It's as predictable as the first robin in the spring. The General Assembly is in session, and Republicans are squealing like monkeys in a mango tree to pass some kind of voter ID bill.
We've been down this road before. It was a bad idea last year and the year before that and the year before that. And it looks like a good way to get the state embroiled in another big, hairy, no-win lawsuit, not to mention another segment on The Daily Show.
But damn the logic! Damn the expense! The GOPers are moving ahead with reckless abandon. And they're serious this time! The 2008 election scared the hell out of them thanks to a record black turnout, and they are not going to let that happen again.
What we are talking about here is a bill that would require registered voters to show a picture ID at the polling place before they are allowed to vote. And why would the Wise Ones in Columbia do such a thing?
Ask a GOPer and he will tell you that it's to prevent voter fraud — you know, where somebody pretends to be somebody he's not in order to vote. Ask him to show you an example of said voter fraud in South Carolina and he will give you the kind of deer-in-the-headlights stare that Sarah Palin gave Katie Couric when the CBS anchor asked the vice-presidential candidate what newspapers she read.
You see, there are no known cases of voter fraud in South Carolina in recent decades. And you could count all the cases of false-identity voter fraud in the whole country on your hands. Despite all the ranting and railing of the right-wing media, despite all the allegations and imputations against ACORN, no one has ever said that the community organizing group was trying to commit false-identity voter fraud. The worst thing they were found doing was getting false signatures on voter lists — names like Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse. I think these frauds would be stopped with or without a voter ID.
As Charleston attorney Armand Derfner told the Statehouse Report recently, "We've never had a complaint of that kind of fraud." The real fraud, he said, is this proposed law.
Not only is voter ID unnecessary; it's expensive. With our state's tax base shrinking, with teachers and other state employees being furloughed, with some of the worst schools in the nation and infrastructure years behind in maintenance, our General Assembly can't reach into its pocket and produce over a million dollars to fund picture ID cards for thousands of people, provide training for poll workers, and pay for other expenses related to this ill-begotten piece of legislation.
Critics call this bill a solution in search of a problem — and a rather expensive solution at that. So again the question: Why?
The answer to that question is in the DNA of the GOP.
Voter ID is nothing less than a plan to disenfranchise 178,000 South Carolina voters. Yes, that's how many registered voters in this state have no picture ID, according to the State Elections Commission.
Republicans whine that it's no big deal. You need a picture ID to have a bank account or credit card, drive a car, get a passport — all the things that middle-class people take for granted. And that's exactly the point. A lot of people in this historically poor state are not middle class. They don't have credit cards or bank accounts, cars or passports. But they do have the right to vote.
All of them are poor; most of them are black. And they are the very people that the white establishment has been trying to keep away from the polls for well over a century. In the past they have used literacy tests, grandfather laws, poll taxes, and other contrivances to preserve the social order. Voter ID follows in this same shameful tradition.
Because some people's resources — including transportation — are so limited, it could be an imposition to require them to go to the DMV to have their photo ID made. In a healthy democracy the legislature would do all in its power to expand the electorate. Our General Assembly has historically taken the opposite position.
Voter ID has passed the Senate and is working its way through the House. This stinker of a bill, H. 3418, will turn back the nearly half a century of progress this state has made in expanding the franchise. Take a few minutes to let your representative know that voter ID is not the kind of democracy we need. He or she is not that hard to find. Go to scstatehouse.gov/html-pages/house2.html.
Remember: The vote you save may be your own.
Read more about the voter ID hustle at charlestoncitypaper.com/blogs/thegoodfight.