The lawsuit over the Voter ID law, which is aimed at further depressing voter turnout, was filed while i was away and an e-mail blast from a Republican deeply involved in the effort got my attention last night. I think it unwittingly revealed the core of Republican thinking.
It came from Stu Soffer, a Republican member of both the state and Jefferson County Election Commissions. Soffer, a retired military man, is a bumptious sort but principled. Almost alone among Republican officialdom, he’ll speak ill of actions of other Republicans when he disagrees. He’s feuded with Secretary of State Mark Martin, to his credit. And he’s been at the forefront of challenging outrageous political finagling by the local Democratic power structure in Pine Bluff. Again to his credit.
I can’t similarly credit his e-mail last night, blasted to media, with his purported discovery that one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU/Arkansas Public Law Center lawsuit has a record of misdemeanor arrests. Disposition of those cases was not included by Soffer, but presumption of innocence wasn’t much on Soffer’s mind in an e-mail to media headlined “WOW!”
I have no full details, either. The woman’s past is irrelevant unless she is ineligible to vote. Soffer offers no evidence of this. I’m a board member at the Public Law Center but was out of the country when plaintiffs were assembled and the suit filed. I”d stipulate that anyone would prefer all plaintiffs in a legal action to be simon-pure types with unblemished personal lives. But an absence of, say, alcohol abuse and misdemeanor arrests are not prerequisites to vote in Arkansas — yet. You need not submit a resume to vote. Indeed, in Arkansas a convicted felon may regain the right to vote immediately after completing a sentence, including probation and parole.
Soffer sees this differently. I hope other Republicans and their shills join his chorus of demonizing a woman seeking her state constitutional right to vote without additional burdens added by the Republican-controlled legislature. Because the attitude is revealing.
I asked Soffer what a misdemeanor arrest record had to do with the plaintiff’s standing. He responded:
A women who needs social services help to get her life on track rather than be used as a pawn for political purposes.
How nice of him to be so deeply concerned about a woman he’s just publicly held up for ridicule. Republicans simply don’t want poor, disabled, minority, elderly and people on the margins of society to have easy access to the polls. They understand the benefits of a benevolent government. Thus, they are less likely to vote Republican. Republicans want only the right sort of person to vote and they’ll be the judge of who the right sort is. Soffer apparently also only wants the right sort of person to be allowed access to the courts for redress of grievance. Soffer’s attack says a whole lot more about him and Voter ID than it does about one plaintiff, whatever her personal situation might be.