It’s Jim Crow all over again.
As it becomes clearer that the GOP presidential nominees are not enough to beat President Barack Obama, some states are considering an alternative to take over the White House: stop Democrats from voting.
Yes, you heard correctly. And, as of now, the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Constitution, and Brown v. Board of Education have had no bearing on the legality of these decisions. If you haven’t yet heard about this, you are not alone. Somehow, the Republican Party in these states is getting away with a completely scandalous act without any criticism whatsoever.
The new laws include requiring voter identification at the polls, limiting the number of early voting days, and ending same-day registration. These new limitations are by no means neutral: they will affect mostly African-Americans, Latinos, the poor, and the young; voters who are more likely to take advantage of these procedures. Coincidently, these four groups also played a major role in electing Obama.
States that have passed such laws in the past year include Wisconsin, South Carolina, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, and Kansas. All six of those states are run by Republican-controlled house and senates. It comes as no surprise that this would occur directly after the Republican Party accumulated large gains in the 2010 elections.
And it is not as though these states are fooling anybody. For example, under the new law in Texas, voters can use concealed handgun licenses as identification but not student IDs. College students traditionally didn't vote for John McCain. Similarly, I doubt many gun owners voted for Obama.
The case in Texas particularly struck me. A 17-year-old such as myself has no driver's license and only a student ID as identification. That will be the same situation next year when I will vote for the first time. Under the 26th Amendment of the Constitution, “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” Pushing students away seems to undermine that standard.
Regardless of the legality of these laws, it is questionable how Republican-controlled states can get away with something so transparent. Where are the Democratic leaders condemning these efforts and, at least, asking the judicial branch to question the constitutionality?
The laws in question are widely justified as attempts to end voting fraud. But a study conducted by Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College Lorraine Minnite, concludes that “voter fraud is in reality a politically constructed myth intended to further complicate the voting process and reduce voter turnout.”
Another study by Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center for Justice observes that “voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” and goes on to explain that the harsh penalties and relatively insignificant effects of voter fraud simply make the practice illogical.
Even at the height of American racism, in the twilight of the Civil War, countless politicians and revolutionaries put their lives and careers on the line to fight for what they knew was right. Poll taxes were considered unconstitutional, and so should these measures to prevent voter turnout.
It is time to end this type of discrimination and recognize the rights of all citizens — black, white, Latino, poor, gun-owner, and student — to elect a leader.
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