Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Voter Suppression Really Looks Like

In August of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.  The law was designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed to all people by the 14th and 15th amendments to the US Constitution.  Prior to the law's enactment, voter suppression, especially in the South was pervasive.

The most overt form of suppression was the physical violence (portrayed below) which awaited protesters in the early sixties as they engaged in this struggle for civil rights.

More subtle forms like Louisiana's literacy test (below), which had to be passed by citizens before they could vote, also existed:

Those are real examples of voter suppression.  Sic dogs on them, spray water from fire hoses at them, give them tests designed to trick them, and some of them are likely to have accepted their supposed inferiority and given up on the idea of voting. Thankfully, for all of society, enough of them didn't.  That said, I bet they would have forgone the dogs, hosings, and tricked-up tests gladly if all they had to endure was the time and expense necessary to obtain an ID card.

But, forty-nine years later, getting forced to identify oneself with an official ID card is being likened the suppression described above. The people making this ridiculous voter suppression claim dishonor the memory of all those brave men and women who really were engaged in the struggle.  They should be ashamed.

None less than the outgoing Attorney General of the United States went on record in July complaining about voter suppression when he said the following during a speech to the NAACP:
"Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes."
It should be noted that  Mr. Holder's office required members of the media who wished to cover his speech to first present two forms of photo ID.

Hypocrisy aside, his argument doesn't makes sense, as a another blogger, noted on his site,

"....If you don’t have an income, you must make a living some other way. Provided you are not a full-blown criminal, you are on welfare. You get the full assortment of tax-paid, government-provided acronyms: TANF, SNAP, WIC… You get Medicaid, subsidized rent etc. In order to get the cash benefits you need to have – again – a bank account or a place to cash a check. To get in to income-restricted public housing and on to Medicaid you need to prove eligibility. How do you do that without showing a valid ID at some point?

Unless our states are frivolously doling out welfare benefits to people without asking for ID, there should be an ID in the pocket of every American who wants to vote, except full-blown criminals, illegal immigrants and aliens from other planets. Which reduces the voter ID question to those very same groups."

But besides even that, our government creates new laws that force citizens to alter their behavior all the time.  They're all done with plenty of notice.  Whether we like the new rules or not, we have to follow them, but we typically have plenty of time to get adjusted to them.

Voter ID has been an issue for a long time.  It started gaining steam for the midterms right after the presidential election, two years ago.  I don't know how anyone could say with a straight face that getting an ID was too burdensome and expensive to given 730 days to do so.  I'll go out on a limb and say if you couldn't get an ID in that period of time, you probably shouldn't vote as you apparently have more pressing issues to address anyway.



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