Mariam “Mimi” Bell, a Latina Republican from Colorado, resents the implication that Hispanic voters are somehow negatively affected by the state’s new voter identification law. “It’s insulting when they say we’re going to disenfranchise the Hispanics,” Bell said of the law that requires voters to present an ID such as a driver’s license, passport, utility bill or birth certificate to vote. The suggestion, Bell said, is “because we’re Hispanics we’re inept to get an ID.” The debate over the wave of voter identification laws cropping up in more than 30 states is playing out against the backdrop of the 2012 general election’s high-profile fight for Latino voters. The two presidential candidates hold widely divergent views on the matter.
Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has spoken out in favor of voter identification laws in such places as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. During a campaign stop last month with Romney in Pennsylvania, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American Republican, blew off what he sees as overhyped concerns about showing photo IDs. People have to show IDs for everything from boarding a flight to renting sports equipment, Rubio reasoned, so why not voting. “What’s the big deal? What is the big deal?” Rubio asked.
The Brennan Center for Justice, a legal think tank at New York University School of Law that has criticized many of the new voter identification laws as costly and discriminatory, said that 11% of eligible voters lack government-issued identification. Conservatives, however, challenge that estimate.