Sunday, May 18, 2008

Voter Identification, a Texas Scandal

The scandal on Voter-ID in Texas is that there is no scandal. Attorney General Greg Abbott only wishes there were one.

The May 18 copy of "Dallas Morning News" carries the lead headline on page one, upper-right, "AG fails to uncover major voting fraud. Abbott saw epidemic, but prosecuted only 26 cases -- all Dems." Abbott had pledged, more than two years ago, to "root out what he called an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas." He grabbed up a $1.4 million federal crime-fighting grant, issued press releases, and went to work.

Senior political writer Wayne Slater, to his great credit, used the Freedom of Information law to find out exactly what Abbott had discovered with $1.4 million and the most powerful legal office in the state. Abbott managed to find 26 paltry cases to prosecute. Most of them resulted in probation or pretrial diversion. Most of them concerned "vote harvesters" who illegally pick up "vote from home" absentee ballots for delivery.

Abbott apparently ignored a major scandal concerning 100 ballots illegally cast in George Bush's wealthy home town of Highland Park. All of the people he prosecuted were Democrats. Nearly all of them were non-whites. The Democratic Party sued Abbott some time ago for attempting to illegally use his office to curtail voting. Leading spokespersons condemn Abbott and his efforts, but the Dallas reporter couldn't get him to respond.

The key to the whole hoopla is not actually in the major front-page article, but in a tiny article at the bottom of page ten. Greg Abbott, and other leading Republicans, are calling for a new "voter-ID" law in Texas mirroring the one in Indiana that just received the Supreme Court Seal of Approval. They claim that "epidemics of voter fraud" will be cured by these laws that, they say, would prevent undocumented workers from disguising themselves as citizens and stealing our elections.

The fact that up to 12 million (AFL-CIO estimate) disabled and older Americans would see their voting power dissipated if they had another obstacle to surmount before they could vote is just a necessary sacrifice, the rightwingers say, compared to stopping these armies of disguised vote-stealing undocumented workers. The outright racism of their argument sticks out all over it. The partisan nature of their attack on vulnerable layers of the working class is all too apparent.

Author Greg Palast, in “Armed Madhouse. And other dispatches from the front lines of the ‘Class War.” (Penguin Group, New York, 2006) unearths several leading Republicans from other states making the same claim, but they can't actually find any evidence to back it up.

Neither can Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The tiny article's tiny conclusion: "Virtually all of the 26 voter-fraud cases Mr. Abbott pursued involve absentee ballots. None would have been prevented by requiring a photo ID at the polls."

--Jim Lane in Dallas

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