Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
First came the wire service story proclaiming the Republican strategy for 2012 was to push for voter identification laws. You know: Show a photo ID before you get a ballot.
Then came the New York Times editorial: “They want to make voting harder?” This explained that Republicans were pushing both to reduce the period allowed for early voting and to require those photo IDs.
The plot, the Times said, is to keep minorities and young people from voting. Some pertinent lines from the editorial:
Early voting “skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, particularly in the south and among black voters supporting Barack Obama. And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the south are trying desperately to cut it back.”
“The biggest part of that effort, imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID, has been painted as a response to voter fraud, an essentially nonexistent problem. … It is the latest element of a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators … to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people.”
Well, golly! We didn’t know that cutting the early voting period back to a week and a half before Election Day would disenfranchise so many people, particularly blacks, who the Times tells us, like to vote right after church on Sunday. We were concerned, of course, and sought further explication from a couple of Democratic Party election consultants – Howard Bashford and Doroteo Arango – who I knew would give me straight answers,.
“Tell us, Doroteo,” I said, “Is it true that obtaining a government-issued photo ID – like a driver’s license – is so ‘cumbersome’ as to deter people from voting?”
“I’ll say!” exclaimed Arango. “It’s expensive, too. It took a couple of hours and 50 bucks for me to get my license from a guy outside the home improvement store. My Social Security card cost even more!”
“Yeah,” interjected Bashford. “How can you expect poor immigrants to vote with such burdensome requirements?”
“Uh … I see,” we said, “but, Howard, how about the assertion that voting fraud is ‘essentially nonexistent’?”
“Nationwide, it is essentially nonexistent,” Bashford said. “But as we like to say at Democratic Party strategy meetings, ‘It’s like the cumin in a good guacamole. It doesn’t take that much.’ Just look at the ’08 Minnesota Senate race.”
“As for early voting, think what happens in election campaigns,” said Arango. “A lot of the juicy stuff doesn’t come out until the last week or so. The less people know and the less time they have to think, the better.”
And he and Bashford exchanged a gleeful laugh.
Cumbersome, eh? I can tell you my wife and I registered voters in Texas just after the poll tax was banned, and at a time when trying to vote in the South was dangerous exercise for African-Americans. Having to fish out your driver’s license for ballot access hardly qualifies as “cumbersome.”
Your tax dollars at work: Like you, I’m sure, I was thrilled by the announcement last week that Department of Agriculture was abandoning the hoary “food pyramid” in favor of a new diagram, the food plate.
In fact, I haven’t been so excited by a government initiative since our first director of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, announced the color-coding of terrorist threat levels.
USDA spokeswoman Amy Handleman explained for us, “Given the progressive diminution of the national intelligence, we felt that the solid geometry of the food pyramid was too difficult for many Americans to grasp.
“On the other hand, we recognized that most Americans still eat off plates. So, we test marketed the food plate and found that, as the head of the American Bakers Association said, it was ‘brilliant in its simplicity.’
“It really will help us explain to people how they should live.”
“But it looks like a pie chart,” we pointed out. “Aren’t you afraid Americans will just start eating pie?”
Handleman looked stricken.
“Good heavens!” she said. “How could we have missed the obvious? Back to the drawing board!”