The subject straight-shootin Mitt doesnt dare addressBy MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
The unvarnished speech Mitt Romney proudly delivered to the NAACP is the talk of political circles, including comments from the candidate himself.
"I dont give different speeches to difference audiences," Romney was widely quoted saying of the NAACP appearance in Houston. "I want people to know what I stand for, and if I dont stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, thats just fine."
Romneys audience for the speech was not the membership of the august civil rights organization, of course, but rather the Republican base. The party and its increasingly reactionary faithful care not a fig for the NAACP, and the boos that Romney earned from the crowd were no doubt part of his plan.
But lets imagine what Romney might have said if, in fact, he were the sort of straight shooter he claims to be. A matter of concern for many African-Americans is the campaign Romneys party has launched across the country to take voters of a certain color off the rolls or otherwise keep them away from the polls. I wonder how he might have tried selling that.
He wouldnt dare go there.
The intention of these efforts is nothing less than denying some Americans their voting rights. Romney is a smart enough candidate to know that he cannot publicly align himself with such shenanigans. Rather, hell let the states do the messy handiwork. And he might just reap the benefits of fewer minority and poor voters casting ballots come November.
Legislation pushing for more stringent voter ID laws often calls for a photo ID or proof of U.S. citizenship instead of people showing their voter registration card. The argument is that fraud is rampant, that the long dead citizens and illegal immigrants are casting ballots thanks to lax election laws.
In reality, thats rarely the case. When voting irregularities are unraveled, often the issue is a clerical error, or a mix-up with two people having the same birth date. People knowingly casting unlawful ballots is rare.
The Brennan Center for Justice has long argued that the new election laws seek to solve problems that dont exist and in so doing risk disenfranchising legitimate voters. "[M]any of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out," the center asserted in a 2007 report, "The Truth About Voter Fraud."
The Brennan Center looked at judicial briefs filed by all the major proponents of stricter voting laws and identified 250 citations of election problems. It then analyzed whether Indianas new voter ID law would have prevented any of problems. It found no evidence that it would have prevented any.
The U.S. Department of Justice is challenging a 2011 Texas ID law in court. In July, an official for the Texas secretary of states office testified that he knew of four cases of voter fraud. When pressed, he admitted that clerical error was the likely culprit.
The Justice Department argued as many as 1.4 million legal voters could be disenfranchised by the Texas law. Do the math: four dubious ballots vs. 1.4 million citizens denied their rights to vote.
Numbers like that convinced Michigans Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to buck his own party and veto his legislatures bill. "Voting rights are precious, and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote," Snyder said in a released statement.
Gov. Snyder is right. To members of the highly mobile and technology-savvy middle class, obtaining an extra photo ID, perhaps a passport, might not sound like much of a chore. But for poor or less-educated voters, who sometimes live far from state offices, it can be a challenge. It can be the decisive factor in keeping those voters home on Election Day.
It should be a red flag to us all when one political party is bleating about voter fraud that it cannot show to exist. But when that party passes laws to eliminate large swaths of the voting public, that looks like nothing less than an assault on democracy.
I wonder what Mitt Romney has to say about that.