Voting isn’t a ‘privilege’

VOTING ISN’T A ‘PRIVILEGE’…. Given the aggressive Republican push in many state legislatures to make it more difficult for Americans to participate in their democracy, this actually makes some sense. It’s offensive, of course, but it’s also illustrative.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers found himself in a constitutional bind on Thursday after saying that voting was a privilege, not a right. […]

The gaffe came amid a discussion of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. That bill is nearing a vote after months of hearings.

“When you go to even a Burger King or a McDonalds and use your debit card, they’ll ask you to see your ID,” Zellers said sometime after 11 p.m. “Should we have to do that when we vote, something that is one of the most sacred — I think it’s a privilege, it’s not a right. Everybody doesn’t get it, because if you go to jail or if you commit some heinous crime your rights are taken away. This is a privilege.”

Now, there’s no shortage of subjects on which the left and right will disagree, but this shouldn’t be one of them. If any rights exist in this country, the right to vote is pretty high on the list. Even a Republican state House Speaker should be familiar with phrases like “Voting Rights Act.”

Zellers later walked this back, saying, “I probably should have said it a little bit better at that late hour at night.”

Yes, you probably should have.

But in the larger debate, the point from Democrats is that proponents of pointless voter-ID laws are prepared to casually disregard basic constitutional rights, including the right to choose their representatives. For a leading GOP champion of these laws to declare voting a “privilege” only helps reinforce the Democratic argument.