Political Animal


July 10, 2012 5:40 PM Holder Throws Down

By Ed Kilgore

Attorney General Eric Holder, who was recently held in contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives for not giving Darrell Issa everything he wanted in an investigation of a gun-walking operation gone wrong, is clearly not trying to make nice with his tormenters, per this report from Think Progress’ Scott Keyes:

As conservatives threaten the voting rights of millions of Americans with new voter ID laws, Attorney General Eric Holder shot back on Tuesday, calling the laws an unconstitutional “poll tax.”
During a speech to the national NAACP Convention, Holder denounced the fact that a number of states are beginning to require voters to present particular forms of photo identification or be turned away from the polls. “Under proposed voter ID laws, many would struggle to pay for IDs needed to vote. We call this a poll tax,” Holder declared to loud applause.

He’s right, of course. But I personally wish Holder would conduct a high-profile—made higher by the notoriety House Republicans have granted him—refutation of the idea that there is any evidence for the voter fraud that voter ID laws claim to address. Maybe he did some of that in his NAACP address (I haven’t found the full text yet), but he really does need to do it fully, particularly now that he’s been anathematized by Republicans and has no particular need to project any sort of insincere bipartisanship beyond the requirements of his job.

What makes the poll tax analogy powerful is the suggestion that today’s conservatives, like yesterday’s, are determined to use every avenue possible to build what William F. Buckley used to favorably describe as “potholes” on the path to the ballot box. That’s bad enough, but what makes it worse is the realization that the rationale for these “potholes” is as imaginary and as morally invidious as the belief that anyone who couldn’t pay a poll tax had no business participating in the central ritual of democracy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • kindness on July 10, 2012 5:46 PM:

    'Potholes' of 'skinblackerthanmeholes'?

  • JackD on July 10, 2012 6:05 PM:

    Only problem is the Supreme Court didn't agree in Crawford v.Indiana.

  • c u n d gulag on July 10, 2012 6:16 PM:


    Their first step it to take elections back to before 1965.

    Then, before 1919.

    Then, before 1865.

    Then, to 1788.

    And then, to pre-Magna Carta days, when the Kings and Queens ruled unopposed.

  • Badger on July 10, 2012 6:35 PM:

    The Republican party will, of course, be remembered as the party that rammed though the fifteenth amendment (opposed by Democrats even in the North) to give blacks the right to vote when doing so gave them a shot at winning southern states. Maybe black voters had IDs in those days!

  • H-Bob on July 10, 2012 7:36 PM:

    What's really silly about the ID laws is that the ID presented by a voter need not be accurate. The poor quality of drivers license photos is common knowledge, the heights specified on the IDs usually are "exaggerated", weights are understated and whose license specifies a hair color of 'grey' or 'none' ? If voters were required to be within 20 pounds of the weight specified on the license, then voter turnout would be severely reduced.

  • Commish on July 10, 2012 7:42 PM:

    It just dawned on me.....the main reason Repubs have been trying to kneecap Holder via Fast & Furious may be that he is on of the main sources of resistance they might face to their Voter ID/Suppreession effort.

  • Larry Harris on July 10, 2012 8:17 PM:

    In spite of Crawford v. Indiana, these laws are being enjoined in federal court, as the proponents can't point to any danger of voter fraud. There are no cases.

  • JM917 on July 10, 2012 9:29 PM:

    Tes indeed, these state requirements that voters acquire new photo IDs at their own expense, if they lack prescribed forms of ID, amounts to a poll tax--ironically, now thanks to Chief Justice Roberts' definition of the penalty for not buying health insurance as a tax.

    Here is what the 24th Amendment (ratified in 1964) says on the subject: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax OR OTHER TAX" [emphasis added].

    Forcing a voter who lacks a driver's licenses, a conceal gun-carry permit, or similar ID to go to the expense (in time and money) to produce a birth certificate or other such documentation that might be required to obtain such a voting ID is surely as much of a "tax" (as defined by Roberts) as paying a penalty for being uninsured--or paying a Jim Crow-era poll tax. And the clincher is when a GOP in Pennsylvania openly boasts that this neo-poll tax is designed to ensure that Romney carries the state.

    I hope that the DoJ gets injunctions stopping this malarky from the relevant federal courts. And the Roberts Court will have no excuse for not upholding the DoJ's case in time for the November election.

    The Obama administration needs to start making a great big noise about this, right now. And let state officials in Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other vote-suppressing states start to worry about facing stiff fines or jail time if they try to enforce these laws. Good that Holder is getting into action.

  • Kordo on July 10, 2012 11:15 PM:

    Yeah, it'd be nice to see anyone in this administration take advantage of any of the million political targets the Republican party has hung out there. The GOP has pissed off African-Americans, Latino Americans, anyone LGBT, Women in general, and anyone who doesn't make 250k a year who isn't a White Rural Male. It's either the cleverest rope-a-dope strategy I've ever seen, or they are fucking stupid.

    Sorry, Mr. Myagi, but your enemy really doesn't deserve any mercy.

  • KenS on July 11, 2012 4:17 AM:

    "Poll tax" is a term that resonates strongly for a relatively small sector of the public. The case against these laws needs to be made more broadly. If the Democrats were imposing them, you could easily imagine how the Republicans would respond:

    "John Smith is a 90-year old decorated veteran who fought for his country at Omaha Beach. But now Democrats are saying that, in order to exercise his right to vote, he has to go to a government building, wait in line for a government bureaucrat, and get his government-issued identification card. John Smith fought for our freedom. Why does he have to ask the Department of Motor Vehicles for permission to vote?"

    That's an argument I'd like to see turned on the GOP.

  • superdestroyer on July 11, 2012 6:20 AM:

    When did progressives begin to believe that having blacks follow the same rules that whites are expected to follow is racist?

    Is it really such a burden on blacks to follow the same rules that whites are routinely expected to follow?

  • bob h on July 11, 2012 7:28 AM:

    Presumably Mitt will take questions about this when he goes before the NAACP?

  • Speed on July 11, 2012 9:27 AM:

    What would Bobby Kennedy have done? He would have gotten tough with them. Remember the Battle of Ole Miss in 1962?

  • Neo on July 11, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Last week, a penalty was a “tax,” but it wasn't.
    This week, showing a photo ID is a “tax.”

  • trex on July 11, 2012 12:08 PM:

    This week, showing a photo ID is a “tax.”

    No, showing one is not a tax, having to PURCHASE one is a tax.


    And setting up arcane provisions to exclude the kinds of voter ID many Democratic voters are likely to Already possess (student ID's, Social Security Cards) while creating Byzantine requirements for acquiring a "real" ID while at the same time allowing the use of gun licenses and concealed weapons permits as valid -

    - is nothing but a transparent and shameless attempt at using poll taxes and legal obstacles to keep the poor, students, minorities, and the elderly from voting while making it even easier for the privileged and the gun nuts. And you know it. And the Republicans know it. And we know it. So let's not pretend.

  • zandru on July 11, 2012 12:24 PM:

    "having blacks follow the same rules that whites are expected to follow"

    Huh? Is this supposed to mean something?

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