Out of ideas? Try a smear.

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

elections 2014 postIt speaks volumes about the quality of intellect at Wisconsin’s bigger newspapers that if you’re looking for thoughtful editorial comment, your best bet is the Beloit Daily News.

Though we disagree with much of what the Beloit editors wrote last Wednesday about voter ID laws, they shot the lights out with one, penetrating insight:  Even if you didn’t suspect a single instance of fraud in any Wisconsin election, it would be unexceptional to ask that voters show they’re really who they say they are.

We’ve maintained there’s no such thing as an innocent reason to oppose objectively sound practice. Formalistic procedures are necessary, not because we assume nefarious acts are being committed but because of the immense value in being able to confidently assume they are not.

Civil society is strengthened by confidence that elections are honestly conducted and reflect a true result. It’s weakened—perhaps too mild a word—when responsible officials assuring us that all is well haven’t a straightforward answer to the question of how they know.

And that doesn’t begin to address the damage to public confidence when some of those same public officials—and private-sector opinion leaders—attack ballot-security advocates even as recent elections have been followed by multiple convictions for organized, assembly-line voter fraud.

But in Beloit, at least they try, in contrast with bigger, more sophisticated locales where the first reflex is to crank up the smear machine, equating ballot security with racism, as if the right to vote is too precious be sullied by the defense of it.

Were the setup less vile, we could almost see ironic humor in the Journal-Sentinel’s concluding line about “equal protection under the law to exercise the right to vote.”

Where in Hell is equal protection if your vote is nullified by fraud?

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