Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The curious incident of the State of Rhode Island

A friend of mine who lives in South Minneapolis - where Republicans are feared and hunted for their meat - reports that a stranger came to the door the other day and asked her to sign a petition to "oppose Voter ID."

Of course, "Voter ID" is shorthand for the constitutional amendment question that will be on the ballot in Minnesota this November, asking voters if they would like to require people to produce a photo ID when they want to vote. I'm not sure what the purpose of a "petition" is, since voters will already get a chance to make their voice heard in November, but then, there are lots of things Minneapolis liberals do that mystify me.

My friend said that she was actually in favor of the ID requirement, making the perfectly reasonable point that you already need an ID for most of life's basic transactions. She said she regarded ensuring election integrity to be at least as important as the ability to purchase malt liquor, to name just one of the things for which ID is needed these days.

This produced the REAL reason the stranger at the doorstep opposed an ID requirement. "It's just a plan by Republicans to keep minorities from voting," he said. Ah, of course.

Her recitation of this conversation put me in mind of the good folks of Rhode Island, whose legislators took up the question of photo ID requirements in 2011.

The thing you need to understand about Rhode Island is that in the Ocean State, Republicans are nearly as scarce as they are in the nirvana of South Minneapolis. Their two U.S. Senators are both Democrats. Their two congressional representatives are Democrats. The Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer and Attorney General are all Democrats. In the Rhode Island Senate, Democrats outnumber Republicans 29-8, and in the House of Representatives, the Democrat margin is 65-9. Balanced against all of this is the state's Governor who is - wait for it - an Independent.

We're going to find Ron and Nicole's "real killers" before we find an influential Rhode Island Republican.

What diversity there is comes from people like the self-described mixed-race Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, the son of an Irish-American father and a mother from Cape Verde.

Surely, in this solid-blue state, where Democrats control every button and lever in the great machine of government, where the electorate is more racially and ethnically diverse than Minnesota, (Rhode Island has a lower percentage of whites and higher percentages of blacks and Hispanics than Minnesota, according to 2011 figures from the Census Bureau), surely the racist/Republican/oppressive/disenfranchising concept of a Voter ID requirement could never gain traction, right?

Um, well, yes it could.

Not only did the bill pass, but it was signed into law and implemented for April's primary election. The Boston Globe reports that fewer than 25 people in the entire state lacked the needed ID, and they were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Pretty oppressive, eh?

The black and Hispanic members of the Legislature were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the bill, including Rep. Anastasia Williams, an African-American. She saw the need for Voter ID when she showed up at her polling place in 2006 with her daughter and both of them were told they had already voted. Four years later, she testified, she watched another man vote under one name, go to the parking lot, change clothes and return to vote under another name.

So you have a Democrat black member of the RI legislature, after having seen voter fraud first-hand, supporting a Voter ID law and being joined by the majority of her Democrat colleagues.

Yeah, it's all a racist Republican plot.

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