by EUGENE ROBINSON, The Washington Post
When Michelle Obama called voting rights “the movement of our era” in a speech Saturday night, she didn’t specifically mention the Republican-led crusade for restrictive voter identification laws. She didn’t have to.
Her audience at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual gala dinner fully understood the context. It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, the right to vote is once again under assault from those who would prefer to keep minorities, the poor and the elderly away from the polls. But here we are.
Let’s be clear: Voter ID laws are not a solution to the “problem” of voter fraud. There is no problem, or at least no problem that would be solved by voter ID. Proponents should be able to point to troubling instances of voter-impersonation fraud, which is the only kind that would be prevented by the new laws. But they can’t. For all intents and purposes, this kind of fraud simply does not happen.
What did happen in 2008 was that African Americans, Hispanics and poor people — traditional Democratic Party constituencies — voted in unusually large numbers. And what happened in 2010 was that Republicans took control of more statehouses and set out to reshape the electorate and make it GOP-friendly.
Not coincidentally, this voter ID campaign has been particularly intense in swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Invariably, advocates cloak the restrictive new measures in pious-sounding rhetoric about “the integrity of the voting process.” This sounds uncontroversial — who’s against integrity? — until you weigh the laws’ unconscionable costs against their undetectable benefits.
“But you need an ID to do a lot of things, like board a plane,” advocates say. Unlike commercial air travel, however, voting is a constitutionally protected right. To infringe or abridge that right — for no demonstrable reason — should be considered a crime against democracy. [MORE]