Friday, September 20, 2013

Voter Suppression in Tennessee?

Seems some Democrats may actually believe the only way Republicans win elections is "voter suppression." Jason Howerton tattled on one last week:

Tehee! But Tennessee, what's calling itself the Green Party is locking horns with the Tea Party, filing a ludicrous lawsuit against the state for daring to demand that voters present photo ID.

Although this web site does not like to support the notion that photo ID proves any dang thing, this web site is also skeptical about the idea that asking for photo ID has anything to do with voter suppression. This web site will therefore propose that, instead of quibbling with the Greens, Tennessee Tea Parties take some practical steps to prevent voter suppression:

1. The Green Party spokesman who filed the suit claimed to be concerned about "minority" voters. The Tea Parties I know have tried to make sure the material they hand out and endorse Looks Like America, which is good. Not only do we want U.S. citizens from "minority" backgrounds to vote, we sometimes encourage them to vote for people from backgrounds similar to their own. The rubber hits the road when non-drivers who don't just stop at their polling place as they walk home from work want to go and vote. You know your neighborhood. How many car and van pools does your community need? Since some people don't like to be the only one in a group who looks the way they look, can you organize ethnically mixed car pools? Car pools should also Look Like America.

2. The Green Party spokesman also claimed to be concerned about students. There are two distinct problems with Tennessee students who don't vote in Tennessee elections.

(a) Some students don't have drivers' licenses, state identity cards, or the money to pay for either, because they are young and poor. If student labor programs pay them half the minimum hourly wage and transfer their wages directly to their tuition accounts, it's possible for students not to have ten dollars. These students will need state ID in order to get decent summer jobs and pay for any part of their education anyway, so it's a real public service to help them get these cards. Adults in Tennessee should use some time and money to help young Tennesseans become voters and taxpayers.

(b) Some other students at the state college closest to Gray, East Tennessee State University, don't have Tennessee ID's because they are not Tennesseans. Tennessee has a combination of accredited but not terribly tough state colleges, low in-state tuition, and easy in-state residency requirements that attracts many students who aren't even from contiguous states. These people can show Tennessee rent receipts, but have Virginia, North Carolina, or other state drivers' licenses, because they live and vote in other states when they're not taking classes at E.T.S.U. Their home states are within an hour's drive; they can go home to vote in between classes. They are precisely the demographic group voter ID laws are intended to prevent from voting more than once in the same election.

While these part-time Tennesseans are wary about mentioning to E.T.S.U. staff that they vote and own property in other states, they may be easier to identify in political groups or other off-campus activities. Their loyalty to the candidates or party of their choice is commendable. This loyalty can be put to legitimate use. Tea Parties in contiguous states might want to work out ways to ensure that students have other, legal things to do with their energy after voting once. Maybe the students would like to drive for car pools or host election day parties.

3. The Green Party spokesman also expressed concern about "elderly" voters. Presumably he meant voters with physical disabilities...he could hardly have meant 78-year-olds like Grandma Bonnie Peters, or 87-year-olds like Oogesti, who are still driving Republicans to the polls. In most states it's easy for anyone with confirmation of a permanent disability to get an absentee ballot by mail. I'm not sure why people whose disabilities are only temporary wouldn't have photo ID, but it might be a good idea for supporters of photo ID laws to find out more about how various kinds of disabilities affect the voters you know. Is photo ID a problem for any of your friends? What are their difficulties, and what can your Tea Party do to help?

4. Finally, the Green Party spokesman claimed that there are three counties in Tennessee that don't even have DMV headquarters. If this is true, which counties are those, and how do the people who live there get drivers' licenses? How can they help people who don't drive, but who would like to vote, to ensure that these counties are fairly represented in elections?