Today’s Republicans would never try to reinvent something so crude as the outlawed “poll tax,” which mostly Southern states used, along with literacy tests, well into the 20th century to block voting by blacks, poor whites and Native Americans. Removal of these barriers firmly established every citizen’s right under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the beginning of widespread elections of minorities.
But wait. The modern GOP has come up with a new artifice: voter IDs to prevent citizens’ showing up at the polls to commit fraud, even though voter fraud has never been a significant U.S. problem. The most widespread fraud has been by election officials’ rigging ballots and voting machines and denying voters a chance to exercise their rights by moving polling places unannounced or closing them early.
With large percentages of Democrat-voting low-income Americans, students and blacks without government-issued identification papers of any sort (21 million, according to the Brennan Center for Justice), the Republican laws are being branded the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century. Behind them is the business-financed American Legislative Exchange Council, which aims for slates of corporate-friendly, Republican elected state officials.