This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 30, 2014 on The Washington Times website.
The American Civil Liberties Union is at it again, throwing a log in front of the accelerating — and widely supported — campaign against vote fraud.
This time, the liberal group is asking for an injunction to block Arkansas from enforcing its new voter photo-ID law while the court considers the ACLU’s lawsuit, which claims that the statute violates the Arkansas Constitution by suppressing minority voting.
As usual, the ACLU has managed to dig up several plaintiffs who claim harm for having to show a photo ID before voting. For the record, the ACLU has not filed lawsuits against airlines, banks, government agencies, beer and wine stores, and the U.S. Justice Department visitor’s desk for requiring photo IDs, or against motorcycle cops who stop drivers and ask to see their licenses.
It’s only when people are voting to choose who governs and taxes us that the ACLU generates nuisance lawsuits and false charges of racism.
During the Jim Crow period, states and localities openly discriminated through poll taxes, literacy tests, “whites only” facilities and other policies designed to deny black Americans the right to vote and other basic civil rights after slavery was made illegal by the 13th Amendment in 1865.
It was not until enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, both of which garnered a larger percentage of congressional Republican votes than Democratic votes, that Jim Crow laws were finally wiped off the books. Now, the ACLU and the racial-preference lobby are conflating common-sense voter ID laws with the horrible, racist policies following the Civil War that took 100 years to end.
According to the Arkansas Constitution: “Elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.”
Citing that passage, the ACLU lawsuit, filed on April 16 in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, seeks to prevent state officials from “enforcing any ‘proof of identity’ requirements on plaintiffs and all other Arkansas residents in all future elections, including the May 20, 2014, primary election and November 4, 2014, general election.”
Early voting in the primary begins May 5. The ACLU contends that this doesn’t give the court enough time to figure this out. Keep in mind that the law was enacted a year ago, so the plaintiffs have had 12 months to figure out how to obtain a photo ID.
After the Legislature passed the law on March 19, 2013, and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed it a few days later, the Senate voted to override on March 27, 2013, and the House followed suit on April 1, 2013.
In a press release, the ACLU acknowledges that voters without a photo ID can cast provisional ballots, but contends that this is a hardship because later “they must make a separate trip to the county clerk and swear that they are too ‘indigent’ to obtain ID.” The ACLU says this is “intimidating and humiliating as well as a burden.”
Hard cases make bad law, and nobody is better at digging up cases where the exception overrides the rule than the ACLU. They managed to find Joe Flakes, “who was born in Arkansas 78 years ago but never issued a birth certificate,” and Toylanda Smith and Freedom Kohls, “neither of whom can obtain a copy of their birth certificate” because they don’t have sufficient IDs.
A fourth plaintiff, Barry Haas, has a valid photo ID, but he refused to show it during a “previous election held in Pulaski County in 2014,” and was given a provisional ballot that was not counted in the final election results. The ACLU contends that Mr. Haas was “denied his state constitutional right to vote as an Arkansas resident.”
As long as people are joining the suit out of solidarity, maybe the ACLU should add Bill or Hillary Clinton. Or not. Hillary, who became a U.S. senator from New York, now claims to be a Yankees fan. That alone should disqualify her. Bill is an international citizen and might even live in the United Nations building by now. So, never mind.
Speaking of Mr. Clinton, one of his judicial appointees, U.S. District Judge Lynn S. Adelman, alarmed by the prospect of a clean election this November in Wisconsin, struck down Wisconsin’s voter photo-ID law on Tuesday.
Here’s the big picture: The ACLU and the left are waging war on good laws that ensure the integrity of the ballot box and which protect all voters. They do this on behalf of some potential voters who evidently can navigate modern life without valid identification.
Laws must be reasonable. So must claims against them if they are to be taken seriously. The left’s arguments against voter ID seriously lack merit.