Our VoiceImmigration

Voter ID Laws are Voter Suppression

Jill Garvey • Mar 14, 2012

Black, poor, female, or over 65? Your right to vote is in jeopardy.

Voter ID laws have a devastating effect on groups of people who have fought hard for voting rights. Many conservative state lawmakers are attempting to implement Voter ID laws under the false pretense of preventing fraud by non-citizen immigrants. Legislators are using fears of a so-called immigrant “invasion” and piggybacking their efforts on the flood of anti-immigrant measures being debated in states like Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.

If you’re Black, female or over 65, these laws may strip away your rights. Here are the facts according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice:

  • 32 million voting-age women may not meet voter ID requirements, due in large part to changing from maiden to married names.
  • At least 12% of voting-age American citizens earning less than $25,000 per year do not have a readily available U.S. passport, naturalization document, or birth certificate.
  • 18% of American citizens age 65 and above do not have current government-issued photo ID.
  • 25% of African-American voting-age citizens have no current government-issued photo ID.

These are scary numbers. And some states have already deemed these laws unconstitutional. Just this week a judge in Wisconsin ruled that state’s voter ID law unconstitutional stating, “A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote – imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people. It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution.”

That doesn’t help the residents of Kansas, however. They have the distinct misfortune of having Kris Kobach as their Secretary of State. A hardcore nativist with ties to the controversial Tanton Network, Kobach spearheaded a voter ID measure in the state and rushed its implementation.

Luckily, there are folks all of the country that are fighting back. In Alabama last week, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1965 Bloody Sunday civil rights march, hundreds marched in opposition to the state’s racist anti-immigrant law HB 56 and new voter ID law.

In Kansas, hundreds gathered last month to hold Kris Kobach accountable for his efforts to disenfranchise voters and unfairly target immigrants in communities across the U.S. The turnout for the demonstration was larger than expected. Signs could be seen from inside the state capital that read, “No Hate in Our state,” “I am Kansas,” and “We Demand Democracy.”

Debates around voter ID and anti-immigrant laws are often framed as national security issues by their proponents, but the threat of these laws to many Americans is evident. And the threat to our democracy is immediate.

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