Voting is supposed to be a right in this country, but many states are sabotaging that right.
According to a new report released by the Brennan Center for Justice, a number of states have passed new laws that block people from registering to vote. Some of these states have gone to ludicrous lengths to deny the franchise to their citizens.
With 19 new laws and two executive orders in place across the country (and at least 42 bills still pending), it is clear that some lawmakers believe that too many people are voting. These laws could impact the voting rights of as many as 5 million people across the country. And the restrictions will disproportionately impact low-income voters, the young, people of color and those with disabilities. Those states that have enacted such laws account for 171 electoral votes in 2012, 63 percent of the 270 needed to clinch the presidency.
Five states — Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — have passed onerous photo ID laws. Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee have new proof of citizenship laws in place. And Florida and Texas have severely restricted voter registration drives or eliminated them altogether. Florida, Georgia and Ohio have also eliminated early voting, while Maine has ended Election Day registration.
One victim of Tennessee’s voter ID law is Dorothy Cooper, 96, who has been voting since her 20s. When Cooper, who is black, applied for a free state-issued ID with an envelope of documents to verify her identity, the clerk denied her request. The reason: She didn’t have her marriage certificate.
And some states have made it more difficult to restore voting rights that were lost as a result of a criminal conviction. Florida and Iowa are particularly egregious cases of felon disenfranchisement. Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa — the state with the highest rate of black disenfranchisement in the nation — has essentially wiped away, through an executive order, all voting rights for convicted felons. Gov. Rick Scott has done the same in Florida, disenfranchising as many as 1 million Floridians.
The proponents of these draconian laws are Republican lawmakers. Their stated reason for pushing this legislation is that voter fraud is rampant. But that argument is disingenuous, as voter fraud is less common than being struck by lightning, as the Brennan Center aptly notes.
Sadly, the real motivation for these laws is to win elections by eliminating large swaths of the electorate with the stroke of a pen. Students, the poor and the elderly of whatever color will have less of a chance to get into the voting booth.
We must overturn these restrictions on the franchise. Nothing less than democracy is at stake.