To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We've had some election problems in Memphis. Dead people voting, etc. I feel sorry for Ophelia Ford, because this crap has gone on for years while her brothers and nephews were elected to one office after another, and now that it's finally her turn all this stuff blows up. It's embarrassing but kind of encouraging to see the election commission FINALLY paying attention and trying to take steps. As usual, I have a few thoughts.

The election commission can only man the polls with people who volunteer to work elections. You do get paid a little bit, but it's a nominal amount. I think people ought to be called for election duty like we're called for jury duty. It's one day out of your life, plus an evening class beforehand. And then these people need to be assigned outside their precinct so there won't be any "forget the rules, this is how we do it" nonsense or "come on, you know me" stuff. They can take advantage of early voting or absentee voting so they won't have to leave to vote in their own precinct.

Then we need to get serious about requiring picture IDs. It chaps my rear that we see those pictures of proud Iraqis with purple fingers, who braved actual death from car bombs and so forth to exercise their sacred right to vote, while our own citizens can't be bothered to make sure they have their dadgum driver's license in their pocket. It's just tooooo much trouble. Or else they don't have a picture ID. How about the get-out-the-vote people running their vans into the poor neighborhoods ahead of election day to take people to the highway patrol station and get their state IDs? They could put fliers out and run ads on the radio stations to tell people when they're coming and what kind of identification they need to have ready. I would be willing for my taxes to pay for the HW patrol station to be open on a Saturday for the purpose ... heck, I'll even spring for coffee and donuts. Or fit out a mobile ID station to actually go into the neighborhoods and make IDs.

There's the argument that requiring IDs is a reminder of the Jim Crow days when black people were kept from voting due to underhanded tricks like poll taxes or literacy tests. I think it's time to put the bad old days aside and act like it's 2006. Memphis is a majority black city. The election commission is run by black folks. NO ONE is going to try to keep a black person from voting because of his race. Why would anyone want to pretend that he's not sure he'll get his rights? Where is the pleasure in that? What happened to "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud"? How about "here is my picture ID, and I'm going to vote, dammit"? Do people who want to fear having to show their ID want their children to fear it, and their grandchildren?

Finally, the law enforcement folks need to throw the book at people who vote illegally. One man who voted in that contested election, in the wrong precinct, said that it was the election commission's responsibility to make sure he voted correctly. No sir, it was your responsibility to file your change of address and quit lying. The election commission ought to randomly audit a certain percentage of voters after every election and prosecute illegal voters. People who vote more than once, or who vote in elections they aren't entitled to vote in, or who vote dead people, disfranchise everyone. Everyone. We need to set some cottonpickin' standards and quit acting like a third-world country on election day.

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