Rep. Terri Sewell is angry that Alabama wants registered voters such as her wheelchair-bound father to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. The Birmingham Democrat, Alabama’s only black member of Congress, said her 77-year-old father doesn’t have photo ID since he let his driver’s license expire years ago. If the state’s law takes effect as scheduled in 2014, thousands of elderly, disabled and minority Alabama voters will either stay home each election day or will have to make “extraordinary efforts” to get a driver’s license, passport or other form of identification, Sewell said.
Thirty states have adopted voter ID laws, some of which date back more than a decade, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four states that recently tightened existing laws to require a photo ID — Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas — have a history of electoral discrimination against minorities and must obtain approval from either the Justice Department or a federal court before the changes can take effect. Alabama has yet to submit its law for approval. Sewell said the laws “are true threats to silence the voices of those least heard.”