Friday, March 18, 2011

The New Poll Tax

What happens in New Hampshire should stay in New Hampshire.

One might reasonably come to that conclusion based on the antics of
the state’s politicians in recent weeks.

Last week, we reported that two New Hampshire pols advocated charging
TSA agents with sexual assault for doing their jobs.

Specifically, random airport security pat-downs and body scans would
make "the touching or viewing with a technological device of a
person's breasts or genitals by a government security agent without
probable cause a sexual assault."

"Let's put their name on the sex offender registry, and maybe that
will tell them New Hampshire means business," huffed bill co-sponsor
Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry.

OK, that’s just plain goofy. Among other things, it’s in all
likelihood a federal matter and the state’s jurisdiction is
questionable. Nothing to see here, move on.

But now New Hampshire House Republicans are pushing for new laws that
would prohibit many college students from voting in the state - or
maybe even voting at all.

They are rallying behind House speaker William O’Brien who, in a
speech to a Tea Party group, said college kids are “foolish. Voting
as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added. Students lack "life
experience," and "they just vote their feelings."

Just as an aside, I’m betting Mr. O’Brien voted with his feelings
when he marked his ballot for John McCain and Sarah Palin. And I’m
willing to bet that those in his tea bagger audience would loudly
voice their feelings at the drop of a three-cornered hat.

But back to the issue at hand. To weed out these “foolish” voters,
especially those who might vote Democratic, two bills were
introduced. One would permit students to vote in their college towns
only if they or their parents had previously established permanent
residency there - requiring all others to vote in the states or other
New Hampshire towns they come from.

Another bill would end Election Day registration, which O'Brien said
unleashes swarms of students on polling places, creating
opportunities for fraud.

What’s next, a poll tax? That kept African-Americans out of the
political process for a hundred years or more. It just might work on
a bunch of college kids.

In a unique burst of rational thinking, the New Hampshire legislature
temporarily sidetracked the bills this week, perhaps realizing they
were unconstitutional.

But the issue isn’t dead. A hearing will be held this summer on the
measures in plenty of time to change the laws before the 2012

We could chalk this up to a handful of misguided zealots tucked away
in the deep northeastern woods. Except, as an article in the
Washington Post points out, the measures in New Hampshire are among
dozens of voting-related bills being pushed by newly empowered
Republican state lawmakers across the country - prompting partisan
clashes akin to those already roiling in some states over GOP moves
to curb union power.

I’ve always believed a party that comes to power does so because it
appeals to the greatest proportion of voters. Sure, there’s been
fraud in the past but for the most part democracy works just as our
forefathers designed it to do.

But apparently, there’s a new strategy at work. If you want to win,
disenfranchise those who oppose you. Simply raise the specter of
fraud and cut them out of the political process.

"It's a war on voting," said Thomas Bates, vice president of Rock the
Vote, a youth voter- registration group mounting a campaign to fight
the array of state measures. "We'd like to be advocating for a
21st-century voting system, but here we are fighting against efforts
to turn it back to the 19th century."

We could also presume that if the Republicans succeeded in this
Draconian exercise, the Democrats might try to play the same game,
say banning people over 65, who tend to vote Republican, on the
grounds that age has diminished their judgment.

Insanity begets insanity.

Here’s the bottom line: In the last three general elections - 2004,
2006, and 2008 -- young voters have given the Democratic Party a
majority of their votes, and for all three cycles they have been the
party's most supportive age group.

In 2008, according to a Pew survey, 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in
any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

The GOP is clearly running second in a two-person race and has a lot
of work to do to win the hearts and minds of young voters.

They can start by reaching out to them. But treating the young as
political lepers which will only further alienate them.

No comments: