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EDITORIAL: Obama’s ‘evolution’ on voter-ID

The White House endorses the Kenyan example

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President Obama has finally "evolved" to support voter-ID laws. That's the good news. The bad news is, he's talking about voter-ID in his father's native Kenya.

The First Family was enjoying their three-nation, $100 million "working" vacation in Africa last week when the White House released a fact sheet on "U.S. Support for Strengthening Democratic Institutions, Rule of Law and Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa."

The first bullet point highlighted a priority in Kenya's $53 million "Yes Youth Can" program, which "empowers nearly one million Kenyan youth to use their voices for advocacy in national and local policy-making." One important component of the program is the "My ID, My Life" campaign that "helped 500,000 youth obtain national identification cards, a prerequisite to voter registration."

Some of the money for that voter-ID program can no doubt be traced to U.S. foreign aid, a sign that the Obama administration endorses the common-sense need for voter-fraud prevention measures around the world. No one would expect this administration to endorse something it didn't like.

It was a small step in the right direction in what turned out to be a very good week for voting reform. The U.S. Supreme Court took the Justice Department to task for failing to recognize that the country had changed in the half-century since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965. In lifting the federal boot from the necks of the nine states and local jurisdictions in seven others, most but by no means all in the South, the court restored the freedom for these jurisdictions to adopt the same sort of voter-ID mechanisms that apparently work so well in Kenya. No further need to grovel before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for prior approval.

Texas was first in line to enhance Election Day security. The state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, announced that the Texas voter-ID law — which Mr. Holder had gratuitously and inaccurately called a "poll tax" — would take effect immediately. Mr. Abbott says the high court decision cleared the way for Texas to resurrect its ID law and its redistricting map, drawn by the Republican legislative majority. Both the voter-ID law and the map had been in limbo since a federal court ruling in August.

"Texas may now implement the will of the people without being subject to outdated and unnecessary oversight and the overreach of federal power," says Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

Virginians could celebrate, too. Mr. Holder had been holding up the voter-ID law signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in March. Virginia can now go to work implementing the changes ahead of the effective date of July 2014. The law provides, for example, that anyone who doesn't have a Virginia driver's license or identification card can get an ID card free of charge.

When a federal judge held up the Texas voting statute last year, the White House was well pleased. "This administration believes it should be easier for eligible citizens to vote, to register and vote," said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman. "We should not be imposing unnecessary obstacles or barriers to voter participation." And now Mr. Carney and his colleagues can take heart from the president's latest "evolution." If it's good enough for Kenya, it's good enough for the U.S.A.

The Washington Times

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