For all of their years of claims that massive voter fraud is going on at the polling place, such that photo ID restrictions are required to ensure the integrity of the vote, you'd think that when Republicans have a chance to run their own elections, they'd be sure to want it to be as "fraud"-free as possible.
Nonetheless, despite onerous polling place photo ID requirements now passed into law in about a dozen states where the GOP controls both the legislative and executive branches, voters will be able to cast their ballot in next Tuesday's "First-in-the-Nation" Republican Iowa caucuses without bothering to show a photo ID -- even though the Republican Party itself sets their own rules for voting there.
Unlike most primary elections where an official state election board or agency sets the rules and runs the registration and balloting processes, the Iowa Republican Party runs its own state caucuses, determines the rules, tabulates all the votes and announces the results to the public and media themselves. They have complete control over the entire process, and yet they don't bother to ask their own voters to show a state-issued photo ID before casting their ballot.
I wonder why that would be?
Actually, I don't. I know exactly why that's the case. Polling place photo ID laws, passed in states where Republicans took control in the wave election of 2010, are instituted for one purpose and one purpose only: to suppress the votes of voters such as the elderly, minorities and students, all of whom have a dastardly tendency to vote for Democratic candidates rather than Republicans. Since only Republicans are on the IA Republican caucus ballot, unlike general elections, the GOP has no interest in disenfranchising their own voters.
While the GOP likes to claim they're attempting to institute these laws to curb "voter fraud," they're unable to show evidence of virtually any polling place impersonation that would supposedly be prevented by such laws. For example, in rejecting the South Carolina GOP's new Photo ID restriction last Friday, finding that that the state's own statistics showed the law would be racially discriminatory, the U.S. Dept. of Justice noted [PDF] that the state failed to point to "any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any other type of fraud that is not already addressed by the state's existing voter identification requirement and that arguably could be deterred by requiring voters to present only photo identification at the polls."
That, even as independent study after study has documented how hundreds of thousands of perfectly legal voters are likely to be disenfranchised by such laws.
Of course, if "voter fraud" was truly a concern of the Republican Party, surely they would require that Iowa caucus goers present a photo ID before casting their vote. But, because such laws have never been about "voter fraud," once again this year, the Party will not bother to require Iowa Republicans to present any such ID before voting in the all-important caucuses next week.
According to their own "Bullet-Point Guide to the 2012 Republican Party of Iowa Caucuses," as posted at the state party's website last week, only new registrants, those registering to sign up with the Republican Party and vote on the same day at the caucus, will be asked -- but not actually required -- to show photo ID:
Do you have to be registered Republican to participate in the Republican caucus? Yes. In order to participate in the Republican caucus, one must be a registered Republican in the state of Iowa. You do have the opportunity to register as a Republican at the caucus, provided that you have a valid photo ID with your current address on it (such as your Iowa driver's license) or a photo ID and a document that proves your residence (such as a utility bill). For more information, visit: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/edr.html.
As the information at the above-linked website of Iowa Secretary of State and Commissioner of Elections Matt Schultz (R) details, a photo ID isn't actually even necessary to register and vote on Election Day either! Any Iowa citizen 18 or over can register as a Republican and then vote in the Republican IA caucus without a Photo ID being required of any of them.
The IA Sec. of State's website notes (and as I confirmed with them yesterday):
If you cannot prove who you are and where you live with the documents [ed note: such as photo ID] listed above, a registered voter from your precinct may attest for you. Both you and the attester will be required to sign an oath swearing the statements being made are true.
Falsely attesting or being attested for is registration fraud. It is a class "D" felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $7,500 and up to 5 years in prison.
Cheryl Allen at the Sec. of State's office confirmed to me Tuesday that while showing photo ID is the "easiest way" to register to vote there, it is by no means a requirement. Folks without photo ID are allowed to sign a simple oath, along with one attester, in order to verify that they are who they say they are.
So not only is it possible to register and vote on the same day in Iowa -- something that Republicans have fought against allowing for most citizens in most other states -- one doesn't even need a photo ID to do it, in an election where the Republicans themselves set all of the rules.
It's almost as if they realize that risking disenfranchisement of any of their own voters in their own caucus would be monumentally stupid -- not to mention potentially illegal and/or unconstitutional to boot, though that has yet to stop them from doing the same in general elections where Democrats may be on the ballot.
Too bad 96-year old Dorothy Cooper and 93-year old Thelma Mitchell from TN and 84-year old Ruthelle Frank from WI, just to name a very few, aren't residents of Iowa. They'd actually be allowed to vote in the much-ballyhooed First-in-the-Nation Republican Iowa caucus without a problem -- just as they have been doing in their own states for decades... until Republicans in those states decided to change the rules this year and make it much more difficult, and/or potentially expensive, to exercise their once-free right to vote.
I attempted to reach out to the Iowa GOP's Communication Director for comment on all of this yesterday, via both phone and email, but those messages have yet to be returned.
One last point for now... since it's repeated so often in defense of indefensible photo ID laws, and so few respond to the misleading claims with the truth. Next time you hear a supporter of one of these voter suppression laws claim, as they do in their usual talking points, that photo ID is required to fly on a plane or to buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes, so why not for voting? Please let them know that, no, photo ID is not required to fly on a plane, as the commercial airlines are not about to keep millions of Americans who don't have such IDs from flying. Furthermore, while I've purchased cigarettes and beer many times over the last several decades, I can't recall the last time anybody ever required me to show a photo ID before doing so.
Nonetheless, even if photo ID were required for each of the transactions mentioned above (and it isn't) each of those transactions are privileges in this country, as opposed to Constitutional rights, which cannot be infringed upon. Apparently the Republicans, in Iowa at least, are smart enough to appreciate that -- at least when it comes to running their very own elections.
* * *
UPDATE: As Eric W. Dolan at RAW STORY points out, in picking up on our story, earlier this year, Iowa state Republicans in their statehouse passed a Photo ID restriction law, as sponsored by Republican Sec. of State Matt Schultz. The measure, thankfully, died in a Senate committee. And yet, when state Republicans had the chance to set any rules they wanted for voting in their own caucuses for President next week, they declined to require Photo ID of their voters. So what does that tell ya?
Recently related Iowa Caucus coverage at The BRAD BLOG:
• 12/19/11: GOP Fears Iowa Caucus May be Hacked Following Purported Video Threat by 'Anonymous'
Follow Brad Friedman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheBradBlog