Monday, April 28, 2008

Now We Know What We Need To Do

According to Talking Points Memo today the GOP has won an important battle to prevent elderly, poor, and minority voters from voting. And they are on track to continue to do so through the "voter fraud/ID" laws coming down the track and a push to replace civil rights enforcement with fake voter fraud enforcement at the DOJ level. So, what are we to do about that?

I've always thought this was a losing issue for the Dems. Instead of pushing back by pointing out, perfectly correctly, that voter ID laws are like shooting a mosquito with a cannon the Dems should have forced a public vote on a national voter ID registration law that would furnish each registering voter with a free, publicly financed, photo ID. Now we've lost the chance to force the Republicans to eat their lunch on this but we haven't lost the chance to, for relatively short money (as they say) turn this into a propaganda coup and a force for good in a massive voter registration drive.

The problem with voter registration as it is usually done is that its all rather loose. You set up a stand and get people to register but you often don't really connect with the voter, get their address, or serve as a conduit for them to other services they need. We should take a leaf out of the old Party Machine and score a propaganda coup by going into poor, minority, or elderly housing and explaining to them that the Republicans want to prevent them from voting. Every registered Dem should get a call informing them that Republicans may try to steal their vote by challenging their identity when they vote. We should ask as many voters as possible if they have extra forms of ID? If they don't, as a party we should try to help people get ID. It could be a really solidarity creating moment. I'd about ten times rather get a call from the Dem. party offering to help me vote than Iwould getting a call from an individual party trying to ascertain whether I'm a 1,2 or 3 for their candidate.

When we register people it should be up to us to make sure that each person will have the requisite form of ID --maybe even more ID than is necessary--when they turn up to vote. We should stop pushign the line that there is no fraud problem and simply opt for a belt and suspenders approach. Every democratic voter should be instructed to turn up at the polls with picture ID. They should be told to go to their local Dem party outpost to get help turning in the paperwork for whatever kind of free ID the state will provide.

I know this will cost a lot of money. But I'm not sure it will cost that much more than regular scattershot voter outreach will cost. And I'm very sure that the party that guarantees your vote will, in the end, get more votes than the party that makes your vote more difficult or the party that simply assures its own side that other people are ripping them off.