Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Is this the man you want protecting American voting rights?

The battle over Voter ID laws reached a fever pitch the other day when John Tanner, who heads the US DOJ division voting rights section, testified in Congress recently.

In 2004 Washington's gubernatorial race was decided by 132 votes after two recounts. Along the way we learned of massive errors at virtually every level of the election system. Sad to say, this was more evidence of a nationwide problem with election systems, as demonstrated most clearly by the circumstances of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Since then Democrats and Republicans have been fighting fiercely over voter ID requirements. Republicans argue, with some merit, that the voting franchise belongs to eligible US citizens only, and not to aliens, felons or dead people, all of whom somehow manage to cast votes in every election. Democrats argue, also with some merit, that the real problem of elections is administrative, and the number of illegal votes cast is miniscule by comparison to the number of miscounted or uncounted votes that often tip the balance of elections.

Of course, the real issue isn't election integrity. Rather, the issue is the competence and wherewithal of the voter pool. Voters who are better educated and well off financially tend to vote Republican. Voters who are poor or otherwise disadvantaged tend to vote Democratic. Obviously a Voter ID requirement will further disadvantage those already disadvantaged, if only for the extra rigmarole that will be required to access the voting booth.

But what happened in Congress was something new. Basically, Mr. Tanner relied on racial stereotypes to justify the administration's support of voter ID requirements. Outraged, the New York Times has called for his termination.


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