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Our Shrinking Democracy | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Our Shrinking Democracy

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Last week, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania refused to halt a discriminatory new state law requiring voters to show photo identification.

It was the judicial equivalent of giving democracy the bird.

Since you’re significantly more likely to be struck by lightning than encounter an actual case of voter fraud, the law is really just a solution in search of a problem. Or, rather, a political party in search of a vote to suppress.  

The ruling was rendered only more offensive by its flippant dismissal of the burden that obtaining a photo ID places on people who are young, poor, minority, elderly or some combination of these (read: Democrats). According to Simpson, requiring ID isn’t an unreasonable burden “when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life.” Because, after all, doesn’t everybody get carded at the bar?

The Pennsylvania debacle is just the latest evidence of what Robert Reich has called our shrinking democracy. GOP legislators in 34 states have proposed voting rights restrictions that would slash the number of eligible voters this election. And it’s not just that if Republicans have their way, fewer people will be allowed to vote. If you follow the money in this campaign — and there’s plenty to follow — it becomes clear that fewer of the votes cast will matter because of the effects of an antiquated Electoral College and the increasing dominance of high-dollar donors.

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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