You’d think the world’s oldest democracy would be constantly working to make sure that as many people as possible vote in elections such as the one two weeks from today, which will decide who runs everything from city governments to Congress. Instead, what’s clear in the countdown to Nov. 4 are the ways a nation built on the proposition that the vote is the great equalizer limits the number of people who actually go to the polls. Too much of this is deliberate. Republican legislatures have enacted all sorts of thinly disguised ways to suppress the vote of people who don’t typically vote GOP, including minorities, the poor, the elderly and college students. Ohio and North Carolina have cut back early voting, for example, making it tougher for working people to vote. The most offensive restrictions, though, are tough photo ID requirements, which have spread to at least 16 Republican-dominated states — a number that fluctuates as courts strike down or uphold the laws. On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld the Texas ID law, widely regarded as the nation’s most punitive.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with requiring voters to prove they are who they say they are. A commission headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of State James Baker backed photo ID. It’s a reasonable idea — as long as states make it easy and free to get IDs.
But the evidence is overwhelming that the states with tough photo ID laws have little interest in making IDs easily available to the roughly 10% of people who don’t have one. People have to travel hours to ID offices that are open for limited hours. Obtaining the documents necessary to get a photo ID can be difficult and expensive.
Unsurprisingly, this can suppress the vote. In a study last month, the Government Accountability Office found that strict photo ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee lowered voter participation in the 2012 elections by roughly 2 to 3 percentage points from 2008.
Full Article: Vote suppression culprits: Our view.