Thursday, January 10, 2008

Give A Homeless Voter A Break

Right now, at this very moment, the far right leaning Supreme Court of the United States is deciding the case of Indiana's new voter I.D. law, and whether or not it amounts to a poll tax, which of course would be unconstitutional. According to recent media accounts, the sense that reporters are getting is that the court will be split once again along ideological and party lines, meaning another 5-4 split in favor of more government run amok.
In theory, I'm not so sure that I objected to the voter I.D. law at face value, and actually intended to write today about why I supported the idea. But then I did some checking with homeless advocates, and other agencies that work with the poor, and realized that what this law will do, is basically disenfranchise an entire voting bloc that usually votes for Democrats.
The argument can be made I suppose, that forcing voters to provide an identification card in order to vote will cut down on fraudulent votes being cast, but in the larger political picture, one can also see where the abuse of that law can and will take effect. Should the Court come down on the side of the Bush Administration and the State of Indiana, it will open the flood gates to all states trying to push through even stricter voter laws, especially in traditional Republican strongholds, and can force open the door to the argument over the National I.D. card being foisted on us by the government.
Another entire voting bloc of poor persons that would be completely disenfranchised would be the 5 million homeless Americans. Say what you will, but they are still American citizens, and as such, have as much right to the voting booth as you and I.
This law would cut them out of the process and here's why. The average I.D. card in many states costs as much as $28.00. Many homeless people have no I.D. at all, and in order to obtain that I.D., they would have to have an address for their home state to send their birth certificate to, which by itself can cost up to $70.00 in some states. Other states require even more than just a birth certificate in order to get a state issued I.D., such as a passport, military I.D., school records, or in places like New Hampshire, a certificate of residency notarized by a Justice Of the Peace.
How in the world are the poor of our nation expected to obtain all of these documents, when their day to day existence is a scrounging for food or shelter? Many millions of Americans fall way below the poverty line, even though they work 40 or more hours per week, and indeed, there are many more homeless people today that have jobs, but can not afford a place to live, let alone run around trying to obtain these documents with money they do not have.
The Supreme Court should and must decide against this law. This is an issue of fair play, something that is starting to go missing in our national mind set. Are we going to tell our homeless veterans, who make up 40% of the total homeless population they can not vote due to a law designed to keep the poor from voting?
Listening to the pundits and talking heads on the right wing television and radio shows, it would seem to an intelligent person that the right does not think that the poor should be allowed to vote at all. That since they are poor in the first place, they don't know how to make decisions, and therefore it shouldn't matter if they are disenfranchised. What gall! What utter contempt for the American way of life and the American sense of justice and fairness for all. What's next? Let's move all the poor in the country to some island where they can fend for themselves? Or maybe we should just go all the way fascist and reopen the death camps.
Are we saying to the mother of three, who works two jobs in order to feed her kids, that she isn't part of America and may not participate in the selection of her own political leaders because she's too poor to afford to pay for an I.D.? According to the latest statistics from The Coalition for the Homeless, that line of reasoning would pretty much disenfranchise almost 15 per cent of the voting population of the United States. Remembering also, that in theory, this would amount to an illegal poll tax, is the Supreme Court going to reverse an Amendment to the Constitution, i.e.; the 24th Amendment of Jan. 23rd, 1964 that ended poll taxes in any way, shape or form?
And so, the dilemma. An argument can be made for either side of this important issue, but at the end of the day, should we not err on the side of caution, and disallow for this statute to be upheld? On the chance that Americans would be shut out of the political process due to their financial means, the Supreme Court, no matter how far right, must make a stand in favor of the citizens' right to vote. Batmanchester

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