This afternoon, Rep. Keith Ellison submitted 2 pieces of legislation that would ban the use of Photo ID for federal elections. Predictably, Rep. Ellison’s statement was hyperbole-filled:

“In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation,” Ellison stated. “We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone’s ability to exercise that right. While photo ids seem harmless, they are in fact the modern day poll tax,” Ellison said. Poll taxes were used extensively throughout the South from Reconstruction through the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Black voters. In 1964, Congress ratified the 24th Amendment which banned poll taxes.

The requirement for photo ids in federal elections can impose a burdensome requirement and ultimately disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of voters, particularly low-income, communities of color, senior citizens, women and young people.

Recently, the Chief of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Rights Division, John Tanner confirmed this when stating: “It’s probably true that among those who don’t [have Photo ID], it’s primarily elderly persons. And that’s a shame. Of course…our society is such that minorities don’t become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first.”

Rep. Ellison apparently thinks that he’s become the newest Supreme Court justice. That’s based on his statement that photo ID are “the modern day poll tax.” That was settled with the Crawford v. Marion County Election Board ruling. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion. Though legally less powerful than Justice Stevens’ majority opinion, former Congressman Artur Davis’ op-ed, which I wrote about here, is a powerful rebuttal against Ellison’s claims:

I’ve changed my mind on voter ID laws; I think Alabama did the right thing in passing one; and I wish I had gotten it right when I was in political office.

When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician. Without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.

The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt.

Voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights; that’s suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.

The last part of Mr. Davis’s statement is especially powerful:

If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.

Mr. Davis said that a) voter fraud happens in Alabama, b) he knows about it because he’s been asked to provide funds to make it happen and c) he’s “confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.”

Equally powerful is the fact that, in his mind, “voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights…”

Rep. Ellison is a political hack who’s trying to gin up support in the black community. He knows that the turnout for President Obama’s 2008 election victory won’t happen if Democrats can’t artificially gin up voter intensity in the black community.

That’s why Artur Davis’ op-ed is powerful. His op-ed eviscerates the typical liberal arguments. This statement doesn’t help Rep. Ellison’s case:

The fact that a law that is unlikely to impede a single good faith voter, and that only gives voting the same elements of security as writing a check at the store, or obtaining a library card, is controversial [says alot] about the raw feelings in our current politics.

I’d love hearing Keith Ellison’s argument that a properly administered Photo ID law “is unlikely to impede a single good faith voter.”

UPDATE: I just got this tweet from Rep. Ellison to my question about Artur Davis:

Artur is a friend but we disagree on this.

That’s a nice all-purposes reply but it doesn’t say why he disagrees with Mr. Davis. Does Rep. Ellison not believe Davis’s story about having firsthand knowledge of voter fraud in Alabama? Does Rep. Ellison think it’s ok for legal voters to have their votes essentially nullified by people voting illegally?

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