BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
It’s Toga Time! Republican members of the Oklahoma House and Senate should be required to wear togas, an affirmation of the bread and circus they’re feeding taxpayers in lieu of substantive legislation. A Roman idea: give peasants free bread and provide entertainment, usually the killing off of the socially unacceptable by armed professionals or starved wild beasts, and they’ll forget about the social, political and economic mayhem confronting their daily lives.
With the 2009 session barely underway, Republicans voted out of committee a bill requiring voters to present an official picture identity card before casting a ballot. This was brought forth by Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Broken Arrow, chair of the House Public Safety Committee.
How, one may ask, is the Tibbs bill “bread and circus?” Simple, the laws are already on the books and there is no evidence of a voter fraud problem in Oklahoma.
The facts – a concept which seems to have escaped Tibbs and her fellow Republican committee members – are these: According to Paul Ziriax, state election board secretary, there were 1,462,661 ballots cast in the last election. There were 12 instances of suspected voter fraud, six from people attempting to vote twice and six of former felons attempting to vote.
Additionally, Oklahoma already has a law requiring voter ID for first time voters who did not register in person [O.S. 26§7-115.2]. The entire Title 26 is devoted to election rules and laws.
The Tibbs legislation would allow persons without photo ID to sign an affidavit that they are legal citizens and if false would they would be guilty of a felony. Again, it’s on the books. Ziriax said the voter registration form is in fact an affidavit.
It may well be that Tibbs has fallen prey to RepDoc disease, named after committee member and fellow Broken Arrow Republican Dr. J. Michael Ritze, which is the inability to read the laws on the books or do sufficient research to keep from introducing time and tax dollar wasting legislation. There is no known cure for RepDoc. However, treatment can be had through the Tulsa City-County Library system where they could be directed to one of the many remedial reading programs or receive instruction on the rudimentary elements of research.
Worthy of note: Tibbs and her fellow Republican committee members who ran for re-election in this last cycle won by an average 62.84% of the vote. The two committee Democrats on the ballot this year won by 54.3% average. It would stand to reason Tibbs is not suggesting there was voter fraud in Republican held districts.
Failing a RepDoc diagnosis the answer could just as easily be Tibbs and her fellow Republicans would rather have the public “think” there is a voter fraud problem. Could it be they want the public to think they are thwarting threats in order to divert attention from other problems?
Voter fraud has been a Republican backwater issue for several years, the idea that “they” are trying to steal the election by registering people of color and the otherwise disenfranchised.
By claiming they have prevailed against the threat Tibbs can help keep the public ever vigilant against “them.” And, we all know who “Them/They” are, and the threat they pose.
If Tibbs, et al had ANY evidence of massive voter fraud they would form a conga line around the Capitol and dance naked with their hair on fire. They know it isn’t a problem.
Togas would put Tibbs, Ritze and others in proper perspective – legislators who would rather foster divisiveness and fear for the sake of power than attend to the people’s business.
Of course, togas have a drawback – they don’t have pockets. Meeting with lobbyists could be a problem. Perhaps they could employee small people wearing iron collars to walk behind them carrying a pouch.
Togas might also be problematic for the legislative leadership should upstart or discontented legislators develop “that lean and hungry look.” Not to worry, the Ides of March are on a Sunday this year. Tibbs and company will be back in their districts regaling the faithful with their righteousness.
The VotoPhoto idea? It shouldn’t be allowed in the statute books. It’s full of more bovine droppings than a feedlot.
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer