With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, our nation reached a critical juncture in its history – turning the page on a sad chapter of racial discrimination and voter suppression. In the nearly 50 years since, the United States has largely continued on a trajectory of reform and progress. Additional federal laws have streamlined and safeguarded the voter registration process; significantly expanded ballot box access, and increased political participation by traditionally underrepresented voters.
We witnessed the culmination of these positive changes in the 2008 presidential election – which had the largest and most demographically diverse electorate in U.S. history. There were record numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and young voters, who overwhelmingly supported Sen. Barack Obama and Democratic candidates across the country.
Now, with the 2012 election fast approaching, Republicans are doing everything in their power to turn back the clock on this progress for political purposes.
As the Democratic National Committee outlined Thursday in a new report, “A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain,” in 40 different states across the nation GOP governors and state legislators have proposed and passed restrictions on voting. Their efforts make it more difficult to register; reduce the availability of early voting, and place new qualifications on voters — like obtaining limited types of government-issued photo identification.
These restrictive measures have one thing in common: They make it harder to vote — specifically for minority voters.
Millions of Americans register through voter registration drives – and minority voters do so at twice the rate of white voters. Eleven percent of Americans lack the photo id these new laws require – and that rate is far higher in some communities. For example, 25 percent of African-Americans and 19 percent of Latinos lack a government-issued photo ID.