BY ARNOLD HAMILTON
How much longer are Democrats going to put up with state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton?
The south OKC rep, who’s been trending Republican for years, stabbed her Democratic colleagues in the back today with a procedural move that cut off discussion of one of the GOP’s most sinister [potentially] bills: Voter ID.
House Democrats were pursuing a line of questioning aimed at determining whether Senate Bill 4 does, in fact, require voters to produce a state- or government-issued photo ID before casting their ballots.
The bill’s authors, Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, insist it doesn’t – that it allows for county-issued voter registration cards [which do not include a photo and are mailed at no cost to registered voters] to be accepted as identification.
But Democrats think language in the measure is so ambiguous that election officials will end up demanding a photo ID before allowing would-be voters to cast anything but provision ballots – 80% of which end up being thrown out and not counted.
This is a serious issue deserving serious debate for two reasons:
First, it threatens to disenfranchise the poor and elderly for which obtaining a state- or government-issued photo ID is a hardship, if not often impossible.
Second, it seeks to impose a solution to a problem that does not exist – no one has produced any evidence of significant voter fraud in Oklahoma.
This is not about voter fraud – it’s about voter suppression.
The poor and elderly tend to vote Democratic. Making it more difficult for them to vote helps Republicans win elections. Period.
Rebecca Hamilton betrayed her Democratic colleagues in the most undemocratic way possible: She stifled the kind of give-and-take that is essential to democracy. She moved to “advance the question” – which prevented her fellow Democrats from potentially exposing flaws in SB 4. House Republicans were all too happy to oblige, voting mostly along party lines to fast-track the legislation.
Moments later, without debate, the bill passed – with more a few Democratic votes, but not Hamilton’s. She screwed her Democratic colleagues in the all-important procedural maneuver – then voted against the bill to make it look like she was a loyal soldier.
Hamilton, meanwhile, told her colleagues she felt sorry for the Republican author, Sue Tibbs, who is undergoing chemotherapy and isn’t feeling well. She didn’t want Tibbs to have to stand for a long time and answer questions – some of which had been asked previously in committee and on the House floor. But GOP and Democratic leaders already had discussed Tibbs’ health, and Dems offered to let Tibbs sit while answering questions or debating, if it helped. Dems also suggested it wouldn’t have been a big deal to delay the vote a day or two until Tibbs was feeling better.
Instead, Hamilton blind-sided her teammates – and may have left unexplored several key details about this legislation that the public needs to know.
As a result, there are more than a few House Democrats who think it might be time to find some way to punish Hamilton for her disloyalty. Others think it’s time for her to make her true party loyalty official – and move over to the GOP side.
– Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer