Signifyin’: The New “Poll tax” Wisconsin’s mean-spirited voter I.D. law soon to become an unnecessary realityFebruary 11, 2011 // 0 Comments
by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
There are dozens of reasons why the proposed voter identification campaign is both politically myopic, if not morally mean-spirited.
While proponents of the bill say it is being advanced on a ‘high speed train’ to the governor’s office to stop what they claim is massive voter fraud in Wisconsin, the truth of the matter is that the most reliable research shows fraudulent votes amounted to 0.0008 percent of the votes cast.
Felons, who are not allowed to vote pending the end of their parole, cast most of the ‘fraudulent’ votes.
The 14 cases of felons voting in 2008 (which makes up over half of the fraudulent votes) didn’t amount to enough votes to sway any election in the state, thus making the proposed law even more nonsensical.
And, let’s not ignore the fact that if the state can detail how many illegal votes were cast—all 24 of them—apparently they caught the culprits and had them sent to Guantanamo, Cuba, or whatever they do with them since the death penalty is still illegal.
That the voter ID bill would introduce unnecessary and cumbersome roadblocks is undoubtedly true. But the other question is whether the bill will ensure Republican victories through the next century.
If we can believe some opponents, the bill will discourage anyone who is left of center from exercising their constitutional right on election day.
To believe that extreme, you have to assume those right of center are more motivated to vote, or currently possess acceptable identification.
That’s obviously not true, but it’s also not the greatest concern of those who look at the bill through non-partisan lenses. As it currently reads, the new voter ID will negatively impact the voter turnout as it includes provisions that unnecessarily burden even the most ardent voter.
Among the most questionable provisions of the proposed legislation include excluding college identifications as acceptable ID, forcing people who utilize absentee voting to include ‘government’ identification with their ballots (which is sealed and not opened until election day), and most alarmingly, ending same day registration.
And then there is the cost of implementing the new law, which would be in excess of $2.5 million.
Isn’t it ironic that the same people who on one hand decry expanding government and condemn state deficits are in the same breath proposing both under the guise of eliminating voter fraud?
I could go on and on, continuing with the fact that this law will move Wisconsin from the position of being the most voter friendly state in the country, to the most restrictive.
But the truth of the matter (and in spite of the massive outpouring of attacks from Democrats and their special interests) is that the voter ID bill is all but guaranteed to become law before the snow thaws.
Republicans now control the state assembly, senate and governor’s office. And voter ID is at the top of their agenda.
That means that opponents probably need to stop spitting into a strong wind, and instead focus their energies on motivating people, particularly African Americans, to vote—in spite of. And that may be a Herculean task given our recent awakening from a self induced political hypnotic state.
To be honest, I don’t embrace the doom and gloom some Democrats, unions and so-called liberals (champions of po’ Black folks) are predicting.
Saying Black folks will let a few new barriers stop us from voting is akin to saying Black students aren’t learning because they are poor.
I admit that a smaller percentage of us vote than any other ethnic group. But I don’t think that’s entirely because we don’t value the vote, or don’t know of the struggles our ancestors endured to gain that right.
I think most Black folks don’t vote for two reasons: We don’t have anyone to vote for, and we don’t see evidence that our vote has altered our abysmal status quo.
You can use the same excuse for White voter apathy as well. But as it relates to Black folks, it’s a far colder ice cube.
Black folks came out in droves for Barrack Obama and the Democrats.
But most did so because he was Black, or otherwise thought his election would signal the end of racism, reverse decades of impoverishment and substandard education, and unlock the doors of employment.
In retrospect, none of that happened, and I would guess if the presidential election were held Saturday, fewer Black people would go to the polls, surmising we got caught up in symbolism instead of substance.
As a result, next week’s primary elections will probably motivate 15% to 20% of the eligible Black voters to go to the polls, even though one of the most important supreme court races in recent history is on the ballot, and there is a chance to propel a Black county executive candidate (or two) to the April general elections.
If we really want to be honest, in the last couple of decades, Democrats have used emotional appeals to motivate Black voters to the polls, far more than promises of systemic change.
They have also resorted to using scare tactics because the truth is we are so far down on their priority list that we look up to see bottom.
And even Black politicians are finding it harder and harder to motivate Black voters. As I’ve recently concluded, Black folks are finally hip to the fact that we have historically elected Black candidates to office based on their ability to ‘articulate our plight,’ instead of offering solutions to our plight.
We have more Black politicians than any time in history, yet Black unemployment is still over 55% for Black men, we lead the nation in Black educational failure, and the Black poverty rate has remained over 40% since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
From that perspective, maybe the new voting restrictions may be a positive nuisance because it will force Black people to look at the electoral process in a different light, and those political entities who say they champion our causes will be forced to put something on the table that specifically targets our myriad of problems.
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