Voting Rights and the Republican Party

Earlier this year, Republicans in the Georgia legislature set about enacting an ambitious "electoral reform" agenda that included redrawing congressional districts and a requirement that voters show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. In today's issue of the Los Angeles Times, Ellen Barry takes a look at the status of the second provision.

No one knows how many adult Georgians do not have government-issued photo identification, and this year few questions are more politically loaded.

ID cards became the subject of passionate debate when the Legislature passed a Republican-sponsored law requiring all voters to show an official photo, such as a passport or driver's license. Previous Georgia law required that a voter show one of 17 different forms of ID, including utility bills and Social Security cards.

Civil rights organizations and Democratic leaders protested, arguing that as many as 153,000 Georgians -- many of them poor, elderly or African American -- would lose the right to vote. In Georgia's 159 counties, there are 54 offices that can grant a driver's license.

[...]

The law has been in limbo since late October, when U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy issued a preliminary injunction, comparing it to the poll taxes that were used to keep blacks from voting in the segregated South. A panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction. [emphasis added]

Just as is the case on many other issues, when it comes to race, Republicans want to have it both ways. A number of GOP strategists like Dick Morris trumpet a potential presidential bid by the highest ranking African American in the Bush administration, suggesting that Condoleezza Rice is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton in 2008. At the same time, however, the Republican Party is actively seeking to undermine African Americans' ability to participate in the political system.

This effort is hardly limited to photo identification legislation in Georgia. Earlier this month, The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported that that professionals in the Justice Department believed that the Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Leader Tom DeLay violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting minority voting strength in a number of districts. This month also brought us a Republican attempt to fundamentally undermine the 14th amendment's protection of all people born in this country.

The Republican Party can certainly continue its attempts to pay lip service to minority communities while at the same time undercutting these communities' ability to affect elections. This strategy might even win some votes in the short run, but it's viability in the long run is questionable.

Does this mean that Democrats can become complacent and take minority votes for granted? Certainly not. Democrats would be well-served by pushing harder for legislation that would ensure the voting rights of all Americans (reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be a great start). Not only would this be good politics, it would be good policy. That said, before we buy in to the myth that Republicans are poised to significantly increase their share of minority votes in coming elections, we should strive to remind Americans of the lengths to which the Republican Party -- both historically and currently -- has gone to weaken African Americans' and Hispanics' ability to influence elections in this country.

Tags: Republicans (all tags)

Comments

19 Comments

Voting Rights
The Republicans' target is not race.  It's economic status.  
If the Democrats organize the poor and add them to their knee jerk constituency, the Republicans know that they are permanently out of office. Their voting rights efforts are against the poor, not the black or the brown.  
A constitutional law professor of mine, thirty years ago, laughed at the concept of the minority status of race.  He knew the issue was economic status.  He traveled between academia and very lucrative cases every few years. Between his upbringing in a minority community and his automatic partner level status at any firm he wanted to call on the telephone, he had seen all sides.  He knew that the current racial prejudice of the day, made easier among whites by a genetic accident, was nevertheless based on economic status.  Imagine the fear of the haves if the have nots are in the majority and control the power of government.  The Republicans know:   the have nots don't need to BE the majority, they merely need to be IN the majority.
by McCrory 2005-12-26 02:12AM | 0 recs
ID?
I'm Texan and here it is the law that everyone must carry a state certified photo ID, be it a DL of an ID that looks like a DL.  The last time I voted I was required to provide it.  I thinkd that it is my Legislature's idea on how to prove citizenship. I don't really know, except it doesn't work.

Anyway, was the required showing of ID an infringement?

by ddrich 2005-12-26 03:37AM | 0 recs
Re: ID?
Very possible. I'm not sure if requiring an ID in and of itself is enough to trigger a discriminatory impact. I critical fact in Georgia is that there are only 57 places in 159 counties to get a photo ID.

Here in California it is reasonably easy to get a non-driver photo ID. We still do not require a photo ID to vote. Our voter registration ID's do not have photos. There are several acceptable proofs of residence that are accepted at the polling place. A utility bill is one form of acceptable ID and even that would not work for renters. I'm not certain, but any piece of mail with your name and address may be sufficient here.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-26 06:16AM | 0 recs
How To Deal With Laws Requiring Photo ID to Vote
GET PHOTO ID'S!!!!

I share the view that proposals like this are designed to keep people (often black people) from voting.  I share the view as well that people who support legislation like this should rot in hell.  We have no room for gay-bashing, poll-taxing, voter-intimidating tactics to install administrations which lie, kill, cheat, and steal (when they are not simply incompetent).

However, in the year 2005-2006, why don't people have picture ID's?  Photo ID's are needed for banking, to get past security checkpoints, to get into Bally's, etc.  Our neighbors without photo ID's should join the rest of society.

They now have 11 months until the next elections.  It might take 6-8 weeks to get a photo ID.  GET THE PHOTO ID ALREADY!!!  

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR GETTING UP OFF YOUR ASS, GOING DOWN TO THE LOCAL DMV/SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE, AND GETTING THE PHOTO ID.

On the day after election day, it is nothing short of LAME to bitch about how racist these proposals are (and they are), when there is 11 months worth of notice.

Let's send those 153,000 black Georgia voters to the polls with their new photo ID's, and tell the racists to shove it up their asses!

by jfrankesq 2005-12-26 03:46AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Deal With Laws Requiring Photo
Well these folks don't go to Ballys, it's kinda hard with no car to travel three counties away to get an ID, they aren't trying to get into a court building soooo, GET OVER YOUR YUPPIE SELF AND QUIT SCREAMING!
by Demo Dan in Dayton 2005-12-26 03:54AM | 0 recs
I reject that
It's not that hard to get an ID.  I strongly diasagree with that obviously divisive Georgia law. It's a crock of shit.  But I help all sorts of folks get ID's in my work life every week.  It's not that hard to get on a bus and get an ID, unless you were born five states away and have trouble getting a copy of a birth certificate.  As for a SS card, it's as easy as mailing the form off and then going to the SS office to get an official printout that says what your # is until you recieve the card.

I reject the whole "I can't get to the driver's license office" arguement.  If you can catch a bus to buy groceries, meds, clothes, etc, you can find a way to the ID place.  And for a last resort, just calling up the local DEm party HQ to ask for someone to take you to get one, I mean, shit, I would drive any DEm voter to get one if it meant another vote for our side.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-26 05:21AM | 0 recs
Re: I reject that
Would you drive 1,000 voters to get a photo ID?
by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-26 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: I reject that
Yeah, right. There are parts of Georiga that are 75 miles away from the nearest DMV...and of course they are rural, poor areas of Georgia.

That certainly says ease of voting to me!

by kansasr 2005-12-26 10:03AM | 0 recs
If the DMV in Georgia is as bad as California
A 75 mile round trip to the DMV would take all day. They start lining up outside the DMV about 5:30 or 6:00 out here. By the time they open there are 30-40 people in line and it's a 2 hour wait just to get in the door.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-26 08:37PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Deal With Laws Requiring Photo
Dear Demo Dan:

I am not a Yuppie, and I don't expect everyone to have Bally memberships.

As a matter of logic and argument, you grabbed onto the least significant and most vulnerable thing I said, which was to list among the things I need a photo ID for, my entry to my local Bally's (when I go!)

You did not address my point, that in our society, there are many people who require photo identification, people who have nothing to do with the exercise of our civil rights.  We do not complain about having to show photo ID to police officers, to government agencies, to security clearance officers, etc.  Unfortunately, our world requires photo ID's for many reasons, many if not most of them having nothing to do with race.

My point is this: however bad and racist it is to require photo ID's, for voting (and I accept that it is an effort to disenfranchise poor and black people), we should meet that effort with photo ID's.

At Rosa Parks' funeral, a story was told, either about Rosa Parks herself, or her longtime friend (a lady of about the same age, also from Montgomery AL) who eulogized her.  The story dealt with how Rosa, or the friend, had to keep taking the literacy test (which was given at the time, by illiterate racists, who did not want black people to vote), until finally, even the illiterate racists could no longer deny her the right to vote.

Should they have had to go through that, just to vote?  Of course not!

YOU DO RAISE A GOOD POINT HOWEVER: In the Detroit area, where I am writing from, we dont have to travel that far, to get a photo ID, or to register to vote.

Something should be done to assist rural people who need these photo ID's to get them -- IF ONLY TO DENY THE RACISTS THE VICTORY THEY WOULD HAVE IF THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL IN DISENFRANCHISING MINORITIES.

How can I be of help from up here?

by jfrankesq 2005-12-26 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Deal With Laws Requiring Photo
well to continue, I do object to having to present ANY kind of identification to police officers or security officers.  It is an enfringement of my rights as an American to have to present identification to any police officer who demands it.

Calling you a Yuppie might have been offbase but the tone of your post just did not address the problem here.  These are people who may never have had photo ID.  They may have legal difficulties which would predispose them from trying to get an ID but which would not prevent them from voting.  They may be elderly and not have access to the documentation needed to "prove" who they are.  Or they may just live too far away from an "ID Center".  Lots of ways to suppress the vote when you want to.

by Demo Dan in Dayton 2005-12-26 02:26PM | 0 recs
The History of the Poll Tax
Did you read Jonathan's diary?

In Georgia's 159 counties, there are 54 offices that can grant a driver's license.

This is an intentional effort to disenfranchise poor black and white voters.

From Wikipedia:

The capitation clause of Article I of the United States Constitution, requiring apportionment among the states of "direct taxes", makes imposition of a poll tax by the federal government unfeasible.

However, states sometimes made payment of a poll tax a pre-condition of the exercise of the right to vote. After the right to vote was extended to all races by the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment, many Southern states enacted poll tax laws which often included a grandfather clause that allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted to vote without paying the tax. These laws achieved the desired effect of disenfranchising African and Native Americans, as well as whites of non-British descent.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, outlawed the use of this tax (or any other tax) as a pre-condition in voting in Federal elections. The 1966 Supreme Court case Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections held that the poll tax as applied to state elections violated the Equal Protection Clause of United States Constitution.

It was not just southern states that used a poll tax to restrict voting rights. The poll tax in Pennsylvania:

In Pennsylvania, the vote was once limited to property owners, the kind who visited this 19th-century voting house in Westmoreland County. In eight states in the South, more than 100 counties used some form of legal blockade or intimidation to keep black voters from registering. The 24th Amendment passed with little trouble in 1964. Black voter registration surged by 40 percent. In subsequent years, federally enforced Civil Rights acts made that amendment function. Now, with such restrictions outlawed, Joan Ebert, minority inspector, enters the Simpson Polling House in Derry Township and expects all eligible citizens.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-12-26 06:10AM | 0 recs
Voting Reform
All of these efforts have historically been targeted at the poor and disadvantaged.  Look at all the "Reform" movements of the late 1800's and early 1900's and they were all aimed at reducing the power of the big city machines which to a great extent were dominated by poor immigrants and displaced rural workers.
by Demo Dan in Dayton 2005-12-26 03:49AM | 0 recs
Condoleeza and Hillary have a lot in common
Both have a strong media presence.
Both are respected by their party elites.
Both would also, I think, share the same electoral fate if they managed to get nominated.  Condi would be trumpeted as a republican salvo during the election, but once voters got into that quiet, reflective place called the voting booth, like Hillary, she would be dropped like a hot potato.  Most people, I imagine from what I have heard from my family this season, would say they're all for either woman, but would turn on them when it came time to actually go on a limb and cast the ballot.

Of course the big difference between them is that Hillary actually has a decent shot at the nomination.  Let's be honest here:  There is no way in hell the republican party of the 2000s is going to nominate Condi Rice.  I know lots of die hard republicans and there is just no friggin way.  And if you have to ask why then you need to pay more attention to your neighbors.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-26 05:17AM | 0 recs
Republican Groundwork in 2006
This is an excellent post that is starting to consider what will be the Republicans main issue in 2006, immigration.  Sure Bush and some others have put down a few proposals, but to really se what`s going to happen this year is to look to our old friends at Fox News.

A South Carolina affiliate ran a positive story about Stormfront, a hate site.  The president has admitted the fact sometimes he speaks in code words to the Religious base.  David Newart is going to be very busy the next couple months decoding phrases that come from the upper eschelons of the RNC.

Their platform will be terror again, but this time, we need stronger `boarder patrols` and `minutemen`.  Karl Rove will have to scare the American people with fear of a swarthy menace.

by ProfBacon 2005-12-26 05:52AM | 0 recs
I'm not sure folks are thinking this through
How many of the people here saying how easy it is to get a photo ID have ever done so for the first time at age 70? How many have done so while disabled, or without any access to transportation? How many have payed to catch a bus or cab to the nearest office while living off of social security? How many even realize that there is not ONE location to get an ID card in the city of Atlanta?

I think these are important scenarios to keep in mind when discussing this issue, because on its face, it sounds pretty damn easy to get a photo ID, and honestly many might consider it absurd that anyone would not already have one. But never forget that the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, all of these things were designed to protect all Americans, not just ones with licenses and memberships at Balleys.

We all need to see this law for what it is - an orchestrated effort to keep voters who historically vote for Democrats - African Americans, the poor, etc... - from the polls. It's that simple. Those defending this law say it will help prevent voter fraud. But we need to ask them, what voter fraud? Did you guys hear about a rash of voter fraud in this past election or in 2000? Sure, it probably happened and I don't mean to belittle it, but its clear that the much greater problem has been thousands of Americans unfairly kept from the polls. THAT is what the civil rights division of the Justice department should be worried about, but instead they are worried about voter "integrity" and backing efforts like this one. It's cheap dispicable politics and we should fight it tooth and nail. Kudos to people like Rep. John Lewis and Senators Chris Dodd and Barack Obama for leading that fight.

by DemocraticBass 2005-12-26 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not sure folks are thinking this through
As a reply to those who think that going through, e.g., 70 years of your life without a photo ID is reason enough to reject them, I say a few things here:

  1.  You are not really old, until you are dead.

  2.  Older Americans are no different than the rest of us.
by jfrankesq 2005-12-26 06:54PM | 0 recs
The GOP and Minority Voting Rights
The GOP is srongly in favor of minority voting rights.  That minority being themselves.

That's why they work so hard to deny effective voting rights to the majority of Americans.

(Here in California, for example, 1/3 of the legislature in either house can effectively veto the budget.  And the GOP likes it just fine.)

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-26 12:06PM | 0 recs
Here's a Plan
Let's have the government pay for a basic government ID. (You still have to pay if you decide to get a driver's license.)  You are required to get the government ID within six months of your 18th birthday and at that time you are automatically registered to vote.  Heck, you could have people go around high schools issuing IDs.  People who turned (pick an arbitrary age) the year that an ID law is passed are grandfathered in and exempt from having to get it.

The Republicans would flip out at this.  Young people get registered to vote in droves.  Old people aren't screwed.  It sets the ground for future efforts because I think that a national ID is going to be necessary if we ever get national health care.

by Anthony de Jesus 2005-12-26 01:37PM | 0 recs

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