Opinion: Are voter ID laws a return to Jim Crow?

Voter ID laws are meant to stop voter fraud by requiring voters to show a government-approved form of photo ID before voting. The government-approved forms of ID usually come with a price, and even free state ID’s require presentation of a birth certificate, which costs $25 to obtain. Critics say that placing this financial barrier in the way of voting is actually meant to strategically disenfranchise democratically-leaning voters. Here are some questions voter ID laws raise:

 

1. Why are we trying to make it any more difficult to vote?

Why are we detracting from the efforts of every high school teacher we’ve ever had? Not to mention celebs like P. Diddy who tell us to rock the vote? Why put more roadblocks in people’s way to performing a civic duty that is already shamefully under-represented?

America is the rare nation that allows every single citizen to vote, in fair, non-rigged elections, free of intimidation (Al Gore may disagree here). Yet we are a nation with one of the smallest percentages of voter turnout. The 1968 election was the last time over 58 percent of eligible voters actually chose to vote. THIS IS NO BUENO. It’s kind of like how we have the most Olympic gold medalists, but we also have a 1 in 3 obesity rate.

When roughly half of voting Americans already decide that the labor of putting a registration form in the mail and getting in their Priuses to drive to the polls outweighs participating in the future of their country, then we really shouldn’t ask them to obtain a photo documentation first.

 

2. Voter fraud is not an issue…

Seriously...it isn’t. A New York Times committee researched this and found only 120 cases of voter fraud filed in FIVE years, and of those, only 86 were actually convicted. That’s out of an average of 200 million people who vote each year. And most of those cases were from misfiling. So, not really a problem. Which begs the question, WHY are we doing this?

 

3. These laws are mainly passing in Conservative states (surprise!)

 And by Conservative, I mean Southern. Hmm, passing deliberately vague, not-promulgated laws that disenfranchise voters of lower social classes? In the South? I have been up this river before. This phenomenon  occurred in Reconstruction-era South, right after the Civil War when Southern white “gentlemen” were so alarmed at the political participation of blacks that they created bogus laws to prevent them from voting.

Black people, naturally, were voting Republican, or supporting the party that granted them citizenship and supported equal rights for all men, and since most white gentlemen were voting democratically, this would upset the balance of power and THIS COULD NOT BE ENDURED.

So they passed laws like the literacy law and the poll tax. Realizing that this meant a bunch of redneck white people couldn’t vote either, they added the Grandfather Clause, which meant that you could bypass these laws if your grandfather had voted. After the passage of all these laws, coupled with lynching of voters and general intimidation of black voters, by 1900, only 1 percent of eligible black men voted.

Now, voter ID laws won’t disenfranchise as many people. According to the Brennan Center, about 21 million citizens, or 11 percent of eligible voters, don’t have a government-issued photo ID. According to a Reuters and Ipsos research analysis, the vast majority of these citizens are young people, poor people, Hispanic people and young folk without college degrees.

SO...if we are trying to encourage voting, if voter fraud isn’t really an issue, and the laws might not even effect that many people, then why are we even passing them?

I won’t put too fine a point on it…just say that the passage of these laws is pushed almost exclusively by Republicans, and they target young people, lower-class people who haven’t attended college and Hispanic people, all people who would vote for Obama for obvious reasons.

 

DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSION.  

Oh, and go vote.

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