Monday, August 26, 2013

Anti-democratic with a small "d"

I'm fascinated by some of the arguments Republicans have been making to justify amending the voting laws to make it harder to vote. For a while, they were basically make an anti-fraud argument. But once they started imposing restrictions beyond voter ID, that argument couldn't be used to explain all of the changes. How would reducing the amount of time that the polls are open stop identity fraud?

The new argument seems to be: we're not trying to disenfranchise black people, we are trying to disenfranchise democrats. That's actually the State of Texas' official position in their federal lawsuit, and Phyllis Schlafly made essentially the same argument to justify the recently passed North Carolina law. Because the Voting Rights Act only prohibits race-based discrimination, it makes some sense in the legal context. But outside of that context, how is that possibly justified? When the party in power changes the law to make it harder for its political opponents to vote, that's banana republic territory. Sure, it might not be racial discrimination, but it does suggest a hostility to democracy and the fear that the powers that be don't believe they can win a fair election where everyone votes.