How some states are restricting the right to vote – Part 2

Posted By Levi

August 28th, 2012 7:54pm

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So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind-it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen...Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Part 1, I pointed out how some states are restricting the rights of their citizens to vote in the upcoming presidential election. These states, mainly those controlled by Republican governors and state legislatures, have passed laws to restrict the voting rights of many of their citizens in various ways. Many voting experts have pointed out that these laws will have a disproportionate effect on minority voters. See this story, Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Hits Philadelphia Blacks, Latinos Harder.

One of the ways in which they are doing this is making it harder for citizens to register to vote. In order to vote, you must first register. If you are not registered, you cannot vote. (If you live in New York City and would like to register to vote, click here.

Currently, about 54 million Americans are not registered to vote.

Given this fact and because we like to call our country the greatest democracy in the world, you would think that it would be a no brainer to get as many of our citizens to register to vote as quickly as possible. But you would be wrong. In the United States, registration is left up to the individual. The US is unique in this respect.  In nearly all countries, the government takes the responsibility to make sure that all citizens are registered to vote. The individual does nothing; you don’t fill out any forms. Once you become eligible to vote, the government automatically registers you. Nothing could be simpler than that

States such as Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and others are  demanding that voters present certain kinds of government photo ID before they can register to vote or to vote on Election Day. Supporters say they need this to prevent voter fraud. But this is amazing. Pennslyvania just admitted that it had no evidence that voter fraud had ever been committed in the state.

Requiring photo IDs to vote sounds reasonable. The best way to prevent someone impersonating a voter is to insist that every voter shows a photo ID before you can register or vote or to vote on election day. After all, photo IDs are required for many every day transactions such as cashing a check or boarding an airplane. So, what’s wrong with this?

The problem is that states requiring photo IDs are inventing a problem that doesn’t exist. Voter fraud has not been a problem in the United States in modern times mainly because our laws adequately protect against and punish such fraud. In fact, UFOs sightings are more common than voter fraud.

However, it is quite likely that voter ID laws will prevent large numbers of citizens from voting. According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, about 5 million people could be prevented from voting in November by these laws. Besides, these laws will disproportionately affect Blacks and Latino voters as well as poor, young, and older citizens as evidenced by the chart below.

Some argue that photo ID laws will prevent illegal immigrants from voting. But again, there is no evidence of this. Illegal immigrants tend to keep clear of the law to prevent being detected. It’s hard to imagine that they would walk into a polling station where they could be easily arrested for trying to vote.

Despite occasional setbacks, the United States expanded the vote to various groups throughout its history. What we are now witnessing with the passing of restrictive voter laws is a break from the past. What we are in fact seeing is one of the largest attempts to roll back voting rights in the United States.

The Daily Show Jon Stewart examines the charge of voter fraud.

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