Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Horror Story - The Voting Dead!

Yes, my children, it's Halloween... when the dead walk the earth, beg for candy, and often try to vote!

Huh? Try to vote? Here's one of my favorite "true" voting dead stories:

Back when Lyndon Johnson was in one of his first Congressional campaigns he and his aids were "registering voters" in the local cemetery. One of the staffers got frustrated with an old tombstone that had eroded past the point of legibility and started to move on to the next grave.

LBJ pointed him right back to the offending marker and told him, "Son, that man has just as much a right to vote as any one else in this cemetery."

Much as I love that story, and often tell it as if it's verifiably true, I know that as legends go it's probably much embellished.

So to are many modern Voting Dead stories. Justin Levitt, an Associate Counsel in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice, writes in TomPaine.com about Raising the Dead Voter Hoax. While these stories tend to be very popular this time of year, Levitt explains that these accounts are typically without much basis, greatly exaggerated, and used to create a distrust of the democratic process and politics in general:
When the deceased show up in unfounded reports of election fraud, it's not just good holiday entertainment. Indeed, a recent status report on an investigation of voter fraud under the auspices of the bipartisan federal Election Assistance Commission noted the large number of unsupported fraud claims in recent stories, and cited allegations that the unfounded charges were "an effort to scare people away from the voting process."
So, what's wrong with these stories? They're kind of fun, and certainly don't hurt anybody, right? Well, these stories are not so harmless when they're used to justify legislation that could make voting more difficult and possibly disenfranchise legitimate voters. Levitt continues:
For example, consider the recent voter-ID legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and justified in substantial part by dead-voter stories. ... This new bill would instead confront the illusory dead-voter problem by placing a new burden on the electorate: all citizens would be required to show government-issued documentary identification with a photo and proof of citizenship before voting.

It is appropriate that the bill was first sponsored by Representative Hyde - a name with substantial Halloween resonance - because it would have some truly ghoulish effects. At the moment, only a passport or a driver's license from one of three states would satisfy Hyde's standards. Any voter without the magic documents - even those citizens legitimately voting for years or decades - would suddenly find the doors of the polling place mysteriously shut.
Now there's your Halloween horror story. Boo!

Click here to respond to my reader survey - Only nine questions, but a chance to tell me what to do.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Twitter Feed