Why We Need To Fight Restrictive Voter ID Laws NOW
1 year ago
African-Americans are disproportionately less likely to have the required voter identification.
What do you do if you lose the big game? For a group of Republicans, the answer is change the rules. That’s exactly what’s happening across the country as GOP state legislators attempt to pass new laws that will require very specific identification for those who wish to vote in the presidential election this fall, all with the knowledge that they will likely disenfranchise millions of the people who are most likely to reelect President Obama.
But it doesn’t have to be that way - the great thing about knowing your opponent’s strategy is that you can counter it. (Learn about all the tactics being employed at ProtectingTheVote.com.) We sat down with Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project, to discuss why we can’t wait until this November to prevent the fallout of the latest voter ID laws.
Loop 21: Tell us about some of the restrictive Voter ID laws that have been passed in the last year.
Marcia Johnson-Blanco: In the past year, 8 states passed voter ID legislation. Generally, these states require that voters show an unexpired government-issued photo identification in order to vote. These states are Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Significantly, in Texas, a license to carry a concealed handgun is permissible identification, but identification issued by a state university is not. In states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama), these laws cannot be implemented until they have been approved by the Department of Justice or the District Court of the District of Columbia. These laws have not yet been approved and in fact, the Department of Justice issued an objection to the South Carolina law. South Carolina and Texas are now seeking approval from the D.C. District Court. The Mississippi law was passed by voter referendum. Significantly, an analysis of the Mississippi vote by Lawyers’ Committee found that while the referendum passed by 62% (38% against), 75% of African Americans voted against the referendum.
Loop 21: As we enter general election season, why should African-Americans be concerned about these Voter ID laws?
Johnson-Blanco: Unfortunately, studies have shown that African-Americans are disproportionately less likely to have the required voter identification. In fact, a 2006 nationwide study of voting-age citizens found that African-Americans are more than 3 times as likely as Caucasians not to have a government-issued photo ID, with one in four African Americans without ID.
Loop 21: How many African-Americans could be effectively disenfranchised by these laws this fall?
Johnson-Blanco: A recent report by the Brennan Center noted that because of these laws, 5 million voters could be disfranchised. Given the disproportionate impact of these laws on African-Americans, they are significantly impacted. In its objection to the South Carolina law, the Department of Justice noted that minority voters “were nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters.”