It’s tempting to be smug in the face of other states’ fights over voter suppression. California, thankfully, isn’t Texas, where voter-ID requirements were compared to a poll tax by a federal judge last week. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, the ID requirement was just one of many ways in which the Lone Star State historically blocked participation among minority voters, said U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who ruled that the requirement had an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” And Texas, of course, isn’t the only part of the nation where voter protections aren’t, well, Californian. A year after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision narrowing the Voting Rights Act, 15 states controlled by Republicans have imposed tighter restrictions on voting for the Nov. 4 election, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.
Democrats here and elsewhere are calling on voters to cast their ballots as an act of defiance, redoubling registration efforts, and appealing to the courts.
In Georgia, voters in a largely African American precinct will be able to cast votes on the Sunday before the election, to the dismay of a Republican state senator, who fretted that the polls would be open in an area “dominated by African American shoppers and … several large African American mega-churches.”
But Californians needn’t feel as superior as we do on this issue. A close look reveals that we don’t need voter-suppressing laws to limit participation. Here, unconscionable numbers of people make that decision on their own, by not taking the time to vote.