The pension overhaul wasn’t the only surprising-for-a-blue-state policy Rhode Island enacted in 2011. Another that passed to liberals’ dismay was the new law requiring that voters show an ID before they cast a ballot.
The New Republic’s Simon van Zuylen-Wood, who graduated from Brown last year, returned to Rhode Island recently in an effort to answer the question that headlines his new article, out today: “Why Did Liberal African-Americans in Rhode Island Help Pass a Voter ID Law?”
Here’s an excerpt:
Whether minority legislators voted for voter ID in good faith, or to disenfranchise ethnic rivals, the law effectively contributes to the state’s increasingly conservative slant. More important, Rhode Island’s poor, elderly, and minority citizens risk losing their vote when the law takes effect in 2014. And while Rhode Island’s law is actually more lenient than those passed in other states, and was not part of the centralized Republican push to move such bills through state legislatures, it may have more staying power.
Read the whole story here. (Full disclosure: Simon interviewed me as he prepared his story.) The best quote comes from State Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, who tells TNR she noticed one particular case of voter fraud because the alleged perpetrator “was a hottie.”
• Related: Is RI’s new voter ID law just an ‘oddity’ – or a ‘game changer’? (July 28)
Your Rhode Island history lesson of the day, courtesy The New York Times (emphasis mine):
Building on this legacy, black men in cities from Cincinnati to New Bedford, Mass., organized militia companies named for famous men of color …. Such state-chartered militia groups, the forerunners of today’s National Guard, were then the backbone of the armed forces. But the 1792 Militia Act had limited service to white men, so black units never received state charters or weapons (the exception was Rhode Island, where the black vote was a major factor, resulting in official recognition of the state’s black militia in 1855). Instead, they had to pay for training and weapons themselves.
Anybody know why the black vote a much bigger factor in Rhode Island than elsewhere during the 1850s?