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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of Purple Fingers and Voter ID Laws

In a decision by the Supreme Court, Indiana was granted the ability to require a government-issued photo-ID card for voting. While the court decision was disappointing - there were a number of areas where there is still hope. The Court held that the law was not unconstitutional - but they further had a problem in that there was not any actual "damaged" plaintiff at this point. Unfortunately, it will take an election cycle for that to happen, and thousands of people will be disenfranchised in November just to prove this point.

How did we get here? Societies over time have functioned for hundreds of years based upon TRUSTING their citizens to do the right thing. In the US until just recently, if you stated you were a citizen, you were believed. No one questioned you, or needed you to produce documents to verify this claim. I would argue that documents do not prove who you are anyway. Anyone can order up a copy of a birth certificate. It's just a piece of paper. If I do that - how do you (or any government agency) know that is really me? Social security card? That thing is so easy to forge it is a joke! And it was never supposed to be used for an ID card anyway (says so in the Social Security Act - which as far as I know has not been repealed!). Photo ID? I have a birth certificate (not necessarily mine), a fake Social Security card, and I go to the DMV and have my picture taken and put on a 'government-issued ID card'. Voila! Identity theft! SO who actually gets to decide if I am who I say I am?

The right has argued, and very successfully unfortunately, that these ID cards are necessary to prevent voter fraud by 'illegal aliens'. What this tells me is that they are even more out of touch with the reality of life as an 'illegal' than I thought it was possible to be. So-called 'illegals' live in the cash economy for the most part and so do not have or use identification of any sort. They don't have bank accounts, credit cards, and all the assorted 'papers' that most of us take for granted. Come to think of it - this applies to a large population of poor and minority people in areas all over the country who ARE citizens!

Back to the 'illegals'. Because of their immigration status - the idea that they would first, register to vote, and then vote is absolutely laughable. 'Illegals' stay as far away from government agencies as possible because each contact means a risk of exposure. They AVOID registering to vote, do not apply for government benefits (welfare, food stamps), avoid doctors and hospitals as much as possible, and while they do send their kids (many of whom are US citizens) to school, at the least whiff of problems, the entire family will pull up stakes and 'disappear'.

Investigations by the Justice Department and other voter organizations have looked specifically for evidence of this massive voter fraud alleged by the right wingers - and have found nothing. And this is even in the polluted Justice Department where prosecution is selective based on political affiliation and where you would suppose that if there were even one single case of 'illegals' voting, it would have been all over Fox News and Rush and the rest for weeks as a justification for this pack of lies.

The rightwingnuts claim they want every voter to vote - but their actions tell a different story. They actively pursue policies that disenfranchise voters from poor, minority and elderly communities where these voters tend to vote disproportionately for the opposition. Their motto seems to be "if you can't pursuade them, get rid of them."

In stark contrast, in our misguided bid to 'bring democracy to Iraq', elections were held there. The people signed up to vote (no ID needed) - and voter fraud was prevented by the "purple finger" - something the Iraqis used as a badge of pride that they had participated in. While there were known 'foreign fighters' in the country at the time - no one felt that they would vote and/or impact the election to such a point that it required massive disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens because they don't have the proper papers!

Our society is built on trust. We trust our government officials (wrongly in the case of this administration) to do the right thing for the country. We trust each other to follow the rules for the most part. And up until recently, the people were trusted to tell the truth when they were asked if they were a citizen when they signed up to vote. The United States is the most powerful country on earth. Why are we so afraid of our own shadows? And why is our government so afraid of us - the people of the United States? After all, the illegal spying and wiretapping and ID cards and all that crap is aimed, not at some terrorist in a cave in the far east - but at regular citizens just going about their business and trying to live their lives, and yes - participate in our own democracy.

And the Question Is.....

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