Friday, March 9, 2012

Voter ID Laws & the Fate of Citizens

Watch Voter ID on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

We don't have a constitutional right to drive an automobile.

We don't have a constitutional right to travel on an airplane.

We don't have a constitutional right to credit transactions. 

We have a constitutional right. Indeed a duty. An obligation, to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects that right allowing us the freedom to vote without payment, without humiliating tests and without the need to 'prove' that you are a U.S. Citizen. 

Voter ID laws seek to undo the impact of that Voting Rights Act and threatens to disenfranchise millions of Americans. 

"All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans."

In an effort to stop some phantom threat to the 'integrity' of the polling booth and the threat that some nameless group will assume the identity of their fellow citizens or that undocumented immigrants will pose as citizens states across the country have enacted - or are trying to enact these pernicious laws. 

""One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time," Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July. "Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate" – a reference to the dominance of the Tea Party last year, compared to the millions of students and minorities who turned out for Obama. "There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.""
"In reality, though, there's no evidence that registering fake voters is a significant problem in the state. Over the past three years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has received just 31 cases of suspected voter fraud, resulting in only three arrests statewide. "No one could give me an example of all this fraud they speak about," said Mike Fasano, a Republican state senator who bucked his party and voted against the registration law. What's more, the law serves no useful purpose: Under the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002, all new voters must show identity before registering to vote."

Every citizen has a right for his or her voice to be heard through the electoral process. It's a dangerous thing, a slippery slope to begin to require proof of citizenship in the same we we provide proof of identity for commercial transactions. Consumers have choices; citizens have a fate. That fate ought not be tampered with in an effort to win an election.

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