Two Questions for Republicans

My questions are catalyzed by Bill Clinton’s convention remarks about voter suppression and reaction to it. This is not a topic Clinton dwelled on, but he did say this:

If you want every American to vote and you think it’s wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.

Responding over at National Review Online the next morning, veteran conservative pundit John Fund accused Clinton of “shamelessly playing the race card” with criticism that qualifies as “reckless and irresponsible.” Fund was especially galled by Clinton’s timing:

His timing in attacking efforts to combat voter fraud couldn’t have come at a more ironic time. Just yesterday, a Democratic state legislator in Clinton’s native Arkansas pled guilty along with his father, a West Memphis police officer, and a West Memphis city councilman to a conspiracy to commit voter fraud. Democratic representative Hudson Hallum was part of a conspiracy to bribe voters in three separate elections in 2011.

A quick read through the U.S. Attorney’s news release (pdf) announcing the charges and guilty pleas reveals some serious warp in Fund’s sense of irony. The charges were hardly the kind of imagined voter fraud that the recent spate of laws is supposed to combat in order to preserve the republic. These clowns in Arkansas helped absentee voters obtain and complete ballots, bribed them with food and hooch, collected the ballots in unsealed envelopes, looked at them, and then sealed and mailed only those who voted for Rep. Hallum. In other words, much that is felonious, but nothing that voter ID requirements or curtailed voting hours would halt.

So here are my two question for thoughtful GOPers:

First, when a venerable commentator like John Fund has to rely on a transparently irrelevant example of election fraud in order to justify these new laws, does that not reveal for all to see, as opponents of these laws have been claiming all along, that this is a solution in search of a (non-existent) problem?

And second, when Bill Clinton suggests that Republicans are tinkering with voting laws in a specifically calculated effort to “reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters,” can you honestly look yourself in the mirror and assert with genuine conviction that this is not precisely the intent (not just the effect, but the intent) of those pushing these laws?

A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.


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