Mark Kleiman is a very smart person, and (for a Democrat) usually quite reasonable. But every so often, he goes off the deep end. Like many Democrats, that seems to happen when the subject of race comes up. I refer today to his overwrought ranting about Georgia's new voter identification law:
The Justice Department has just given Georgia the go-ahead to disenfranchise anyone who doesn't have a driver's license. The law is supposedly intended to deter fraud, but no one has come up with an actual examples of voting-by-impersonation, and the law specifically exempts absentee voting.Kleiman has apparently become a mind reader; if one wanted to play this sort of childish game, one could say that the "true purpose" of opposition to this law is to allow Democrats to perpetuate massive voting fraud. In support of his ridiculous assertion, Kleiman links to this crazed, rambling column by "voting rights attorney" David Becker in the Miami Herald; its title, "A law reviving Jim Crow?", tells you all you need to know about it.
The true purpose of the law, and its certain effect, is to reduce the number of poor, elderly, black and otherwise Democratic-leaning voters.
The occasion for this hysteria? Georgia has passed a voting law
forbidding black people from votingrequiring voters of all races to show photo identification when they go to the polls. To any sane person, that sounds perfectly reasonable, and doesn't have a damn thing to do with race. But to a liberal, everything has to do with race. Unfortunately, the arguments against this law (all from the article Kleiman links to) are so flimsy that they don't stand up to even the least bit of scrutiny. Opposition to the law is predicated on the theory that black people can't possibly get driver's licenses. One would think the starting point for proving such a point would be telling us the number of adults of each race without licenses -- but nowhere is that information provided. Instead, we get oblique evidence such as:
Additionally, it is surprisingly difficult to obtain a photo ID in Georgia. Though the state has 159 counties, there are only 56 places in which residents can obtain a driver's license, and not one is within the city limits of Atlanta or within the six counties that have the highest percentage of blacks.Immediately, my BSmeter goes off. Why are we talking about "counties"? When one wants to go to a Walmart, or a Barnes & Noble, or the mall, does one look for one in one's county of residence -- or just one close to one's home or office? Why not tell us how many people live near a driver's license facility, instead of telling us about "counties"? (Telling us that the state has "159 counties" is supposed to impress us by showing us how many are unserved by the state motor vehicles bureau, but in fact, the more counties there are, the smaller they must be, which means the less significance there is to the claim. In fact, that's the case, as this map illustrates; the average county is just 370 square miles (the median is 344, and the largest is 900), meaning that one rarely has to travel more than 10-15 miles to get to the next county.
(The part about the "city limits of Atlanta" sounds bad -- until you find out that this is just temporary, and that they're re-opening their facility there within three to six months. Meanwhile, they have plans to "begin the Georgia Licensing on Wheels (GLOW) program, a mobile licensing bus that will travel the state of Georgia with the capability to issue up to 200 photo identification cards per day.")
Besides, despite Becker and Kleiman's red herring, the law doesn't say anything about requiring a "driver's license." It merely requires photo ID. These can include (as per the new statute) a license; a passport (there are 214 places in Georgia where one can go to get a passport); a military ID with a photo; a photo ID card issued by any federal or state government agency; an employee ID card with a photo issued by "any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state"; or even a student identification card with a photo issued by any public or private postsecondary school in the state of Georgia. So what's the big deal?
Becker goes on:
The law's proponents claim that it will help protect against voter fraud, but there appears to be no evidence to support this claim. Georgians already have to show one of 17 forms of ID to prove that they are who they say they are when they vote.In fact, of those "17 forms of ID," ten of them did not have a photograph on them. They included such "ID" as a "utility bill" or "bank statement" -- but not even the originals; a "legible copy" would do. That's a "form" of something, but "ID" it ain't, and a photocopy of a utility bill does not "prove that they are who they say they are" by any reasonable standard. (At most, it proves access to an address's mailbox.) All the new law does is say that ID must actually identify a person in order to actually constitute ID.
Georgia's chief elections official, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, has said that not one instance of voter fraud relating to impersonation at the polls has been documented during her tenure.Of course, since people don't have to show ID, it would be pretty difficult to "document" this fraud, wouldn't it? Clever, ain't it? Make it impossible to prevent fraud, and then say, "Ha! You didn't prove fraud."
But let's assume I'm wrong about everything I said above. Let's assume that it really is typical for people not to have licenses -- although there are far more licenses than voters in Georgia -- or other ID. Let's further assume that some people really do live far from motor vehicle offices, and that they can't get any other acceptable form of ID. Even so, keep in mind that this is a one-time requirement. You don't have to undertake this onerous task every time you have to vote; you can get a license good for ten years, and can renew it by mail. Does it really amount to "disenfranchisement" or "Jim Crow" to spend an afternoon once every ten or twenty years to get a picture ID?
But if that obvious hyperbole weren't silly enough, it gets worse!
Furthermore, while purporting to combat fraud, the Georgia law expressly excludes absentee ballots from the ID requirement. While all the evidence indicates that minorities are far less likely to vote absentee than whites, absentee balloting is the only form of voting in which there is documented fraud in Georgia. The exclusion of absentee ballots from the identification requirement raises serious questions about whether the anti-fraud justification for the law is purely pretextual.Kleiman and Becker both raise this argument -- though they don't explain how one could require photo identification for absentee voting. But this proves too much. If it's so easy to vote absentee without identification, then why can't all these black people we're worried about do the same?
In sum, this is simply much ado about nothing. This law won't keep a single legitimate voter from voting. At best, the hullaballo represents misplaced liberal paternalism; at worst, it's deliberate race-baiting by a group of people devoid of any other ideas.