In the upcoming 2012 election, one of the distinct issues that separates the two main political parties (Republicans and Democrats, of course) is the new voter identification (ID) laws that are aggressively being proposed throughout the country.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 31 states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In 15 of these states, the ID must include a photo of the voter, but in the remaining 16 states, non-photo forms of ID are acceptable.
According to the NCSL, in 2011, 20 states did not have voter ID laws at the beginning of the year, but proposed new state legislation that would either require photo ID or amend existing voter ID laws to require photo ID at the polls.
To date, eight states (Georgia, Kansas, South Carolina, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin) must show photo ID in order to vote.
Of those states, three (Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi) are under the Voting Rights Act (Section 5) and must receive “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department before any amendments can be made, because of historical discriminatory practices. Those practices strategically try to weaken the strength of minority voters by changing electoral practices.
So why does any of this really matter?
Opponents feel that new voter ID laws are an ideal way to suppress the turnout and votes of young adults, people of color and the elderly.
Mimi Murray Digby Marziani, Counsel for the Democracy Program with the Brennan Center for Justice in New York City, said that enacted laws have put five million votes in jeopardy already.
According to Marziani, these laws are being supported because of partisan reasons. Democratic voters are unlikely to have the government issued photo ID.
“Each party, no matter the affiliation should desire a system where everyone counts and not use tactics to change the rules in the middle of the game,” Marziani said.
However, proponents of the new laws have a different view.
“While we see where the College Democrats are coming from with their opposition to these measures, we are inclined to support erring on the side of caution when it comes to countering voter fraud,” College Republican National Committee spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told Politico.
Republican Governor Nikki Haley (S.C.) told Reuters, “If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on a plane, you should have to show a picture ID to do that one thing that is so important to us and that is the right to vote. This is common sense legislation.”
Since the recent rejection of South Carolina’s new state requirements that voters provide government issued photo ID there are intentions to sue the Department of Justice in D.C. District Court for infringement upon state’s rights.
Tanya Clay House, Public Policy Director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in D.C. believes that these laws are simply not common sense legislation, but that restrictive voter ID requirements disproportionately impact the elderly whose licenses have expired, low-income voters who do not drive, disabled voters, young voters, college students and people of color.
“Like the literacy laws and poll taxes of the past, modern day restrictive voter ID and felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect people of color,” House said. “Additionally, 11% of the entire voting-eligible population (21 million) does not have government issued photo ID.”
Many college students are just not that familiar with the voter registration process.
For example, more than likely, they will have more than one address (school and home), which in several states could pose a problem for students, because only one address is allowed on the state issued ID as the proper means of identification to vote. And registering to vote in Texas could be viewed as abandonment of voting residency in their home state.
Marziani states that it’s very important for college students to understand and exercise their right to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice has created the student voting rights guide, full of necessary information, including basic residency, registration, identification and absentee voting requirements.
And in the case of voter fraud, the proponents reasoning for the new voter ID legislation, Marziani states it’s not proven by evidence. According to a letter submitted from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation to the U.S Department of Justice, sponsors of South Carolina’s bill (Act R54) never produced any evidence of a voter fraud problem in South Carolina that could be solved by this requirement. Nor does the legislative record show other evidence of convictions or even prosecutions for voter impersonation fraud.
Powered by Facebook Comments