We here at Animal Control must extend a hearty, albeit somewhat tardy, welcome to former Gov. Robert “Bobby Smooth” Ehrlich to the ranks of the columnists’ union. (Don’t worry, Bob—there are no dues, and the only thing we can all agree on is the time happy hour starts.) But we have to shake our head and chuckle mordantly at the subject of one of his first missives in The Baltimore Sun, regarding the new voter-identification laws around the country.
Would it seem a little ironic to you, dear reader, that the man taking on this topic is one whose last campaign paid political ratfucker Julius Henson $111,150 to tell black voters in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City to “stay home,” and then spent $168,000 more in legal fees to defend his consigliere Paul Schurick on the same charges? Now, it’s no big deal—believe it or not—at the gubernatorial level to spend 110 grand and not know about it, but campaigns are small, tightly run things, even at the state level. There was only one person in the chain of command between Ehrlich and Henson, and that was Schurick, and you’re gonna tell me that in the last days of the campaign when you’re trying to swing whatever votes you can at the last minute, you’re not going to tell the boss about cutting a check for $110,000?
Uh huh, yeah.
So, at the start, let’s just say that the black voters of the state of Maryland might look with a somewhat jaundiced eye at whatever our former governor might have to say when it comes to voting, especially since we now have a Maryland case of “voter fraud” so fresh it smells like mint. But we still have a duty to examine his claims, and the context therein.
Let’s just stipulate, up front, that it would be a grand, grand thing for everyone to have identification at the polls. Oh, what a wonderful world that would be! But the fact remains: IDs cost money—and we know how conservatives are about costs and government mandates, right? Poor people need to take time off from jobs to go to offices that are only open during working hours to go get government identification, thus losing money. Often times this identification costs money—in essence, a poll tax. In some places, such as the larger states (and often, the Southern states), these offices are in distant and out-of-the-way locations, thus requiring the poor to pay for transportation to get the ID they must pay for while losing pay for taking time off.
On top of that, there’s the fact that the lack of uniformity of the laws means that in Texas you can use a concealed weapons permit as voter ID but not a card issued from a state university. In Wisconsin, the card issued to veterans by the federal government for health benefits wouldn’t qualify. In the past week, Wisconsin’s new law was blocked by a judge, and the Texas law was struck down by the Justice Department.
The poor tend to be disproportionately students, minorities, and the elderly, who tend to vote disproportionately Democratic. So, if you’re a conservative and you really wanted to drive down the number of your opponents making it to the polls, why not throw in a roadblock in the form of voter-ID laws?
Now far be it from me here to be cynical, but if I saw even half the effort from the right in this country to make sure that voter identification was paid for, I might consider that all the new laws aren’t a cynical effort to cut down the Democratic voter base. But then I remember the words of David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney fired by the Bush administration in 2006, to Harper’s magazine:
One cannot fully comprehend the recent Justice Department meltdown without understanding the belief in New Mexico, Missouri, and Washington State Republican circles, that the 2000 election and subsequent contests were rife with fraud. It set the stage for what followed during the scandal surrounding the forced resignations in 2006 of United States Attorneys John McKay of Seattle, Todd Graves of Kansas City, and me. We were all criticized by Republican operatives for not filing voter or election fraud cases in our respective districts. Each of us examined the evidence and did not find any provable cases, so no indictments were filed. I remember hearing Republican activists allege that the Democrats stole the election in New Mexico during the 2000 presidential election. I heard that illegal immigrants were voting in large numbers. If true this would be criminal, but prosecutors may not base their cases on rumor and innuendo but on admissible evidence they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Al Gore’s margin of victory in my state, 344 votes, was the slimmest win of any state in the union, and I believe it led local Republicans to vow that would never happen again.So why wouldn’t we think something is fishy with these laws? Me, I got no ID.