“You can’t vote unless you can prove that you are who you say you are. All you need is a picture ID.”
That sounds sensible and reasonable, doesn’t it? That’s the Republican line for wanting to pass laws requiring picture identification for voters. They point out that if someone doesn’t have photo identification, they can be provided one at no cost by the state. Again, that sounds sensible and reasonable. One such law was passed in Wisconsin in May of this year.
But the devil’s always in the details, isn’t it? Because earlier this month a high-ranking Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) executive sent out a memo which said,:
“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it.”
Now, I could understand it if this were a business enterprise that wanted to keep its employees from telling customers about this or that really good discount, but this isn’t a business. This is government, and how anyone in government can honorably justify making it more difficult for someone to engage in the most basic of all actions of a citizen in a democracy, voting, I don’t know. Oh, I know he’ll justify it by saying “We’re trying to cut costs,” but the key word in my question is honorably, and honor has nothing to do with this particular policy.
Why? Because in a recent test run, nearly 20 percent of all voters did not bring photo identification to the polling place. Because those who lack photo identification are more likely to be minority members or students or who are poor, all of whom strongly tend to vote Democratic, all of whom would be less likely to be keeping up with the latest changes to state policy and who would be much less likely to fork over the money to pay for a photo identification since the government functionary is not allowed to inform them of the free voter identification card. It should never be a requirement that one must know all the recent changes to state voting law in order to be able to cast a vote! If anything, this is a back door poll tax.
And is it a coincidence that the high ranking Wisconsin DOT executive who sent out the memo is Steve Kreiser, who was formerly a Republican state senate aide who was appointed to this position just last month? Remember, Wisconsin is the same state where a state election was decided by over fourteen thousand votes that a Republican voting official “found” on her computer, thus reversing the liberal candidate’s lead and winning the election for the state Supreme Court for the conservative candidate, who just happened to be her former boss.
But wait! It gets better! Earlier this week a Wisconsin state employee in a department other than the DOT, was fired for sending out the following e-mail to a few of his fellow employees:
Do you know someone who votes that does not have a state ID that meets requirements to vote? Tell them they can go to the DMV/DOT and get a free ID card. However they must ask for the free ID. A memo was sent out by the 3rd in command of the DMV/DOT. The memo specifically told the employees at the DMV/DOT not to inform individuals that the ID’s are free. So if the individuals seeking to get the free ID does not ask for a free ID, they will have to pay for it!!
Why did he send out the e-mail?
I decided that I thought it would be prudent as a fellow citizen of the state and just a decent human being in general to send out an email to all of my constituents where I work that they should be informed. As a result, I am not apparently employed.
Yep! Not only are Wisconsin DOT employees barred from telling people about the secret free photo ID cards, but apparently all Wisconsin state employees are barred from mentioning them, even to each other!
So will any Republicans of importance stand up against this affront against democracy? Of course not, for the secret free photo identification card is in the best tradition of a particularly seminal moment in the history of the Republican party in which Paul Weyrich, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, said the following in a speech in front of 15,000 Baptist preachers, Jerry Falwell and Ronald Reagan:
I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
Matthew Vedum, a former vice president of the Heritage Foundation and now senior editor of the Capital Research Center, is following in Paul Weyrich’s footsteps:
Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country– which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote… Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor. It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money.
That’s right, in the eyes of the Republican cognoscenti, it’s now unpatriotic to help the poor to vote, and if what’s happened in Wisconsin is any indication, it’s their patriotic duty to hinder the poor from voting!
I look forward to the day when someone among the Republican elite will stand up for democracy, and against hindering our own tired, poor, and wretched refuse from being able cast a simple vote. I figure I’m going to have to live a long, long time to see that day.