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Opinion

Voter ID laws are inherently reasonable, not racist or Republican

Analogies between voter ID laws and Jim Crow poll taxes are absurd. That pockets of citizens lack ID is a compelling argument for active voter registration drives, not damning attempts to curb fraud. Ensuring the integrity of our electoral process ought not to be a partisan issue.

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The best example of why voter ID laws are necessary can be found in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are accused of trying to suppress the African-American vote by enacting legislation requiring proof of identity when voting. A statement by the GOP leader of the state House of Representatives, in which he claimed the voter ID law would guarantee that the state will go to Mitt Romney in November, is often cited as evidence of the law’s discriminatory or political intent. But the statement is often referenced without citing the context of the political reality in the state.

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As Gov. Tom Corbett repeatedly cited that context during the debate over the voter ID law, stating that a number of election precincts in Philadelphia that are reliably Democratic have produced results which showed that more than 100 percent of registered voters cast ballots in some years in districts where turnout is normally low. It is true that these areas are also largely African-American, but that does not make such results more explicable or less suspicious.

Does anyone really believe Philadelphia is the only place in America where there is a reasonable suspicion of fraud? The Supreme Court doesn’t. In 2008, it upheld an Indiana law requiring voter ID saying that it posed no undue burden on voters. And in his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “not only is the risk of voter fraud real but...it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

As New York Democrats recently learned, race is no barrier to questionable election tactics. Rep. Charles Rangel, the veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus who has been censured by Congress on ethics charges, was widely accused by opponents and media of gaming the system to win re-nomination against Hispanic opponent Adriano Espaillat.

Ensuring the integrity of our electoral process ought not to be a partisan issue. While states can do a better job promoting voter registration or the process by which non-drivers get IDs, the Jim Crow canard is a bogus argument that demeans the cause of civil rights. All citizens must be allowed to vote, but it is eminently reasonable as well as constitutional and feasible for all qualified voters to be able to prove their identity.

Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor and chief political blogger of Commentary magazine. He can be reached via email at: jtobin@commentarymagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TobinCommentary.

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