When lightning strikes: Disenfranchisement and electoral strawmen

Gov. Corbett recently signed a bill into law that will require voters in Pennsylvania to present photographic identification at the polls when exercising the franchise that is [if not the point, then certainly] the legacy of our long-ago severance from monarchic rule. I make no special claim to know this man’s mind – nor the minds, or the pink slimes (to jump on a meme), that inhabit the skulls of any of the other various officials who have written, sponsored, voted for, or signed other similar legislation across the country – but what I do know is a strawman when I see it. And I do not need to rely on my instinct in this matter. There are studies, statistics, proofs, that show that the “endemic voter fraud” that the shrill boosters of such ID laws seek to curb is so rare that shaking hands with lightning is more likely.

Once upon a time, when the white landowning men who comprised the government of the United States begrudgingly “gave” the vote to people who were neither white nor male nor landed, they – white propertied dudes – figured they could suppress the votes and interests of those other sorts by instituting poll taxes: a pay-to-play fee at the ballot box. And that worked, for a long time – nearly eighty years, from the 1880s until 1964. In other words, before the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, there was a requirement of payment in order to vote in many states. The effect of this was to diminish the impact of various citizens not of a certain class, race, or gender. The goal today is the same as it was then: to prevent citizens who might vote to shift the status quo from voting and doing so.

For a summary of the facts compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, please click here. For the full report, click here. For information about individual states where voter ID is on the docket or on the books, and for information about advocacy there, click here. For additional information specific to PA, click here. And, for some graphical breakdown from Craig of Craigslist fame, click here.


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