Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Talk about identity politics

My opposition to voter ID laws is extensively documented. I’m against any regulations that make it harder for people to vote, especially when said regulations are a blatantly partisan attempt to disenfranchise entire demographics under the guise of thwarting a problem that barely exists in a statistical sense.

One point I’ve often harped upon is how difficult it can be for many people to obtain the specific form of photo ID that commissioners will accept. Even if access to DMV offices isn’t a problem — and for the elderly, infirm and transportationally challenged, it usually is — proper documentation and fees can be roadblocks.

I’ve often used my late grandmother as an example of the kind of person these laws would have kept from voting. She never had a photo ID, and she could walk to her polling place (which she very often did). But the nearest DMV was miles away, and the newer office is farther still. Sure, my grandfather could have driven her there, but that still would have meant a whole day in line, and that’s assuming she had her birth certificate from 1913 (and that it was acceptably certified). I’m sure she would have done it if necessary, but people like her really shouldn’t have to just to exercise a constitutional right that harms no one.

My grandmother died in 1999. But 90-year-old former Texas House Speaker Jim Wright is still alive. And he just experienced this travesty firsthand, in a way that’s even more absurd that I’ve so far imagined.

See, Wright is a legendary figure in Texas politics. He fought for expanded voting rights throughout his career, and presumably has voted a few times. Because his last driver’s license expired in 2010 — I assume because he decided he’s too old to keep driving — and because his TCU faculty ID doesn’t satisfy the stringent 2011 state voter law, he tried to get a new ID. And the Department of Public Safety turned him away. Harsh.

So what did Wright have to present where a not-so-expired ID and current wrong-kind-of-state-issued ID failed? A certified birth certificate. You know, to prove he hadn't morphed into zombie Molly Ivins in the past three years.

Take it away, assistant Norma Ritchson:

“I’ve been thinking about the people who are in retirement homes,” Ritchson said. “I’ve read that this is the lowest early voter turnout in a long time and I wonder if this [ID requirement] is the cause. We’ve tried so hard to make voting easy, and now the Texas Legislature has made it harder by making you have a photo ID.”

Opponents of tougher voter ID laws didn’t need a literal example of an elderly Democrat being nearly disenfranchised despite being fully entitled to vote, but we’ve got one.

What don’t we have yet? Significant proof of poll fraud.

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