Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Congresswoman Carson, you can't vote with this ID.

Across the country, Republican legislatures have restricted the forms of identification a voter may present in order to vote, ostensibly in an effort to reduce fraud. In reality, it's an effort to restrict the vote to those who can afford those forms of identification, and to disenfranchise the rest: the poor, the elderly, the people of color, and the city dwellers who might, but for identification, vote Democratic.

And today, that effort almost disenfranchised a Congresswoman.

Indiana's new voter-ID law had its first test Tuesday and ran into a snag moments after the polls opened when U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's congressional identification created confusion.

Carson's card does not have an expiration date as the new law requires of valid voter IDs, and Indianapolis poll workers tried to reach election officials before allowing the five-term Democratic congresswoman to cast her ballot shortly after her polling place opened at 6 a.m.

She was able to vote, but what if she hadn't been Julia Carson, Congresswoman? What if she had simply been Julia Carson, voter? Would she have been allowed to vote, or would she join the millions that these laws seek to disenfranchise? Would you?

Make no mistake, if your state legislature is Republican, they either have passed or will pass similar legislation. In Wisconsin, the Republican legislature passed restrictive voter id legislation; Wisconsin's Democratic governor vetoed it, citing its disproportionate impact on vulnerable voters. It will surely pass if he is defeated by his Republican challenger. In Georgia, the Republican legislature passed and the Republican governor signed restrictive voter id legislation, only to have it voided by the courts, who compared it to a poll tax; the legislature and governor then passed the legislation a second time, with trivial modifications.

Is your state among those considering such legislation? If it is, contact your elected officials and demand that they protect your right to vote.

A vote is not a video rental. A voter shouldn't be denied a ballot simply because they failed to produce identification preferred by the Republican Party; a voter should have the right to vote, and there should be no restriction of that right beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the integrity of an election.

Republican voter identification laws clearly do not meet that high standard. They should not be allowed to stand.