Friday, November 26, 2010

Must I be a Citizen to Vote? (Part II)

Statue of Thomas Jefferson inside the Jefferson Memorial. ©USDA

In America, people can vote in our elections without being a citizen of the United States.

In an earlier post, I noted how under current law (The National Voter Registration Act) you are required to state you are a citizen, but not required to prove you are a citizen.

Our newly elected Secretary of State in Colorado (Republican Scott Gessler) wants to change this. He thinks it will add integrity to the voting process if proof of citizenship is required when an individual registers to vote.

Cue the cultural furor. People are up in arms!

People are agitated today, but it’s worth noting that our Founding Fathers would have taken Scott’s side of the argument. Two hundred years ago, in a letter to his son-in-law John Wayles Eppes, Thomas Jefferson addressed the philosophical issue:
“No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only. If our government ever fails, it will be from this weakness.”
If Thomas Jefferson (in 1814) saw the necessity to put “teeth” in our principles, why is this no longer important?

The Denver Post editorializes about proof of citizenship: “That's a debate worth having, but we would have to be convinced that such a requirement wouldn't prove too burdensome.” The Post further expands on the issue by printing two “Letters to the Editor”:

Overly burdensome ID requirements block eligible voters from participating without solving any real problem. Colorado’s County Clerks Association has testified that there are no known instances of voter fraud in Colorado in recent years. Although most Americans have government-issued photo ID, studies show that as many as 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide do not; the percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income voters. Many citizens find it hard to get such IDs, because the underlying documentation required is often difficult to come by.

Secretary-elect Scott Gessler’s interest in proof of citizenship laws is misguided and will cost the state much in terms of resources and unjustified barriers to the ballot box. As this issue is debated, proponents of these burdensome requirements must demonstrate the requirements are worth the harms they cause, a tough task given the lack of evidence of fraud.

Jenny Flanagan, Executive Director, Colorado Common Cause

Efforts to require photo ID and proof of citizenship do nothing other than keep voters from engaging in our elections. In fact, Colorado is one of the most difficult states in which to obtain a photo ID.

There is a special project in Colorado funded by local foundations that has annually assisted about 3,900 people each year for the last three years. These individuals lack IDs and/or birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain picture IDs. Many more people who need such assistance often have to be turned away because the project lacks sufficient funding and staffing to serve them all. Many of these are elderly, disabled and/or homeless.

Voting is a sacred right in our country. Experience has shown that thousands of Coloradans would be pushed out of the voting process if these onerous requirements became law.

Nan Morehead, Centennial
And so, proving you are a citizen of the United States is “burdensome.” It harms the disadvantaged and creates an “onerous requirement” that pushes people out of the voting process. If you think proving citizenship should be a requirement for registering to vote, you are clearly mean-spirited.

What’s wrong with this picture? Are there other areas where proving you are qualified is “burdensome?” Must an airline pilot be licensed? How about Medical Doctors having to prove their qualifications? Is it too burdensome to prove you are authorized to carry a concealed weapon?

Why is it not enough to simply allow a person to state he or she is a citizen? Maybe it’s that vexing issue of Moral Hazard.

When we allow people to acquire mortgage loans by simply “stating” their assets and income, and then package these loans as being “underwritten,” is there an integrity issue? Does it not make a difference if the borrower has to prove what is stated in the application?

All good questions, but the fact remains that the only place where it is “burdensome” to provide the sufficient and necessary proof of your status is in registering to vote. Why is this?

We’ll cut to the chase: If everybody who finds it difficult to prove citizenship were inclined to vote for Republicans, the “onerous” and “burdensome” requirement would disappear in a heartbeat. Those who had trouble would immediately lose their disadvantaged status and be characterized as “dangerous people” who are bent on “shredding the Constitution.”

Does the refrain sound familiar?

UPDATE 11/29/2010:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!

UPDATE 1/28/2011:
Nancy Lofholm in the Denver Post links Republicans to xenophobia!  Note the use of the words "fear" and "scare" in the lead paragraph and the idea that Republicans are harming the disadvantaged.  A legislative matter is being reported, but it is pretty clear who our culture believes is wearing "the black hats."

UPDATE 2/25/2011:
While this post is related to proving citizenship when registering to vote, another contentious issue is proving a voter's identity at the voting booth.  Jennifer Rubin points to court decisions in Georgia and Indiana on photo ID bills.  These courts find that, "There thus are no plaintiffs whom the law will deter from voting."  In stark contrast, our culture adamantly holds to exactly the opposite view: These laws will exclude regular people (non-Republicans) from exercising their right to vote.

UPDATE 3/31/2011:
The Colorado Department of State has released a report on this issue dated March 8, 2011.  This is the first paragraph from the report's summary:
The [Colorado] Department of Revenue shows 211,200 people who used a non-citizen credential to obtain a driver’s license or identification card. Comparing these names to the statewide voter database shows that 11,805 are currently registered to vote in Colorado. Of the 11,805 registrants, 4,214 voted in the 2010 election.
UPDATE 5/23/2011:
Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, writes in The Wall Street Journal about the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act.  Signed into law in Kansas last month,  it requires proof of citizenship for newly registered voters, driver's license signature verification of absentee voters, and a photo ID to be presented when voting.

Similar measures are being considered (or are already in place) in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona and Wisconsin.  It will be interesting to follow the court challenges to these initiatives.

UPDATE 6/16/2011:
Keesha Gaskins, writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, responds to Kris Kobach.  She characterizes her article as "debunking misinformation" and comments on five separate points made by Secretary Kobach.

It is interesting to note the frame of reference Ms. Gaskins uses in making her argument.  Her concluding sentence in the piece tells us that taking action to protect voting rights is "un-American."  She sees the act of protecting voting rights as "giving the government the power to block citizens from voting."

I think we need a reward posted for any American citizen of voting age without a photo ID who will come forward and claim that he or she will not vote because it is too burdensome to acquire the necessary ID.  Will the Brennan Center take the lead on this?  This is a list the Brennan Center must compile - as a public service!

Where is Andrew Breitbart when we need him?

UPDATE 6/22/2011:
James Taranto, writing in The Wall Street Journal Best of the Web Today makes this interesting point:

Today railroads and hotels, along with almost all providers of public accommodations in almost all circumstances, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race. So what happens when you ride on Amtrak, the government-subsidized railroad? You hear an announcement over the PA system advising you to be prepared to show your identification if the conductor asks to see it.

Likewise, these days there is a good chance you will be asked for identification when you check into a hotel. You need ID to board an airplane or to drive a car. Recently we visited a doctor whose office is in a hospital. Just to enter the premises, we needed to present ID to a security guard.

If black people have trouble producing identification, how come nobody ever claims that these requirements are discriminatory?

UPDATE 1/11/2012:
James O'Keefe at Project Veritas shows how easy it is to vote as a dead person in New Hampshire, a state not requiring voter identification.  As he notes on his site, "More to come..."

UPDATE 2/3/2012:
A reporter for WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, Florida discovers nearly 100 non-citizens who vote.

UPDATE 2/7/2012:
James O'Keefe shows how to register voters in Minnesota. (h/t InstaPundit)

UPDATE 8/5/2012:
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler writes an opinion piece for the Denver Post that updates us on Colorado's work to remove non-citizens from the voiting rolls.  It's reflective of our culture that this information is considered "opinion."

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Trying To Do The Right Thing

David Harsanyi does not want you to read President Bush’s memoir.

Decision Points” was released this month, and to describe Mr. Harsanyi as unappreciative of the work of the former President is an understatement. Mr. Harsanyi characterizes President Bush as “a preening dunce empowered by historical fluke and nepotism.”

Strong words! But if you follow Mr. Harsanyi’s advice, you might miss out on some interesting material:

--President Bush allowed the military to run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was put off by the micromanagement style of President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the Vietnam War, and knew the human costs of politicizing a conflict. (Page 195)

--The President wrote letters to the families of every service member killed in the war during his presidency. (Page 203)

--The idea that President Bush “rushed into war” should be analyzed against a timeline that includes more than a decade since the Gulf War resolutions had demanded that Saddam disarm, over four years since Saddam had kicked out weapons inspectors, six months since the UN ultimatum, four months since Resolution 1441 (the “final opportunity”), and three months after the deadline to fully disclose his WMD program. (Page 247)

--The concept of “natural disaster politics” is probed. A little-known anecdote is that Mayor Ray Nagin had gone without a hot meal or shower for four days after Katrina hit New Orleans. He was welcomed aboard Air Force One and showered in the President’s quarters. (Page 309)

--General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was thrown under the political bus. The poignant note he left at the Vietnam Memorial is cited on page 386.

This book is an “after-action report.” President Bush tells us what influenced his decisions, and provides a transparent roadmap for review and analysis. It is the story of a person trying to do the right thing for his country.

There are lessons here that can be applied to future national problems, and to disparage them as “preening” seems shortsighted. But then again, this is simply the duality of scrutiny in our political leaders. Our culture expects leaders on the Republican side to be attacked.

Contrast the American Dhimmitude treatment of Sarah Palin with the admiration shown to Madeleine Albright. U.N. Representative Albright assures us that she did all that could be done in Rwanda, and her assessment is not questioned. We simply appreciate her straightening out that “genocide” thing.

Fawning praise for one President’s book, and characterizations of ineptitude for another: If you are a Republican writing your memoirs, gird your loins, you preening dunce!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

How Can You Sleep at Night?

Candy Crowley, a CNN anchor, interviewed former President George W. Bush recently. The interview was broadcast on November 14, 2010 and coincides with the release of President Bush’s recently published memoir, “Decision Points.”

The interview was conducted in two segments: One with President Bush and his brother Jeb; the other with President Bush alone. The tone of the two segments is decidedly different. The segment with the two brothers is playful and upbeat. The segment with the President alone is somber and confrontational.

Ms. Crowley perfectly captures the desire for vengeance within the political forces still arrayed against the former President. She asked him about “taking his eye off the ball” and failing to properly pursue the fight in Afghanistan. She asked why no Republican was held accountable for Abu Ghraib and why Republicans were not punished for failing to find significant weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

She finished by asking President Bush how he could still sleep at night.

OK, I may be overstating the exact content of Ms. Crowley’s questioning. Like Keith Olbermann, she is sophisticated in her approach, and delivers careful impressions with her words.

Ms. Crowley used the devise of “The Banning Letter” to represent the pain felt by those who have lost loved ones in combat. It is akin to our modern-day Cindy Sheehan story. Mr. Banning had lost a son in the Korean War, and he sent a letter to President Truman in which he returned his son’s Purple Heart and wished that President Truman’s daughter could meet the same fate as his son.

The letter is tough, but it dramatically represents a parent’s anguish. Ms. Crowley’s question was similarly harsh. She asked, “I’m interested in how those who are so angry, and we understand their anger, how these affected you.”

She aligns herself with those whose anger she understands, and registers an accusatory tone. We can read the transcript to see her actual words, but what we hear is, “You b&*%*#d! How can you still sleep at night?”

Our anti-Republican culture approves.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moral Hazard

November 11, 2010.

It’s Veteran’s Day, and it’s a day for reflection.

The graphic at the top is the Purple Heart. It is an American military decoration presented to military or civilian citizens of the United States who are wounded or killed in action.

It makes you wonder, “Why would anyone do that?”

That’s a deeply personal question, but it helps if our military personnel are conducting missions they believe in.

Americans can accept the idea of dying for a cause. The problem comes when our military no longer believes in the cause.

When a service member dies “for the American way of life,” what does that mean?

Consider these life examples:

--We see politicians rise to high office to enjoy the fruits of political favoritism.

--We allow non-citizens to vote for our leaders.

--We task our military to “put in their time” fighting until a withdrawal date.

Each of these actions takes a time-honored American principle (public service, citizenship, military service) and turns it into a prop for political purposes.

On this Veteran’s Day let’s not forget to honor the relevancy of the Purple Heart.

UPDATE 11/12/2010:
Chris Smith at The Other McCain is preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.  There is nothing that gets the attention of a Reservist like an official DoD notice with your name on it, stating: "Please ensure your affairs are in order."  Godspeed, Smitty.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Progressives vs. Founders

Not too long ago, I referenced Michael Barone’s terminology for the current political argument taking place in our country. Here is his quote:

Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.
I think it’s important to keep that representation in mind as we watch “attempts at reconciliation” and “mending of fences” after the recent midterm elections. The theme being advanced by our culture is that we need to exhibit a cordial bipartisanship and move forward.

Not so fast…

Here’s an example of the quandary: President Obama’s 10/27/10 speech to the White House Council on Women and Girls.

You are probably wondering, “What could possibly be wrong with this? Everybody wants to end violence against women!”

The problem comes down to the contention between Progressives and Founders. Here’s a Pajamas Media piece by Carey Roberts that sheds some light on the issue.

And here’s my two cents…

Americans have a Constitution that includes Amendment XIV. That amendment defines what constitutes a citizen of the United States, and specifically states that any person within the United States has “equal protection of the laws.”

That’s the rub. How do you work the problem of domestic violence? Do you use the Constitution to go after those instances where individuals are denied equal protection, or do you set up special rules and regulations for a particular identity group?

President Obama takes the approach that women need to feel their government is watching out for them, and he is the one who will ensure special treatment for this group. It’s part of the rotational identity group syndrome where politicians emphasize a particular group identity by gender, skin tone, political affiliation, etc. and selectively inform the groups that the politician is “dedicated to fighting for their rights.”

The difference is stark: Founders want to ensure the protection of individual rights while Progressives want to ensure preferences for identity groups. How does one reconcile the two?

Maybe the underlying data show that the identity group is in fact suffering discrimination? Unfortunately, in the case of domestic violence, the facts do not show gender discrimination against women. The opposite is true!

And so things become complicated. We’ve now got the President of the United States basing an identity group appeal on a lie! He may believe that women are receiving unfair and longer sentences for their crimes, but it is the opposite gender (men) who are suffering that fate.

And then there’s this problem: Our government officials take an Oath of Office where they swear (or affirm) to defend the Constitution of the United States. When they choose to promote identity group rights to the exclusion of those individual rights specified in the Constitution, is that defending the Constitution? Are they reneging on their Oath?

It comes down to issues of principle. As stated in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s an extraordinary statement and an exceptional founding principle.

I’m siding with The Founding Principles. Will our new Republican leadership do the same?

UPDATE 11/10/2010:
James Ceaser at Real Clear Politics has an analysis of the recent midterm elections (h/t Power Line) that rings true.  He characterizes the election as the "Great Repudiation" and contrasts the Democratic Party analysis ("The election outcome was all the result of a misunderstanding.") with the Tea Party movement's introduction of the Constitution into the debate.  All of you Founders out there will find this article worthwhile.

UPDATE 2/24/2011:
David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy brings up that troubling issue of the Constitution in the context of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Our public officials take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.  Progressive leaders sincerely believe that the oath also gives them the power to not enforce the Constitution when it conflicts with their point of view.  It almost makes you want to look up the definition of "anarchy."

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

(Insert Republican) is Too Extreme for (insert State)

The Democratic Party won several close elections last night, employing campaign techniques that characterized Republican opponents as dangerous and too extreme for elective office.

Here’s an example from the campaign of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).

Here’s an example from the campaign of Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The characterizations are effective. They typically overstate a candidate’s point of view. A candidate wishing to limit the size of government is characterized as a candidate wishing to do away with government.

While a position overstatement is one type of misrepresentation, another is to distort the context of the candidate’s statement. A candidate wishing to replace the federal income tax with a flat tax is characterized as a candidate wishing to do away with exemptions on tuition and mortgage interest.

The distortions are a time-tested type of argument, and require a certain level of sophistication on the part of the viewer to understand what is being done. Political pundits dismiss those of us in the electorate as being too stupid to understand the required point of view. (We evidently missed the appropriate lectures in our high school debate class.)

I look at campaign activities from the anti-Republican mindset. I’m not so much concerned about the stupidity of our electorate as I am of a culture that accepts anti-Republican characterizations as fact.

Our culture warns us of Extreme Republicans, yet fails to classify other activities as “extreme:”

Philadelphia: November, 2008

St. Louis: August, 2009

Philadelphia: November, 2010

It almost makes you wonder, “What would the Founders think?"

UPDATE 11/6/2010:
Linked by Drunk Report.  (Think of Drudge Report but with a good dose of snark.)  Thank you!

UPDATE 3/30/2011:
Jennifer Steinhauer on her blog at The New York Times notes that the "extreme" theme is still de rigueur.

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