Perhaps because its bread is mostly buttered by conservative readers and advertisers, or perhaps because all of our local legislators are Republicans and it wouldn’t do to make them mad, but there really is no excuse for what the Joplin Globe did—really, what it didn’t do—in today’s otherwise excellent editorial.
The piece rightly criticized the move in the Missouri legislature to force anyone wishing to vote in our state to present,
either a valid Missouri driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a passport, a military ID card or an unexpired state or federal photo ID card.
The Globe pointed out that,
The legislation would end the use of other forms of ID, including student ID cards, utility statements and expired Missouri driver’s licenses. A county-issued voter registration card wouldn’t even be good enough. If the bill is passed, Missouri would rank with Indiana for the strictest voter ID law in the country.
The paper mentioned the cost to the state of issuing the ID cards and also made the incontrovertible point that all of the fuss is over nothing. Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander, according to the Globe, said in a report that,
no cases of voter impersonation fraud have been reported since the state’s current voter identification requirements were put into place in 2002.
That bears repeating: there is no fraud to fight with this new voter ID law. Nothing. Not one single case has come up in more than ten years. That is why the Globe asks,
Why are Missouri legislators so eager to invent problems that aren’t there?
Now, that is a very good question. The problem is that the Joplin Globe is in a position to answer it—and it didn’t. It failed Journalism 101.
First, the paper used the term “Missouri legislators” to describe the perpetrators of this scheme. While technically correct, the term manages to hide the truth: it is only Missouri Republican legislators who are inventing problems that aren’t there. Why didn’t the Joplin Globe tell its readers that?
Second, the paper knows full well what is behind the scheme: disenfranchising Democratic voters. Couldn’t the paper have found a Democratic legislator to make that obvious claim and report that in its editorial? Sure it could have. I found a Democrat willing to call this for what it is on my first Google attempt:
“Jim Crow is alive in this room today,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia who served in the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 2009. “This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly.”
Would it have been too much to ask that the editorial—which after all is expressing an opinion—present to readers at least what Democrats believe—and what the editorial writer actually knows—is behind the voter ID bill? But we must remember, again, who butters the Globe’s bread and the ultimate objective of bottom-line journalism: don’t piss off your subscribers or the people they put in political office.
Third, the paper has a very cozy relationship with area Republican legislators and we are often treated to favorable coverage in the paper of their mostly reactionary legislative exploits. Thus, since the offensive voter ID legislation has already passed the Missouri House, a reader of today’s editorial might wonder: How did our local representatives, like Bill Lant and Bill White and Charlie Davis and Tom Flanigan and Bill Reiboldt, vote? The paper doesn’t mention them.
Further, the bill is now before the Missouri Senate and a reader might want to know what our local senator, Ron Richard—the majority floor leader and recipient of many puffy pieces in the local paper—thinks about it. But the reader is left to wonder.
The Globe offered us nothing in the way of discovering what our local representatives think about this bill, this bill the Globe calls in the headline of its editorial,
A new low
A new low? That’s pretty strong language. Yet the paper doesn’t bother to call out Republicans in general for what they are doing nor does it bother to name names locally.* Again, think about the butter and the bread.
I guess I should be satisfied that at least the Joplin Globe is on the right side of the issue, but it would help much more if the paper used its clout to call out our local legislators for their disgusting attempt to disenfranchise large numbers of Missouri citizens, uh, Missouri Democrats.
*For the record, all of our local House members (except an absent Bill White) voted for the bill the paper called “A new low.”
I also called state Sen. Ron Richard’s office in Jefferson City and asked what his position on the pending legislation was. The nice lady who answered the phone told me that he had supported voter ID bills in the past but she couldn’t say for sure what his position was on this present legislation. She took my number and said she’d get back to me.
Oh, she also told me that lots and lots of voter fraud is going on, including buses full of folks hauled into the polls to vote illegally. I asked her to send me the evidence for this startling claim. I’ll let you know what I get, if anything.