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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Voter ID and How the Media is Failing Democracy

voter ID meme image
Here's some bad news; American democracy just took another hit.

New York Times:

A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday refused to grant an injunction on a new voter identification law that Democrats say could harm President Obama’s re-election chances by unfairly targeting minorities, college students and others in a key swing state.

The decision by Robert Simpson, a commonwealth court judge, clears the way for Pennsylvania to require voters in the Nov. 6 general election to produce photo identification before they are allowed to cast ballots.

This isn't entirely bad news -- or, at least, not as bad as its being presented. The odds of this affecting the election outcome are slim to none. Pennsylvania's RealClearPolitics polling average is Obama +7, with the most recent poll putting the president up 11 points. At this moment, to call Pennsylvania a "swing state" -- as so many are doing -- looks like an abuse of the term. Romney's looking pretty doomed here and voter ID can't possibly disenfranchise enough people to make the difference for him (Nate Silver estimates the law would skew results 2.4%).

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Still, that's cold comfort for those who will be disenfranchised. Republicans can stop pretending they're all about freedom and limited government now; they insist that a right can be denied by a government bureaucrat demanding the proper paperwork. That's not a right, that's a privilege -- and in a free society, voting is a right. Republicans are most definitely not the friends of freedom they pretend to be. They're anti-patriots who are the enemy of freedom. And the Tea Party types who think they're patriots are either chumps, dopes, or -- if they really understand what the GOP is doing -- as anti-American as the party they worship. If you just read that and are horribly, horribly offended by it, know that I can't adequately express how little I care. You're not worthy of that respect, so quit waving around your hankie and faint already.

Still, the problem facing Democrats on this issue seems to be mostly a media unwilling to explain the issue to voters. The Washington Post polled voter ID and found it very popular among voters -- with one important caveat:

A new Washington Post poll found that 74 percent of respondents strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that voters should be required to show a government-issued ID when voting.

However, 51 percent of the randomly selected 2,047 adults surveyed nationally between July 18 and 29 said they had either heard not much or nothing at all about voter ID laws.

“From a public awareness standpoint, it’s pretty low awareness,” said Jon Cohen, The Post’s director of polling. “We’re talking about under half of all American adults who have even heard something of this raging controversy.”

Let that sink in; less than half of all adults have even heard of the controversy surrounding voter ID laws. That is beyond awful. That's journalistic malpractice on an epic scale. You can't even blame the media's weak he said/she said approach to reporting, because the American public doesn't even know that "he" and "she" are arguing.

Democratic messaging on the issue could be better. You get the feeling that they aren't making as big a fuss as they should because they don't want to be seen as potential sore losers. They should be as riled up as they've ever been in history -- and they aren't. But the media really deserves the lion's share of the blame here. You can't have voters this poorly informed without something being very, very wrong with the information system.

Republicans may hate democracy, but the media seems pretty lukewarm to it. Which is stupid; without democracy to protect freedom, their industry fails.

-Wisco

[image source]


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