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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 11:00 pm | Partly Cloudy 52º


Susan Estrich: Unfair Voter ID Laws Force Hillary Clinton to Take Campaign to Courts

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has launched its campaign in the courts, being waged by a veteran of such battles but on a far larger scale.

What the Clintons are doing is challenging the new round of regulations on voter identification and proof enacted in a handful of states with a history of discriminatory voting practices. In the past, these laws would not have stood up to the scrutiny of the Justice Department; in the new era, thanks to another misguided U.S. Supreme Court decision, the states are free to do what they want.

Sadly, the best proof that the law is still needed is the reaction to its loss.

But of course, a Republican will tell you I’m just saying all these things because the people we all think we’re talking about — the people who are more likely to show up without a driver’s license, who don’t have a government-issued I.D., didn’t come in advance to register or moved too many times for the registrar to keep up or are just afraid of official interrogation and might not vote if faced with it — those people are more likely to be Democrats.

And I’ll tell you that while Republicans talk an amazing game of “fraud and abuse,” as if an army of illegal immigrants would volunteer themselves for the scrutiny of local officials, there has never been any showing of such an organized effort for the obvious reason that it would be stupid.

The problem we tend to face in minority communities is not that too many people vote but too few, not that people without credentials feel welcome but that those with them don’t.

Now, we could all be wrong: It’s worth noting, at least by way of footnote, that Republicans opposed “motor voter” laws (laws that required an option to register to vote when you get your driver’s license, a right of passage for young people) because they assumed they’d favor Democrats, and when the Democrats finally managed to put together enough votes and a president to get the bill passed, it turned out that the new registrants split pretty equally between the parties.

But let’s assume we’re right. The Clinton campaign’s motives are political. Shocking.

But aren’t they right? 

Presidential candidate Clinton is highlighting the issue by speaking out and calling for a set of proposals — including online registration and national early voting, as well as prohibitions on most voter identification laws — designed to make it easier to vote.

The idea is that if it is easier, more people will do it. That may or may not be true. Efforts to make voting easier don’t always work.

Ask people why they don’t vote and they may tell you, as my students sometimes do, that they just don’t feel particularly “qualified” to pick. Ask some people whether we should change the laws to make voting easier and they’ll say no for the same reason: not that it will bring in too many Democrats or that there will be fraud and abuse, but that voting should somehow be reserved for a qualified elite that doesn’t include people who aren’t interested/educated/motivated enough to appear in person on a Tuesday.

It’s just the attitude the Voting Rights Act was intended to change.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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