The New York Times’s lead editorial on Monday suggested Republicans had a "Jim Crow" mentality toward voting rights: "They Want to Make Voting Harder? – Early voting has surged among blacks and other Democrats, so Republicans try to restrict it." Good to see the Times has all the answers.
One of the most promising recent trends in expanding political participation has been allowing people to vote in the weeks before Election Day, either in person or by mail. Early voting, which enables people to skip long lines and vote at more convenient times, has been increasingly popular over the last 15 years. It skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, rising particularly in the South and among black voters supporting Barack Obama.
And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the South are trying desperately to cut it back. Two states in the region have already reduced early-voting periods, and lawmakers in others are considering doing so. It is the latest element of a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators across the country to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people.
The biggest part of that effort, imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID, has been painted as a response to voter fraud, an essentially nonexistent problem. But Republican lawmakers also have taken a good look at voting patterns, realized that early voting might have played a role in Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory, and now want to reduce that possibility in 2012.
Is vote fraud really a "nonexistent problem"? There have been far too many cases of corrupt voter registration to take the Times’ dismissal seriously. Then the Times got truly offensive:
Republicans said the measure would save money, a claim as phony as saying widespread fraud necessitates ID cards. The North Carolina elections board, and many county boards, said it would actually cost more money, because they would have to open more voting sites and have less flexibility allocating staff members. Black lawmakers called it what it is: a modern whiff of Jim Crow.
"Jim Crow" is the name for the social caste system prevalent in the South from the end of slavery until the early 1960s, marked by restrictions against blacks on employment, accommodation, and transportation, laws undergirded by violence and threats of violence against blacks. How does requiring ID cards at polling places fit into that picture?
Such a comparison was too much even for liberal writer Adam Serwer of the Washington Post, who noted approvingly that DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz on Monday retracted remarks accusing Republicans of supporting voting restrictions comparable to Jim Crow. Fat change of the Times ever exercising similar class.