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Former Republican: How I Learned That Voter ID Laws Pushed By the GOP Are Racist

Why can’t Republican voters see that Republicans pass voter ID laws to suppress voting, not fraud?

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I doubt that most Republican voters know that some Republican officials are taking steps to make it even harder to get that ID.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, to take an example, signed a strict voter ID law and then made a move to start  closing DMV offices in areas full of Democrats, while increasing office hours in areas full of Republicans -- this in a state in which half of blacks and Hispanics are estimated to lack a driver’s license and a quarter of its DMV offices are open  less than one day per month.  (Sauk City’s is open a whopping  four times a year.)  Somehow I doubt that this is primarily about saving money.

What To Do?

One reason why voter ID laws are so politically successful is that they put Democrats in a weak position, forcing them to deny that in-person voter fraud exists or that it’s a big deal. Republican voters and  media simply won’t buy that.  It doesn’t matter how many times the evidence of the so-called threat has been  shown to be trumped up.  It’s a bad position to be in.

Providing examples of Republicans committing fraud themselves -- whether in-person or, as in  Massachusetts and Florida, with  absentee ballots (a category curiously exempted from several of the Republican-inspired voter ID statutes) -- won’t provide a wake-up call either.  Most Republican voters will shrug it off by saying, essentially, “everybody’s doing it.”

If we can’t talk about race, and Republican voters insist that these laws really are about fraud, then maybe Democrats should consider a different tack and embrace them to the full -- so long as they are redesigned to do no harm.  IDs would have to be truly free and easy to obtain.  The poor should not be charged for the required documentation.  More DMVs should be opened, particularly in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, and all DMVs should have evening and weekend hours so that no one has to miss work to get an ID.

To be sure that the laws do no harm, how about mobile DMV units that could go straight to any area where people need IDs?  Nursing homes, churches, senior centers, you name it.  They could even register people to vote at the same time.  Now that would be efficient -- and democratic.

No, wait, I’ve got it: How about a mandatory ID card?  Every American would receive a photo ID as soon as he or she turns 18.  That’s it!  A national ID card!

Then voter ID laws would be the perfect thing, because we all want clean elections with high voter turnout, don’t we?

Something tells me, though, that Republicans won’t go for it.

Jeremiah Goulka writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party.  A TomDispatch regular, his work has been published in the American Prospect, Salon, and elsewhereHe was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a recovery worker in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice.  He lives in Washington, D.C.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his

Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka

Jeremiah Goulka's writing has appeared in the American Prospect and Salon. He was formerly an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him at His website is

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