Perhaps Eric Holder is trying to recover some of the stature his Fast & Furious battle has cost him. Or perhaps he feels as strongly as the fiery words he used this week at the NAACP's national convention about Texas' Voter ID law.
"Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. 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. We call those poll taxes."
We're not sure that's the kind of discourse that moves discussions forward, but that barn has long been empty in Washington. The slap, however, has done what slaps do: Prompt an outcry. Texas Sen. John Cornyn called Holder's remarks "irresponsible" and added: "Shame on him." Conservatives have followed suit with varying levels of indignant condemnation.
We've said in editorials that Voter ID solve a problem that doesn't exist - widespread impersonation voter fraud - by creating a larger problem of potentially disenfranchising millions of voters. Most of them are poor. Most are black or elderly. They usually vote Democrat. The authors and supporters of state Voter ID legislation, of course, are Republicans. One, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, even boasted that his state's Voter ID law would help Mitt Romney in November.
In Texas, the law's proponents note that the IDs would be issued free to anyone who requests them, but Holder is correct in noting that the paperwork required to get the IDs is not free or, for some, easy to obtain. Voter ID proponents also argue that plenty of other democracies require their citizens to show ID when voting, but a Harvard University study showed that many of those countries either automatically give their citizens ID or allow them to bring non-photo IDs to the polls if they don't have a photo ID handy. Canada, for example, allows 45 different types of identification, including utility bills and student transcripts.
This is a sensible approach that can soothe those who note that we need ID for a lot of things - without making it unduly hard for people to vote. When Republicans start passing more Voter ID legislation like that, they'll have a better defense against the attorney general's words.
Peter St. Onge