Friday, March 31, 2006

Onions to the Herald-Times

The Herald-Times took two very disturbing editorial stances in the past week. First, the H-T editorial board advocated the use of eminent domain for a trails plan proposed by the Parks and Recreation Department. On Monday, H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg gave an "onion" to members of the state legislature "who have made it more difficult to vote."

Eminent Domain has been a hot topic for years, but reached the boiling point last year when the Supreme Court declared that local government could use the power to confiscate private property and give it to a private developer. (See my opinion column on the issue from last summer.) The SCOTUS decision outraged people on both sides of the ideological fence and prompted criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

As a supporter of private property rights, I am not a fan of eminent domain. However, I recognize that sometimes government has to exercise that power for a necessary project such as Interstate 69. This is why the framers of the Constitution, who were very distrustful of government, specifically allowed for its use in the Fifth Amendment. Walking trails or bike trails are not necessary projects - they are luxuries. No one's property should be taken for a luxury.

The "onion" for the state voter ID program was unfortunate. The editorial page of the Herald-Times leads off with the statement that "the policy of this newspaper is to strive for accuracy." If accuracy is important in a newspaper, how much more important is accuracy in elections? After all, elections determine who will be representing us in government and setting public policy. It is vital that those elections not be decided by fraud.

This is why the state legislature passed the voter ID law to begin with. Voter turnout, even during the hotly contested 2004 election, is embarrassingly law in this country. If people think their vote does not matter because elections are decided illegally, fewer people will turn out. The foundation of our constitutional republic is the rule of law, and elections must be carried our in a lawful manner.

Zaltsberg's whining about how the legislature "made it more difficult to vote" ignores the voters who already have photo ID's with them all the time anyway. You cannot legally drive unless you have your driver's license with you, so people who drive to the polls will theoretically have a photo ID with them. Photo ID cards will be provided free of charge to those who need them, and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be open on election day for procrastinators. Zaltsberg's "onion" would be more truthful if he said the legislature made it marginally more difficult to vote. The policy of the Herald-Times is to "strive for accuracy", right?

Few places in the state need the photo ID requirement more than Bloomington, Indiana. We have a very transient population here, with students moving around the city as well as moving to and from Bloomington. This reality makes voter fraud much easier here than it would be someplace like Martinsville or Bedford. For the editor of county's main newspaper to ignore the unique potential for fraud in Monroe County does not reflect well on him or the Herald-Times.

Finally, it is not too much to ask to ask people to take responsibility for their civic right to vote. I have to show a photo ID when I rent a movie or cash my paycheck, so why shouldn't I be required to show a photo ID when I vote to decide who will represent me in federal, state, or local government? Rights come with responsibilities, and the right to vote is no different.