Voting rights done wrong

It took little time for legislatures in North Carolina and Texas to begin drafting legislation that throws up roadblocks to voting following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that jettisoned one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act. West Virginians should take heed that lawmakers in Charleston don’t entertain similar folly come the next legislative session.

Lawmakers who propose such bills say they do so to combat voter fraud; an effort more akin to tilting at windmills.

The North Carolina law, which is expected to draw lawsuits, reads like fair and open elections are the last thing it seeks to promote. It shortens early voting, disallows provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct from being counted, ends straight-ticket voting, does not allow a student ID card to be counted for voting identification purposes and ends same-day registration and pre-registration for minors. The law, in effect moves far beyond insisting on requiring a valid voter identification.

To buttress their argument in favor of voter ID requirements, supporters have argued that little can be done without proper identification — from boarding a plane to opening a bank account. Of course, these are elective activities, not provided for in the U.S. Constitution, and not part of an individual’s rights and responsibilities in a democracy.

Efforts to restrict voting by citizens are as old as the Republic. Alexander Hamilton as well as many early southern Democrats sought to limit voting rights to the rich aristocrats and landowners. Thomas Jefferson opposed both Hamilton and southerners like John Randolph, just as he’d likely oppose the shenanigans of Republican majorities in Texas and North Carolina. Jefferson believed rightly that voting belonged to all free men, and that efforts by some to impose restrictions on others were an abuse of power. Said Jefferson: “It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.” Well said, that.

Those who seek to throw up roadblocks to voting protest that such requirements are an attempt to secure the integrity of the election process. It’s not the integrity of elections they hope to secure; it’s the outcomes.

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