Nel's New Day

August 27, 2011

DoJ Reviews Photo ID Law

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:37 PM

The new influx of conservative governments in the United States caused by the 2010 election has created a new spate of laws in 30 states across the country requiring people to show identification before they vote. Although the problem of voter impersonation, the only type of voter fraud that photo IDs might prevent, is less likely to occur than a person being struck by lightning, the states persevere while they ignore the possibility of elected officials falsifying the number of votes, usually in favor of conservatives.

In seven states, voters must show a photo ID in order to vote. Without this identification, voters can vote a provisional ballot which is counted only if the voter returns to election officials soon after the election to show a photo ID. Seven more states require photo ID but waive the requirement if the person signs an affidavit or has someone vouch for identity.

Another 16 states require identification that doesn’t need a photo. In some cases, a utility bill or bank statement with the voter’s name and address will suffice. Of the remaining 20 states, 17 have pending legislation for voter identification.

The movement toward voter ID gained momentum in 2008 when Barack Obama was running for president. At that time, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s stringent photo ID requirement. Citizens earning less than $35,000 a year are at least twice as likely to lack government-issued photo IDs, as those earning more. A study has indicated that 11% of Americans–more than 21 million citizens of voting age–don’t have the type of ID they would be required to present before voting.  Those without photo identification are disproportionately low-income, minority voters, young voters, older voters, and the disabled. These populations tend to vote Democrat, a fact that Republicans have tried to ignore as they tout the integrity of the voting process as the reason for mandating voter IDs.

The high cost to states at this time of fiscal crisis seems unreasonable. Wisconsin will pay about $1.9 million because they provide free cards to people without drivers’ licenses—a benefit that not all people realize. Indiana paid more than $10 million in the first four years of implementation; a similar ID law in North Carolina would cost $18 million to $25 million over three years. Additional costs will rise when states are forced to uphold their laws in court.

The Department of Justice is involved in photo ID laws for three states–Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas—because these laws may violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Currently South Carolina is being forced to defend its law with the DoJ because of the state’s history of racial discrimination. The 60-day review period to accept comments ends Monday, but the DoJ may extend this time. The Democratic Caucus, the South Carolina Progressive Network, the ACLU, and the League of Women Voters have all filed objections with the DoJ because of the law’s discrimination against minorities who are less likely to have a photo ID and whose poverty and lack of access to transportation makes it difficult to obtain one.

One example of a person caught up in the photo ID problem is 59-year-old Everett Garlington. Because he lost his driver’s license, he needs to get another one. This will cost him $160 because the DMV says he was late in turning in a license plate years ago. He can’t afford this cost, and he can’t get an alternate photo ID because his missing driver’s license is still valid. So the state of South Carolina won’t let Everett Garlington vote.

Convinced that no one in South Carolina would be inconvenienced by the new photo ID law, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) promised to drive residents whose voting right to vote will be jeopardized to the DMV to help them obtain a photo license. “Find the people who say this is invading their rights and I will go take them to the DMV myself and help them,” she said in a local TV interview. But Haley is all talk and no action. When 76-year-old Army veteran Robert Tucker, who lacks an accurate birth certificate and thus ID, asked for help, Haley’s office told him to go to Legal Aid.

Photo IDs are not the only way that Republican state legislatures are using to keep down the Democratic vote. Florida’s new law would slash early voting from 14 days down to eight and impose fines on voter registration drives for all completed voter registration forms that are not returned to the state within 48 hours–a big reduction from the current 10-day deadline. Also, Florida voters who moved to another county (potentially millions of people) would not be able to update their addresses at the polls on Election Day. Under the law, these voters would have to cast a provisional ballot, which used to be cast when a voter’s eligibility was questioned. Such ballots sometimes are not counted.

Even worse is the proposed bill in New Hampshire. State Rep. Gregory Sorg (R) introduced a bill barring thousands of college students and service members from voting in the communities where they live and attend school. According to New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien (R), the legislation is nececessary because there “are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.”

In the days of the Founding Fathers and the writing of the Constitution, only white, male land-owners had the right to vote. We’re heading back to those times.

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