Monday, April 28, 2008

Supreme Court Republicans Strike Again

by Norman Markowitz

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold an Indiana law requiring photo indemnification for voter identification. Civil Rights groups and even the Democratic party challenged the law on the more than reasonable ground that low income people, minority people, and senior citizens are far less likely to have such identification, which is usually connected to drivers licenses and thus find themselves in situations where they might be in the long run disenfranchised, even though they should be legally entitled to vote.

Today there are seven Republicans on the Court, including two, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, who usually vote against "The Four Horseman of Reaction" (a phrase used widely in the 1930s against four rightwing justices who were out to veto the labor and social legislation of the New Deal, which today applies to Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas). But Stevens joined and the more conservative Kennedy joined with the Four Horsemen to in effect make it harder for working people to vote, just as Sandra Day O'Connor, who had often opposed what were then the "Three Horseman of Reaction (Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist) joined with Kennedy to in effect end the recount in Florida and go against both the facts and what many considered case law on recounts and appoint George W. Bush president of the United States.

This is an ugly politically partisan, and dangerous decision, one that shows how the present court is ready to undermine basic civil rights. Stevens comment that the "law should not be disregarded because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators" particularly struck me. The laws disenfranchising Southern Blacks, establishing poll taxes and other discriminatory restrictions on voting, were the result of "partisan interests" seeking to insure that people who were likely to vote against them would be deprived of the right to vote. The Supreme Court for generations upheld such laws. Partisan interests were also the basis for discriminatory districting in state elections which a progressive Supreme Court challenged in the 1960s.

Justice Stevens used some examples from the Tweed ring in New York in the 1860s to deal with voter fraud. But he would have been on firmer ground if he mentioned the terroristic violence used by KKK groups to keep former slaves from voting during Reconstruction. He might also have dealt with the fact that the absence of the secret ballot made voter intimidation very widespread in the late 19th century and the political machines, both big ones in cities and smaller ones around country courthouses, have used "selective" counting of votes to insure victories.

Today, new voting machine touch screen technologies make potential fraud much greater than before. Today, the Republican Party in the 2000 and particularly 2004 election hired "consulting firms" to purge from the registration lists voters from groups that are expected to vote against them for any reason that they can find.

In democracies, the aim is to make voting as simple as possible and protect the right to vote. The Supreme Court decision today, representing the "partisan interests of individual Judges" struck a blow against political democracy today.

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