Among the political and legal fights over U.S. elections, some of the most contentious ones center on voter identification requirements and on the way political districts are drawn. Historically, both sometimes have been misused to suppress minority voting, which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to correct. As of this spring, 32 states had voter identification laws in place; North Carolina will join them in 2016, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports. Most of the new measures have been introduced and implemented by Republican-led legislatures. While some states permit the use of bank statements, student IDs or other evidence of state residence, stricter ones require approved photo IDs, such as government-issued driver’s licenses and passports. Supporters say voter ID requirements battle fraud and build confidence in election fairness. Critics say that voter impersonation is rare and that the laws disproportionately discourage the poor, minorities, senior citizens and students from voting.
Someone born in the 1920s or ’30s in a rural part of the country might not have a formal birth certificate, said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University in Georgia. “If your birth certificate is the family Bible, then that might not count as the official documentation you need” for voter registration.
Melvin Robertson understands that predicament. A resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he has voted for most of his 86 years. “Got to vote – that counts!” Robertson said, suggesting that’s a true measure of citizenship. But he may not be able to cast a ballot in the next election.
Wisconsin has just enacted a controversial voter ID law. It was passed in 2011, pushed through the GOP-led legislature and signed by Republican Governor Scott Walker. It was halted by a series of legal challenges and even frozen by the U.S. Supreme Court last fall. But when the high court declined to hear the case, the law took effect after a statewide election in April.
Full Article: US Voting Restrictions Fuel Tensions.