I didn't want to let the week pass without at least touching on this story. Late last week US District Judge Allan Pepper ruled that political parties have a right to stop non-party members from voting in their primary elections and suggested that party registration and voter ID would do that. Several different issues that greatly influence Mississippi jump out of this.
1. parties can exclude non-party members
2. party registration is / will be required
3. voter i.d. is being pushed by the courts
I will take these issues separately:
1. I don't have a big problem with this idea, if a candidate is to be chosen as the "Democratic" or "Republican" candidate then only members of those parties are the people who should be selecting them. I realize the arguments such as "there are only 2 parties that can win" and "if you don't vote in the primary you're left with no choice" but to me if a candidate is to represent a party he should be voted to that position by members of that party, not outsiders. Now I'm starting to sound like Ellis Turnage, who IMO is a big nut-job, but on this idea maybe we agree.
2. Party registration being required is another good idea, how do you know who you are as a group without having a list of some sort. Fears of party registration go back to the Red Scare (and before I'm sure) in America but I just don't see the problem. Many people say that there are only 2 parties and if you can't vote in one of those primaries your choices are limited to an extent that it corrupts the process. I just don't believe that, if enough people are unhappy with a party that party will go away, if enough people who are unhappy form together a new party will be founded. History is our proving ground for this, in the beginning there were Federalist and Anti-Federalist (Democratic-Republicans), there were Whigs and Free-Soilers, there were Know-nothings, Greenbacks and Populist Parties and there were Bull Mooser's, Socialist, Democrat and Republican parties, Parties come and go, power swings back and forth and the more power these "third-party" parties get the more neutralized the big 2 become, just look at the evolution of the Republican party from Lincoln to Reagan and look at how Republicans have changed from Willkie to Bush 43 (from economic conservatism to mass social spending and debt creation). All of this is said to show that just because you aren't voting in one of the big 2 parties doesn't mean your ideas won't be heard.
3. voter i.d. seems to be pushed by this ruling. I, personally am a fan of voter i.d. I think I understand the premise behind it's opponents that some voters feel hassled, that some voters become afraid because things like i.d. prevented them from voting 40 years ago.
Let me start with saying it is not that much of a hassle. If you can drag yourself up to the ballot box you can come up to the circuit clerks office and fill out a new voter registration form. If you don't have an i.d. because you don't drive then they can get you an i.d. just for voting, we have special i.d.'s for military, special i.d.'s for gun permits, this would not be a problem. And for the most extreme of cases, those shut-ins and disabled people I'm sure a decent exception could be offered of an in-home visit by a clerk's assistant to verify. Keep it mind these exceptions would rarely, if ever, be used.
As for those people who say well my grandma was harassed by a poll tax way back when and I shouldn't be hassled, you should grow up. Voter intimidation in the 60's and before did happen but that was 40 years ago, and now we actually have a system in place to deal with voter intimidation if it were to rear its ugly head. This simply is not a modern day problem and we cannot let fear of issues of a half a century ago influence something as important as getting an accurate voting system.
My one slight problem with this issue is that voter i.d. shouldn't be pushed by the courts, it should be pushed by the people. The people's voice is in the legislature and I simply do not understand the lock the "Black Caucus" has on any voter i.d. bill that comes through the State House of Representatives. Let it pass, your voters will be leery the first time but after that everything will be fine, people are scared of change, of the unknown, but this is a good thing that keeps everyone above board.
As always we welcome comments and ideas.