As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country. So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY). It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.
Direct democracy through popular intiatives and referenda began a
century ago as a grassroots, progressive reform aimed at circumventing
corrupt legislatures and increasing civic involvement. The long history of this reform
indicates that in the whole this experiment in direct popular
participation in the legislative process has been successful as an
avenue for passing populist policies that maintains the favor of
the public over time. However, throughout this history there have
also been attempts, sometimes successful, to manipulate the process and
the electorate into passing legislation that would not garner majority
support had voters possessed an accurate conception of its content and
By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home. Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.
Oklahoma State Legislature adjourned late Friday, May 23, a week
earlier than constitutionally-mandated. Lawmakers closed the session
with an agreement on a $7.1 billion state budget for the next fiscal
year. Overall the short 16 week session led to a mix bag of results.
Since the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) established the
requirement that first time voters present some form of identification
before voting in a federal election, voter identification requirements
of all sorts have been enacted across the country.Currently
26 states have laws that are more restrictive than the HAVA mandate,
and 21 states require ID from voters every time they vote.These laws have been passed by arguing they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, even though all evidence suggests that such fraud is extremely rare and poses no threat to the integrity of our voting systems.Instead, these fraud arguments have merely been a partisan tool, used for decades, to suppress turnout
among new groups entering the electorate in large numbers and
threatening the power of those currently in charge, whether they be
minorities, immigrants or students.