The Twenty-First Century Jim Crow

The Presidential campaign in 2008 turned out historical numbers of youth and minority voters. A tremendous achievement for our nation! Engaging a record numbers of citizens in voter participation—assumedly a cross-party victory, right? Think again.

Since President Obama’s election in ’08 many state legislatures, (cough, G.O.P politicians), have proposed and passed new voting laws requiring all voters to present state-issues photo id. The Brennan Center for Justice reports during this past year alone, more than two-dozen new voting laws have passed in 19 states. Ostensibly harmless laws; however, restrictions that have drastically higher impact on minority and youth voices—e.g. demographics whom statistically vote Democrat. These laws have the potential of being so influential that the exclusion of the disenfranchised voters may push swing states to vote Romney.

Though voter fraud does happen, according to data taken from the Washington state gubernatorial race in 2008, it only occurs less than .01 % of the time. These laws, under the veil of protecting the sanctity of the vote, will be inflicting a lot more harm than justice. Consequently, a recent report done by the Black Youth Project projects an estimated 700,000 young minority voters could be banned from voting this election because of these new laws.

In a current voter ID case in Pennsylvania, Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, state legislators were never required, or offered proof, voter fraud ever occurred—lack of proof of voting fraud has been a common theme in many cases. So while there were never any significant documented issues of voter fraud, thousands of American citizens with the guaranteed freedom to vote will be denied this basic civil right.

Having an accurately represented democracy is essential for truly “democratic” governments, and this representation comes from high voter turnout. India even has a national holidays for voting, guaranteeing all voices have a better chance of being heard. So why is America taking a step backwards this election season? Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai gave some insight as to why these laws are so popular with current G.O.P leaders, claiming that “Voter ID…is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”


Voter ID laws put another layer of bureaucracy between the government and individuals’ voices. New voters in states with these laws now not only must register to vote, but they must ensure they have a state-issued photo ID. Did I mention that these state issued IDs do not come free of charge? Most of us remember the BS endured at our first visit to the DMV. And veteran ID cards will not suffice; those who severed for our country may not be heard in full force this election. The bottom line is, voter identification laws disproportionately affect the youth, minorities, people who work, the poor, single moms, transgender people, and people who already are probably having a shitty time because of their disadvantaged socioeconomic status, so can we just let their voice be heard already?


Luckily, our current home state of Washington is not proposing any of these discriminatory laws, but perhaps your home state is. Get on your laptop and do some research. What makes this issue even more upsetting is that no one seems to be speaking out about this legalized discrimination. It is our job as empowered youth to ensure that our voice is being heard this election and to speak up for those who may be denied access.