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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.