RI’s voter ID law viewed for national fallout
Rhode Island’s adoption of a voter ID law has caused its share of national head-scratching, considering how Democrats rule the General Assembly and how voter ID genenerally attracts more support from conservatives.
Governing is the latest to examine the possible broader fallout:
Several Republican strategists label Rhode Island’s actions as “a messaging nightmare” for Democrats.
“The fact that totally Democratic-controlled Rhode Island passed a voter identification requirement makes [Florida Representative and DNC chair Debbie] Wasserman Schultz look even more ridiculous than she had previously,” says Kevin Igoe, a Republican consultant based in Maryland. “It destroys her contention that requiring an ID to vote is some right wing anti-minority plot. In this country, you need an ID to cash a $15 check. Isn’t protecting our most sacred constitutional right worth at least the same level of verification?”
Jamie Burnett, a GOP consultant in New Hampshire, agrees. “The fact that Rhode Island’s liberal governor, along with an overwhelming Democratic Legislature, have now supported a voter ID bill certainly puts a hole in the argument that such proposals are somehow a part of a right-wing effort to disenfranchise voters,” he says. “These are make-sense measures that put voting on par with applying for a library card.”
Then this, for a different perspective:
David Stebenne, an associate professor of history and law at Ohio State University, suggests that the Rhode Island model could end up being attractive for Democrats — if they seize the initiative.
In a state like Rhode Island, Stebenne says, Democratic dominance in state government would provide a counterweight to fears that the law puts minorities at a disadvantage. “Much depends not just on how the statute is crafted, but also how it’s administered,” he says. “Rhode Island has a very ‘blue’ political culture, and the danger of disfranchisement there is very low, I think.”
Most enticingly, he suggests, the Rhode Island model could offer Democrats tangible political dividends. Passing a Rhode Island-type law in other states “would take voter ID off the table as a potential wedge issue in 2012 and beyond.”