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Oct
2014
15

One Of Their Own: Conservative Judge Admits Voter ID Is “Aimed at Limiting Voting by Minorities”

Posner

Posner



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In his 30-page opinion conservative Judge Richard A. Posner last week dismantled the Republican argument for Voter ID laws after hearing the Wisconsin Voter ID law case as part of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The law was eventually shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2007 Posner, a Reagan appointee, wrote the decision upholding Indiana’s Voter ID Law.  But in a 2013 book he said that such laws, “are properly regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention.”  His new take on the law sets the table for his latest opinion, the Los Angeles Times writes:

“There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud,” he writes, “and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.” More specifically, he observes, photo ID laws are “highly correlated with a state’s having a Republican governor and Republican control of the legislature and appear to be aimed at limiting voting by minorities, particularly blacks.” In Wisconsin, according to evidence presented at trial, the voter ID law would disenfranchise 300,000 residents, or 9% of registered voters.

Posner systematically demolishes every argument mustered in support of voter ID laws. Combating voter fraud? “There is compelling evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is essentially nonexistent in Wisconsin.” Assertions about voter fraud are “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters.” He adds that “some of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid, such as the nonexistent buses that according to the ‘True the Vote’ movement [a voter suppression organization originating in the tea party movement] transport foreigners and reservation Indians to polling places.”

Indeed, Posner writes, lists of the states that impose the strictest requirements “imply that a number of conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream, whether because of poverty or race or problems with the English language…to vote.”

Posner addresses other right-wing fallacies regarding the need for Voter IDs:

How about the argument that photo ID is required to board a plane and for many other routine actions, so what’s the harm in requiring it for voting? Posner points out that the requirement of photo ID for flying is “a common misconception.” Nor is it true, as the three-judge appeals panel had it, that photo ID is required to pick up a prescription (not so in Wisconsin and 34 other states, Posner observes); open a bank account (not true anywhere in the country) or buy a gun (not true under federal law at gun shows, flea markets, or online).

Then there’s the argument that getting a photo ID is easy and cheap, and therefore that people without them must not care enough about voting to bother. The three-judge panel wrote that obtaining a photo ID merely requires people “to scrounge up a birth certificate and stand in line at the office that issues driver’s licenses.” Posner replies that he himself “has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about ‘scrounging’ it up.” Posner appends a sheaf of documents handed to an applicant seeking a photo ID for whom no birth certificate could be found in state records. It ran to 12 pages.

As for its supposedly negligible cost, “that’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.” He cites a study placing the expense of obtaining documentation at $75 to $175 — which even when adjusted for inflation is far higher than “the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.”

What else can be said. A legitimate conservative, widely considered one of the greatest legal scholars of our day, is the one providing a step-by-step take-down of his own side’s tired stance.  These laws not only aim to solve a problem that does not exist, they aim to roll back laws meant to ensure that all Americans are free to elect their leaders without interference.  At stake is nothing more than a little thing called “progress.”

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