Many people believe that disenfranchisement is that thing that happens when a person gets kicked out of a fast-food franchise for being half-drunk and obnoxious while standing in line for a burger and fries around midnight. Although this is partially correct, it is not entirely true. Real disenfranchisement occurs when that obnoxious fool gets to the counter, reaches for his money only to discover that he has no identification because he left his wallet back at the party. If the party was in the car then it’s an easy fix, but if it was across town events can spiral out of control. Two guys named Harold and Kumar made an obscure movie about just such a problem. Fortunately, someone at the White House must have heeded their warnings, because it’s obvious that Attorney General Eric Holder is working hard to ensure that no one will be forced to go through such difficulty ever again.
In a recent speech to the NAACP in Houston, Mr. Holder pointed out that, “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.” Mr. Holder quickly put two and two together and highlighted the Obama administration’s anti-tax policies: “We call those poll taxes.” Some audience members applauded.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, poll taxes were established in several Southern states as an underhanded means of keeping former slaves from voting. Although the 24th Amendment outlawed such taxes, Mr. Holder has unearthed the truth behind the DMV, the Social Security Administration and all of the other institutions that require the documented establishment of physical identification. The entire reason for the existence of such institutions is to keep people from making it to polling stations on Nov. 6.
Everyone knows that you don’t need identification to buy something as fundamentally American as a hamburger and a bag of fries. Everyone also knows that being able to vote for a really cool guy for president or for the MLB all-star team is one of our most basic and fundamental rights as Americans. Therefore, the logic is so simple that even a hippie stuck in the midst of a Woodstock flashback could figure out the proper course of action. If we don’t need government-issued identification to buy fast food, then for the love of sanity and all other things that are good, we should not be hassled for ID at the voting booth.
The state of Nevada hassles potential voters for identification every time they attempt to cast a ballot.
Each election cycle seems like Groundhog Day: We stand in line, an older, retired citizen sitting at a folding table smiles, nods, then takes the voter’s ID and matches it to a name on the list. At this point the poll worker hands the voter an unsharpened pencil. The poll worker then kindly explains that the eraser end is to be used on the electronic screen inside the booth. The voter walks to the booth, recognizes his or her favorite candidate at the top of the ticket and gently taps the eraser next to that candidate’s name.
The rest of the voting process becomes hazy at this point because the remainder of the electronic document is usually filled with names and propositions that no one has ever heard of before.
When the eraser poking is done, the voter hands the pencil back to the senior citizen who smiles and then takes care of the next voter. It all seems very innocent, but thanks to Mr. Holder we now know that it is all part of an evil poll-tax disenfranchisement scheme.
Not everyone can come up with the big wad of cash to purchase a fancy identification card. This fact should make everyone with a conscience who does have such an extravagant possession feel a little dirty inside for even considering voting when so many others have been left behind.
Although modern Greece is as low on cash as a drunken sailor after a weeklong shore leave, there is no reason for us to avoid examining the birthplace of democracy for a way to overcome modern disenfranchisement. Ancient Greeks were the first voters on planet Earth, yet none of them carried plastic ID cards. Our solution is clear. Mr. Holder should have everyone wear togas to the election, and nothing else.
Michael Patrick is a freelance writer from Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.