Of all the domestic policy differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, just about the sharpest and most telling may be their opposite responses to the drive by Republican-dominated states to require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Bush administration thought photo ID was a dandy idea. The Obama administration recognizes it for what it is: a cynical effort to insure that fewer young people and members of minority groups (read, likely Democratic voters) are able to cast a ballot.
Progressives who are frustrated by President Obama’s failure to close the prison at Guantánamo, or who are seething over the administration’s surrender to the religious right on the question of emergency contraception for teen-aged girls, have something to cheer in the resurrection of the Justice Department’s previously moribund Civil Rights Division. The decision late last month by Thomas E. Perez, the division’s head, to block South Carolina’s new voter identification law is important both symbolically and practically. It has been underestimated so far in both dimensions.
A bit of historical context: In 2008, the Bush administration joined the state of Indiana in the Supreme Court in a successful defense of that state’s voter ID law, the country’s first. At the leading edge of what has since become a national movement, Indiana enacted its law in 2005 with the support of every Republican in the state Legislature; no Democrat voted for it. While rejecting the challenge to the statute, the Supreme Court was nonetheless constrained to note that while the law was aimed preventing “in-person voter impersonation at polling places,” the record of the case “contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” Ineligible voters just don’t seem to be flocking to the polls claiming to be someone else.
(Unfortunately for the plaintiffs in the Indiana case, the record also failed to identify any particular individual on whom the new law had placed a burden – not surprisingly because, seeking to block enforcement, the lawsuit challenged the statute “on its face,” before it took effect. To the Bush administration, this was the lawsuit’s fatal flaw; the plaintiffs “have utterly failed to show that the Voter ID law has had a discriminatory impact on any segment of society,” Paul D. Clement, then the solicitor general, told the justices in his brief.)
Full Article: Voting in Plain Sight – NYTimes.com.