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Washington: A voting-fraud or vote-suppression state?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on April 29, 2008 at 6:46 pm with No Comments »
April 29, 2008 6:46 pm

The election-day nightmare of Republicans is voting fraud, traditionally the specialty of Democratic machines.

The election-day nightmare of Democrats is vote-suppression, the specialty of shifty conservatives who worry about the rabble’s political inclinations. The masters of suppression were the old-time Southern Democrats who devised poll taxes, literacy tests, lynching and various other tactics to keep blacks from voting. No – take that back. The masters were the founding fathers, who restricted the franchise to white, male property owners.

That’s the political context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday to uphold Indiana’s voter-ID law. Indiana’s Republican Legislature in 2005 required voters to produce government-issued, photo IDs when they showed up at the polls. Democrats challenged the law, fearing it would discourage voting by marginalized citizens with no picture ID.

John Paul Stevens, arguably the court’s most liberal member, wrote the main opinion upholding the law. The Democrats had pointed out that the Republicans could point to no actual fraud that justified the ID requirement. Perhaps, said Stevens, but neither had the Dems been able to point to any actual suppression that justified overturning it.

Disputes over who gets to vote and who doesn’t should be of keen interest to Washingtonians, in light of the incredibly narrow gubernatorial election we saw in 2004. Gregoire, on the second recount, won by 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast – one of the closest elections, in percentage terms, in history. (Gregoire, by the way, says she’s still asked about that infinitesimal margin wherever she goes in the world.)

So are we a fraud state or a suppression state?

As with Indiana, there’s not much evidence of one or the other here, but fraud and allegations of fraud have certainly been more in the news. With motor-voter registration, mail balloting and other super-easy-to-vote policies on the books, most of the complaints have been coming from Republicans – especially since those bundles of ballots kept mysteriously materializing in King County after the election four years ago.

Taking notice
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