Mayor’s gambit right on time

besmith@tri-statedefender.com | 7/12/2012, 2:23 p.m.

"The legislature clearly intended that only state or federal photo IDs can be used, which prevents us from accepting county or city IDs," said Goins in his written statement. "Our office remains ready to assist any voter with questions about how they may obtain a free photo ID for voting from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security."

According to Goins, "Examples of acceptable forms of ID, whether current or expired, include driver licenses, U.S. passports, Department of Safety photo ID cards, U.S. military photo IDs and other state or federal government photo ID cards. College student IDs are not acceptable. Nowhere in the photo ID law is a city or county ID listed as an example of an acceptable ID."

Mayor Wharton indicates that the fight is not over. In fact, he suggests that it is just beginning, with many voters, particularly elderly and African-American voters in Shelby County, facing the possibility of being disenfranchised by the new voter identification law.

At the root of this battle stand the constitutionality and legality of the law itself and similar laws like it that have been enacted by Republican-dominated state legislatures around the country. The claim is that these laws were put in place to reduce voter fraud and ensure fair elections. However, much research shows that these laws do little to reduce fraud, serving instead to negatively impact elderly and minority voters.

It would be naïve to not relate these new laws to an obsession by the Republican Party to derail President Barack Obama's quest for a second term. The opportunity to discourage or otherwise disenfranchise a substantial portion of the president's base is obviously a part of the formula for Republican success in November.

Some questioned the timing of the announcement by Mayor Wharton basically one week before early voting for the Aug. 2nd election begins. It seems, however, that it may have been just the boost needed to bring to light greater clarification on what can be used as proper identification for voters, and that we are upon a very important election here in Memphis and Shelby County.

It also appears to be smart timing in that the state legislature was out of session. Given the recent propensity of Republican legislators to abuse their super-majority bully pulpit to change, overturn or block moves like the one made by the Wharton administration, the timing couldn't be better to allow this fight to begin and see its way into a court (where it is ultimately going) for a judge's ruling.

Following the euphoria of 2008 and the incredible voter turnout by Democrats, it seems many felt like the goal line was reached and mission accomplished. Subsequent elections would see Republicans make extreme gains in state legislatures, governors' seats and among other positions around the country. This largely was due to substantial Republican turnouts, the Obama backlash and Democratic voter apathy.

Wasting no time going to work on legislation attacking unions and creating voter identification laws, the Republicans certainly put their strategies in to action. And that is what it takes to change any situation, ACTION.