GOP Seeks Eradication of Equitable Voting Rights
Recent Voter ID laws have been enacted around this country that complicate the voting process and disenfranchise minorities. Since 2006, GOP legislatures in 33 states have passed laws requiring some form of identification be presented upon casting a ballot[i]. Seventeen of those states have passed even stricter laws requiring a government-issued photo ID. If one were to believe the GOP and media propaganda, these laws were put into place to combat the serious problem of voter fraud. Regrettably, that story fails to hold up against even the most cursory examination. Voter ID laws have been put in place as a political maneuver aimed at preventing lower-income groups from reaching the voting booth in November. Don’t believe me? An excerpt from a speech by Pennsylvania House majority leader Mike Turzai makes it clear, the relevant portion of which has been italicized: “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation—abortion facility regulations—in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.[ii]”
But wait! Isn’t voter fraud a serious concern that warrants regulation and oversight? Well, no not really. Several studies have shown that the voting fraud as addressed by recent legislation has an insignificant effect on election results[iii]. This was rather bluntly illustrated in a widely cited study by the Brennan Center, Title of which is here, proclaimed “the truth of the matter is that voter fraud—votes knowingly cast by ineligible individuals—is exceedingly rare; one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.” A New York Times analysis in 2007 identified 120 cases over five years, though many of these were either confusion over legibility or bribery by politicians[iv]. However, even if instances of true voter fraud (not election irregularities like glitches, lost votes etc.) could have an effect on electoral results, the state of Pennsylvania itself, mentioned earlier for its blatantly partisan motivation, admits it has no evidence of any voter fraud existing prior to regulation and furthermore, that these laws will in no way prevent future occurrences.
So why have Voter ID laws exploded in the past two years? The answer is simple. By any measure and any study, the regulations disproportionately affect minorities, women and the young, all of whom are key demographics for the Democratic Party. By making it more difficult to vote, the GOP is successfully manipulating the electoral system of this country, stonewalling a significant number of voters in a race that is projected to be one of the closest in history. In a nation designed to be a democratic republic, the motivation and results of Voter ID laws are antithetical to its foundations. “The number of people in this country who vote is already low, and it’s already hard enough to find time to vote, so why are politicians making it harder?” said UPS student Demetrius Jackson ‘13, “Our system is supposed to be a representative democracy, and the way those work is everyone casts a vote and everyone has an equal say. Anything that makes the process more difficult should be suspect. This isn’t even anything to do with partisanship, it’s how our country is supposed to work.”
At least 11% of U.S. citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID and will be blocked come November[v]. What is to stop people from going out and purchasing said identification? Nothing, or rather, no formal legislation. However, put yourself in these shoes as described by a fellow student. “You’re one of nearly 10 million Americans living more than ten miles from the nearest ID-issuing office. You work two or three low-income jobs just to keep food on the table for your kids. You can’t afford to take time off, and you don’t have a car. What you do have is the option to either pay for this month’s rent and a week’s worth of food, or skip out on a meal or two, take time off work and spend a day filling out forms so that come November you can exercise the rights embedded in the foundations of this country. That’s not a real option for millions in this country. They aren’t numbers. They’re real obstacles for real people.”
What can be done, you ask? How can we counteract these blatant attempts by the GOP to suppress voting rights in our ostensibly democratic country? Call your representatives, call your senators, and make the story known to everybody, for Washington has ID laws as well. Cliché though it may be, phone calls and letters to representatives do matter; politicians do take note when people care enough to make their opinions known.*
*For references and contact information, please refer to the Trail website