Republican lawmakers across the country have been waging an successful campaign to restrict the right to vote. States are cracking down on non-profit organizations’ registration drives, reducing early voting periods, and repealing laws allowing citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election day, leaving as many as 5 million voters facing disenfranchisement in the 2012 election. Perhaps the most radical restriction is the GOP’s push for voter ID laws that require citizens to obtain and present state-approved photo identification to vote. These laws disproportionately (and perhaps purposefully) affect minorities, seniors, and low-income people who typically make up the Democratic base.
At least six states have passed such restrictions. Incensed by the regressive trend, civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) put the Republican efforts into historical context. “In 2011, we should be ashamed,” he said Tuesday night on the House floor. “We should be making it easy, simple, and convenient to vote. Instead we’re creating barriers and making it more difficult.” Noting that “we cannot separate the dangerous trend across this nation from our history,” Lewis warned of our “step backward towards another dark time in our history.” Singling out the voter ID laws as a particular “threat,” Lewis reiterated, “Make no mistake, these voter ID laws are a poll tax. I know what I saw during the 60s“:
“Each and every voter ID law is a real threat to voting rights in America. Make no mistake, these voter ID laws are a poll tax. I know what I saw during the 60s. I saw poll tax. And you cannot deny that these ID laws are another form of a poll tax. In an economy where people are already struggling to pay for the most basic necessities, there are too many citizens that would be unable to afford the fees and transportation costs involved in getting government issued photo Ids. Despite all the voter ID laws across the country, there’s no convincing evidence — no evidence at all — that voter fraud is a problem in our election problem.”