Supreme Court’s Assault on Voting Rights Fueled by Inconsistent Logic

            In 2008, when the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls, it did so in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of more than a handful of ineligible people casting ballots, mostly in error.  Justice Stevens had to go back to nineteenth century New York to find instances of the widespread voter fraud that the photo identification is designed to remedy.  It is readily acknowledged by many, even proponents, that the purpose of these voter identification requirements is to make it more difficult for certain people, mostly poor, elderly and minorities, those who tend to vote democratic, to cast ballots. 

            On June 23, 2012, Mike Turzai, the House Republican Leader in Pennsylvania, said on the House floor: “Voter ID, which will allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done!”  This statement is available on Youtube.  In the event, Romney did not carry Pennsylvania.  True, Obama’s vote fell in Pennsylvania by 8.7% compared with a decline of 5.17% nationwide, but Romney’s vote was less that 1% higher than McCain’s.  Nationwide, Romney’s vote beat McCain’s by a mere 1.6%.  This proves, and should prove to the Supreme Court, that Obama’s almost 10 million vote margin over McCain did not contain any illegally cast ballots.  It should also prove that voter ID requirements depress the Democratic vote by about 3%.

Voters already need to sign their names twice when they vote; and because of the mechanics of elections, the poll workers are the people who live in the precinct where the voters live.  Anyone who has ever cast a ballot can see that the election inspectors and a vast proportion of the voters know each other on a personal basis.

            In fact, in a nation where a majority of the eligible electorate usually does not go to the polls, does anyone think that the ineligible are flocking to take their places?  The percentage of voters turning out is declining.  Two years ago, in New Jersey, the primary election turnout was 3%.

            Today, the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires federal government approval of changes to election rules in places with a history of racial discrimination.  The Supreme Court invalidated the provision on the basis that the states and counties subject to the requirement were determined based on data that is fifty years old, and therefore no longer valid.  But the key part of the decision held that the provision is discriminatory because, get this, other states not subject to the requirement, like Indiana and Pennsylvania that have recently enacted the same discriminatory rules, are not subject to pre-clearance and this bias is unfair.

            In other words, first the Supreme Court permitted the expansion of these discriminatory identification provisions based on century old data.  Today, they permitted the further expansion of these discriminatory provisions based on the fact that it wasn’t fair to single out some states and counties based on fifty year old data.

            This assault on voting rights by the Supreme Court, which preceded Bush v. Gore, is extremely dangerous.  It is closing the door to free and fair elections in favor of a two-party fix skewed to empower the wealthy.  Obama will not be president forever.  If there is no free, fair and peaceful mechanism for setting priorities and resolving disputes, then violence will result. 

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf