Sunday, April 22, 2007

Voting Rights vs. Garrett & Bush

On Saturday I had a chance to watch Democracy Works on PBS, hosted by Steve Adubato. The show was regarding returning ethics to Trenton, and I appreciated the insights Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole and others shared. One of the points by the panel was that we as citizens need to work harder to stay informed and participate so that we get the kind of Representation we want. Truth be told, only 34% of New Jersey voters showed up on election day in 2003, the last election comparable to this year's contest. With property taxes and corruption being the number 1 & 2 things people talk about in New Jersey politics, only 34% of folks voted. Put another way, only 18% of New Jersey's voters are deciding for the rest of us.

Voter turnout, for most politicians is a frustration. When I spoke at the Meet the Candidates forum at Sussex County Technical School, "participate" was a common refrain. One candidate used the example that of all people in the room, the number of people turning out would mean the three folks sitting in the front row were making all of the decisions. True public servants want the feedback because they want to do a good job. However, not all public servants fall into this category.

I've covered Representative Scott Garrett's disdain for upholding the voting rights of naturalized citizens; last year Garrett also voted for a voter ID bill based on several State laws that court ruling after court ruling after court ruling finds disenfranchises voters in the poll tax tradition, and is therefore unconstitutional. Garrett's votes are, at best, deplorable in that he does not passionately believe in the right so many have died and fought to protect.

Garrett's votes to institutionalize disenfranchisement go hand in hand with the efforts of the Bush administration's use of the Justice Department to meet the same end. This was buried in the Record on Friday, but it deserves a read.
Former department lawyers, public records and other documents show that since Bush took office, political appointees in the Civil Rights Division have:

-Approved Georgia and Arizona laws that tightened voter ID requirements. A Federal judge tossed out the Georgia law as an unconstitutional infringement on
the rights of poor voters, and a federal appeals court signaled its objections to the Arizona law on similar grounds last fall, but that litigation was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until after the election.

-Issued advisory opinions that overstated a 2002 federal election law by asserting that it required states to disqualify new voting registrants if their identification didn't match that in computer databases, prompting at least three states to reject tens of thousands of applicants mistakenly.

-Done little to enforce a provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires state public assistance agencies to register voters. The inaction has contributed to a 50 percent decline in annual registrations at those agencies, to 1 million from 2 million.

-Sued at least six states on grounds that they had too many people on their voter rolls. Some eligible voters were removed in the resulting purges.

In late 2001, Ashcroft also hired three Republican political operatives to work in a secretive new unit in the division's Voting Rights Section. Rich said the unit, headed by unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate Mark Metcalf of Kentucky, bird-dogged the progress of the administration's Help America Vote Act and reviewed voting legislation in the states.
So when Garrett ran for Congress, saying he was a friend of Bush, he wasn't kidding. Folks who don't believe in and actively seek to undermine the fundamental principal of voting have no place at any level of government, let alone in the White House or Congress. If more of us take an active role as citizens, we'd be able to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the first place.

5 comments:

Brian said...

Garrett's one of the winger-iest of the wingers. Check out if you scroll down to his comments on "Multilingual Ballots" you'll hear him call for all kinds of crazy things, like sunsetting the VRA in six years and for to Congress re-weigh the problems and benefits of the VRA.

Dino P. Crocetti said...

On Election Day '03, the weather was really bad. It was pouring rain from about midday and into the following day. Bad weather drives turnout down. On top of that, it was a midterm election year which also draws low turnout.

Under normal circumstances, voter turnout in New Jersey is low due for the reasons you listed. Among many New Jersey voters, Corruption is a very important issue. That being said, that doesn't neccesarily create a desire to vote against corruption. On the contrary. If anything, it merely breeds apathy.

New Jersey voters have been promised everything under the sun from both Republicans and Democrats and both parties have let them down in the past. Since there are more registered Democrats in New Jersey than Republicans and the Independent majority sees no significant difference between they way the two parties govern, the bulk of them simply don't vote.

As far as Scott Garrett voting in favor of a voter ID, the only people it "disenfranchises" are those who attempt to defraud the electoral process and I applaud him for his vote.

The voter ID would be free and easy to obtain and the only politicians, lawyers, or judges who would oppose such reform are liberal activists who just like to get in front of a TV camera and say the system is broken and just leave it that way instead of making so much as a remote attempt at fixing it, due in large part to the fact to them, the system really isn't broken at all.

They have the most to lose if such a law were put in place.

rmfretz said...

Dino,

That's not how the Bill was written. In order to get the free ID you'd have to pass a means test, which as a "fan" of more government I'm sure you'd "love" the added staff to process the paperwork (I'm using sarcasm, if that wasn't clear). The time lapse could cost people their vote.

The other problem is for senior citizens. I'm specifically thinking of my grandmother on this one, where in order to vote as she does and has in every primary and general, she would have to make a trip to the DMV or get a passport at the Post Office. I have no doubt she would, and I'd be happy to take her. The question is if she could.

My guess is she has the documentation needed under the strict new laws for getting both, but I can't be certain. What if she didn't? You're going to tell me a woman who worked an assembly line in Patterson during World War II, while her new husband served in the Pacific, is going to lose her right to vote?

There's no way that's a remotely American outcome, and the last person on this planet who would seek to defraud the process is my grandmother.

Dino P. Crocetti said...

My grandmother, a Reagan Democrat who is going to be 74 this August, is all for this legislation and resents it when elitist liberals try to tell her that she's too stupid or feeble to figure things out on her own.

Your arguement of whether one has valid documentation or not is also flimsy at best. The state of Alabama lists the following documentation as valid ID to show at the polls in order to vote:

Government-issued photo ID; Employee photo ID; Alabama college, university photo ID technical or professional school photo ID; or a utility bill, bank statement, government paycheck, or paycheck with voter's name and address; Valid ID card (authorized by law) issued by the State of or by any of the other 49 states or issued by the US government; US passport; Alabama hunting or fishing license; Alabama pistol/revolver permit; Valid pilot's license; Valid US military ID; Birth certificate; Social Security card; Naturalization document; Court record of adoption; Court record of name change; Valid Medicaid or Medicare card; Valid electronic benefits transfer card; Government document that shows the name and address of the voter.

You really ought to stop misstating the facts in you quest to discredit and undermine Scott Garrett. He's a good Congressman and is one of the only honorable politicians New Jersey has left.

rmfretz said...

Did you ever stop to think I'd be happy if Garrett was a good Rep? He's not. He spins like all of them, and even makes it seem like he voted for stuff he voted against, like earmark reform. Garrett has an outstanding reputation as a straight shooter, but once you start paying enough attention to him you realize that's not the case.

I appreciate the Alabama lesson, it's very similar to NJ's requirements. At issue with this are two things, first how much work it would be to get my grandmother, your grandmother, anybody's grandmother in order for some of this stuff.

I'm not saying anybody can't do it because of physical limitations, I'm saying they may not have the proper documentation; and even if you think you have the proper documentation, like a Hudson County birth certificate, the MVC might have to toss it as they have done with the majority of those.

The second issue is the backlog, and the fact that backlog could cost people votes. Now, if you're up for a massive expansion of government nationwide to deal with the influx of requests for lost documents, then so be it. However, even with an expansion, the backlog could cost votes for otherwise eligible people.

The costs and hurdles associated with getting the proper documentation notarized, as well as the potential for lost votes due to backlog are where the disenfranchisement starts, and that is when it crosses into unconstitutionality.