Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Chubbing" to Death Voter ID

A spate over voter fraud between Democrats and Republicans before and after last year's election led to numerous state legislative proposals to require identification at the polls -- even at times photo ID. Those proposals, usually advanced by Republicans, are still kicking around state legislatures. Democrats, since they did pretty well last year, have been able to prevent voter id proposals to get very far. The Oklahoma legislature, controlled by the GOP, sent a bill to the governor, but the Democrat governor vetoed it. In Texas, where Republicans alsorule but noe with a governor, the Democrats reverted to an old state tradition -- "chubbing". This is merely talking something to death. The way the tactic works is to prolong debate on minor bills so that the body -- this time the House -- cannot get to serious debate and vote on crucial issues. The Texas Legislature meets for only 140 days and the delaying tactic has pushed the House up to adjournment. Important issues suc as home insurance for the hurricane prone Gulf coast and child health insurance might have to be put off. The Democrats hope this will result in the withdrawl of the voter ID measure. (See New York Times article.)

While the issue has many political overtones, it's not just politics as usual. True, the Democrats are protecting their voter base -- minorities, immigrants and the poor -- and Republicans are shocked by political shenanigans of their opponents. But those most likely not to have proper ID, especially photo ID, are minorities, the poor and the elderly. To get the type of ID the legislatures are asking -- driver's licenses or special photo ID voter cards -- are usually too bureaucratically burdensome for them. You don't have to go back to the disputed Florida elections of 2000, there were plenty of people turned back from the polls in 2008. There were few provable episodes of fraud, and mostly bureaucratic foul-ups. The question is more the rights of poor people.

The New York Times tells the story of the overdose death of a young Ohio man that traces all the ways back to Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. The drug cartels may be shooting each other up in Mexico, but in Ohio it's business as usual. And business is good. In the process the cartels are recruiting out-of-work undocumented immigrants and even sending naive camposinos to the country via coyotes. Two such were charge with manslaughter and sentenced by Ohio courts in the killing of a Columbus man to whom they sold heroin. After sentancing, the man's mother recognized that all were victims of the cartel -- the man who overdosed, the grieving mother and the two undocumented immigrants.

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