A long-awaited piece in the New Republic on Rhode Island's voter ID law has landed. The story, by Simon van Zuylen-Wood, asks why black liberal politicians here supported the bill and suggests anxiety over growing Latino political power - among elected officials black and white - is to blame.
The story recounts several "tales of corruption" - anecdotal stories of voter fraud cited by the bill's supporters - and concludes:
Whatever truth there is to these accusations, it’s difficult to ignore
the pattern: The perpetrators are all Hispanic and the accusers are
mostly not. This underlines what is most likely at play in Rhode Island—
anxiety over the state’s changing demographics. Since 2000, the state’s
white population has declined by 55,000, while its Hispanic population
has increased by 45,000, or nearly 50 percent. The immigration boom,
coupled with a 10.8 percent unemployment rate (the third-worst in the
country), has contributed to the open hostility toward Hispanics. Voter
ID proponents subtly capitalized on these fears. The bill’s main House
sponsor, conservative Democrat Jon Brien, has “anti-immigrant
credentials like no other,” says Latino activist Pablo Rodriguez. Brien
has argued that illegal immigrants are usurping government resources,
taking American jobs, and now, voting.
It's an interesting piece and certainly relevant in the context of the national debate over voter ID bills. Republicans, after all, love to cite Rhode Island's measure - and, specifically, black elected officials' support for it - in arguing that the voter ID bills pushed through by GOP-dominated legislatures elsewhere in the country are not the naked partisan vehicles everyone knows them to be.
But it is not black political support that powered the bill, here. No, the real story here is the clout of the conservative (white) Democrats, like Jon Brien, who were able to push this bill through in an ostensibly blue state.