Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Republican legislators realize that they can continue to disparage those below the poverty line and enable the corporations that exploit them if they simply make it more difficult to vote.
I thought it was bad enough that corporations can spend unlimited funds on political "speech," but apparently we still hadn't undermined our democratic rights enough.
According to a recent New York Times article, a number of states have recently passed laws related to voting and voter registration; these laws limit opportunities to register to vote and to vote, while also requiring specific types of photo identification that not all voters posess.
These laws are being challenged under the Voting Rights Act (1965), but given a similar law has already been established here in Indiana.
The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU school of law conducted a study from which they concluded:
"These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012."
The following video is the Senate Judiciary hearing on this subject. It is a long video, so I recommend that you listen from 2:30 to 9:55 to hear Senator Richard Durbin explain the problem and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina try to defend the new laws. Also, listen from 37:20 to 45:00 to hear Congressman Emanuel Cleaver object to the laws and from 45:00 to 52:05 to hear Congressman Todd Rokita defend the laws based on Indiana's law:
Early voting is a very popular reform that helps increase turn out and makes elections easier to monitor. Yet, early voting reforms are being reversed.
Preventing independent organizations from registering voters, especially when carried out by non-partisan groups, is absurd. Poor people, the elderly, the young, and the disabled don't always have access to registration without these groups.
The only reason Republicans want to pass these laws is their fears about illegal immigration. The "airport" argument that Lindsey Graham makes is ridiculous; he himself reveals that ID requirements don't stop those who are committed to comitting a crime. They do, however, impact people who don't have the resources or opportunities to obtain such IDs and make it to the polls on a certain day.
Congressman Rokita makes a decent argument, but nothing he says proves the law is preventing fraud. Also, in my (albiet limited) experience those who help oversee elections do take voting seriously. Further, I don't feel that I should have to prove myself with a photo; I feel confident when the system takes me at my word that I am who I say I am.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says these laws are reminiscent of poll taxes and other measures that were used in the past to prevent African-Americans from voting.
Cleaver also says, "Why in the world are we doing things to make voting more difficult? It would seem to me, in the United States of America in the 21st century we would do everything concievably possible to give everybody encouragement to vote. We're encouraging democracy in Iraq; let's demand it at home and do away with anything that prevents any American from voting."
I think, like the Congressman, that in 2011 we should not only be able to say everyone has the right to vote, but also that everyone actually has an opportunity to vote.
Voter fraud exists, but it is not a significant problem. So, if it ain't broke, don't fix it; especially when the solution is a greater injustice than the problem.