Home > Around Town > Howard Dean, D.N.C. Chairman and former presidential ticket contender, weighs in on Indiana’s “voter I.D.” law

Howard Dean, D.N.C. Chairman and former presidential ticket contender, weighs in on Indiana’s “voter I.D.” law

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


A new Indiana law requires you to produce a government-issued photo ID in order to cast your vote. This new law is ostensibly to prevent voter fraud, but it’s been a very contentious issue, with Indiana Democrats claiming it’s one of the toughest voter laws in the country, and a big problem for people who don’t drive and don’t have convenient access to a BMV branch — a sizeable number, considering there are fewer BMV branches across the state than ever before.

The Indiana Democratic Party and other plaintiffs sued to overturn the law (which was passed by the General Assembly in 2005) on constitutional grounds, but just recently, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker rejected the Indiana Democratic Party’s challenge. The party will appeal Barker’s judgment after the primaries, the first major election since the law took effect.

Which brings us to Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former candidate for the Democratic presidential ticket. Dean’s telephone “tour” to raise awareness of the issue included a call to the offices of FWR. The talk was brief, but as usual, Dean didn’t seem to pull any punches…

FWR: Would you sum up the voter I.D. issue and tell our readers what the Democratic party thinks is the problem?
Howard Dean: This is a part of a national Republican effort to reduce the number of voters, particularly among the poor, the elderly, members of minority communities, and rural people. The Republicans believe the lower the turnout, the better it is for the Republican party. We believe that a big turnout is good for America, and we — along with most Americans — and tired of having the Republican party put their interests above the interests of the country. We think this is wrong. In addition, we think it is unconstitutional, and we will be assisting the Indiana Democratic party with their appeal.

FWR: Most people think this is a “done deal.” It’s a law, the challenge has been rejected. What can they do exactly?
Dean: Well, you can get rid of the Republicans in the legislature and governor’s office. Obviously, they’ve made kind of a mess of things anyway, in other issues in Indiana. I think most people aren’t very happy with selling the assets of the state and then charging Indiana twice for them, which is what they’ve done in the toll road scam. The first thing is, you can exercise your vote, do the best you can to get through these hoops, and vote for better government. The next thing is, support the Indiana Democratic Party. This is going to take money, and we need to appeal this and we need to have the maximum number of people being able to vote. All this is, is an attempt to take away what was gained in the civil rights movement, and we’re not going to put up with that.

FWR: These days, we hear a lot about Republican leadership in Washington dividing and becoming more fractious. Is this a true impression, or is this sort of a media narrative?
Dean: I think it’s probably fair to say there’s not much Republican leadership in Washington any more. I think what really is happening is that the Republicans’ incompetence is coming to the surface so that every American can now see it. It started with (hurricane) Katrina. Katrina showed America that these people can’t govern. It’s the first time I think we’ve seen that. Everybody has always believed — and I’m one of them — that Americans are the best managers, the best organizers, and if anything really bad happens you send in the Americans and they can fix it. And on national television, the Bush administration showed that that wasn’t true any more, at least not for these people. They’ve been incompetent since the day they came into office, but it’s taken five years to be able to see that clearly.

FWR: Why has it taken five years and a disaster the magnitude of Katrina? Before Katrina, the Republicans always seemed to be able to convince people that a bungle is actually a success.
Dean: We’ve never seen this degree of ability to propagate dishonesty at the federal level in such an organized way. I didn’t say they were disorganized, I said they were incompetent. They are very organized about their propaganda, even if it’s not true, and they get it out there and tell people all kinds of things that aren’t true. That’s how we got into Iraq.

FWR: Do you have any advice for Democrats in one of the reddest of “red states” (besides move to Ohio where your vote might actually make a difference)?
Dean: Well, not so “red” as you think. There are two or three great congressional races out there that are very competitive — so help is on the way.

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