Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Turkey Of An Idea

We've all had those moments when we get an idea that seems great when it first flashes through our cerebral cortex - and upon further inspection seems incredibly stupid. Around this time of year, the legendary Thanksgiving stunt of tv's "WKRP in Cincinatti" comes to mind, along with far too many stories we've heard over the years of people bringing live turkeys to their holiday gathering.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post apparently had one of those kinds of ideas on Tuesday, when he wrote a piece focusing on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's tea party problem. Unfortunately for him, Cohen's own writing was full of both racism and stupidity. The column inevitably drew lots of media attention, for reasons Cohen hadn't intended - which is a shame when a much better column about Christie had already been published by Cohen's colleague, Ryan Cooper. Still, it's obvious that Cohen was attempting to get attention for his work, even if he wasn't happy it was the wrong kind.

In a similar way, some legislators at state levels are beginning to look at things they can do in their current offices to get voters looking towards the 2014 elections to give them a second look. We have to say, some of those ideas are real turkeys.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker agreed with our position on Tuesday, warning Republicans once again that they should pick their battles heading into 2014. She might even have been talking specifically to Nebraska's Republican Secretary of State John Gale, who last month decided to put forward a series of unusually stupid voter ID "solutions" that neither clear-headed individuals, nor tea party extremists like Nebraska state Senator Charlie Jannsen were willing to accept.

In short, the biggest focus of Gale's ideas were that specific types of photo IDs would be required for voting in Nebraska - but he would only require about six percent of voters in the state to have that special ID. Other Nebraska voters would be able to continue to vote as they always have - which makes no sense if voter integrity is actually Gale's real goal. State Sen. Bill Avery, a member of the state's legislature that would have to pass any new voter ID laws, noted there have yet to be any credible cases of voter fraud presented to the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, and that Gale's current ideas have no place in Nebraska.

We completely agree with with that.

While 34 states currently require voters to show some form of voter ID, only 19 states have voter ID laws of the kind that are truly designed not to prevent non-existent fraud, but to prevent voters Republicans don't like from voting. In last week's voting in Texas - where voter ID laws have been found unconstitutional and are currently being challenged by the U.S. Justice Department - it's already become clear that such voting laws did make a dent in voter turnout.

What the battle in Texas has also clearly showed is that while the cost of defending such racist, classist, ignorant efforts continues to climb, the effectively non-existent problem of voter impersonation remains a right wing fantasy. Meaning that the idea of rolling out similar voter ID laws in other states continues to be a real turkey.

For a political party that seems ever more desperate to focus on subjects of substance, Republicans should really stay away from voter ID. We might even suggest they try to tackle something like raising the minimum wage or comprehensive immigration reform.

We just hope - for their sake - they get someone other than Richard Cohen to write about their next endeavors.