Even as Americans use their free-speech rights through the Occupy Wall Street movement to express frustration with the less affluent’s having to bear the brunt of a poor economy, their ability to generate change through their votes is being shamefully attacked.
In 14 states controlled by Republican legislators, voters face new restrictions that “could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012,” says a new study from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.
The restrictions will harm specific groups: students and the elderly, the poor and disabled, urbanites, and minorities. They are the folks less likely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of state-issued identification, the most popular restriction in the laws. The absurdity of photo-ID rules is clearest in Texas, where a handgun license is an acceptable form of identification, but a student ID card is not.
Beyond the ID requirement, five states have reduced their extended voting periods. In an attack on minority voters, Florida cut voting on the Sunday before Election Day. That Sunday is when many African American churches run their “Souls to the Polls” drives.
Democrats have a valid point in charging that the wave of restrictive laws is meant to keep their voters from getting to the polls for the 2012 presidential election.
In America’s most recent history, voting laws have mostly been aimed at getting more people to vote by making it easier to register, and opening polls for days before elections. These new, regressive laws push back the essential rights of individuals to participate in their governance.