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Charges fly over ad encouraging voting

Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

By one measure, Secretary of State Sam Reed’s new commercial on television and radio urging people to register and vote in the upcoming fall elections is the most successful ad of its kind in years.

That measure being that the ad managed to tick off both the state Democratic Party and Republican Party within a few days of hitting the air. That is no mean feat for a topic that, unfortunately, is more likely to draw yawns than bombs from its viewers and listeners.

What has both sides angry – albeit for different reasons – is the advice about what a voter might want to have available for that trip to the polling station.

“Bring photo ID,” says the announcer, “because voter ID is now required to protect legitimate votes and prevent duplicates and errors.”

That prompted state Democrats to denounce the unfairness of it all, because some people don’t have driver’s licenses or other photo-adorned identification cards, which could disenfranchise some people. Why, in Wisconsin alone, only 22 percent of African-American males have driver’s licenses, the Democrats note on their Web site.

Wisconsin? What’d they do, lose their place on the alphabetical list of states?

Not to be out-harumphed, the state Republicans criticized the Democrats, and Reed. Yeah, the commercial “suggests” you bring photo ID, the GOP says, but the law doesn’t really demand it. That’s because those weenies in the Dem-controlled Lege, and Gov. Christine Gregoire, caved in and didn’t require a driver’s license, birth certificate or proof of citizenship (or fingerprints, retina scans, DNA tests for a red-white-and-blue chromosome or the unveiling of an American flag tattooed on one’s posterior) when registering to vote.

So while a would-be voter can be asked for identification at the polls, if he or she doesn’t have one, he or she is given a “provisional” ballot, Republicans note. And what happens to those ballots before they are counted, they ask? Merely a check of a signature of a voter registration card, already suspicious because it was not verified by any of the previously mentioned methods.

These reforms that the Democrats are complaining about aren’t reforms at all, state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said.

In a sense, both parties are right. Most voters, when asked for an ID at the polls, are going to reach into pocket or purse and produce a driver’s license. Those who don’t drive might produce a student ID or a worker ID (lots of companies have extensive security systems these days) or whatever else they use when cashing a check.

A few are going to come up empty. Maybe they left their wallet home, are full-time pedestrians and conduct all their business online. They’re the ones who are going to be getting provisional ballots.

Any illegal immigrants who register and vote – not that too many are likely to risk being caught just so they can fill in circles on a ballot – are probably going to have fake ID that’s so good a poll worker isn’t going to catch it. After all, these are poll workers, not professional ID checkers like a bouncer at a bar in Pullman.

But this little dustup over the ad does raise one question:

Can’t you just wait for the next really close election?

Taking some initiative

The latest initiative to the Legislature, I-347, wants to give all Americans a right that residents in Washington and some other states hold sacred. That is, the right of initiative.

The proposed ballot measure requests the Legislature to call on Congress to come up with a constitutional amendment for national initiatives and referenda. Sponsor Richard Lee Moore of Underwood, Wash., says supporters – whom he describes as about a dozen people – hope to gain a foothold in Washington, then move down the coast to Oregon and California, then sweep eastward.

While it’s an intriguing idea, it’s doubtful that folks like Tim Eyman, who has made initiatives a professional calling, will be setting up national franchises anytime soon. For one thing, I-347 doesn’t have its petitions printed up. When it does, it’ll need about 300,000 signatures, something that’s difficult without a strong organization.

If they do manage to get set up statewide, we’ll let you know.

Catch the candidates

The Comstock Neighborhood Association will have a forum for the three candidates for the South District City Council seat on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at Sacajawea Middle School.

The Spokane City Council candidates’ forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Spokane will be replayed more than a half-dozen times on Cable Channel 5 before the Sept. 20 primary. So obviously if you don’t catch it, you either don’t have cable, or just don’t care. The dates and times: noon today; 9 p.m. Sept. 2; 4 p.m. Sept. 3; 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5; 4:30 p.m. Sept. 10; 10 a.m. Sept. 12; 7 p.m. Sept. 13; 10 a.m. Sept. 18.

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