Saturday, December 13, 2014

Building the Case for Voter ID

Just days before the 2014 general election, Secretary of State Dianna Duran issued two press releases with a dual purpose: to influence voters in her favor and to build a case for legislation mandating voter ID. “Voter fraud confirmed in Rio Arriba County” details the story of a man from Hernandez who went to vote only to find someone had supposedly voted in his name, while “Bernalillo County Clerk issues three absentee ballots to deceased voters” points an accusatory finger at Duran's opponent Maggie Toulouse-Oliver.

In what was clearly a last minute attack on Toulouse-Oliver, Duran's November 3 press release raises more questions than it answers. For example, how did the unnamed “Albuquerque man” come into possession of three ballots mailed to three different deceased voters? Similarly, one wonders whether the persons were recently deceased and there hadn't been time to remove them from the roster, or if the Secretary of State had notified Bernalillo County to remove said deceased from the rolls in accordance with election law (1.4.25)?

The case of the Hernandez man is equally ambiguous. Did a person come into the early voting site and intentionally steal someone else's vote, as stated unequivocally by Madame Secretary? Or was it a clerical error, in which the voter signed the wrong line of the voter roster? Or a mixup among residents with the same or similar names? Again, the lack of detail leads one to believe the point of the press release was more than an election official performing due diligence.

Certainly the FBI and DA's office will look into the facts of these two incidents and clarify some of the murky details for us. But what is equally problematic is the Secretary's role. Are we persuaded that she is merely doing her job as the state's chief election officer to bring to light two troubling occurrences? Or was she in fact using her office for partisan purposes?

The latter, unfortunately, seems more likely, especially in light of the following quotation from both press releases. “...elections officials have no legal means of actually verifying signatures or confirming the identification of any voter.”

The fact that Secretary Duran supports Voter ID is not in question. Her strong ally Representative Diane Hamilton (R- Silver City) will surely be introducing that legislation again. In fact, Representative Hamilton considers Voter ID her hallmark legislation, stating last year that she was considering retiring but would not do so until that bill became law. And now, Secretary Duran has heaped two more pieces of spurious evidence on to the pile along with voting dogs and their ilk.

Leaders like Governor Martinez, Secretary Duran, and Representative Hamilton are part of the Republican war on voting. Voter suppression tactics are being employed across the nation to keep people away from the polls. Republican legislatures around the country are implementing ID laws, limiting early voting times and sites, and doing whatever they can to make it harder to vote. And it is working.

Working for the Republicans, that is, but not for the republic. The right to vote is what defines a democracy, and has been fought for repeatedly over our history as a nation, from outlawing poll taxes to women's suffrage. Unfortunately, those hard won gains are being taken back through fearmongering.

Republicans must know that restrictions on voting are unAmerican, but they pursue them anyway. Madame Secretary, do you truly believe in free and fair elections? If so, please show it by working to remove barriers to register and to vote, not by putting up even more obstacles.

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