By Rawlein G. Soberano, Ph.D.
GERMANTOWN, MD (April 16, 2012) — Studies show that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. The percentage is higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voter constituents.
Many voters find the government requirements onerous, e.g., providing copy of birth certificate is time-consuming, especially if the person was delivered by a midwife in a rural area. During that time, family births were recorded in the family Bible if they had one. In South Carolina, the Election Commission states that 178,175 registered voters do not have photo ID. They are also far more expensive to implement.
In a difficult fiscal environment, citizens have the right to question if this is an appropriate expense to consider. If legislatures insist on photo ID, why can’t they provide all voters free photo IDs, ensure they are reasonably accessible to every voter, and include voter education, outreach programs and poll worker training?
More than 3.2 million in KS, SC, TN, TX and WI do not have the state-issued identification required to vote. In addition, more than a million people in 2008 voted during the early voting time period that have been either cut in half or eliminated in FL, GA and OH. Other voters will be discouraged, e.g., convicted felons that have been rehabilitated (FL) and laws requiring additional proof of citizenship. It is amazing to note the preponderance of southern states in this scheme where Jim Crow laws had once prevailed.
This year more than 30 states debated changes in their voting laws. A dozen states passed more restriction laws requiring state-issued ID, according to the national Conference of Legislatures, although Democratic governors vetoed them. Was this dictated by the fact that a black man was overwhelmingly, fairly and squarely elected president in 2008?
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices, e.g., TX and SC are required to obtain pre-clearance from either the US Department of Justice or a federal district court in Washington, DC of any change(s) to their voting laws. Their jurisdictions must show that these changes do not have a negative impact on minority voting. Besides TX and SC, several states enacted a far greater change in the new laws their 2011 legislative sessions placed that increased impediments to voting, including several highly restrictive photo ID requirements. DOJ rejected SC’s request for pre-clearance on 12/11; it did the same to TX’s request March 12.
The totality of the impediments, not just the voter ID requirement that is imposed by the GOP, tilts the electorate their way. A member of the League of Voters in FL observed that they are not registering new voters because the new rules are too burdensome and too costly if strictly followed. You have to be a dingbat or a dumbhead to think these new rules concocted by the Republicans are not meant to skew the election to their candidates. Voter suppression is their goal and they want to perpetuate that tradition. If we don’t do anything to stop it, we will be party to the theft of democracy under our noses in this country.
State governments have enacted an array of laws making it harder to register or to vote. Some states require photo ID of a type that one in ten do not have. Other states cut back on early voting, popular among millions of Americans. Ten states have disenfranchised millions which have past criminal records even though they are now rehabilitated in the community. To these political partisans and right-wing hacks under the guise of lawmakers once a convict, always a convict, especially if you are not going to vote for our candidates anyway.
Still others make it hard to register, a prerequisite to vote. The Brennan Center of Law has analyzed 19 of the laws passed and two executive actions in 14 states and concluded that these changes will hinder voter turnout at a time when US turnout is less than two-thirds in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.
A recent report points to growing Republican control of the state legislatures as the cause of this string of new laws that found that the new restrictions favor their side because they “fall most heavily on the young, minority and low-income voters as well as the voters with disability.” Conservative groups and politicians insist that these laws will ensure the fairness of the electoral process. Baloney! The inspiration of this voter ID requirement is to protect the sanctity of the ballot from the unscrupulous voter.
Not from these crooks, criminals and thieves to remain in power! They should know because they did it in FL (2000) and OH (2004) in two presidential elections. The GOP finds it very hard to win elections on issues without resorting to devious behavior, availing themselves of big bucks from large corporations to spread lies and sow fear among the electorate, with the open and willing support of some Supreme Court Justices.
Republicans passing the laws never acknowledge their real purpose, but there is unanimity that they mean to turn away from the polls people who are likely to vote Democratic, particularly the poor, the elderly and minorities. None of these loudmouths have ever documented their claim except for the most isolated cases. Seven states this year have passed laws requiring strict photo ID in order to vote, and similar measures were introduced to cut back on early voting, which has been popular among working people who often cannot afford to take off from their jobs on Election Day. They claim this change will save money. None of these explanations are true. It is hard to claim voting fraud these days when security measures are in place to prevent them in the first place. The only reason for passing these laws is to give themselves and their party political edge by suppressing Democratic votes.
In KS, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state who wrote AZ’s anti-immigrant law pushed for an ID law on the basis of 221 reported instances of voter fraud since 1997. Give me a break! This is making a mountain out of an anthill. Even if it is true, it could not even be a drop in the bucket, but it is not true. When the Wichita Eagle looked into the local cases on the list, the “fraud” mostly sprang from honest mistakes, e.g., a parent voting for a student away at college, or signatures in mail-in ballots did not match those on file, or a confused citizen at the Motor Vehicle Bureau whether she wanted to fill out a voter registration form and did so because she realized she was not ineligible. In WI, no college ID card is acceptable to identify someone who wants to vote. The election board proposed to add expiration dates and signatures on the card. Republicans protested that the stickers would lead to fraud.
Republicans come up with all kinds of shenanigans to impede voting for certain groups by contorting democracy for partisan ends and depriving disadvantaged voters of their right to vote. As individual states have introduced and passed new laws that restrict voting, members of Congress respond at the federal level by introducing legislation, announcing Congressional hearings, drafting letters and giving floor speeches to stand up for the right to vote. Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening voting restrictions is sweeping across the country. It is projected that more than 5 million voters will be disenfranchised this year.
This is Republican version of democracy!
Rawlein G. Soberano, Ph.D. is President of the Asian American Business Roundtable — www.aabronline.org.