A recently distributed guide for Republican poll watchers in Maryland spells out how to aggressively challenge the credentials of voters and urges these volunteers to tell election judges they could face jail time if a challenge is ignored.For obvious reasons, this has the Dems in a tizzy. They're worried about potentialities, rather than realities. Their focus, which remains on the potential for the handbook to prevent people from voting, is in the wrong place. One attorney for the state Democratic party gives us evidence of this, saying, "The tenor of the material is that they are asking folks, if not directing them, to challenge voters . . . It's really tantamount to a suppression effort."
A representative from Common Cause said that the technique is an "insidious voter intimidation tactic." They're right. It's slimy. It's also not the real issue. The trouble with bitching about the future is that nothing has happened yet. It's still in potentia. Prosecuting a political organization for informing its lackeys of filthy, evil tactics they can use won't work: ultimately, some damn activist judge will remind us of the whole Bill of Rights thing that protects speech, no matter how vile and insipid.
The real issue is with what the GOP representatives are saying to defend this little guide. From the article:
"I don't think that's borderline suppression," said state Republican Party Chairman John Kane. "It's making sure that people who have earned the right to vote are voting. We've had people die in wars to protect those rights."For those of you who are slow on the uptake, I'll repeat the most important sentence: "It's making sure that people who have earned the right to vote are voting." Once more, even more condensed: "people who have earned the right to vote." Further: "earned the right to vote."
I have news for the Republican Party Chairman for Maryland: you don't earn the right to vote. It's a right that is assumed with citizenship. Let's quote that pesky Constitution:
Amendment 14 - Citizenship rights:
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Amendment 15 - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State...
Again in Amendment 24 - The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State
And hey, how about number 26 - . The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State
So: everyone born or naturalized here is a citizen. Every citizen can vote in every election by which he is directly affected. Every citizen over eighteen can vote. This sounds like something that has been repeatedly ratified throughout our history: voting is an American birthright, conferred upon naturalized citizens, and as such is unearned. The only instance in which that right can be taken away is in case of a felony, in which case the rights of citizenship are removed; however, the instances of felony among the population as a whole are exceedingly rare (.3% of Americans have been convicted of a felony), and besides, removing them from the rolls is what your "purges" are all about. In either case, Americans do not earn the right to vote.
Rhetoric reveals, but it also conceals. What implications arise with this statement is taken apart? Possibilities include:
1 - That someone needs to license and/or certify that a voter has earned this right.
2 - That these someones are poll workers trained by the GOP "Guide-to-making-sure-the-youth/hippies/homosexuals/furrin-lookin' people/black people-don't-vote" (okay, that's an exaggeration)
3 - That our license/certification would be subject to approval by the government, now entirely in the hands of the GOP.
More interesting is that the statement is hidden behind some pseudo-patriotic jingoistic cliche: "We've had people die in wars to protect those rights." Yes. The placement of this sentence is an act of rhetorical misdirection: he follows an easily contestable (but almost true sounding) statement with a fact that, in this context, actually supports the opposite: men have died in wars to protect a right to vote that need not be earned. Neat trick, huh?
The Dems, instead of focusing on what the GOP guide to pollster pranks and fun might do in the future, need to foreground the discourse of the present while noting its effects (what is it supporting?).