Skip to comments.Ex-Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) On The Need For Voter ID
Posted on 11/06/2012 8:02:11 AM PST by vadum
Former U.S. Representative Artur Davis seconded Barack Obamas nomination at the Democratic Partys 2008 convention. He served in Congress from 2003 to 2011 but abandoned his party, disgusted by its race-baiting and growing radicalism.
Davis is an outspoken advocate for common-sense electoral integrity laws. He is passionate about the need for voters to produce photo ID in order to vote.
Here is a transcript I made of what Davis said at a panel discussion on electoral integrity that took place at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2012:
Let me begin I want to start by showing you something if I can, and its obviously something thats at the core of what it is were talking about today.
Perhaps you cant see it so well if youre watching this on the Internet, on television, and most of you in the audience can see it all too well you can see how bad I look.
This is a Virginia drivers license, also known as a state-issued photo ID. Very small. Pretty innocuous-looking except for the ugly face on it.
And its actually even sanded around the edges, so unlike the notes I have in front of me or the notes maybe you have in front of you, you cant even cut your hand inadvertently.
Its a very tiny little thing that will fit in a breast pocket, fit in a wallet you can carry it next to your pager or your BlackBerry.
It is not a billy club; if you look at it thats clear. Its not a fire hose.
I live in Virginia now but I come from the state of Alabama and used to represent Birmingham, Alabama, and Selma, Alabama, in the United States Congress.
I know a little something about fire hoses. Its not this. Its not some kind of a weapon or club that southern sheriffs used to use to keep people from voting or participating.
Its a tiny little photo ID.
But this tiny little thing Im holding up in my hand tends to do very weird things to people. It tends to create some very interesting political arguments.
Several months ago, two very prominent leaders of organizations, civil rights organizations, as a matter of fact in the United States, were so riled up by this tiny little thing called a photo ID that they went to the United Nations and they went to a very particular place in the United Nations called the UN Commission on Human Rights.
And while Im not an expert on United Nations terminology, basically they filed a complaint against us with the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the basis for the complaint was the incredibly devastating potential to suppress this little thing Im holding up, or so they were told.
Now I wont even get into the fact that Cuba sits on the UN Commission on Human Rights and Cuba would not know a free election if it walked in and did a burlesque dance in front of it.
I wont get into the fact that China sits on the UN Commission on Human Rights and China has many great virtues as a great competitor and sometimes partner of ours, but in China, unless youre one of a small group of provinces that actually do get to cast votes in some of their local races, China has never had a free election in many histories of dynasties and centuries. They make us look like the rookies as old as that civilization is; they have never had a free election.
Saudi Arabia sits on the UN Commission on Human Rights. Saudi Arabia occasionally experiments with voting, but if youre a woman youre not part of the experiment.
You get my point. Not quite the group I would expect to judge our integrity when it comes to elections.
[South Carolina] Attorney General [Alan] Wilson touched on this [during today's panel discussion], some other speakers touched on it. You know the arguments on the other side, and frankly the most powerful argument rhetorically on the other side is, oh, to have photo ID it will have this effect of diminishing participation, it will have the effect of crushing the ability of all kinds of people who wish to vote, and theyre talking very candidly about many of our minority citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen, can we dial the clock back four years ago when some of us had no gray hair and some of us had more hair?
Remember four years ago we were told about the young people in this country and we were told that they were so fired up and so enthusiastic and so energized? We were told they were led to believe in a way that theyd never been led to believe before. Now four short years later were told that those same motivated go-getters who were ready to take over the world cant be bothered with getting an ID.
Remember when we were told four years ago about the seniors who were in their eighties who never missed an election and who were so motivated to get involved in politics right now in this season? Now were told that those same people who were so fired up and ready to go and so motivated and cared so much about their country, now were told that theyre so fragile and so weak and so marginalized and so isolated that they dont have an ID and couldnt be bothered to get one.
You take my point.
Reasonable people can differ about almost everything in American life today including this issue, but reasonable people shouldnt disagree on one thing.
We have had our share of suppression, particularly in the American South. Theres no question about that. But this is not suppression.
This is a simple little device that you use all the time. When I leave here I have to hightail it to the airport because Ive got to speak in Salt Lake City tomorrow. I wont get on the plane if I happen to leave this here.
Most buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Department of Justice that is filing lawsuits trying to stop these states from implementing voter ID laws, if I were to decide that I wanted to go by the Department of Justice to try to get a meeting with anybody there I couldnt get in without this.
And finally, we have our friends in the news media, and I love the definition of objectivity with journalists. Objectivity to a journalist means I think the opposite of whoever Im interviewing.
I did an interview a few months ago with a news organization about this very issue and they asked me what they thought were some pretty tough questions.
When I went to the news organization to do the interview, the first thing that was sitting on top of an ominous-looking security guard who looked a lot scarier than this was a sign that said photo ID required no exceptions.
Which, by the way, is more than most states which permit a number of exceptions.
So, Im glad to be here. Make sure I dont leave this little thing as I go to catch my flight.
Im glad to talk about this issue and finally in all seriousness this is something Democrats and Republicans ought to care about, something conservatives and liberals ought to care about, something Americans ought to embrace, the notion of voter integrity.
The issue is whether its an unreasonable burden to make someone produce photo ID or some equivalent [to] photo ID.
We might debate the public policy all we want. The courts are looking at these issues, thats the only thing courts are looking at, [whether it] is an unreasonable burden and the reason that we keep talking about the ubiquity of drivers licenses. The reason we keep talking about the fact that ID is common, is not that were trying to just make a debaters point, but were trying to say that, how can it be a burden to ask people to do something they do all the time?
Thats all this comes down to.
How can it be a burden to ask people to do something they do all the time?
Let me make one legal point that needs to be made because if you tune out everything that we say today, if you forget everything we say, please remember this little nugget.
The Supreme Court has addressed the issue of photo ID.
They did it as recently as four years ago in 2008, and the guy who wrote the opinion was John Paul Stevens, who was one of the great liberal icons to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court in the last 30-some years.
A liberal justice wrote an opinion upholding voter ID laws in Indiana and he made the point that because of the state's legitimate interest in combating voter fraud and because of the state's legitimate interest in verifying people as it does in many aspects of life, you know verification is not a strange thing in our civil life.
Justice Stevens reasoned that because it wasn't a strange thing in our civil life, it was no special burden to apply it in the context of voting. When that happened there was a presidential campaign that was going on in this country and campaigns bring out the hyper-partisan in us.
Candidly, this is not a partisan event today so don't take this as a partisan comment.
This is a factual comment. I don't remember then-Senator Obama who was the Democratic nominee even issuing a press release criticizing Justice Stevens's ruling.
I don't remember the DNC, I think Howard Dean was the chairman then, I tend to forget Howard Dean so I could be wrong, I don't remember the DNC issuing a release even criticizing that ruling.
Now I have a law degree too and then I know that some people are thinking, well, Indiana, is not a Voting Rights Act-covered state so a different standard applies in the South.
Folks, the Voting Rights Act was crafted to give the federal government extra enforcement tools in a region where discrimination used to be a day-in part of life from the time you got up to the time you went to bed, from the time you were born to the time you were buried.
That used to be the South that we lived in. Today Indiana has fewer black elected officials than South Carolina. Indiana has fewer blacks voting than any VRA state in terms of the number who are turning out and participating in the elections every year.
The level of registration, fewer African-Americans are registered to vote in Indiana than I think all but one VRA state. So if you're concern is, oh, we want to make sure African-Americans have a full chance to participate and be included, wouldn't it be a little bit odd to say Indiana is held to a weaker standard than states where African-Americans have kind of made it to the dance pretty well when it comes to politics?
One final point here, this is about a very simple question: Should we have two rules of law in this country? Should we have one rule of law for Kansas and Colorado, Indiana, another rule of law for South Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama and other VRA states?
I submit that we don't.
...there is a myth that's out there that the only states passing voter ID laws are these closely divided states, where the election and whether it's Obama or Romney may come down to just a few votes here or there.
You've got a better chance of getting Kansas City in the World Series than you do of seeing a presidential ad [unintelligible; crosstalk]. The second point, the young lady made a note that you hear a lot in these arguments which is, aren't these just right-wing Republicans passing these laws?
Rhode Island passed a voter ID law and here's what you ought to know about Rhode Island's voter ID law. You know who put it over the top? Black Democrats.
And you know what those black Democrats put over the top? They actually had the audacity to come out and to testify in public that they were tired of seeing voter fraud in their legislative districts. They were tired of having to sit down every election and say, okay, I know that because I'm not the machine candidate there's going to be X number of fraudulent votes cast over here, add that to the number of real votes they get so I've got to figure out not just a strategy to get votes, I've got to figure out a strategy to offset fraudulent votes.
Those weren't Republicans in Rhode Island, there's a phone booth full of those. Those were African-American Democratic legislators and by the way those folks are a credit because every one of them has been threatened with a primary in 2014.
Every one of them has been told by the Democratic Party that, don't come looking to us for help when you've got a primary because we don't get involved in primaries. They're either persona non grata or they don't know the difference between persona non grata because they're so isolated right now.
So the other final point that I would make is repetition matters in panels like this so I want to repeat Attorney General Wilson's point. Indiana's voter ID law passed in 2004.
The only Supreme Court case on this subject is Indiana's law. Indiana is a typically Republican state that, yes, happened to very narrowly go for Barack Obama four years ago but frankly in 2004 it easily went for Bush.
They passed the law not because they were concerned that [John] Kerry really carried Indiana, he didn't, but because they thought it was a problem in communities in Indiana. [Unintelligible] gentleman, he cannot recite one important thing here.
The issue is whether it's an unreasonable burden to make someone produce photo ID or some equivalent [to] photo ID.
We might debate the public policy all we want, the courts are looking at these issues. That's the only thing courts are looking at is an unreasonable burden and the reason that we keep talking about the ubiquity of driver's licenses.
The reason we keep talking about the fact that ID is common is not that we're trying to just make a debater's point but we're trying to say that, how can it be a burden to ask people to do something they do all the time?
That's all this comes down to.
How can it be a burden to ask people to do something they do all the time?
Yup. Easy as pie.
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