Here’s far-Right ideologue and voting rights opponent Scott Walker making the usual deliberately misleading conservative comparison between a commercial transaction and the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote:
“Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud,” Walker said. “If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it’s reasonable to require it to vote.”
Conservatives like Walker continue to compare voting to buying cold medicine or cashing a check or driving a car, none of which are valid comparisons, because they want us to accept their belief that voting is a privilege, not a right. Fact is, it’s a lie to compare a right (like voting) to a privilege or commercial transaction (like driving or buying cold medicine), and every time you hear that comparison from a conservative, and you hear it a lot, they’re lying to you.
In a just and sensible world, we’d win on the facts and the law in voter suppression debates. Voting is a right, not a privilege or a commercial transaction. Many, many perfectly valid and worthwhile Americans (despite Justice Kennedy’s blissfully ignorant and inexplicably firmly held belief) don’t have a valid diver’s license or a bank account, and holding a driver’s license or a bank account is not now and was never a requirement or condition for exercising the franchise.
But, we’ve been yammering about efforts by conservatives to suppress voting for years, and I don’t think we’re getting anywhere. I think I know why we’re not getting anywhere, too. These are the voters conservatives have targeted for disenfranchisement up to this point (pdf):
Minorities and poor populations are the most likely to have driver’s license problems. Less than half (47 percent) of Milwaukee County African American adults and 43 percent of Hispanic adults have a valid drivers license compared to 85 percent of white adults The situation for young adults ages 18-24 is even worse — with only 26 percent of African Americans and 34 percent of Hispanics in Milwaukee County with a valid license compared to 71 percent of young white adults in the Balance of State.
A large number of licensed drivers have had their licenses suspended or revoked, many for failure to pay fines and forfeitures rather than traffic points violations.. Only 65 percent of adults in Milwaukee County have a current and valid Wisconsin drivers license, compared to 83 percent of adults in the Balance of State.
These voters aren’t popular or engaging because, let’s face it, no one who is important and serious knows any of them personally or is likely to run into any of them. Worst of all for them, they’re probably not a lucrative share of any market.
But, Americans get all misty-eyed and sentimental when earnest, future-leader college students vote:
“Nurturing America’s future leaders is the business of America’s colleges and universities,” said Your Vote, Your Voice co-chair David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “Our students receive rigorous intellectual training, character development, and exposure to a world rich in new ideas. Just as important to us is fostering a strong sense of civic awareness and involvement in students of all political persuasions.”
“If our democracy is to be sustained and strengthened, we must continue to educate students about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and foster their engagement in the electoral process,” Curris said.
Future leaders. Citizenship. If our democracy is to be sustained, no less. I don’t remember hearing any of this lofty language during the ACORN witch hunt, do you? Maybe I missed it, what with the three weeks of playing that carefully crafted and extensively edited tape that was (incredibly) presented by media as a factual depiction of actual events.
No one cared when conservatives targeted poor and minority voters, but now they’re going after college students, and we like college students. Is that a bridge too far? What about a warning that if your kid attends college in Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas or any of the other states where there is a conservative in power, your kid may be denied his or her right to vote, or pulled out of line and placed in the second-class ballot (provisional) tier of voters?
Is that likely to resonate with the middle class or upper middle class parents of college students, thereby back-door benefitting the less marketable voters who are also disenfranchised by these laws? I had two who went out of state to college, to Michigan and Pennsylvania, respectively, and I would not have remained a happy check-signing parent if I had discovered that conservatives in those states had rammed through a law making it extremely difficult for my kid to vote. Why not focus on students? It’s all true, and we’re not making much headway drawing attention to efforts to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, and we’ve been at that for years.