Two months ago Hans von Spakovsky of the conservative Heritage Foundation, de facto apologist for a new wave of conservative-inspired voter ID laws, appeared on PBSNewsHour to defend the cause. The laws, passed in eight states last year, are widely viewed as a Republican ploy to disenfranchise minorities and older voters who are less likely to have the photo identification the measures require at the polls. But von Spakovsky, flashing a blue tie and tight smile, brushed aside criticism with what has become a standard talking point on the right. “While many Republican legislatures have passed these kind of requirements,” he said, “we know that in Rhode Island, Democrats passed it.” Rhode Island is, indeed, the curious exception to the rule: the only state with a Democratic legislature and left-leaning governor to approve a voter ID law last year. And with the measure set to face its first big test in this fall’s elections, civil rights activists and Democratic operatives — local and national — are still scratching their heads: how is it that one of the bluest states in the nation enacted a law so red?
It is not an easy question to answer; Governor Lincoln Chafee turned down a request for an interview for this story and Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed’s offices were no more forthcoming. The silence isn’t all that surprising. While a Brown University poll conducted after the bill’s passage found 85 percent of Rhode Islanders in favor of voter ID, elite opinion in Providence and Washington generally runs opposed. For those operating in leadership circles, this is an uncomfortable topic.
But after weeks of digging, the Phoenix has cobbled together a comprehensive account of Rhode Island’s most compelling political whodunit in memory. It is, in part, a political thriller: a tale of a quiet truce at a Providence restaurant, frantic phone calls from Washington, and intrigue in the governor’s office. But the voter ID story also says something fundamental — and, at times, less than flattering — about how the people’s business is conducted in Rhode Island.
Full Article: Who passed voter ID? – News Features.