A View on Crawford From Indiana

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 29 2008 11:12 AM

A View on Crawford From Indiana

!  Writing that there are negligible differences between Hoosier Ds and Rs, just days before our election!  Last night I co-hosted a fundraiser here in Bloomington, Ind., aimed at electing a Democrat to replace Republican Mitch Daniels as governor of our Hoosier State, while we still have some remains of a government he hasn't privatized. What a blow to come home and read your words. Shades of Nader! 

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Sure, it's a relatively conservative state. But if this were a political blog, I would (and could) post a lengthy list of major differences between the Ds and the Rs, both among our current candidates and among our previous officeholders—including in how our state was run under our three Democratic governors who immediately preceded Daniels. (Full disclosure: My husband was part of two of those three Democratic administrations.)

By the way, I can match your story of pressure to register as an R in Indiana with my own from the blue state of New York, where I first registered to vote. In my case, they came into our high-school classes to register us all, and our teacher explicitly advised that if we ever wanted a shot at one of those coveted, cushy summer jobs working on the beaches of Long Island, we had better register as Republicans.

But this is a legal blog, so let me say a few things about the Crawford decision. First, Indiana's votes in the presidential races of the last decades are not representative. We have many very close races here—local, state, and Congress—with frequent party switches. Just one e.g.: The Indiana House was evenly split twice in the last two decades. So, Rs don't have to suppress many votes—through this excessive and indefensible ID requirement and other tactics—for it to make a difference.

Second, I recall stories from poll workers last election about how sad and outrageous and punitive it felt to have to turn away honest citizens seeking to vote. Little wonder that young people and others often feel disaffected and discouraged from participating when the atmosphere is comparable to being sent to a high-school principal's office rather than being welcomed and encouraged to participate in our great democracy. 

Reading some of the reactions here in Indiana to the Crawford decision, it struck me that many (by no means all) of the people who support the court's outcome simply don't feel that way. The point for some is that they really don't want certain kinds of people to vote, that they even feel if people won't take the "trouble" to manage the logistical and financial barriers our state has erected (which pose no problem for most), then they simply don't deserve to vote. Of course, everyone is against fraud, but who really thinks this is about fraud?

Finally, at that fundraiser last night, there actually was strikingly little discussion of Crawford . Intense and heated feelings about the presidential primary of next week was soaking up all of the oxygen, and I think muting the outcry the court's decision deserves.

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