Thursday, May 1, 2008

Did the U.S. Supreme Court Just Elect John McCain ?

This is the title of an article on truthout. By 6-3 the Court has upheld an Indiana law that requires citizens to present a photo identification card in order to vote. Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, Hawaii and South Dakota have similar laws. Though it's unlikely, as many as two dozen other states could add them by election day. Other states, like Ohio, have less stringent ID requirements than Indiana's, but still have certain restrictions that are strongly opposed by voter rights advocates.

The decision turns back centuries of voting and jurisprudence that accepts a voter's signature at the voting booth. The Justices in their opinion admitted there is "no evidence" for wide spread voter fraud for enacting these laws, but yet here we are.

Voting rights activists have long argued that since photo ID can cost money, or may demand expensive trips to government agencies, the requirement constitutes a "poll tax." Taxes on the right to vote were used for a century to prevent blacks and others from voting in the south and elsewhere. They were specifically banned by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1964.

Justice Stevens, the court's most reliable liberal wrote the opinion for the 6-3 court arguing though rare, the "risk of voter fraud" was nonetheless "real" and that there was "no question about the legitimacy or importance of the state's interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters."

This latest Supreme Court decision is yet another serious blow to voting rights advocates - and probably to the Democratic nominees for President and other offices. It will clearly make it far more difficult for poor, minority, elderly and young citizens to vote. Tens of thousands of normally Democratic voters in key states - especially Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Louisiana - will simply be prevented from getting a ballot.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law in its "Friend of the Court" brief noted that between 10% and 13% of eligible voters lack the identification now required in Indiana. People without an official photo ID tend to be disproportionately minorities and poor, ushering a new Jim Crow era based on race and class apartheid. One Indiana study, according to Inter Press Service reporter Jim Lobe, found that 13.3% of registered Indiana voters lacked the now-required ID, but the numbers were significantly higher for black voters at 18% and young voters age 18-34 at more than 20%. Read the rest here.

There is no other reason for these laws, but to disenfranchise voters at the polls. There are not widespread voter fraud throughout the nation. It just does not exist, yet we now have a Supreme Court decision that states one must have an I.D. at the polls. While the danger for 2008 is real, 2010 could open the flood gates.

Shame on Justice Stevens.

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