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SANTA FE — What do we do with dumb laws? There are so many on the books. Do we ignore them? Challenge them? Change them?
The problem with changing dumb laws is that they were created to solve touchy problems So messing with them ventures into sometimes sacred territory.
The latest example in New Mexico involves voter registration. Some yahoo with a cause registered his dog to vote. Nothing original with that stunt. We read about it in the papers every so often. The media treats it as a humorous prank. Nothing is said about consequences for the prankster or tightening of registration laws.
This time, however, much will be said. Because it involves a U.S. Senate contest. The joker is the husband of a top aide to Republican Senate candidate Heather Wilson, who previously has complained about a Republican U.S. attorney, who didn’t work hard enough to sniff out voter fraud.
My guess is that Wilson knew nothing about the plan. Unfortunately her aide also is named Heather so the possibility of confusion could make things worse. The clown also insists his wife didn’t know anything about the prank. It is difficult to believe he wouldnít have told her considering that voter fraud is a big plank in the Republican platform.
Also confirmation of the dog’s registration arrived in the mail a few days later. And he still didn’t say anything? Maybe not, but he was itching to tell someone so he called an Albuquerque TV station to tell all about it. Is something missing here?
The guy faces a fourth degree felony charge. Let’s hope no taxpayer money is spent on that because voter fraud isnít much of a problem. It is talked about a lot but the incentive just isn’t there, considering the penalties and considering a lot of people would have to be willing to risk jail in order to influence an election.
The big problem with voting is that less than half of those registered actually turn out to vote in any election. Those are much bigger numbers than fraudulent voters. How about this for a compromise? Allow people to register on election day and require identification.
Democrats say requiring identification suppresses the vote. Rallies to eliminate voter suppression currently are being held throughout the South. But without identification, fraudulent voting is possible. In a democracy, people should be encouraged to register and vote but some form of identification is necessary. The Bernalillo County clerk’s office did everything it should have done.
An interesting sidelight to this problem occurred during New Mexico’s special Democratic presidential caucuses designed to help Gov. Bill Richardson an advantage four years ago. Democrats were told to bring identification to the caucuses — until it was pointed out that Democrats are supposed to be against voter identification.
Registering a dog to vote is a dumb way to challenge a dumb law. Criminal consequences are a slight possibility but the main consequence will be political. Left wing groups already are trying to tie that bell around Heather’s neck.
This isn’t the only dumb law. Immigration laws always have been incredibly stupid. Throughout our history, Americans have had scares about new groups of people moving in and taking over. The Germans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Chinese, and now, Hispanics have been charged with taking away our jobs, language and culture.
We continue to survive. Private sector businesses usually force some sort of accommodation because they need people to do the dirty work.
We know we are training large numbers of foreign scientists, engineers and technicians who then have to leave the country. Walls never have worked for any country that has tried them.
The solution is a comprehensive act such as was proposed by the George W. Bush administration. But a coalition of the far right and labor unions beat it.
And now we have independent expenditure groups financing elections. They are anything but independent. But so far no one is challenging them.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.