Thursday, February 26, 2009
SC Legislative Black Caucus owes some apologies
The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus staged a walkout recently as the House was voting on a bill that would require photo identification for voters. The State newspaper reports the reasoning behind the walkout in a quote from Rep. David Weeks of Sumter. In the State, Weeks said, “We oppose this bill because we see it as a throwback to times when people were not allowed to participate in the process.”
In other words, the SC Legislative Black Caucus and some of their Democratic Party allies staged a political stunt to contend that requiring people to have proper identification to show that they are in fact the legal registered voter eligible to vote is equal to things like old poll taxes, literacy tests, and the old Democratic Party “White Primaries.” That notion comes from people who seem to have no problem whatsoever in requiring background checks and other restrictions upon people who exercise their constitutional right to purchase a firearm.
The walkout was an insult on several levels. First, it is an insult to the legislators who crafted the measure to bring about more integrity to the election process. The legislation South Carolina is considering is similar to other legislation in other states that has passed constitutional muster before the United States Supreme Court. Further, challenging voters already is a difficult process in South Carolina. If a white man who looks 35 shows up to vote with a registration card that has his age as 50, it is not easy to challenge the vote. A photo ID protects everyone from shenanigans from all sorts of political interests. It prevents a relative or a friend from getting your voter registration card somehow and casting your vote as he or she sees fit. Indeed, such a measure is not disenfranchising, it is empowering to people who, at times, have been taken advantage of by someone close to them who voted on their behalf.
Second, the walkout was a tremendous insult to African Americans in South Carolina. Not one member of the staff of VUI believes for a moment that African Americans are more likely to comment voter fraud or not smart enough to get some photo identification. Those who argue such things are simply ignorant.
However, what is striking about the walkout and the reasoning behind it is that the Legislative Black Caucus has, albeit unintentionally, created the impression that the African American community that they claim to champion will not be able to vote because they are either unwilling or not smart enough to verify their identifications at the polls. It is ironic that people who contend they look out for African American interests have so little faith in the integrity and intelligence of the people they claim to champion.
It appears that the Legislative Black Caucus is less worried about African Americans than trying to preserve some sort of voting machine. It has happened before. In New York in the 1800s, the Irish voters were used by Tammany to produce votes. An Irishmen would vote in the morning with a beard, and vote again as someone else clean shaven. The practice did not mean that the Irish were stupid or corrupt, it just meant some political operatives who really did not care about them went and found who they could and paid them to vote more than once. At the time, the Irish were the poor and the outcasts of New York, and most who voted as the Tammany Machine told them to needed the money.
VUI does not contend that is what the Legislative Black Caucus is doing or defending. However, requiring photo identification for all voters would forever eliminate Tammany like exploitation of voters. It is incredible that any political leader or pundit who claimed to stand up for the average man and woman would not want their votes protected so. It is even more incredible that any politician or pundit would caste an effort to empower voters taken advantage of as denying the right to vote. It is a great insult to many, and deserves an apology.