Josie Johnson gathered petitions against the Texas poll tax as a teenager in 1945 and worked for the right to vote in Mississippi in the violent “Freedom Summer” two decades later. Now, nearly a half-century after the Voting Rights Act was enacted to open the polls to all, the 82-year-old civil rights warrior is bringing those sad tales home to fight Minnesotas proposed photo ID requirement for voting.”Our ancestors died, young children were punished, homes were bombed, churches were bombed,” Johnson, the first black regent at the University of Minnesota, told a group of elderly voters, mostly black, at Sabathani Community Center last week. “People were denied the right that we take for granted. And well lose it, on Nov. 6, if we dont get out and vote no.
“The linkage between Selma and St. Paul and between Jim Crow and photo ID has emerged as one of the hottest buttons in the debate over proposed changes in state election laws. Minnesota has become a flashpoint for this national debate, which has involved the Voting Rights Act of 1965, anti-fraud billboards in inner-city neighborhoods and a determined effort to link the ID fight to the civil rights movement.ID supporters argue that requiring a card widely used for even the simplest transactions cannot be compared with the real, violent, racist voter suppression of the Old South.One black conservative, Lucky Rosenbloom, a longtime supporter of photo ID, is speaking out to groups in favor of the law. He argues it will empower minority voters by granting free IDs and fuller participation in society.”I see voter ID as being an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” he said, referring to the landmark legislation that outlawed discriminatory U.S. voting practices.The proposed constitutional amendment that voters will see on the ballot Nov. 6 would require voters to show a government-issued photographic identification, would create a two-step system of provisional voting for those without the required ID and would tighten eligibility and identity requirements.