MSNBC's scurrilous charges of racism against the GOP continued yesterday as Hardball host Chris Matthews tag-teamed with South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian and Judith Browne-Dianis of The Advancement Project to insist to viewers that a newly-enacted voter ID law will prevent thousands of blacks from voting in the Palmetto State. The law is currently under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.
As is standard operating procedure for Hardball, no defender of the South Carolina law was featured during the October 19 program's segment -- entitled "Voting Wrongs" -- to balance out the discussion.
What's more, although Harpootlian has infamously called the bill "electoral genocide," Matthews failed to challenge Harpootlian's extremely harsh rhetoric, even though he noted it in a tease before a commercial break earlier in the program:
The chairman of the state's Democratic Party says it's electoral genocide. Is that overkill in saying that? We'll hear what he has to say. He's coming here next.
Matthews did, however, dismiss as "pandering" a May 18 soundbite from Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) that he used to introduce the segment. In that clip, Haley argued that:
[I]f you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture to make sure that we do what is incredibly inherent in our freedoms and that is the ability to vote.
"When did this idea come about.... Why are the Republicans getting so randy to roll up the vote, if that's what they're up to?" Matthews theorized in his first question to Harpootlian.
In response, Harpootlian charged Republicans with issuing a new spin on the "old South Carolina tradition" of poll taxes and literacy tests. Matthews then raised with Browne-Dianis the plight of the hypothetical 80-year-old voter who lacks a photo ID who has to endure bureaucratic hassles at the DMV and shelling out "20-some bucks or whatever it is" for the ID.
Browne-Dianis agreed but went further, adding, "This is nothing but old-time voter suppression."
Left unmentioned, however, was that in South Carolina, government-issued ID cards are free of charge to citizens over the age of 17.
Matthews then worked in another line of attack on Gov. Haley, that she's "elitist" for noting that to fly on a commercial airline one needs a photo ID:
Let me go back to this Nikki Haley, I don't know what to make of her. She's brand new to politics, Dick, but, why would she be so windswept and elitist in her conversation.
Most people don't get on airplanes. I think my parents were on an airplane maybe once in their life. I remember when my grandmother took a trip once, the whole family went out to see her off to St. Louis.
Not everybody is so frisky as to jump up on airplanes all the time. What is she talking about? Like everybody flies, therefore everybody should have a photo ID card.
Who is she now? Where did she get that from?
"She's out of touch with reality," Harpootlian replied.
Again, Matthews and his guest are wrong. According to a new poll, only 14 percent of Americans have never flown, with more than 70 percent of respondents "flying once or twice a year or less."
What's more, Matthews may be unaware that a valid photo ID is required for persons 18 and up who travel by rail on Amtrak. A similar policy is in effect with Greyhound, an interstate travel option for the budget-conscious and historically for working class folks who can't afford a plane or train.
Also missing from the discussion was the new law's provision for provisional balloting in the event a voter shows up at a polling station without a voter ID. From the National Conference of State Legislatures website:
If the elector cannot produce identification, he may cast a provisional ballot that is counted only if the elector brings a valid and current photograph identification to the county board of registration and elections before certification of the election by the county board of canvassers.
While that would present the voter with the hassle of returning to the county board of elections after election day, it still ensures that the voter may vote on election day, even though the ballot may not be counted until after he/she verifies his identity.
In any case, no one will be turned away from the polls if they exercise their rights under the new law.