Monday, May 12, 2008

Citzenship Test For Voting

The Supreme Court let stand an Indiana law requiring a photo ID to vote. The first victims of the resurrected law were some elderly nuns in South Bend. They had no driver licenses. Now Missouri plans to go one better by requiring evidence of citizenship -- a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport. Ever since a defeated California Republican congressman charged that his loss came at the hands of the illegal votes of the undocumented, the GOP sniffed an advantage.

In defending the purity of the ballot box, Republicans profess to cleans registration roles of rampant fraud -- hence the demand for photo IDs. Voter fraud is a criminal matter but has been as American as apple pie in 19th century. To believe the GOP its lingers on into the 21st. The old methods of registration, house visit by party workers to assure residence, etc. were areed and long-standing practices and used by both parties. Now the issue has reverted to some old nastiness. In the past poll taxes were used to exclude blacks from the vote. The new methods -- at least as Democrats claim -- are meant to discourage the elderly, the poor and minorities from voting. It's hard for them to come by photo IDs or documents like a birth certificate.

Arizona already has a citizenship verification system for voting. Missouri will vote on one soon and may have it in the state constitution by August. Some estimate this will cause as many as 240,000 now registered Missouri voters to be dropped. Twelve other states are thinking of similar measures. Do non-citizens actually vote? The evidence is mixed, but experts believe it to be a very minor problem -- compared to the cost it will take to administer the law and to the problems with voting machines. The intent of the proponents is to discourage the vote of the Hispanic minority. Project Vote, a movement to register and get out the Hispanic vote, already finds the Arizona law chilling. Registering the poor and elderly, blacks and Latinos is difficult enough. It may become impossible since they have problems getting or holding on to documentation. (See NY Times article.)

Some conservative House Democrats -- known as "Blue Dogs" -- have join forces with Tom Tancredo and his nativist GOP buddies to push the Secure America through Verification Enforcement (SAVE) Act. This bill would require all employers to verify that a worker has the right to be employed here. If the employer can't verify then the worker can't be hired or must be fired. The vehicle for verification would be E-verify -- this is a check of employment record with Social Security record. The system is already being utilized by 61,000 employers and has uncovered a great number of inaccuracies that threaten bother the immigrant and the native worker. Now hearings in Congress has raised the question of the burden the new responsibility of verification would cause for the Social Security Administration. Already the SSA is heavily burdened and running behind in many payments, notwithstanding its success in getting the monthly checks out. The time also is ominous -- just before SSA must confront the first retirees of the baby boom generation. Verification should not the SSA's job. The NY Times editorially advises Congress not to go there, but rather incorporate any enforcement into a comprehensive reform.

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