Crow scenario.
Granted, there aren’t many clamoring for the public to have unfettered access to guns. Obviously, firearms should be kept out of the hands of some people. In Clinton’s case, however, at a speech in New Hampshire the day before she made her remarks in Hoover, she showed she had a complete disregard for the Second Amendment when she suggested implementing Australian gun control measures.
Nonetheless, just like the right to own a firearm, the right to vote should come with some minimal responsibilities, including registering to vote, having the ability to prove that you are who you say you are and finding the means to get to the polling location.
Opponents of voter identification laws will argue there isn’t a problem with voter fraud in the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union argues the laws are a solution in search of a problem.
But in Alabama, there are some abnormalities when it comes to the voter rolls.
There is at least the potential for voter fraud in some counties in Alabama’s Black Belt region, where African-Americans are the majority and are said to be the ones most affected by the voter ID law. In Macon, Wilcox, Lowndes and Greene Counties, which are all heavily Democrat, there are more registered voters than there are people, if you compare census statistics to registered voters. That’s not to say fraud is occurring, but the possibility exists.
In recent years, the most documented cases of voter fraud have occurred with absentee ballots. Last month, a Dothan woman was found guilty of 24 counts of voter fraud, all occurring in 2013 before Alabama’s voter identification law went into effect. In 2008, the Department of Justice investigated absentee ballots in Perry County, where the number of absentee ballots made up a whopping quarter of the total vote.
Based on those instances, we know vote fraud exists and although it is difficult to police absentee voting as you would at a polling place, at least now a copy of your identification is required with an absentee ballot.
On a number of levels, it is an insult to the public’s intelligence to suggest the entire voter identification law is nothing more than an effort by Republicans to keep blacks from voting.
We get it. Democrats need a way to motivate their base and get them to vote, and claiming racism is a way to make that happen. We also know that in many cases, high turnout tends to favor Democrats. There are politics involved.
However, for an outsider like Hillary Clinton, who is likely ignorant of the specifics of Alabama’s voter ID law, to invoke “Jim Crow” in a speech at a fundraiser is insulting to the state’s citizens and damages any hopes for Democrats to regain a foothold in the state.