Friday, May 05, 2006

the adventures of the disenfranchised

the mighty captain election, in his alter ego of mild-mannered secretary of state todd rokita, has been boldly proclaiming his defeat of chicken little since tuesday afternoon. but we all knew that great supervillains, like superheroes, never truly die—their smoldering bodies disappear from the crime scene and they reappear soon enough to menace the world again, maybe with a new body or an improved battle suit.

so it goes in the hero biz. just when you think you've vanquished the enemy, you realize something bigger is going on. and so it has been in the captain's battle to defend the voter id law, as stories of voter disenfranchisement have finally hit the indiana media. tdw points us to this one:

One aspect of Tuesday's primary election troubles DeKalb County Clerk Jackie Rowan.

Her voice trembled as she described having to turn away a handful of veterans who tried to use their Veterans Administration medical cards as the required photo identification.

Rowan said the veterans became upset, refusing to cast provisional ballots, when she explained to them they could not use identification that did not have an expiration date or a stamp indicating that it never expired.

"(It was) bad," she said. "They all accused us of not wanting them to vote.

"I feel their pain. They served in the service for us, and they worked hard and paid taxes."

these veterans had a perfectly good state-issued photo id that enabled them to get along in life just fine, thank you very much. but because their ids didn't follow the unusual requirements of the voter id law—and because they aren't julia carson and weren't surrounded by tv cameras when they voted—they were turned away.

voter id defenders and apologists will eagerly point out that such voters are allowed to fill out provisional ballots. but they are not so eager to mention that, in order to get your provisional ballot counted, you must appear in person at your county clerk's office within 10 days with an id that's valid under the law. if you're working a day shift, it's hard enough to get to the dmv to get an id in the first place; locating your county clerk's office and making it there during office hours would surely be an even bigger challenge for most voters.

but that's just a few veterans, right? and i've heard that the VA will start issuing new ids with expiration dates, so problem solved, eh? the city of townsville has been saved, yeah?

so it would have seemed, but now the big reveal... chicken little has been reborn as howard dean! dean is (or was) in town, helping the indiana democratic party file an appeal to the voter id law. how will our hero defend the law?

Dean, in his second trip to Indianapolis in recent weeks, and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Tuesday's primary election showed some Hoosiers were denied the right to vote. A hotline set up by the national party received a few hundred complaints, with more still coming in.

Dean cited some of the complaints the party has received about the law, which requires a government-issued photo ID with an expiration date. One was a newlywed in Marion County who was turned away because her photo ID showed her maiden name.

Another, he said, was a Vanderburgh County woman who went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get the required government-issued ID. She was turned away, and lost the right to vote, because her voter registration card, Social Security card and medical card weren't enough proof of identity, and she didn't have her birth certificate.

our hero valiantly struggled to parry dean's blow, but fumbled:

Rokita said the biggest problem in Tuesday's primary election came not from the new photo ID law, but from the fact that many polling places had been changed in order to make them accessible to the physically disabled.

Democrats in Congress insisted on those changes, which Rokita said "caused more disenfranchisement than anything else. . . . Yet you don't hear them complaining about that."

speaking of valiant struggles, i had a devil of a time figuring out what rokita was talking about here. making polling places handicap-accessible caused disenfranchisement? maybe something was lost in translation from the original kryptonian. rokita seemed to be admitting to a significant amount of disenfranchisment—if democrats have received "a few hundred" complaints then surely he must be talking about dozens or hundreds of people himself—that nobody was complaining about. surely he couldn't mean the disabled, who were probably miffed that they once again could not vote without assistance, but that's hardly the fault of democrats or congress that marion county and others were forced to violate federal law because the touch-screen voting machines wouldn't work. blame for that would seem to fall on the vendor, ES&S, and maybe on some state/county officials. and at least now the disabled can get inside the building.

finally i discovered this muncie star-press piece, confirming the only interpretation that made sense: some polling places had been relocated to newer handicap-accessible facilities, and confused voters got lost.

maybe our humble secretary thought this would be a devastating blow to his opponent, but even now that i know what he's talking about, i'm still not sure. so some polling places had to be moved because of the help america vote act. how many people got lost because of this? how many of them didn't vote? how much did the state do to inform these viewers that their polling places had moved? sure, there was the website where you could look up your polling place. i even checked that website, and it listed my correct polling place, though in 2004 it was wrong so i could only assume that i would be voting in the same place i had last time. if i had shown up and the polls had vanished, i don't know what i would've done.

i'm sure captain secretary rokita meant "oh yeah, well democrats caused more disenfranchisement than we did!" but couldn't you also say that this was yet another thing the state (and the counties) bungled, by failing to adequately inform voters that their polling sites had changed?

and this was just a low-turnout primary. the real test is yet to come. can our hero protect the national election in november?

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