“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today. Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” — Bill Clinton
Despite the propaganda being advanced by the government, the purpose of voter ID laws is not to eliminate voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections. Rather, their aim is to silence and suppress as many American voters as possible and increase the already widening chasm between the electorate and our government representatives. In fact, voter ID laws are the icing on the cake when it comes to public officials shutting Americans out of the decision-making process, silencing dissent, and making sure that those in power stay in power and have the last word on government policy. In other words, voter ID laws are the final step in securing the American corporate oligarchy, the unchallenged rule by the privileged and few.
Voter ID laws which have swept the nation since 2011 effectively erode our system of representative government by blocking access to the seats of power by those who need it most: the young, the old, women and minorities. For example, Viviette Applewhite, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, has cast a ballot in almost every presidential election since she first voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960. However, as a result of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, which requires voters to present a photo ID to election officials on Election Day, this may be the first year the 93-year-old is not able to vote because she, like many others, does not have access to the required legal documents necessary in order to acquire a photo ID.
This is not the first time in American history such tactics have been used to suppress the populace. For example, the South after Reconstruction was a textbook example of voter suppression, from poll taxes to grandfather clauses. At the same time in the North, immigrant voters were being suppressed via literacy tests. These were not formal barriers which said “no blacks” or “no immigrants” may vote, but requirements which while ostensibly aimed at preserving the integrity of elections were in reality meant to silence average Americans, much like today’s voter ID laws. During that same time period, the state of New Jersey, which had for 17 years allowed women to vote, pulled the plug on women’s suffrage. In contrast, as Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project noted, today’s voter ID laws are “the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century.”