-A Guest Post By Amanda Green
*For those who don’t know it, Amanda Green is Texan. She also might or might be my twin. For months my husband thought she was my pen name, and he still wavers, even after he met her. “I can’t tell your writing apart” says the love of my life. “That’s because we’re twins,” I say. “Makes sense,” he says — even though he’s met her and she’s a head taller than I and read-headed. Don’t ask me. Mathematician logic. They think in quantum leaps. Anyway, Amanda is not me, but she’s very kind to write a post for me, while I’m busy at Liberty con. Now ya’ll be nice or I tie your ears together behind your back when I get to my tablet.*
This week has been a roller coaster ride for those who watch what comes down from the Supreme Court. The week began with the cries of outrage ringing from the vaulted halls of media as SCOTUS struck down parts of the Voting Right Act. Those cries of outrage turned to cheers of joy as the SCOTUS roller coaster turned the corner and — WHEE — overruled parts of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as Prop 18 out of California.
While I have my own opinions about DoMA and Prop 18, that’s not what has me scratching my head. No, it is the howls of outrage over the scuttling of Section 4 and, as a result, much of Section 5 of the Voting Right Act. This act was initially passed in 1964 as a much needed safeguard for minority voting rights. Since then, it has been renewed several times by Congress. The last, if my memory serves correctly, in 2010. Each time it has been renewed, it was with very little change to the original legislation.
And that, according to the majority opinion handed down by SCOTUS, is the problem. Things have changed since 1964. All you have to do is look at the number of minorities who have been elected to office in that time to see it. If that isn’t enough, look at the number of objections the Justice Department has filed against the states that have been required to undergo federal monitoring, meaning they couldn’t do anything to change voting districts, etc., without first getting federal approval. The objections filed by the Justice Department over the last few years have been in the low single digits.
If that isn’t enough to justify doing away with federal monitoring, the let’s look at the fact the courts have already allowed municipal jurisdictions to file for exception to monitoring if they can prove they’ve gone ten years without problems. More and more jurisdictions over the years have proven they have met the requirements of the Act and such oversight is no longer necessary.
But let’s get back to the ruling. Unlike what those condemning are saying, it doesn’t say the federal government can’t continue to have oversight to insure equality at the polls. What it does say is fairly simple and, at least to me, logical. The conditions that existed in 1964 have changed. More than fifty years of oversight, of people becoming better educated and more aware of what is happening in their community, etc., have changed the status quo. That means you need to adapt the formula used to determine if a state or smaller jurisdiction needs to be monitored. In other words, use current world facts and needs to determine whether or not oversight is necessary.
In short, SCOTUS has left the door wide open for Congress to pass a new Voting Rights Act. Whether it does or not isn’t something the Court should have to worry about. The Court’s concern is if the law of the land, within the framework of the Constitution and justice, is being applied. Yes, that’s overly simplified, but you get my meaning. If you don’t like what SCOTUS did, then talk to your congressman or senator and let them know. Of course, these are the same congressmen and senators who have yet to pass a budget and haven’t in much too long. These are the same congressmen and senators who voted for Obamacare without reading the bill. These are the same congressmen and senators who continue to vote on bills that effect you and me and they rely on interns and clerks to tell them what is in the legislation.
But to get back to the point, after the SCOTUS ruling came down, Attorney General Greg Abbott quickly announced that Texas’ voters’ identification law would be put into effect. Oh the cries of outrage. Oh the people on facebook claiming they’d never move to Texas because of decisions like this. HuffPo, not to be outdone, published an article with the headline: Harsh Texas Voter ID Law ‘Immediately’ Takes Effect After Voting Rights Ruling.
Wow. Harsh Law. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Maybe to vote in Texas you’ll have to run the gauntlet to get into the polling place. Or maybe you have to sign over your first born. Or maybe you just have to prove you are eligible to vote.
Under the Texas law, in order to vote you have to present an approved form of identification. This ID can be in the form of your driver’s license, passport, concealed carry permit, military ID, citizenship papers with photo attached or state issued ID. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? But now, those who condemn the law say it discriminates against the poor and elderly. They might not have a photo ID and they might not have the money to get one.
Well, that’s not a stumbling block. The state will immediately start issuing ID cards — at no cost — that will be good for six years. So, no economic hardship.
But that’s still not enough. After all, the homeless might not know about this and they won’t have a mailing address, etc., etc., etc. Again, there are procedures in place for such situations.
However, let’s look at this realistically, folks. Even those who are out of work and many who are homeless have to have ID in order to get their benefits or to be able to cash their checks. If you go to the doctor’s office or hospital, you have to show ID when you are checked in. It is difficult to live completely off the radar these days and those who do aren’t likely to be voting because, guess what, that puts you right back on the paper trail.
Voting is a right, yes. It is guaranteed to citizens of the United States and of the individual states. But that doesn’t mean the states can’t take action to prevent voter fraud. Just as the federal government can oversee the states to make sure they don’t gerrymander voting districts, states can take “reasonable” steps to prevent voter fraud. In fact, any state that doesn’t is not acting in the best interest of its citizens.
I can hear the cries of outrage now. They are saying votes can be checked after they’ve been cast. You can make sure no two people voted under the same name. After all, that’s what voter registration lists are for. Sorry, but when you look at the voter fraud and intimidation we saw in the last two presidential elections, when you consider how the media calls elections based on single digit percentages of electoral districts reporting in, you can’t. In today’s world when elections are usually called within hours of the polls closing, and when it costs candidates thousands of dollars to ask for a recount, why not have some reasonable safeguards in place at the time of the election?
Every party has poll watchers present in major precincts. The state and feds wills end overseers if there is the slightest suggestion of problems. The media will be zooming in with their cameras to make sure the Voter ID law isn’t abused. Remember, when SCOTUS overturned Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, it didn’t say there couldn’t be safeguards and oversights put into place. It simply said they had to be applied based on a formula applicable to this day and age.
Neither the SCOTUS ruling or the Voter ID law will allow Texas or any other jurisdiction to discriminate based on race, religion, sex, etc., etc. Elections can still be challenged and, believe me, they will be. But there has to come a time when we step into the modern age of voting and require the same sort of proof of eligibility that we require to drive a car or buy alcohol or get married.
Voting is a right and something we should take seriously, very seriously. It affects not only us but our children and grandchildren. If was want to exercise our right to vote, we should not only educate ourselves about the issues and the candidates but we should be willing to present not only our voter’s registration card but our photo ID. With the State allowing those who don’t currently have an approved form of photo ID to get one for free, there is no bar left. At least not a reasonable one.
So, for those who say they’ll never move to Texas because we are backward and full of hicks who don’t want to move beyond the Uncle Tom days, grow up. Quit drinking the red kool-aid and parroting the approved party line. Type into your search engines a few simple terms and actually read the court opinions or the laws you are condemning. Or is that too much work for your poor, atrophied brains to handle? After all, it really is so much easier to just follow the crowd as it yells condemnations even as it hurtles over the edge of the cliff like a bunch of nice little lemmings.