One consequence of Republican victories last November has been an onslaught of state legislation to require voters to show photo identification at polling places. This push builds on GOP efforts over the past decade to tighten ID requirements; at least 18 states have enacted more stringent rules since 2003, including, most recently, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Last week, 16 U.S. senators signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the new ID requirements comply with federal law. Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a Democrat, is gathering signatures on a similar letter from House members and held a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill with civil-rights leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, to draw attention to her effort.
Research shows that voter fraud is very rare, so these laws are best understood as an underhanded form of partisan warfare. The roughly 11 percent of citizens, or 20 million Americans, who lack government ID are mostly nonwhite, young, or aged—groups that tend to vote Democratic. It is no exaggeration to say that new voter-ID laws could tip next year’s presidential election since such rules have been enacted or are pending in swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio, where electoral margins are often razor thin.
Given the clear evidence that voter-ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, opponents say they may be a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
The Justice Department has a big say over voting procedures, especially in the states—primarily in the South—covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (when the act was passed in 1967, Section 5 applied to any jurisdiction with less than 50 percent turnout in the 1960 election, though some of these areas have since been taken off the list). The sign-on letter to Holder that Fudge is circulating notes that “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires preclearance by the Department when there is an attempt to change any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting in covered jurisdictions.” Fudge and others think that the Justice Department has strong grounds for investigating whether the ID laws are discriminatory or designed with “unlawful intent.”
Full Article: Carded at the Polls.