Alabama’s new voter ID law, passed in 2011 by a newly elected Republican majority and implemented for the first time in this week’s primary elections, worked exactly as planned.
Oh, we aren’t thinking of preventing voter fraud at Alabama polls, instances of which are so rare over the past three decades that they barely register a blip on the radar screen.
This was pure symbolism with a dash of making it tougher for the wrong voters to cast a ballot.
The payoff for a tougher voter ID — one that required a form of identification with a photograph — came long before Tuesday’s voting. Alabama Republicans in the Legislature, like their GOP colleagues in statehouses across the country, looked like they were doing something on voter fraud. After all, their fractured logic went, fraud would have to be rampant if Barack Obama was elected president.
So, voter ID laws were passed to prevent something that was extremely rare — in-person voter fraud. The laws’ proponents struggled to provide evidence of voter fraud. They couldn’t point to convictions; they just felt something was amiss. In your heart, you know there’s funny business going on.
But, hey, your lawmakers were hard at work doing something, right?
Consider how the Secretary of State’s office began writing the precise rules for implementing the new voter ID requirements. They didn’t apply if you were over 65 and living in a nursing home. They didn’t apply if poll workers would vouch that a voter was who he said he was. That’s a lot of exceptions.
No matter. This law was a way for Alabama politicians to do what they are best at — puffing out their chests and focusing on issues that (a.) rile up Alabamians while (b.) avoid our state’s big problems.