Unless you have lived, worked with, and especially employed young people in the inner city, it can be difficult to understand their situation. One of the most frustrating things about doing hires in the city is getting the proper documentation (usually a photo identification and a social security card). Very often, employment must be put off a week while these pieces of identification are found or acquired. So few people have access to cars that most people do not bother to get a driver’s license. It isn’t until they need a photo id to get a job that many people show up at the DMV to get an identification card.

Republicans are well aware of this, and they are more than willing to exploit it to disenfranchise urban voters. Take the case of Hans von Spakovsky, who was recently recess appointed to the Federal Election Commission.

Spakovsky has had a hand in every major voting controversy of the last six years:

As Election Commissioner in Atlanta, Spakovsky designed the plan to remove felons from the election rolls that was used by ChoicePoint in Florida in the 2000 elections. The notorious statewide purge resulted in the mistaken disenfranchisement of thousands of mostly Democratic minority voters and was decisive in putting George W. Bush in the White House. As Greg Palast sums it up: “After all, one man’s overzealous purge is another man’s inauguration!” Spakovsky is also an ardent supporter of the controversial voter photo ID requirement and he supported the DeLay Texas redistricting against the objection of the Voting Rights experts in the Justice Department.

Jeffrey Toobin described Spakovsky’s role in interpreting the Help American’s Vote Act (HAVA) for the Justice Department:

One of the more controversial parts of the new law requires, in most circumstances, voters who have registered by mail to provide their driver’s license or Social Security numbers, and to produce an official photo I.D. at the polls, or a utility bill. Hans A. von Spakovsky, a counsel to [R. Alexander] Acosta [the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division] and the main Justice Department interpreter of HAVA, wrote to Judith A. Armold, an assistant attorney general in Maryland, that the Justice Department believed states must “verify” the Social Security numbers that people submit on their registration forms. For most states, this requirement won’t apply until 2006, but it may be a major hurdle for both the states and newly registered voters.

No one should be confused about the motivations for the photo ID and Social Security card requirement. Many young urban voters are not sufficiently motivated to get a photo ID or to locate their Social Security card until they they are forced to as terms of employment. How many will be motivated for the less pressing need of access to the polls?

Officially, the Republicans argue that this policy is an anti-fraud device, and rhetorically, they ask white suburban voters how difficult can it be to prove your identity? Should people that cannot even make a trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles have the right to vote? And, they argue, most of these people are felons anyway.

…The Washington Post had disclosed [Justice Department’s voting] staff memoranda recommending objections to a Georgia voter-identification plan and to the Texas redistricting.

The 2005 Georgia case has been particularly controversial within the section. Staff members complain that higher-ranking Justice officials ignored serious problems with data supplied by the state in approving the plan, which would have required voters to carry photo identification.

Georgia provided Justice with information on Aug. 26 suggesting that tens of thousands of voters may not have driver’s licenses or other identification required to vote, according to officials and records. That added to the concerns of a team of voting-section employees who had concluded that the Georgia plan would hurt black voters.

But higher-ranking officials disagreed, and approved the plan later that day. They said that as many as 200,000 of those without ID cards were felons and illegal immigrants and that they would not be eligible to vote anyway.

The Justice Department’s voting section is just the latest part of this administration to revolt against the heavy-handed way the Bushies go about their business:

The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section’s decisions on hiring and policy.

“If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost,” former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: “The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this.”

But it has come to this. And as jpol pointed out two week ago, the recess appointments were not only controversial but highly unusual:

Much has already been written about President Bush’s 17 recess appointments announced on Thursday, many of them extremely controversial. It’s an old trick meant to get around those pesky Senate confirmation hearings. Every president uses it to one degree or another. Ronald Reagan made 240 during his two terms. George H.W. Bush made 77 in his one term. Bill Clinton made 140 in his two terms. George W. Bush made 110 in his first term. But these appointments are different. Based on precedent, the appointments would expire at the conclusion of the next session of the Senate at the end of 2006. But this president, in an interpretation that can only be termed bizarre, is insisting that a one-minute ceremonial pro forma meeting of the Senate that occurred on Tuesday, January 3rd, represented the opening meeting of the second session of the 109th Congress, which he interprets as giving life to his recess appointments until the end of 2007 rather than 2006.

The Bush administration is pushing the envelop at every opportunity. In this case, they are rolling back voting rights in an effort to dampen Democratic turnout, and to silence the voices of the young urban poor.

0 0 votes
Article Rating