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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The New Poll Tax

Stricter Voting Laws Carve Latest Partisan Divide

Published: September 26, 2006

MESA, Ariz. — Eva Charlene Steele, a recent transplant from Missouri, has no driver’s license or other form of state identification. So after voting all her adult life, Mrs. Steele will not be voting in November because of an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship to register.

“I have mixed emotions,” said Mrs. Steele, 57, who uses a wheelchair and lives in a small room in an assisted-living center. “I could see where you would want to keep people who don’t belong in the country from voting, but there has to be an easier way.”

Russell K. Pearce, a leading proponent of the new requirement, offers no apologies.

“You have to show ID for almost everything — to rent a Blockbuster movie!” said Mr. Pearce, a Republican in the State House of Representatives. “Nobody has the right to cancel my vote by voting illegally. This is about political corruption.”

Mrs. Steele and Mr. Pearce are two players in a spreading partisan brawl over new and proposed voting requirements around the country. Republicans say the laws are needed to combat fraud, especially among illegal immigrants. Democrats say there is minimal fraud, if any, and accuse Republicans of suppressing the votes of those least likely to have the required documentation — minorities, the poor and the elderly — who tend to vote for Democrats.

In tight races, Democrats say, the loss of votes could matter in November.

In Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest in population, election officials said that 35 percent of new registrations were rejected for insufficient proof of citizenship last year and that 17 percent had been rejected so far this year. It is not known how many of the rejected registrants were not citizens or were unable to prove their citizenship because they had lost or could not locate birth certificates and other documents.

In Indiana, Daniel J. Parker, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said: “Close to 10 percent of registered voters here do not have driver’s licenses. Who does that impact most? Seniors and minorities.”

A law in Indiana requiring voters to have a state-issued photo ID is being challenged in the federal courts, as are the voting laws in Arizona and in many other states.

Republicans say the Democratic complaints are self-serving.

“Democrats believe they represent stupid people who are not smart enough to vote,” said Randy Pullen, a Republican national committeeman from Arizona who championed a statewide initiative on the new requirements. “I do not.”

The new measures include tighter controls over absentee balloting and stronger registration rules. The most contentious are laws in three states — Georgia, Indiana and Missouri — where people need government-issued picture ID’s to vote, and provisions here in Arizona that tightened voter ID requirements at the polls and imposed the proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration.

Several other states are considering similar measures, and the House of Representatives, voting largely along party lines, recently passed a national voter ID measure that is headed for the Senate.

The debate in Washington and the state capitals has been heated, with only one note of agreement: that voting, once burdened by poll taxes and other impediments, is as divisive an issue as ever.

“I have never seen such a sinister plot — I won’t say plot, I’ll say measure — as to target a group of people to try to make it difficult for them to vote,” said Roy E. Barnes, a Democrat and former governor of Georgia who is fighting the new identification law in his state.

Voter fraud=brown people voting.

Keep worrying about Diebold. They're passing the new poll tax as we speak.

posted by Steve @ 12:50:00 AM

12:50:00 AM

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