Epiphanyblog

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Constitutional Law Professor: Democracies Protect Universal Sufferage

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Garrett Epps, Journalist and Constitutional Law ProfessorGarrett Epps, a former reporter for The Washington Post, a novelist, legal scholar and professor of constitutional law, writing in the Atlantic Monthly makes a really cogent argument against the new, strict voter ID laws sweeping across the country. I agree with his argument and his belief in democracy.

A modern democracy isn’t worthy of the name unless it protects universal suffrage. That doesn’t mean the state can’t regulate voting — by requiring some forms of ID, for example. It simply means that when the state wants to make it harder to vote, it has to do exactly what it must do when it wants to make it harder to speak: show a very good, factual, neutral, not imaginary reason for doing so.

Despite the current fever for voter-ID laws, no state has managed to do that. Proponents warn darkly of terrorists and illegal aliens overwhelming the polls, but when asked to show proof, they can’t.

Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, one of the nation’s leading voting-rights litigators, reminded a Washington audience a few years ago of Justice Louis D. Brandeis’s famous warning against fear. “Men feared witches and burnt women,” Brandeis said in a famous dissent. After Crawford, among the first Indiana voters turned away from the polls was a group of nuns in their 80s and 90s.

“We fear terrorists and disfranchise nuns,” Karlan said.

If Republicans believe so much in their policies and their vision for the country, and believe that Americans favor these ideas, then why are they attempting to prevent so many people from voting? Why not just do a better job explaining those policy ideas and selling them to the voting public?

What’s more likely is what one GOP legislator said in 2009, “We can’t let that (the ’08 election) happen again.

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