Voter ID opposition: Quite a show

  • Article by: JASON LEWIS
  • Updated: June 23, 2012 - 5:19 PM

No one's being disenfranchised, but a legal challenge lacks merit in any case.

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Last month, former Houston Chronicle reporter Sarah Tressler filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against the paper because she was allegedly terminated for being a stripper. Apparently even a few progressive media outlets draw the line at pole dancing. Hey, an employment contract is an employment contract.

But Ms. Tressler's assertion that the company's ban is unfair to women because they dominate the exotic dancing industry is no more ludicrous than what opponents of voter ID laws routinely dredge up.

Minnesota has an amendment on the ballot this fall requiring voters to "present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot." Ironically, the ACLU (at the behest of the League of Women Voters and Common Cause) is seeking to deny voters access to the measure by asking the state's highest court to intervene.

The liberal groups, sounding a lot like Tressler, say ID laws disproportionately affect certain classes of voters and thus present a "barrier" to the ballot box. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has sought to ban photo identification in federal elections, and his colleague, Rep. Barbara Lee of California even compared voter ID requirements to a poll tax, saying proponents are "turning the clock back to the days of Jim Crow."

It's hardly surprising, then, that President Obama's Justice Department is seeking to block implementation of newly enacted voter ID laws in a number of local jurisdictions.

But is asking voters to put forth a modicum of effort toward honest elections really too large an impediment for disaffected classes? Yes, say the aforementioned groups so transparently wedded to Democrats' interests.

The courts, however, have been understandably reluctant to give so-called "disparate impact" much weight with regard to state regulations (not so in cases of private discrimination, where the questionable analysis has been used since 1971's Griggs vs. Duke Power). After all, nearly every law passed is bound to have a disproportionate effect on some group.

Case in point: St. Paul actually withdrew a related appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year that the city was expected to win. It seems the city's aggressive code enforcement on rental properties was, according to defendant landlords, having a "disparate impact" on the availability of affordable housing for minority renters.

A victory for St. Paul, feared the same liberal activist groups fighting voter ID, would hence undermine "disparate impact" analysis in other cases. So the city gave a pass to those it had labeled "slumlords" so as not to upset the civil-rights intelligentsia.

Of course, when it comes to photo identification, no one's being disenfranchised anyway. Like those in 32 other states, the Minnesota proposal offers a free, state-issued ID to anyone who desires it as well as provisional balloting until valid identification can be located. That's especially important considering that all you need now to cast a ballot in Minnesota is one "registered" voter to "vouch" for your eligibility.

Nice. Maybe that's why in 2008 the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision written by liberal lion Justice John Paul Stevens, upheld Indiana's voter ID requirement for the simple reason that the law "is amply justified by the valid interests in protecting 'the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.' "

On election night 2008, Minnesota's Senate race had Norm Coleman the victor by some 726 votes. By the time county officials, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, the State Canvassing Board and a Ramsey County District Court all took a closer look, Al Franken was up by roughly 312. The thousand-vote swing required nearly every new tally -- fought over duplicate ballots, missing votes and absentee rejections -- to break in favor of Franken.

Assuming the Minnesota DFL just got lucky, it is nevertheless easy to see (especially since Franken's victory allowed a filibuster-proof Democratic majority to pass President Obama's controversial agenda) how even a small amount of voter fraud in elections this close can and do make a difference.

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Jason Lewis is a nationally syndicated talk-show host based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and is the author of "Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States' Rights," from Bascom Hill Publishing. He can be heard locally from 5 to 8 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk Radio, 1130-AM, and at jasonlewisshow.com.

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