If You Can't Trust a Nun, Who Can You Trust?

BlogHer Original Post

What do you get when you cross an 80-year-old nun with a primary election that some in the GOP are trying to control?

I know that sounds like a bad joke. But it's no joke and the punch line can only increase the voting angst so many already have.

The presidential primaries are almost over, but that doesn't mean we can stop thinking about voters and the voting process. After all, what if a group of radical, senior-citizen nuns stormed a polling place and demanded to vote with expired ID's?

OK, so the nuns didn't actually storm their Indiana polling place -- shuffle was more like it -- but the voter identification saga continues with octogenarian nuns and teen-aged college students wrongly being turned away from the polls.

Just days after the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the Indiana voter ID law that allows citizens to vote only if they have certain types of state-issued ID's, old and young alike were turned away from the polls, even though they were registered and otherwise entitled to case their ballots.

Supposedly, voter identification requirements are about preventing voter fraud. Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd be willing to bet my retirement account that those nuns weren't a bunch of over-the-hill Hell's Angels trying to crash the 2008 election party. If you're making an argument about procedural integrity, can you really argue with a straight face that the ladies wearing the habits are the ones we need to watch out for?

Sure, as a lawyer, I understand the argument of protecting the system, but it's not the electoral process this law is meant to protect -- it's preserving the GOP's hold on how the process works in the hopes that more Republican votes will count than Democratic ones.

Ally Klimkoski at Everyday Citizen blog writes about the details of other voters, in addition to those nuns, who also were sent packing in Indiana:

19-year old Angela Hiss, a sophomore and computer science major at the University of Notre Dame, was turned away from the [Indiana] polls ... as she attempted to vote in her first election. ... She presented several forms of identification - her school ID, a piece of mail that showed her campus address and an Illinois driver’s license – but was misinformed that she could not vote because she could not show in-state ID. ... Instead, they suggested visiting the local Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain the in-state identification required by Indiana’s newly-upheld law, an endeavor that could take hours, she explained. Furthermore, while the law allows her ten days to obtain the required ID from the DMV, Hiss’s travel plans [did] not give her time. As a result, she said, she [was] not be able to vote in the primary.

As for the poll workers, they also weren't telling people about the provisional ballot option. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at the Moderate Voice blog has an edgier version of what happened in Indiana:

These nuns, and others like them, who are elderly and, in many ways, are naive about the world, yet very sharp about the ‘other world,’ and yet have dedicated a lifetime to serving day in and day out, who have sacrificed so much, deserve to be treated far more decently than this. Far more. I see the reasons behind [the law] .

But also, there has to be a reasoned application of such a law, so that when one casts huge nets meant to catch the common fish, they do not also catch dolphins ... dolphins are mammals, not fish. Dolphins are disabled when stuck in nets underwater, not allowed to surface.

It makes no sense to deny the innocent their hard-won freedoms whilst trying to entrap the others.

Indiana, for your penance, that’ll be ten Our Fathers, twenty Hail Marys, and a passel of rosaries. And an apology to the sisters from the Governor would be nice, since Mitch Daniels (R) is the one who signed the law to begin with.

Indiana is just the beginning, though. Missouri wants in on this voter-suppression-disguised-as- anti-fraud measure. So does Kansas (and you know it pains me to criticize anything remotely related to the Jayhawks). Plus, there's apparently some mischief afoot in the Sunflower State to get legitimate voters off the rolls before November with a little something called "vote caging," according to Wonkette:

How about if we said that, as head of the Kansas GOP, [Kris Kobach] sent an email to supporters bragging about their successful use of semi-illegal tactics to eliminate Democratic voters from the rolls? Would anyone be surprised at that? Yeah, we didn’t really think so but we wanted to make sure. You know, there are some really nice people in Kansas, but I guess they, too, don’t want to run for office.

For some, the voter ID issue seems innocuous and is the price one ought to pay for participating in a democracy -- hey, if you can't get yourself to the Motor Vehicles Department, then you don't deserve to vote, right?

Maybe that's a fine argument if you're healthy, mobile and have the resources to manage that process. But if there isn't any real evidence of rampant voter fraud, what motivation for these laws could there be -- proposed by Republican heavy state legislatures -- other than to prevent Democrats from casting their ballots and preserve their hold on power?

Now, I have no way of knowing how those little old ladies and young students in Indiana would have voted. But for many, conventional wisdom holds that, historically, those age groups vote more for Democrats than for Republicans.

So what DO you get when you cross that nun with the voting restrictions? It's just not that tough to connect the dots that are there to come to the conclusion that voter ID laws are not what they're cracked up to be and that the punch line is frustrated voters who see politicians trying to rig the system at the expense of our rights as voters.

When she's not here at BlogHer, fulfilling her duties as Contributing Editor for Politics & News, you can find Joanne at her place PunditMom, as well as MOMocrats, The Huffington Post & MomsRising! WHEW, that's a lot of politics!

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