Incredibly, John Tanner Argues Restrictive Photo ID Laws at the Polls Actually Give Minorities a Greater Voice!
Rest of Panel, Audience Members at 2007 National Latino Congresso in Los Angeles Strongly Disagree...
By Alan Breslauer on 10/8/2007, 4:10pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer with additional reporting by Brad Friedman

Unbelievably, the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, John Tanner, contends that while it's "a shame" that elderly voters may be disenfranchised by new Photo ID restrictions at the polls because many don't have driver's licenses, minorities don't have to worry quite as much. Why? Because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."

Yes, that's what Tanner said last Friday at the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles and The BRAD BLOG was in tow with video camera to prove it...

The NLC kicked off their 2nd Annual convention over the weekend, including an expert panel titled, "It's Not Over - Defending the Right to Vote Against Disenfranchising Tactics." While many issues were covered over the course of the 2 1/2 hour panel, the most hotly debated subject was the current rash of GOP-pushed Photo ID laws sweeping the nation, just in time for the 2008 Presidential Election.

Tanner --- and we'll repeat it again, he's the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice --seems to believe that restrictive Photo ID laws are not only non-discriminatory but actually favor minorities (at least in Georgia). All of the other expert panelists, audience members, and even one particular vocal cameraman (that would be me), were incredulous, and found Tanner's comments absurd and objectionable.

The BRAD BLOG has long been covering the use of the GOP Photo ID scam, meant to do little more than keep minorities and the elderly (read: Dem-leaning voters) from being able to cast legal votes at all. They created a White House-tied front group to do exactly that after the 2004 election (special coverage page on ACVR here), and our coverage of recent chapters in this regrettable, anti-democracy tale includes (Vice) Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter's claim at a Republican debate that in California, he's seen "people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls [and] voting illegally."

As well, Democratic Senators Barack Obama and Russ Feingold recently stepped up to block a deal made by Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow one of the most notorious "Voter Fraud" disenfranchisers, Hans von Spakovsky, to be seated on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). That, in a Presidential Election year where the GOP's strategy #1 will be to "win" by keeping as many legally registered voters from voting as possible.

In the first of several exclusive video clips below, Tanner states that Voter ID laws "very much [are] a state by state issue" that come down to "who has the ID and who doesn't."

"I think it's probably true that among those who don't, it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame," he said, adding "You know, creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance."

With it apparently okay to disenfranchise the elderly, Tanner then goes on to contend that minorities, on the other hand, are not disenfranchised by such laws.

"Of course, that also ties in with a racial aspect, because our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first," Tanner explained to those of us in the room.

"So anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly, has the opposite impact on minorities. Just, the math is such as that," he said, concluding, "The minorities in Georgia, statistically, slightly, are more likely to have ID."

In other words, Tanner concludes that Photo ID laws actually negatively impact non-minorities and seemingly give minorities a greater voice.

Yes, incredibly enough, that's what he was contending. Even as he failed to satisfactorily answer The BRAD BLOG's fervent contention that such laws are little more than a solution in search of a problem, given the exceedingly rare number of voter fraud cases (as distinct from election fraud) which actually occur, even by DoJ statistics, and which would be prevented by Photo ID restrictions at the polls.


UPDATE 10/9/07: TPM picks up on our story, quotes Tanner's predecessor and other former colleagues at DoJ saying his comments are "frankly ludicrous", "false" and "cherry-picked". Full details here...

Other panels members discuss Photo ID laws, and respond to Tanner's extraordinary comments in additional clips below...

Aurora Vasquez of the Advancement Project exposes (6:21) the true intent of Photo ID requirements being pushed nationally by the GOP, and offers an impassioned response to government attorney John Tanner.

Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos, Executive Director, Cultural Center for Power and Justice (Albuquerque, NM), discusses (6:45) many of the voting problems, including voter intimidation and the spread of misinformation, confronting New Mexico's minority communities. Interestingly, an election in New Mexico last week where Voter ID was required saw a record low turnout of 10% of eligible voters.

Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos: "It's time to remember our civil rights movement. It's time to remember the struggles that our elders have gone through. People who have paved the road. And it's time for young people also to rise up and remember these struggles. And also to stand up against corporate profit. The machines in New Mexico... there is a corporation profiting off of this. We cannot forget that there is a direct link between power and profit and corporations and our governments being used as puppeteers so that other people can profit at the disenfranchisement of communities of color."

University of Pennsylvania professor Steve Freeman says (4:43) that fixing our election system is as simple as adopting the successful paper ballot hand counting systems used in countries like Germany and Canada. He then proceeds to rip government attorney John Tanner for his role in covering up election irregularities in Ohio. Finally, Freeman vocally disagrees with the panel moderator who asked that participants stay away from specific criticisms.

The Justice Department's John Tanner states (1:30) that he doesn't support Voter ID because his department is not involved in policy, before taking a question from one testy cameraman who calls his statistics evidencing that minorities carry ID in greater percentages than non-minorities laughable.

Alma Rosa talks (0:58) about the need to change our instant gratification culture in order to make hand counting ballots more palatable to society.

The Justice Department's John Tanner's opening, mundane remarks (9:03), which were a bit offensive for what they did not cover.