It seems almost daily that our young grandchildren appear to have more self-control than the ultra-conservatives suffering from Nashville fever. It’s the disassociative personality disorder that flares up when they cross the Cumberland River and enter the cloistered echo chamber that is now Tennessee’s Capitol.
It leads people to say one thing for years about small government, the best government is the closest government, and other homilies and now do just the opposite, forcing their points of view on almost every family in Tennessee.
It’s so bad they don’t just cross the line. They don’t even see it any more.
Most alarming is the degree to which these fanatics use the state governmental machinery as if it’s their own to pursue their own narrow political agenda. This week’s example: the state’s website.
We were looking for the facts about what voters need to comply with the Legislature’s new voter ID law, which was passed to cure a problem that didn’t even exist – an imagined massive voter fraud.
It’s a Tea Party myth, but if Secretary of State Tre Hargett wants to espouse it, that’s his personal decision. But that’s not what he does. Instead, he uses the state’s own website to propagate the Far Right’s latest political gambit cloaked in its characteristic moralistic sanctimony.
There’s no serious research that backs up the rhetoric. It’s just the latest red herring from the masters of red herrings. Voter ID isn’t about the integrity of the voting process. It’s directly about discouraging voters from going to the polls who the Partiers assume to be Democrats.
In years past, the state website would matter of factly explain this kind of law within putting it into a clearly political frame. But no more.
The Photo ID requirement is a “safeguard against voter fraud,” but like many hyper-conservative zealots, he has no data to support such a claim. The law, striking in its similarities from state-to-state, was inspired by some conservative operatives buoyed by their takeover of state legislatures and motivated by a desire to suppress traditional Democratic votes by disenfranchising minorities.
Studies have shown that as much as 11% of eligible voters do not have voter IDs. It’s even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.
Loss of Integrity
There have been high profile claims of fraud in states like South Carolina and Minnesota but after investigations, it was shown to be completely manufactured. This is not to say that there is never fraudulent voting, but merely to question why the rest of us have to now show IDs because of a problem involving a handful of voters.
Mr. Hargett bolsters his political claims with the gratuitous statement that Tennessee voters have no problem with voter ID and points to a national survey that said 75% of people support voter ID. That said, the majority of Tennesseans – and Americans – were just fine with separate but equal schools and barriers to full civil rights for African-Americans, too.
If anything, history proves the danger that comes from the tyranny of the majority, and if Mr. Hargett was really serious about upholding his constitutional duties, he’d judge success by how well he’s making it possible for more people to vote rather than by how many he can keep away from the polls as he panders with his shameless rhetoric about protecting the integrity of our elections.
More to the point, it’s the lack of integrity that is behind the law itself that makes the voter ID law itself as the biggest fraud of all.
Mr. Hargett provides a lot of politically-motivated justifications and rhetoric on a website paid for by every Tennesseean, not just the ones he caters to , but again, these once small government types have no shame when it comes to advancing their raw, cynical political agenda. If he was really serious about preventing voter fraud and thought photo IDs was the answer, he could have directed the Division of Elections to set up photo booths all over Tennessee to expedite the IDs.
Instead, he pats himself on the back about his outreach program to “educate” voters, but education isn’t really his end game. He says that his outreach effort is so citizens will know what to expect when they get to the polls. From another perspective, it’s just as easy to see it as outreach to discourage the voters that don’t share his opinions.
Perhaps, then, it should be no surprise that on his website page about the voter ID law, if you want answers to frequently asked questions and click the link on Mr. Hargett’s website, you get an error message.