Photo voter ID laws, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, are a "poll tax." "Many of those without IDs," Holder recently told the NAACP, "would have to travel great distances to get them -- and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them."
Photo voter ID opponent Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel in the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, writes: "While these laws are allegedly passed to secure elections, they impact communities of color in ways only reflected in our Jim Crow past. Looking at voter ID laws alone, we know that although 11 percent of Americans lack government-issued photo ID, 25 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of elderly voters do not have this form of ID. ... Hopefully our country will never again see the kind of internal bloodshed we saw during the Civil War -- but we are now seeing a war on voting that can only be compared to the dark, discriminatory past of the Jim Crow era."
Does the race disparate impact argument apply, for example, to the push for Washington, D.C., statehood? After all, a majority black city is likely to elect two liberal senators. What about the push to restore voting rights to convicted felons? Given that ex-felons are not likely to vote a straight Republican ticket, a cynic might say what drives the effort is the likelihood of a batch of new Democratic voters. What about amnesty for illegal aliens? Is the motive to bring "out of the shadows" millions of new Hispanic Democratic voters?
A "war on voting"?
Eleven states have voter photo ID laws, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, South Dakota and Kansas. Five more states may require photo voter ID by November, pending approval of their new laws by courts or the Department of Justice. And 16 states require voters to present one of several various forms of ID that do not necessarily have photos, such as a birth certificate.
Voter ID laws are popular.
Nationwide, whites, Hispanics and blacks support them. MIT and Harvard Professor Stephen Ansolabehere studies the impact of voter ID laws. Pointing to a 2006 nationwide survey of 36,500 voters, conducted under a collaborative project by 37 universities, Ansolabehere writes: "Perhaps the most surprising demographic or political comparison arose with race. And the surprise was the lack of division. Over 70 percent of whites (77 percent), Hispanics (78 percent) and blacks (70 percent) support the requirement. Black and Hispanic voters did not express measurably less support for voter identification requirements than whites."
Voter ID laws are legal.
The Supreme Court, in a case over Indiana's voter ID law -- one of the nation's most stringent -- upheld the voter requirements 6-3. Justice John Paul Stevens, then the court's most liberal member, wrote the majority opinion: "The State has a valid interest in participating in a nationwide effort to improve and modernize election procedures that have been criticized as antiquated and inefficient."
Critics call photo voter ID a solution in search of a problem. What proof, they ask, demonstrates a problem with the integrity of voting? Popular political scientist Larry Sabato, author of the book on voter fraud called "Dirty Little Secrets," writes: "From voter fraud to election chicanery of all kinds, America teeters on the edge of scandal every November. The fact that so many people want to thwart legitimate and prudent efforts to improve ballot integrity has become a scandal in its own right."
How easy is it to commit voter fraud?
James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who caught ACORN workers on tape giving illegal advice, released video of a young bearded white man walking into the polling place of Attorney General Eric Holder on Election Day.
Young white man: Do you have an Eric Holder? (He gives an address.)
Poll worker: I do. (He repeats the address.) OK. Please sign your name there (pointing to the signature line in his huge book of precinct voter registrations).
Young white man: I actually forgot my ID.
Poll worker: You don't need it. It's all right.
Young white man: I left it in the car.
Poll worker: As long as you're in here (pointing to his voter registration book), you're on our list, and that's who you say you are, you're OK.
Young white man: I would feel more comfortable if I just had my ID. Is it all right if I go get it?
Poll worker: Sure, go back.
Young white man: I'll be back 'faster' than you can say 'furious.'
Poll worker: We're not going anywhere.
Young white man: All right, thank you. (He leaves, never actually taking Eric Holder's ballot.)
It was that easy.
Poor minority voters without government-issued ID, voter ID opponents effectively tell us, are simply too stupid to figure out how to get it. Indiana, for example, offers convenient ways of obtaining ID. If campaign workers can mount get-out-the-vote efforts, including picking up voters on Election Day and driving them to the voting precinct, why not put the same energy into helping Granny obtain ID?
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.
COPYRIGHT 2012 LAURENCE A. ELDER
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