As I drove past a billboard recently, there was a press conference going on. A bunch of special interest groups were protesting that the billboard was part of a vast conspiracy to keep law-abiding citizens from driving cars.
The billboard said, “Drinking and Driving is Illegal,” and was paid for by the State Department of Transportation.
I was going to join the protest, because I thought it a grossly improper use of taxpayer money. But it turned out the reason they were protesting was because they considered this billboard against drinking and driving to be part of a conspiracy to keep sober drivers from driving.
When I said that was ludicrous, a protester flew into a rage and called me an ax-wielding teetotaler from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Of course, none of this actually happened.
What actually is happening is that special interest groups are protesting billboards in Milwaukee that say, “Voter Fraud is a Felony.”
Needless to say, voter fraud is a felony, just as driving while intoxicated is illegal.
Also needless to say, no reasonable person would consider a billboard that warned against drinking and driving to be an attempt to intimidate sober people from driving.
Similarly, no reasonable person would interpret a billboard warning against texting while driving as an attempt to intimidate people from driving while not texting, or texting while not driving.
And yet, for some reason, the leaders of these special interest groups are trying to sell the patently absurd idea that a billboard, warning only against voting illegally, is an attempt to intimidate people from voting legally.
Do you think my analogy too far removed?
OK. Here’s another directly on point. Back in the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a program called Operation Triggerlock.
Basically, what the program did was take a bunch of people who, for being a felon in possession of a firearm, faced a maximum sentence of six years in state prison (with mandatory release after four years) and transfer them to federal court, where they faced 15-year minimums (no parole) for the same conduct.
It was a gross injustice, prosecuting people in federal court for wholly non-economic, intrastate activity, on the theory that keeping a gun for protection in your own home is interstate commerce.
A few complained that the program was abused and targeted minorities. I don’t know whether that was true or not; all I know is I represented plenty of defendants of all races who got targeted by the feds.
But, as is relevant here, a great deal of taxpayer money was spent putting up billboards and advertisements on county buses, warning people that, if they are a felon and possess a gun, they can go to prison for a long time.
And yet, not once in all the years this program lasted did I hear a single special interest group complain that the billboards were an attempt by the justice department to intimidate anyone, minority or otherwise, who was not a felon, from exercising his Second Amendment right to own firearms.
The reason is because it wasn’t intimidation of law-abiding citizens. It was an attempt, however misguided, to keep felons from possessing firearms.
And the billboards up now are obviously not an attempt to intimidate those entitled to vote from exercising their constitutional rights, but an attempt to keep felons still on probation or extended supervision from voting, and to keep anyone from casting multiple votes. So why the double standard, I wonder?
“Voter fraud is a felony” is a factually true statement, just as “Drunk driving is illegal” is a true statement. The only real difference is that state law requires drivers to produce a valid driver’s license if asked, but no law requires a photo ID to vote.