Friday, August 17, 2007


Concerns over voter fraud are only a part of why Montana Headlines advocated changing from same-day voter registration to a 72 hour deadline. The fact that the recent audit showed no evidence of proven voter fraud doesn't meant that there isn't more risk for it with same-day voter registration. But that is not the point of what follows.

Jay over at LITW chides those of us who questioned the wisdom and/or necessity of same-day voter registration by saying that those who are concerned about voter fraud are using a tool that is a part of the purported arsenal of disenfranchisement -- a goal that is supposedly a standard part of conservative electoral strategy.

In other words, conservatives aren't concerned about voter fraud because they are concerned about voter fraud (how silly to think that we might actually be concerned about the things we say we are concerned about.) No, we only claim to be concerned about voter fraud, using those concerns to "disenfranchise" people.

Perhaps history isn't our strong point, but we thought we had learned that "extending the franchise" had something to do with who was given the right to vote. There were Jim Crow laws that essentially took that right away from blacks in the South back in the day. Stories are told of "literacy tests" that college-educated blacks couldn't pass, and so forth.

But that's not what we're talking about, are we? We are talking about the difference, in Montana, between same-day voter registration and a Republican proposal, supported by Sec.State Brad Johnson, that the registration deadline be set for the previous Friday evening -- that is, 72 hours prior to voting.

Excuse us if we think that crying "disenfranchisement" over a difference of 72 hours seems a little hyperventilatory.

Let's try some other Montana examples: applications for Montana's universities, for financial aid for such education, and for various kinds of hunting and fishing licences and permits have deadlines -- and most are much, much further out than 72 hours.

Is someone's right to hunt being taken away because they have to meet an application deadline? Or is someone's right to an education at a Montana university for which they would otherwise be qualified abridged because there is an application deadline? Is someone's right to financial aid that they would otherwise be qualified for taken away from them because there is a deadline?

Try complaining to a group of Montana hunters that your "right" to a shot at a fall goat tag is taken away because you aren't allowed to put your application in 1 hour before the drawing. You'll likely be laughed out of the room by people who deride you for not having the foresight to meet the early summer deadline.

Granted, voting is a more fundamental right than is hunting -- that is why America has over the past couple of centuries gradually expanded the franchise to all non-felon citizens aged 18 and over, and removed property, tax, and literacy requirements. (Although given that we Republicans are so ignorant when compared to Democrats, you'd think that Democrats would be the ones agitating for literacy tests.)

But the idea that any voting registration deadline (much less one that is only 72 hours prior to election day) takes away people's right to vote is a novel one, to say the least.

Given that more than 40 states do not have same-day voter registration, it is clear that most Americans do not believe that anyone is being "disenfranchised" by not having such same-day voter registration.

The Warren Supreme Court didn't command all 50 states to have same-day voter registration, saying that not to have it amounted to disenfranchising voters. They were a pretty creative bunch, and if this matter were as obvious as the Montana lefties make it out to be, one imagines that someone like Justice Thurgood Marshall -- no slouch -- would have spotted same-day voter registration somewhere in the Constitution lurking behind an emanation from a penumbra.

No. This is pretty much politics as usual, and the point to it is that there are only two statewide Republican-held offices for the Dems to target -- and one of them is the Secretary of State office held by Brad Johnson.

Johnson and some other Republicans raised valid concerns about same-day voter registration (the fact that there was no documented voter fraud this election doesn't mean that there isn't inherent risk for it in same-day registration, BTW) -- and at least some Democrats respond by crying "Disenfranchisement!"

Similar to Democrats calling Republicans "racists," or other inflammatory mud-slinging code words thrown at Republicans by Democrats who hope that just enough mud sticks to make for some political gain, the claim that we are really attempting to engage in "disenfranchisement" amounts to debasing that word and what it really meant to those who experienced it in America in the past -- and who experience it around the world yet today.

And happens not to be true, either. But that's really not the point, is it?

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