Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org
Just 4 weeks ago the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia editorialized in favor of the repressive new Georgia Voter ID law. This law had, just 3 days prior to the editorial, been found by a federal judge to be an example of a "Jim Crow-era Poll Tax" and thus the law was suspended. Critics have charged that the requirement for Photo ID at the polls will disenfranchise millions of mostly Democratic-leaning minorities, elderly, poor and urban-dwellers who don't own driver's licenses.
But things have changed since the Banner-Herald's original Op/Ed. One of the Georgia bill's sponsors, Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), got caught with her sheet down when she made statements to the U.S. Department of Justice who had been tasked with determining the legality of the new law under the Federal Voting Rights Act. Her statements were released along with a story revealing that 4 of the 5 career staff members in the DoJ who were advising on the matter had recommended against giving approval to Georgia's new law. That advice was then overruled by the Bush-appointed Attorney General and the law was given DoJ approval just prior to be ruled as unconstitutional by two Federal courts.
In her statements, Burmeister is said to have told DoJ officials looking into the law that blacks in her district only vote when they are paid to do so. Those remarks are contained in the 51-page report from the DoJ's analysis recommending against approval of Georgia's law. Burmeister reportedly told officials that "when blacks in her precinct are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls."
Perhaps it is not so strange then that on November 22, after the release of the statements from Burmeister, the Athens Banner-Herald has admitted that perhaps there are changes that need to be made to Georgia's voter ID law. Perhaps it is not right, the paper now admits, to force all voters to have a state-issued voter ID card that costs the voter between $20 and $35. Perhaps it is not right to force a voter who cannot afford to pay for the card to sign a "Pauper's Affidavit" as the original law required.
So today, in a remarkable reversal, the Athens Banner-Herald's Executive Editor, Jason Winders, editorialized in a scathing article against Burmeister...
Sure, you don't expect a state representative to say blacks only vote if they are paid to do so. You also don't expect one to say fewer minority voters means less fraud. You especially don't expect one to say both.
But as you know, that's how Rep. Sue Burmeister defended the state's voter ID law in front of Justice Department officials recently.
That little stunt landed her not only on the front page of this state's largest newspaper, but on front pages across the country as well.
So what's an Augusta Republican to do?
Well, she opts to spin damage control with FEMA-like incompetence and shift the blame: "While I do believe that voter fraud is rampant in our state, I in no way believe that African-Americans in my district or around the state only vote when they are paid to do so. If the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's misrepresentation has offended anyone, I apologize. However, I do not believe that these statements are accurate and they are in no way a reflection of my beliefs on this issue."
Blaming the media?
Come on now, Sue. That's so 1992.
Everyone tells me how sharp you are, so I know you can do better. Let's see, you've already blamed blacks for voter fraud. Maybe you could blame Hispanics for your poor choice of words. According to our early look at the state GOP playbook for 2006, undocumented Hispanics are the new black.
It almost seems that the Athens Banner-Herald is playing a little catch-up as they realize that their original stance was not politically or humanely correct. Good for them.