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Attacking the Nuns

Those who urge harsh voter ID laws can’t be too happy about the story of the Indiana nuns turned away from the polls. So now they have started to respond. Their answer: attack the nuns!

May 9, 2008

The story of the elderly Indi­ana nuns who were turned away from the polls because they lacked voter ID has won wide atten­tion.  Those who urge harsh voter ID laws, supposedly to block voter fraud, can’t be too happy.  So now they have star­ted to respond.  Their answer: attack the nuns!

John Fund, writ­ing on the Wall Street Journal website, charges that the nuns could have voted, because they could have gotten “provi­sional ballots.”  Let’s see: to get the ballots, the nuns, in their 80's and 90's, would have had to go first to the polling place … then to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles office … then to the county seat within ten days.  All to do some­thing they could have done their entire lives, i.e., exer­cise their right to go to the polls and vote.

Or, he says, they could simply have voted absentee – again, some­thing these voters never were forced to do before.  It hardly seems fair to tell citizens, “You can vote without a drivers license, but only if you do it from hiding and make your plans long in advance.” (P.S., if the goal is to prevent fraud, could­n’t a trick­ster also vote absentee?)

There’s a better answer. Let’s stop passing laws that make it harder for eligible citizens to vote.  Let’s focus instead on passing laws to make the Amer­ican voting system the best in the world.  That would mean elec­tronic machines that work and give paper records, profes­sion­al­iz­ing elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion so partisan hacks don’t over­see elec­tions, and a move to univer­sal voter regis­tra­tion – where the govern­ment makes sure that eligible voters are on the rolls and can cast their ballots.

Improv­ing demo­cracy?  As the nuns might say, it’s time to get in the habit.