Debate Left, 7/24

Voter ID Laws suppress oppressed voices

By Rana Odeh

The Brennan Center’sPolicy Brief on the Truth About Voter Fraud’” challenges the ever-increasing claims of voter fraud in the U.S. and highlights that the closely analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004 percent. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often. There is no credibility behind Texas Governor Rick Perrys claim that we had multiple cases where voter fraud was in various places across the state, or that the requirement of voters to carry a government-issued photo identification card would help to keep elections fraud-free.

Voter fraud is very rare in the U.S. Current legislation already helps to control the matter, and most importantly, the proposed law would disproportionately disenfranchise Latino and African American communities. In March, the Department of Justice blocked the Texas voter ID law, saying it will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters, a disproportionate number of which are Latinos and other minorities. On the surface, it may seem simple and straightforward, for many, to present a photo ID before voting, but there are many hurdles that affect the ability of poor communities to access a valid ID.

It is not so simple to obtain a government-issued ID when the nearest DMV is 30 miles away and is only open every fifth Wednesday in a month (the DMV in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month; there are only four months in 2012 that have five Wednesdays), you have no access to a vehicle and your county is so poverty stricken it has no public transportation. On top of that, you would need to request time off from work to make it to the DMV (somehow), which would cost you an entire days worth of pay (if your boss allows you to take the day off) and you may have to spare an additional $8-$20 to get your ID. On top of that, you need to provide paperwork in order to get your photo ID, which may involve an even more complicated process. If that does not seem impossible, it is at least a very difficult process to go through in order to cast your vote. It should not be so burdensome to have your voice heard in the democratic land of the free. The process is most difficult for the suffering people in this country who need their voices heard the most.

The Brennan Center for Justice found that in two areas along the U.S.-Mexico border making up 32 counties in Texas, there are approximately 134,000 voting-age citizens. About 61 percent of them are Hispanic, which is almost twice the relative concentration of Hispanics in the rest of the state, and the poverty rate is 22.4 percent. 9 of the 11 offices in these 32 counties are open part-time (only once or twice per week). Some voters, like those in Cotulla, a small rural town in south Texas, live an hours drive from the nearest part-time ID-issuing office, and that location is often open only one day per week. The study also found that the Southeastern quadrant of Dallas County has no ID-issuing offices where there are 244,100 eligible voters: nearly 30 percent live in poverty, and 52 percent are black. By contrast, there are eight full-time offices in the rest of the county.

It is not a coincidence that Texas is attempting to pass this law before the 2012 elections; it is an indirect way to silence the voices of many minorities who tend to lean toward the democratic vote. Obama only won by about 600,000 votes in 2008, and there are far more Americans living in the states trying to pass voter ID laws before the 2012 elections who do not have valid photo identification. The Texas law signals a trendy Republican response to the demographic changes in the U.S. and the attempts to silence the left-leaning groups in this country. This move by Texas will not only affect the state, but it will push the entire country backward and will undermine all the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.

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