Not all orthodox Jews living amid Las Vegas glitter are poor, of course. One is Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Venetian (if you are ever in Vegas, incidentally, this casino/hotel is not to be missed). The problem is that Adelson is not just a casino magnate, he is also a major Republican donor; his family has thus far given $10 million to the Gingrich super-PAC.
But this is where the mystery thickens. For although Adelson wanted to vote in the Saturday caucuses, as is his right, his orthodox beliefs prevented him from doing so until after the sun set. This meant that one of the country’s leading Republican donors – who has pledged to switch his financial backing to Romney should he get the nomination - could not vote unless the Republican caucuses extended into the evening. (Seventh Day Adventists can not vote on their Sabbath, and would also benefit from this extension). And, so the Republican party accommodated this need.
The problem emerged when voters attending this nighttime caucus were asked, as a condition for participation, if they were attending for religious reasons. When a Republican poll worker asked Mike Dicicco, a Ron Paul supporter who had driven in half an hour from Henderson, Nevada this question, he was met by indignation. “Why wouldn’t I be able to vote just because I’m not Jewish?” Dicicco asked.
Sharon Saska, who had arrived too late to vote at her regular caucus, was also refused entry after she would not sign a declaration that she was attending this caucus for religious reasons. If she had signed, she would have been committing perjury. So she, like other mainstream Christian Republicans – but not Seventh Day Adventists – did not vote. This odd consequence of what seemingly started as an gesture of accommodation for constituents has begun to cause ripples within the Republican party.
Despite this new, religious test, Evan Donoghue, a volunteer for the Ron Paul campaign, was not excluded. Rather, he shouted at the inquiring poll worker, “You are guilty of a felony, sir!”
Poll officials called the police as Donoghue entered the caucus, but Donoghue was not arrested.
So, is the Nevada Republican party now discriminating against mainstream Christian voters? Is converting to Seventh Day Adventism the only way a God-fearing, Jesus-loving, praise the Lord Christian can vote in its nighttime caucus?
Before this columnist chortles too loudly over the new norm in Republican life, it would be wise to keep another thing in mind. If a rule in Nevada declares that only Jews and Adventists are allowed to vote, another rule elsewhere else might specify that only mainstream Christian voters are allowed. If the Republican party declares a war on Christian voters, who knows where it would stop?
A Republican party war, say, on voters who have not purchased photo IDs? On ex-cons who have been released after serving their time? On the disabled and the elderly who rely on civic volunteers to drive them to and from the polling place – when these volunteers are threatened with fines up to $5,000 per organization, such as the League of Women Voters was in Florida?/p>
According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican legislators have enacted these and other restrictions on voters in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, and Washington. (The Florida law was subsequently found unconstitutional).
These restrictions also include New Mexico’s requirement that drivers turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours after completing them; and Ohio’s and Colorado’s requirements that individuals pre-register with the state and disclose personal information before helping their neighbors to register to vote. All this comes as 54 million eligible Americans – 25% of eligible voters – remain unregistered.
It is thus hard to decide whether to mourn or celebrate the Republican party’s being caught in its own trap. The party could, of course, support extending voting and caucus hours – but that would undermine its argument that it is restricting access to fight “voter fraud.” The party could likewise drop religious restrictions. But then, as Gov. Rick Perry of the great state of Texas presciently warned us, that would open the door for Islamic terrorists to vote en masse, as they do in Turkey, installing their own government. Or so he says.
Under these circumstances, the Republican-dominated House might even face a Tahrir Square type of mass uprising. And then, what would happen to the Republican vision for our great American democracy?
No! Religious and other restrictions must remain in place! The future of our American democracy depends on it – or so, the Republican party says.
Truly 2012 is not a good year to be a Republican, Christian or otherwise.
That said, this voter wants guaranteed access to the ballot. So my choice now, should I ever decide to vote in the Republican caucuses, is whether to convert to orthodox Judaism or to Seventh Day Adventism. Such a decision, admittedly, will take a bit of study.
Meanwhile, life for Republican caucus voters becomes more complicated.By Joseph Hanania, Aslan Media Columnist