On the surface, it seems like such a small controversy.
In Arkansas, last Tuesday, there was a special election in Pulaski County. The issue was whether the public would approve a tax increase to fund Pulaski Technical College, the state’s largest two-year school. It’s the kind of election that has much to say about local communities and what kind of places they are (for the record, the tax increase lost by a 3-1 margin). But this election, and the controversy attached to it, has much to say about the Republican Party, not only in Arkansas, but across the country. You see, what happened last week is the direct result of the profound fear conservatives have of democracy, of the people. As Think Progress reported:
In 2013, the Arkansas legislature enacted a voter ID law containing a provision requiring absentee voters to include a copy of their ID along with their ballot. The result, according to a statement Pulaski County Election Commissioner Chris Burks gave to the Arkansas Times, is that 76 of the 384 absentee ballots cast in last Tuesday’s election were not counted. Burks added that, “[i]n my opinion, those absentee ballots returned without ID were 76 real people’s votes that would have otherwise counted but for the sloppily drafted Voter ID bill.”
That sloppily drafted Voter ID bill, which robbed some people of their fundamental right to speak in an election, was vetoed by Arkansas’ Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. Republicans, firmly in control of the Arkansas legislature, if not their American senses, overrode the governor’s veto, claiming, as they do all over the country where this anti-democratic spirit thrives, that the law would prevent the non-existent problem of “voter fraud.”
Of course, the only fraud going on is the notion that Republicans give a damn about free and fair elections. They don’t. What they care about is winning elections without appealing to a wide swath of the electorate. And it is an absolute fact that the more people there are who participate in elections, the less likely it is that Republicans will win them. Thus, it is not a scandal in the Republican Party to disenfranchise as many voters as possible, particularly voters who might vote for Democrats. Disenfranchising potentially Democratic voters is the only way Republicans can survive in the short term, as the deadly combination of Tea Party dominance of the party and changing demographics doom the future prospects of the GOP as it is now constituted.
But we Democrats know all that. What we don’t know is this: Why has the mainstream press largely ignored the anti-democratic spirit that now animates the Republican Party? Why isn’t it front-page news that Republicans all over the nation are essentially trying to change the outcomes of elections by making it harder for people to vote? And why don’t those 76 voters in Pulaski County, Arkansas, whose vote didn’t count last week, have their faces on the evening news?