State Rep. Sue Burmeister, an Augusta Republican and author of the state's controversial voter ID law, told investigators for the Justice Department that the law isn't a threat since black voters in her area vote only if they're paid to vote anyway.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's racism, pure and ugly.
I know that sounds harsh — the racism charge gets tossed around a lot these days — but it's hard to describe this any other way.
In fact, this has really made me angry. I'm a white guy, and I've voted lots of times. Now, after all these years of standing in lines and punching ballots, I discover that I've been voting for free while black people have been getting paid to do it?
It's blatant discrimination against white people, that's what it is. If black people get paid to vote, I should be paid to vote. Equal pay for equal say!
And here's something else that gets me mad: None of my black friends bothered to let me in on their scam. I mean, it's one thing if they want to have their own cool super-secret handshakes and their cool supersecret lingo, but this is too much.
I'm haunted now by memories of all those times when I'd see black neighbors standing in line at the polls and we'd smile at each other — it turns out I was smiling to say hello, while they were smiling because they were thinking:
"That fool white boy — doing this for free!"
Something still confuses me, though. The Republican Party has a lot more money than the Democrats, who generally have to scrounge between the couch cushions for enough cash to buy a TV ad. So if black people only vote because they're paid to do it, how come they don't vote Republican?
Of course, the explanation may be simple: Not everyone who gets bought stays bought. Case in point: Just last week, the U.S. Senate voted to raise taxes on oil companies. Go figure.
Even some judges exhibit an alarming tendency toward independent thinking. U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy, for example, last month issued a temporary injunction against Burmeister's voter ID law. In his ruling, Murphy pointed out that the requirement for a photo ID puts a disparate burden on black voters because they're less likely than whites to drive, and thus less likely to have a driver's license. Murphy also noted that the state could have justified that burden by proving the change was needed to address a significant voter fraud problem. But it did not present evidence of even one case of voter ID fraud in the past nine years.
Republicans dismissed Murphy's careful reasoning by pointing out that of course he said that — he's a Democrat and the cousin of former House Speaker Tom Murphy, also a Democrat.
"The U.S. Justice Department reviewed and approved this law, saying it complied with the Voting Rights Act of 1965," Republican House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) said. "Despite this review and approval, a Jimmy Carter-appointed judge has now ignored that decision."
In other words, Richardson seems to be saying, if you can pick your judge, you can pick your ruling. That theory became harder to defend, though, after a three-judge federal appeals panel voted unanimously to uphold Murphy.
Even worse, two of those three judges had been appointed to the bench by the first President Bush. The ungrateful louts apparently didn't understand that the law was designed to help Republicans by discouraging black voting, and that their job as Republicans was to approve it. The fools actually ruled on the merits of the case.
Justice Department staff up in Washington had made that same mistake earlier. They went through the evidence, including the pay-for-voting allegation and other lovely statements by Burmeister, and like Murphy they concluded that the law would unfairly discourage black voters.
The next day, Bush political appointees intervened and ordered the law approved anyway.
Personally, though, I'm still fuming about all those years I voted for free. Last week, when I confronted my black friend Sherri about her peeps' little secret, she tried to deny it and got all huffy and defensive. She claimed that she votes because she's an American citizen just like me who wants to take part in democratic self-government, and that it's important for her to vote because for too long her parents and grandparents weren't allowed that right.
Like I'm supposed to believe that.
© 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution